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Exercises for Shooting Plates

One of the simplest forms of targets are steel plates. Shooting them as a beginner gives you instant feedback, something that paper cannot give you.

A common set up for steel plates is a row of 6 plates, or a plate rack. This style of target is part of an event in NRA Action Pistol.  My family regularly competes in NRA Action Pistol at the Bianchi Cup.   We have been shooting Bianchi Cup for several years, and as we get ready for this year’s events, we are preparing for a world shoot AND the nationals. My eldest son is on the US Team for the Bianchi World Shoot and he has been the Junior National Champion for 3 years straight. So, we have a little experience shooting plate racks with a pistol. 

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One of the things we are able to practice at our home is shooting a plate rack from 10, 15, 20, and 25yds. The Falling Plates at the official Bianchi event are a specific size and spacing, but any plate rack will give you similar experience to practice on. In this video, I share a few tips that should break down the basic skills you can focus on to shoot a plate rack well.


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When you shoot plates in Bianchi, there is a par times. It’s not a race to see who is fastest, but a set time you have to make your hits within. It’s about being fast, but more so about being accurate. To shoot without missing, technique is important! Stance, grip, and trigger control really come into play…because you need to make hits. To make hits, you must do everything correctly every time. To do that, you need to practice repeating the mechanics of the draw, etc. hundreds, even thousands of times. So establishing very habitual patterns as you take your stance, establishing your index or natural point of aim, and make ready to draw are all important parts of setting up to shoot a plate rack well.

One of the other important things to pay close attention to when shooting plate racks (especially in a par time event) is that you have to focus on your sights to the exclusion of all else. If you miss, you can’t dwell on that plate because to keep under your par times, you need to be looking at your sights on the next target. I have a mantra in my head for this sort of shooting. Each event might have a different set of mantras or self-talk that keeps me focused. However, for Falling Plates, I think “sights squeeze” and I repeat that six times! I see my sights where they need to be on the target, and squeeze the trigger. This type of shooting is really about control, but self-control more than anything because the shots are all ones you can make...making 48 of them at once is the challenge!

USA Forged

The last point I’ll make about shooting steel, especially at Bianchi Cup, is that you need to have a STRONG mental game! What you should think about should be each shot, nothing before or after. No doubt, no distraction, just each shot. Focus is on what you see and feel with your gun, and nothing else. Not the people sitting behind watching, not TV cameras, not photographers...my very first stage of my very first Bianchi Cup was one where a film crew followed my son and I out onto the range because we were competing together. You have to be able to ignore everything, and focus on the task at hand.  With steel, it’s painfully obvious if you are not focused. So look at it as a challenge, go practice, and stay focused!

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Becky Yackley
Becky Yackley
On the road more than home, Becky has competed in 3 Gun, Bianchi pistol, service-rifle, NCAA air rifle, smallbore and air pistol around the world since 1989. For her, shooting is more than an individual sport, it is a family affair. She and family travel both near and far to spread the words of safety and shooting to both friends and strangers. Shooting should be fun – this is what Becky preaches day in and day out. The “rush” of any competition highly motivates Becky, but it is the ability to share her sport and passion that truly drive her.