Language Lessons

Language Lessons: Splits

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Language Lessons: Splits
Tamara Keel

TERM: Split

ALSO KNOWN AS: Shot-to-shot time, Split Times

CATEGORY: Shooting Terminology

APPLICATION OF USE: Referring to the rate of fire in a string of shots.

DEFINITION: The term “split” describes the interval between one shot and the next in a string of fire. It’s most often encountered when discussing handgun shooting, and in that context, lower splits are generally held to be better because getting more hits in less time is rarely a bad thing.


I’d be excited, but these are “blind splits” that were fired at minute-of-paper accuracy.

Sometimes the term “blind splits” is used to distinguish someone pulling the trigger as fast as they can make the gun function while still keeping all the bullet holes in a large, vague area like, say, an FBI Q-target or the berm. (Incidentally, blindly spraying the berm is one technique to get a feel for how fast one can actually function the handgun.)

INTO THE WEEDS: One controversy that stems from focusing heavily on split times is that a decent shooter with a modicum of dedicated practice can quickly get split times with production guns into the sub-.35 second range while still maintaining a reasonable accuracy standard. The reason this causes arguments and drama is that any faster than that and you start messing with the boundaries of human reaction times.

In other words, it can be argued that a .19 split happened because the shooter had already decided they were taking a second shot before they even took the first. The first shot broke, the sights lifted, the shooter let the trigger reset in recoil and already had it prepped for the next shot so that he could break the second one as soon as the sights settled.


Rob Leatham shoots splits fast enough to be worth photographing, even with a dinky little XD-E.

Since resetting the trigger in recoil and prepping it again as the sights settle is a key to this, you’re well on your way to firing your second shot before the sight picture for the next shot has fully resolved. Trainers like Darryl Bolke and Wayne Dobbs at HiTS point out that this can develop into people “outrunning their headlights”.

In his lecture at Tactical Conference this year, Darryl mentioned that LAPD D Platoon doesn’t place any emphasis on firing faster than about half-second splits. The counter-argument offered is that when one is training to shoot sub-.3 splits on paper, then .5 splits are going to feel almost slow by comparison.
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I don’t pretend to have the answer to this, although I’ll note that working on the ability to shoot faster has improved my shooting at slower cadences. This required buying a timer, of course, which is sure to get me kilt on da streetz at some point.
-Tamara Keel



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About the Author: Tamara Keel made a living slinging guns across the glass for more than 20 years, so it goes without saying she’s been muzzled more times than just about anyone we know. Tamara has been regularly published in many places such as SWAT Magazine, Concealed Carry Magazine, and is currently the Handgun Editor for the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated magazine. But it’s not just on dead trees that she writes–you can catch most of her wit on her blog. She’s into making fun of gun hipsters, shooting bowling pin matches, drinking new craft beers, and collecting old and outdated cameras. You can also catch her on Instagram @tamarakeel 

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2 Comments

  1. Great googly mooglies .. that lead photo makes my arthritic hips hurt just looking at it!