Ninjas vs. Spartans.

No, this isn’t about some game app for your phone, but rather about two popular athletic events.

The Spartan Race is a variant of the “tough mudder” obstacle course / marathon competition that’s become popular as of late. It’s not easy (far from it!) and that difficulty is what makes it so popular, with big-time sponsors, a TV series and races on three continents. How they can call it “The Spartan Race” and not have the contestants lop off the heads of a few Helots along the way, I don’t know.

I digress.

American Ninja Warrior is also a very tough obstacle course, but it’s shorter and is more focused on acrobatics and gymnastics rather than endurance and mud. It also has big-time sponsors and a tv show, and unlike the Spartan Race, I’m absolutely hooked on watching on TV, as are my wife and sons.


  1. It’s better TV.
    All the excitement of the contest happens over the space of 7-8 minutes, not a 2 hour run. If I wanted to watch a mini-series, I’ll re-watch “Band of Brothers” on Netflix.
  2. It’s better to watch in-person.
    I’ve not been to a taping of American Ninja Warrior nor have I ran a tough mudder, but all the action in ANW happens right there in front of you, making for boisterous crowds and a party atmosphere, and what’s good to watch in-person is, by definition, good to watch on TV.*
  3. The obstacles match an urban audience.
    Running around over hill and dale is fun, (and heaven knows I did a bunch of it my younger days), but it’s not really relevant to today’s youth who are more into parkour and rock gyms than they are marathons and farm life.

Here’s the fact of the matter: Practical shooting, as it stands now, is the Spartan Race: The people who watch it and benefit from it tend to be the people who participate in the sport. If it’s going to grow, it needs to become American Ninja Warrior, and draw in fans who don’t have a rock-climbing wall in their basement.

* Think about it: There’s a reason why so many musicians do so well selling recordings of their live performances, even though their fans can listen to the songs as performed in the studio on  the non-live albums. Excitement and fans = $$$. The Grateful Dead figured this out DECADES ago. Why hasn’t practical shooting caught up with what those hippies learned back in the 60’s?

Free Range Competitions

Here’s a brain-buster: What makes a match memorable? What makes one match stand out from another? Not just individual matches, but (aside from the weather) what’s the difference between shooting a match in Arizona versus shooting one in New Hampshire?

I’ll let you think about that for awhile, because honestly, I’m struggling to come up with an answer. Green Valley has the Bianchi Cup and Rockcastle has the cave. Iron Man has crazy stupid stages and then there was the glorious madness that was the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun, but other than that, which matches have something that makes them memorable in and of themselves?

Other sports don’t have this problem: Either the venue itself is memorable (Augusta Country Club, Lambeau Field), the way the venue is built creates memories by affecting the competition, (the ocean at Pebble Beach, the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, the Green Monster at Fenway) or the environment around the venue makes memories (the infield at a NASCAR race, tailgating at a football game, the seventh inning stretch).

Now I’ll grant you that practical shooting is new on the scene and hasn’t had the chance to create the legacy of a Wrigley Field (with the possible exception of the Bianchi Cup), but why don’t matches strive for a unique flavor in how they set up their stages (and no, I’m not talking painted props)? There’s only one place to run the Donga, and there’s only one place to shoot the Zipline. Those two places also have great reputations in the shooting world and have people clamoring to shoot there from all over the world.

A coincidence? Probably not.

Dry Fire Setup

As I briefly mentioned the other day, I’m doing more dry fire these days, because I want to, and I can. I’ve tried in the past, but it’s been mostly draw-to-a-target stuff, with at most 6-10 (fake) trigger presses at a time to help cure my trigger jerk. However, my trigger press is (mostly) consistent these days, so I wanted to move on and work on some of the stuff that Brian Enos talks about, plus I wanted to start moving with more purpose and integrating entries and exits from shooting positions into my dry-fire practice time.

Rather than set up one or two 8 1/2 x 11 targets, I scattered full-page, 2/3rds page and half-page targets around my spare bedroom in a way that would give me practice with transitions, movement and targets of different difficulty.

Dry fire range

Numbers = number of targets on the wall.

Dry fire practice

1/2, 2/3 and full page targets in a “Six, reload, six” setup.

That’s a queen-sized bed in the middle, so that give you an idea of scale. This setup allows me to practice the “six, reload, six” course of fire so prevalent in USPSA Classifiers as well as the 3rd Stage of the IDPA Classfier and a bedside table to deal with “gun on table” starts, along with hidden targets (there’s a few targets that can only be seen from one point in the room) creating stage plans, movement, and dealing with more-distant shots vs closer ones.

