File Under Zen, Moment Of.

zen

I’ve done more thinking about shooting and where I want to grow as a shooter/competitor in the last three weeks than I have done the previous three years. The interwebz are full of people talking about how to become a GM, but there is precious little about how to become B Class or IDPA Expert.

The fact is, if you cure your trigger jerk and stay awake during a stage, you can make C Class. However, B Class and above requires effort, both physical and mental, and that means a) discipline and b) awareness. When I lived in Arizona, I never was able to see where I actually was in the grand scheme of practical shooting because on any given day, I’d be shooting with Rob Leatham or Kelly Neal or Sara Dunivin or Angus Hobdell or another other top-ranked shooter.

It’s hard to get a grasp of your own abilities (or lack thereof) in such a rarified environment: You don’t know how good you really are because even when you shoot your very best, you’re on the tail end of the match results. C Class is supposed to contain the top 40% to 60% of the shooters in USPSA, but it doesn’t feel like that if you’re competing with the top 10% (or better) all the time.

Three things, however, have re-ignited my passion for improving my skill at the shooting sports.

  1. Having the chance to step back and become the local hot shot at the top of the leaderboard for any given match has given me the chance to put what I’ve learned in context with the sport as a whole. Being C Class in a world where almost everyone is A Class or above means you suck. Being C Class in a world of D Class (or worse) shooters means you’re the top gun.
    This can have a marvelous effect on your self-image. :D
  2. On a related note, taking a breather in the action has given me time to think about where I am and where I want to be, and more importantly, what I need to do get there.
  3. I’ve been playing around with a Sig Sauer light/laser combo on my P07 (more on that later). Having a laser on my dry-fire gun has significantly increased my passion for dry-fire practice, as it gives direct 1-1 feedback on how my muzzle is moving (or not) during the trigger pull.

When I first started this blog, it was called “The Quest for C Class” because that’s what my shooting goal was at the time. I’ve made that goal (and then some), but the quest continues.

Stay tuned.

Update: As I said on Facebook, one thing that popped up right way while doing dry-fire with a laser is how the gun moves during one-handed shooting. I’m finding that if I add a little more bend to my elbow and curl my thumb down a bit more compared to where they are with a conventional, thumbs-foreward grip, the gun moves MUCH less during the trigger pull, making for faster and more accurate shots.

Out Of Season.

Stage Rifle

I’m experiencing something new out here in the Midwest: An “off season” for practical shooting. In Arizona, you can shoot a match pretty much every day of the week (and twice on Sundays), but here in a small town in Missouri, where snow is lightly falling down as I type this, there is definitely a prime season for shooting and a not-prime season. 

And that not-prime season is now, so I’m spending my time dry-firing, working on stopping and starting my movement, and tweaking my equipment load-out for next year. 

It’s a bit different, because it gives me time to think and reflect on my goals and what I’m going to do accomplish them. There wasn’t really that breathing space in Arizona, because we’d go from Western States to Superstition to stupidly hot shooting weather (but still shooting weather) to Area 2 to SHOT…

… rinse, lather, repeat. 

But having a breather is new to me, and I like it. The trick is going to be spending my time working on my skills these next few months and not just wasting them away playing Combat Mission: Normandy. 

Quote of the Day, 10/07 Edition

rp_Rob_Leatham_image.gif“Anyone who undertakes any kind of serious (competition) training program is going to find themselves as the local hot-shot, unless you live in Arizona.” 

- Steve Anderson

Having gone from the über-competitive realms of Phoenix Rod and Gun and Rio Salado to the more laid-back reaches of central Missouri, I can DEFINITELY sympathize.

The World Shooting Championship! (or at least our version of it)

Muhammed AliI used to be a big, big fan of boxing. I was not a big fan of Mike Tyson, to be honest, but I respected his talent, and I also respected the fact that when he fought, he fought for ALL the titles.

Then Riddick Bowe walked away from the WBC title and we’ve got the current hodge-podge of belts and titles and champions, and I don’t have the time or energy to keep track of who’s the champion of what.

