I’m not much of a hunter but…

I went to the local Safari Club International dinner over the weekend, and there was one trip up for grabs on the live auction that I would have bought in a heartbeat had I anything resembling the spare cash/credit to buy it.

A week’s hunting for Red Stag, accommodations included, on the Balmoral Estate of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.


No, you wouldn’t be staying in the palace. I checked.

Look, I get that there’s still a lot of reverse snobbery from Americans about the British royalty, but for someone Canadian-born like myself, the Queen is a BIG deal, she is the embodiment of the country, and to be anywhere near a) the Highlands and b) Balmoral is almost overwhelming for someone like me.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled American stuff.

Still got the shutter bug.

Even though it’s been at least a dozen years since I tripped the the shutter for a living (and five years since my last big gig), I can still pull out a good shot or two when needed.

Did a day’s worth of shooting for the day job over the weekend, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

Naples Gun Range VIP shooting range in Florida The Alamo by Lotus Gunworks Womens shooting instruction in Naples

Gear for the shoot, if you must know, was this cheap-o Chinese lighting kit, a flex reflector and my old D70.

Oh, and gaffer’s tape, foam core and a-clamps, because let’s face it, when you get right down to it, those are more important than the camera.

No, really.

Things might have gone a bit smoother on the shoot if I had access to my old reliable Speedotrons, but hey, time (and gear) marches on. Besides, I picked up the entire new system for the price of one flash head from my old lighting kit. Granted, I now have four 200w/s monoblocks instead of 9600w/s worth of lights that can (and have) lit up a basketball arena, but what I have works for me, and that’s the way I like it.

Getting paid for what you know.

make_readyI had an idea while listening Ben and Luke talk about Apprentice/Journeyman/Master shooters during this week’s Triangle Tactical podcast. Would people pay to have their match performance reviewed/critiqued by a GM level shooter?

Imagine this: You and five other people pay $25 each to shoot on a squad with Rob Leatham or Shannon Smith or Mike Seeklander. Each stage would be filmed from both the shooter’s point of view and another camera. You’d get advice on stage strategy before and during the match, then a group debrief to go over the video a day or so later. As an added bonus, for $100 more there could be an hour long, one-on-one debrief where the match is dissected in detail. That’d put between $150 and $850 in the pocket of the shooter for two to eight hours work. Not bad.

If you’re a GM shooter, the trick would be, of course, to make sure that you provided valuable feedback back to your customers, something that is difficult if you don’t know how you provide feedback to yourself..

Competitive Shooting Will Get You Killed On The Streets Of Iraq.

Army Marksmanship Unit

Or, you know, not.

Master Sgt. Scott Satterlee is really good at shooting things. He’s a member of the U.S. Army’s elite 1st Special Forces Group based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. He’s also a nationally ranked competitive precision rifle shooter—and one of the military’s best marksmen.

Satterlee says he has learned a lot about firearms in the world of competitive shooting. It’s influenced how he shoots—and why he came to recognize flaws in how the military prepares soldiers for war.

He’s the operations sergeant at JBLM’s Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat Course. After years of combat deployments around the world, training soldiers and shooting at civilian weapon ranges around the United States, he thinks it’s time we radically revamp the way we think about firearms training.

Read the whole thing. Suffice to say that a bona-fide Tier One Operator got a wake-up call when he stepped into the box at a practical shooting match.

Hat tip to Phil Wong of Gator Farm Tactical for the story.

Learning for a lifetime

Thinking more about yesterday’s post, what’s more important: Teaching techniques, or instilling the passion to learn how to stay safe?

It seems to me that tactical trainers get caught up in the superiority of the gun-fu they’re teaching and then forget that what they’re actually doing is *teaching* first, perfecting gun-fu second.

An example:

There’s a small husband and wife firearms training team here in Naples that could teach the big boys a thing or two about customer service and creating repeat business. They both have great training creds (Givens, Farnham, Suarez and others), and work well together. They have a weekly demonstration/lecture class at a local church and then host a “range day” on the weekend where people can practice what they learned earlier. Their clientele is both single men and woman, and more couples than I’m used to seeing in a firearms training class. They also have a lot of older, retired people in their classes, but you know what? That’s the market here in “Heaven’s Waiting Room”.

In other words, they create loyal customers by knowing their market and teaching to their market. They don’t teach advanced-level gun-fu, but they get people used to using their guns and stay aware of their surroundings. I’ve seen how they train people, and I know they’ve made an impact on the lives of the people they’ve taught.

And unsurprisingly, one of them is also a middle-school math teacher.

So it turns out that people who are good at teaching also make good firearms teachers.

Who knew?

One more one more thing about the marketing of practical shooting

Thinking about yesterday’s post and how shooters talk about their matches, can a shooter at, say, Area 2 tell someone at the match the specific things they need to do on the last day in order to win? Something like “Yeah, I have stages 11 and 12 to shoot today, and I know I’m 24 points down going into today, but those stages play to my strengths and I think I can beat Nils/Dave/Rob/Jerry/Max today if I get my hits.”

