The Vision Thing

You can also just get lazy and let habit shoot for you. When you’re shooting from habit, you just don’t pay atten tion to your visual inputs. A good example is Triple Threat: you push the gun onto the first target and you see the sight drive onto that target and from that point on you may not see the sight again. I was burning out on that stage in practice one day seeing how fast I could shoot it, and I shot three or four runs in a row where I missed the second tar get every time. And that was from being lazy and just sling ing a shot to that target. Shooting a stage like that becomes such a habitual routine that you don’t really see anything; you just kind of point the gun in that direction and fire a shot.

And I experienced just that last month. Take a look look at this video. At first glance, it looks like a pretty smooth run, I even handle the glitch in my round count fairly well.

Except that all throughout that run, I didn’t look at my sights or call my shots, and so I ended up with a HORRIBLE score, including three Mikes and a no-shoot.

It’s been a long time since I shot a stage that poorly. I became complacent, and it came back to bite me in the assets. I learned absolutely NOTHING from that stage, except what not to do, and unfortunately, that’s a lesson I need to keep on learning.

New Acquisition: Another CZ!

Gosh, what are the odds?

AIM Surplus had these for sale last night, and I got one for myself (with the wife’s permission, of course) as a combination birthday/Father’s Day gift. Good thing I did, because they sold out an hour later after I bought one.

Used CZ75 for sale

Czech manufacture CZ 75 9mm caliber semi-automatic Handgun. Law Enforcement Trade-Ins from Israel… Incredible single/double action “cock and lock” pistols that feature all steel construction and a hammer forged barrel. These short recoil operated, locked breech handguns are in excellent mechanical condition, just some metal finish wear as the pictures show. Include one 15rd magazine.

So now (with a little work) I’ll have a backup to the Production CZ75 I’ve been using, and CZ-USA has Pre-B mags in-stock.


This is how the media SHOULD be talking about practical shooting

Take a few moments to read this story on about a big-time “Big Buck Hunter” video game contest, and ask yourself what it would take for Wired or Stuff or some other trendy media outlet to talk about USPSA or 3 Gun with the same amount of enthusiasm.

Some select points from the article:

“It’s all patterns,” he’d say. “If you want to win, just know the patterns.”

Patterns are key. Bucks appear in specific places at specific times. Knowing the patterns requires practice. Practice requires time. Time requires money. But my friends and I are young. We can find time and money.

Sounds a lot like Steel Challenge to me…

“Andy (a gamer in the article) touches on the growing trend of players owning personal Big Buck machines. “You used to be a douchebag if you did that,” he says. “But then those people started winning championships. So.”

Waiting for the inevitable “Playing Big Buck Hunter will get you killed in the woods” comments…

“The stereotype is that most of the people who love BBH are Republican, pro-gun, NRA members. That’s true, but only to an extent.”

No comment.

“By the time I get to The Pourhouse, (the site of the championship), the atmosphere is much as I remember it from Friday. Same faces, same outfits, same rodeo energy. The emcee implores the crowd to drink Old Milwaukee, because it’s the sponsor and it’s free. A hype video introducing “Big Buck Hunter HD Wild” plays on a screen. It has lots of new animals.”

Think about how SOCIAL playing this game is, and then think about how social the average USPSA match is. Sure, the guys on the squad trash talk with each other and have fun, but when’s the last time you were at a match that a) had spectators b) had facilities for spectators or c) encouraged spectators to be social and root for their favorites.

The finals offer a three-trek format, a change that benefits Tower, who tends to be a faster shot. He pulls away early, blasting at bucks even as they materialize. He hits them all. It’s freakish, and unstoppable. He takes the match. Green and orange confetti falls from the rafters. Tower raises his arms in triumph.

I catch up with him a little later. He’s glowing with excitement and perhaps alcohol. “Only had four beers all day,” he says. I have trouble believing him. Then he says he’s the fastest Big Buck Hunter shot in the world. I have no trouble believing him. I ask if he’s got any advice.

“Aim small, hit small,” he says.

I have no idea what this means, but damned if it doesn’t sound good.

Hey, look, a competitor who can differentiate his type of performance from everyone else out there! How fresh! How exciting! How completely absent from USPSA! We call Rob Leatham “The Great One” (and he is) but WHY is he the great one? What makes his style so dominating versus Max or Eric or Jerry? How do we expect to stimulate interest in our sport if the people who shoot it aren’t interesting?

Playing a video game in a bar is exciting, social and popular. Shooting a match is exciting, and if we can figure out a way to make it social, we can make it popular.

The question is, is that what we want to do?

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.



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.


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.