So far, it seems to working. More practice is needed to see how well, though.

Match Report – Louland Gun Range August 6th

I have more free time on my hands these days, so in-between reorganizing my sock drawer and taking laps of the pool, I went and shot the Thursday night match at Louland.

And I didn’t suck.

I’m actually kinda happy with both those stages. Yes, I have a dropped shot on the popper in the first stage and speed-gunned the second stage a bit, resulting a A-2C-D first target and one into the no-shot (%#$!), but I like my movement, I got my hits, and I was fairly consistent on ALL the stages. My draw was decent (for me) on that first stage, and all four hits were close together and upper-center mass on the steel.


Why? A few reasons. I actually AM dry-firing on a regular basis now, and rather than just working on draw and trigger press, I’ve built a short course of fire with 13 targets set up in different arrays around my spare bedroom, so now I have practice drawing, moving, doing transitions and dealing with near and far targets.

You know, all that $@!% that Brian Enos talks about in his book. So maybe, just maybe, if I practice and pay attention, I can get good at this practical shooting thing.


Mind the (age) gap

I shot an IDPA match up at Hansen last week (match video to follow) and noticed once again how OLD my fellow competitors were. I’m no spring chicken, and yet I was smack dab in the middle of the age demographic for the match.

This is NOT a sign of a vibrant, growing sport, which is why I’m such a HUGE fan of the Scholastic Pistol Program and other efforts out there to replenish the ranks of shooters in practical pistol. There are millions and millions of young people out there running around with (virtual) guns in their hands every day: It’d be nice to get just a few of them off of the couch and out to the range.

71.5 Million People Are The Market

Now, what are we going to do to reach them?

In 2013, it was estimated that approximately 71,500,000 people worldwide watched competitive gaming. The increasing availability of online streaming media platforms, particularly, has become central to the growth and promotion of eSports competitions. Demographically, Major League Gaming has reported viewership that is approximately 85% male and 15% female, with 60% of viewers between the ages of 18 and 34.

That is seventy one and a half MILLION people who play video games and sit and watch other people play video games, . What if 10% of them shot? What if 1% of them shot practical pistol? Are we even capable of thinking what 70,000+ new, excited, MOTIVATED new shooters would do to USPSA/IDPA/3 Gun?

What’s your experience?

We’re in a post-scarity world when it comes to firearms: The panic-buying of the last seven years is over, so now people are looking to DO something with all those guns.

This is why I now work at a gun range versus working in a gun store. Duh.

In Gun Culture 1.0, doing something with a gun meant going out into the outdoors in pursuit of the best day of your life: You hiked through the beauty of the outdoors, spotted one of God’s magnificent creatures, and blasted it to smithereens.

Mission accomplished. Food is on the table, a trophy is on the wall, and a good time was had by all.

However, things are not the same for Gun Culture 2.0, because our best-case scenario is… nothing happens. Our training and situational awareness worked, and we didn’t go to dumb places to do dumb things with dumb people. If hunting is preparing for the best day of your life, Gun Culture 2.0 is about preparing for the WORST day of your life.

Practical shooting is somewhat similar, because as Steve Anderson says, the sport is speed-biased and negatively charged. The best, the absolute best we can do on a stage is NOT screw up our stage plan with a brain fart or a gun malfunction. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t scream “The human drama of athletic competition” to me.

This is even more of a problem for tv shows and magazines about Gun Culture 2.0, because there’s not a lot of excitement to be had talking about stuff that didn’t happen: After all, when a baseball game gets rained out, they show reruns of “Good Times”, not shots of a rainy ballpark.

So what DOES happen in Gun Culture 2.0 that is worth celebrating and enjoying and sharing? Good times on the range? Learning something new in a class? Something I’m missing?

Whining at the door, scratching to get in.

My Kel-Tec is getting repaired at the shop, so I have to wait to install all the new toys onto it.

I’m waiting on an ambi mag release and bolt catch from Troy so I can upgrade my competition AR to something that is truly ambidextrous (and then write a story about it for one of the biggest gunblogs out there).

My new CZ is still at CZ Custom, getting a new hammer, trigger and sights.

I do like the Taccom shotgun rig, though. I just need the time to go out and shoot a match with it.

I have all this new stuff, but I can’t play with it! So frustrating!