Probably not. First off, because no one knows for sure who won a major match in USPSA until all the points are totaled, but secondly, I’m not sure a shooter CAN talk about their strengths in that context.

An example.

Growing up, I was a HUGE fan of downhill skiing’s “Crazy Canucks“: They brought a fresh sense of abandon and macho recklessness to a sport that had been dominated for years by effete Eurotrash, and you always knew what you were going to see when they hit the slopes.

What are the differences between how Jerry shoots a match/stage versus how Max or Rob or K.C. shoots it? Do they have a distinct style? What is it? Can they talk about it to others? And if they can’t, how can we expect media/marketing people to talk about such things and bring more people into the sport?

Negative Image

“The sport of practical shooting is speed-biased and negatively charged.”

Steve Anderson

Thinking even more about marketing and the shooting sports, how DOES one talk about what they’ve done on a stage, anyways? Grab any GM (or anyone else, really) right after they shot a stage and ask them how they did, and you’ll get something along the lines of “I think I did ok. I had a few extra shots on the spinner and I bobbled a reload, but other than that…”

I don’t know about you, but that ain’t exactly ESPY material to me.

Part of the problem is, I think, how we talk about what we do at a match. We remember the low points because that’s when our focus (not concentration) is broken, and that grates on us like a raw nerve. We expect to shoot a stage well, and when we make a mistake, that’s what sticks out in our minds. But we don’t celebrate when we excel because we expect that every time we step into the box.

An example.

A few years ago at Area 2, I watched Taran Butler trip and fall butt-first during a course of fire. Not only did he not drop his gun and not DQ himself, but he took two shots thru a port on his way to his feet, both Alphas.

I can pretty much guarantee you that move wasn’t a part of his pre-shoot walkthrough, and DANG, it was amazing to watch.

If things go correctly on a stage, it’s because our pre-visualization and focus, which are both highly intuitive and therefore hard to talk about. “Yeah, so I was like, in the zone, and I saw my shots and ran the stage well and got my hits” isn’t the sort of interview that pops up on the sports portion of the evening news.

Other sports don’t have this problem, or don’t have it has badly: Downhill skiing is a sport that definitely requires focus and intuition to perform correctly, but a skier can talk about what they need to do in order to succeed in concrete terms before and after a run; “Yeah, the snow here is kinda rough and wet, so staying on my edges in the turns will really pay off further down the slope”. Knowing this, we as the audience can begin to make expectations about what we’re going to see and cheer on a good performance because we now what a good performance will look like. This rarely happens in the shooting sports, because of the intuitive nature of what makes a good performance on a given stage.

Consider this video of Travis Gibson doing a monster run at Superstition Mountain a few years ago.

Would 15 seconds of “This stage has many targets that pop up and then disappear, so the key to victory here is shooting them as they appear and not wait around for something to shoot” allowed us to judge Travis’ performance and the performance of other shooters on this stage? Probably. Is it something that the shooters themselves could talk about prior to the match? Maybe. Is it something they’ll talk about after the stage is shot? Probably not.

So much in life is about setting expectations and then using them to judge performance, but we’re still struggling to show the non-shooting public what to expect at a shooting match because we as shooters don’t know how to talk about our expectations. If we can walk off a stage and brag about the good things that happened, we can make our sport more attractive to the casual shooter and non-shooter alike.

All In The Family

If you’re a member of a shooting club, eventually you’re going to run into shooting-club politics. The bullseye people think the practical shooters are a bunch of unsafe yahoos, the F-Class shooters want the long range on the same day that the 3 Gunners want it, and NOBODY can figure out those freaks that shoot smallbore silhouette.

One of the shooters last week wore a “SW Florida Marksman of the Year 2014″ t-shirt to the match. Now I have no idea how he got that shirt, but it got me thinking: What if clubs held a “Top Shot” competition of sorts that put shooters of all the disciplines at the club against each other? What if the bullseye guys had to (gasp!) move with a gun in their hands? What if the 3 Gunners did some 5 stand? What if the precision rifle shooters shot silhouette?

The divisions themselves would supply all the firearms for their stages and the points would be equally weighted between each so you’d have to put in a good showing at everything to be crowned “King of the Hill”, (and it would work better if there were cash and prizes on the line), but I’m thinking it would be a way to get people out on the range and trying new stuff.

Leaders who lead by example

Consider, for a moment, this picture of Jordan’s King Abdullah and Ed Head on the line at Gunsite.


King Abdullah has vowed to personally bomb the ever-lovin’ crap of out of ISIS in retaliation for ISIS brutally executing of one of Jordan’s combat pilots.

Kinda nice to see a world leader who a) recognizes evil for what it is and b) is will to lead from the front (literally, in his case) and not from behind.

Which got me thinking: Rather than do some stupid, stupid photo op to show voters they’re concerned about gun rights, what if our prospective leaders did a couple of days at Gunsite or the Sig Academy or somewhere similar as part of the campaign trail? It’d show us proles that a) we matter and b) they’re learn that in today’s world, “gun owner” isn’t a synonym for “hunter”.