Match Report, Louland Pistol Match, March 19

I decided to try something different this time. Rather than shoot the match USPSA-style with my tuned CZ-75 and gamer rig, I shot it with my P-07 and my carry rig.

I had zero expectations about this match: The only reason I was shooting it was to get used to my carry rig again and to flex my IDPA muscles a bit. To be honest, I could have shot it better, but overall, I’m ok with my results as they reflect where I am as a shooter right now. I’ve not been dry-firing as much as of late, and it shows.

Ok, not that bad for a dead-stock gun. Memo to self: Next time, listen to the stage briefing, that way the RO doesn’t need to coach you halfway through your run.

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..

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.

Match Report: SWSFA Handgun Challenge

I travelled up the I-75 Saturday to shoot the Handgun Challenge match at the SW Florida Sportsman’s Association. The match rules are a hybrid of USPSA and IDPA and are light weight, unobtrusive and make a lot of sense. The match was very low-key and laid-back, and started with something I’ve never done before, a man-on-man shootoff.

Yep, a half-dozen years in this sport, and I’ve never shot a shoot-off, mainly because I’d shot so long out at Rio, and no matter how good you’d do there, you’d end up shooting against Rob or Angus or Nils, and that was the end of that.

But at this match, I did pretty well. I ended up in the final round (there was about a dozen shooters there), but I had my @ss handed to me by a little kid who was much faster and better than I am.

Sigh.

stage

The other part of the match was one stage you could run through multiple times with multiple guns. I ran through it twice with the same gun: Once normally, and once REALLY concentrating on accuracy in order to go down ten points or less. Here’s video of me on the concentration run.

I had no presuppositions for this match. I’d never shot it before, I’d never been to this range before, I had no clues about divisios or rules or whatever. My pre-match strategy was literally “Ok, let’s see what happens and go from there”. In short, I was as close to the Zen ideal of a “beginner’s mind” as I’ve been in the last few years, and just relied on innate, unconscious shooting.

The stage design also encouraged this approach, as aside from headshot at the end, there weren’t any really tricky targets, and the course of fire was easy with no memory games needed.

What’s REALLY interesting is the time/score between the “unconscious” and the “conscious” run. 2 years ago, in order to shoot my best, I needed to concentrate hard on the A Zone/ Down Zero zone and get my hits, because that’s what I found led to success.

Today? Not so much.

Scorecard

I’m almost TEN SECONDS up faster on the stage running it with my unconscious mind and almost four and half seconds up faster with points down figured in.

Remember when I said I think I’ve reached the point where Brian Enos’ book can help me? I think I now have proof that I was right.

So what’s stopping me from shooting unconsciously all the time?

  • Stage Design: Anytime there’s multiple opportunities to shoot the same target from different locations or blow past a port, I need to think about things and that slows me down.
  • Precision Over Speed: I still slow down and *think* about hitting long-range or precise shots, and the time to think about slowing down takes as much (or more) time as focusing on the front sight and making the shot. I’ll still need that front sight focus as I progress, but I think I can shift mental gears quicker over time, improving my score.

Other than that, I’ve very satisfied with what I see and where I am. On to bigger and better things.

Update: Edited for clarity.

Reload.

Brian EnosSo I’m at the point where I think that the stuff that’s in Brian Enos’ book will make sense to me and actually help improve my shooting. I’ve started to read it at least three times before, but let’s face it, it’s a hard read and it’s pretty much useless unless you’re at a level where the head game of practical shooting matters more than trigger press.

Hence the name “Beyond Fundamentals”.

The problem is, I’ve lost track of my copy during the two wholesale cross-country moves last year, and it’s going to be at least another eight months until we even begin to sort out our stuff.

Looks like I need to buy another copy of it. Sigh. I hate re-buying books.

The CMP Reloads

Interesting development here.

The CMP Pistol Program features what can be called “classical bulls-eye pistol shooting.” This is an especially challenging and difficult form of target competition that is now more than 110 years old. This traditional pistol discipline preserves the practice of shooting pistols like they were originally designed to be used. It emphasizes precision pistol marksmanship done in the standing position while holding the pistol with one extended arm. Difficult targets with graduated scoring rings place great emphasis on precision marksmanship skills. CMP pistol shooting is done with pistols that evolved from as-issued service pistols and retain non-optical sights. The 2015 rule changes represent a major CMP effort not just to preserve, but also to advance classical bulls-eye pistol shooting in the USA.

The CMP Rules Committee and Board of Directors have now approved 2015 pistol rules changes that provide for 1) allowing pistols with additional, popular match conditioning modifications, 2) broadening CMP Service Pistol Rules to permit the use of a wider variety of service-type pistols, 3) the establishment of a detailed list of “approved service pistols,” 3) the limited expansion of permitted ammunition, 4) the creation of a new Distinguished .22 Rimfire Pistol Badge and EIC program, 5) the adoption of minimum credit scores for earning EIC points and 6) an increase in the number of EIC matches that competitors can shoot.

Translation: We’re tired of getting our @ss handed to us by the practical shooting community.

Make An Asset Of Yourself, Then Get A Sponsorship.

Tam said something interesting on her blog about last week’s post,

“Grab a random gun store customer and ask them to name five competitive shooters and they’ll say “Jerry Miculek and…’ Some might name Rob Leatham or Julie G., too, but unless they actually compete themselves, that’ll be the extent of it.”

There’s a reason for this. Jerry, aside from being a HECK of a shooter, has really ramped up his social media game in the past few years, thanks in no small part to his new son-in-law. From Reddit AMA’s to Youtube to teh Facebook, Jerry has both a good message (he shoots darn well) and is a good messenger.

I’ve had the priviledge of frequently RO’ing two of the bigger matches in practical shooting, the USPSA Area 2 Championship and the Superstition Mountain Mystery 3 Gun. I’ve had just about every major shooter in the US go through my stages, and I can tell you FOR CERTAIN that Jerry and his family are always the first ones downrange taping targets and resetting steel, and they’re always open to talk with the other people on the range after they’ve shot their stages.

This stands in marked contrast to many, many other “professional” shooters, including people whose sole job it is to shoot guns for a living. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a Super Squad on my stage that stands around in-between shooters, laughing and talking amongst themselves, leaving the resetting of the stage to the RO’s and bolting from the range the minute their day is over.

This sort of thing projects a positive image for their sponsors…. how?

As a marketing weasel-type who might (might) be in the position to throw a few shekels back to the shooting community in a half-dozen years or so, here’s what I’d look for in a sponsored shooter:

  1. Be An Effective Messenger. Send in a 1 minute phone video of why you like my product. This lets me see that you can stand up and talk to people about my stuff.
  2. Demographic Appeal. No, this is NOT a code for “have boobs”, but let’s face it, the nature of the shooting sports is changing along with the nature of America’s citizens. If you can’t effectively tell a thirty-something professional in the city about my products, I don’t want to hear from you.
  3. Show Your Work. Have 10,000 Twitter followers, 5,000 Facebook fans or an Instagram account full of cool pictures? Let’s talk. Don’t even have your own Facebook page? Keep walking.
  4. Make It A Two Way Street. I’m giving you money and ammo. You give me content and match results. What’s so hard to understand about that?
  5. Good Content Includes Good Match Results. People will listen to an expert, and expert shooters tend to win matches, but an expert who can’t talk to my customers is useless to me.

Seems easy, doesn’t it. So why do so few sponsored shooters (and sponsors as well) do this on a regular basis?