Which brings me to the shooting sports. The World Action Pistol Championship wrapped up last weekend, with Doug Koenig and Jessie Duff winning the Men’s and Women’s overall championships.

World Action Pistol Championship is is NOT the World Shoot, which is NOT the IPDA Worlds, which is NOT the World Shooting Championship, and none of this has anything to do with the ISSF.

Got that? Me neither.

Well-rounded, well-armed

Armed Culture did a great little post on finding good gun advice, and I like this part in particular: 

The four factors of expertise

#1. Breadth of experience.

A guy who has one brand of wine that he drinks is not a wine expert, even if he drinks a lot of wine. Taste only comes with broad exposure. When someone tells you that a product is good, always ask, “Compared to what?”

The typical gun reviewers who lack in this area are military and competition shooters. Many servicemen have extensive experience with the weapons provided to them by the government. But they know little to nothing about the wealth of options available in the civilian world. If your dad got you into sporting clays as a kid, you might be an Olympic class shooter… but that won’t make you an authority on handguns or rifles, or even hunting shotguns.

After reading that, I realized why I was going for “a mind of many things” approach to my journey through firearms culture. I will listen to anything that Rob Leatham or Angus Hobdell have to say about USPSA, but I wouldn’t go to them for rifle advice. In the same manner, I know people who can bust clays with just their mind (and a shotgun), but know diddly about handguns. 

I want to know enough to speak rationally on most gun topics, and I want to be good enough so that when someone says “Hey, do you want to go shoot (insert name of firearms-related activity here)?”, I know I’ll be good enough to enjoy it and have some measure of success at whatever it is. 

As I’ve said before, life is too short to shoot just one gun.

I don’t want to take a tactical training class. Ever.

Not all that tactical, reall

Looks REALLY tactical, doesn’t? Actually, it’s not.

Paul Carlson linked on Facebook to my review of his class with the caveat, “When you read, keep in mind this course isn’t a course in tactics.” 

It wasn’t, and if you reader got that impression, I apologize. I don’t ever want to take a “tactical” course, (especially something like this), because a course in tactics means you are learning a planned response to a pre-planned scenario, much like a kata in the martial arts. Kata is good and necessary, but kata is not sparring and sparring is not combat. I’d much rather have the tools to build a self-defense plan that I can adapt to the chaos of the worst day of my life than a “if this, then that” series of preprogrammed responses.

The APH class expanded the range of tools I have at my disposable, but it didn’t mandate a given response to a given situation, which that is a very good thing. The closest I want to get to a class in pre-programmed responses is something like Fred Mastison’s executive protection classes, where I can learn some techniques I can use to protect my family when I am carrying a firearm. 

An example: Last week I spent two and a half days in the world of Combat Focus Shooting, training for self-defense with a firearm. There wasn’t a timer to be seen nor a pre-planned course of fire and yet I had a blast. Later that week, I shot a USPSA match at Phoenix Rod and Gun club, where there WAS a timer and a pre-planned course of fire and nary a peep about “getting off the X” or volume of fire.

The skills and mindset transferred over, though. There were several long shots at that match that required a greater degree of skill and concentration than the close targets, and I put an extra round into those targets to make sure I “got my hits.”

See where this is going? Rather than learn something that is applicable only on one range, the training I had with Paul and shooting a USPSA match I shot at night combined to strengthen each other and increase my confidence to defend my life and the lives of my loved ones with a firearm. 

Win-win.

Tomorrow’s schedule

Morning: Video shoot of a training session with Rob Pincus.

Afternoon: Run back home, switch from my P07 carry gear to my CZ75 competition rig, load up 150 rounds.

Evening: USPSA at Phoenix Rod and Gun Club. 

That’s life in the tactical fast lane, people! 

The Science of Sport

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Growing up in Southern Alberta, I was exposed to skiing from a young age, and some of the best moments of my life were on a pair a skis (Well, except for that one time I caught a tip on Norquay…).
I’ve said for a while now that downhill skiing is one of the closest non-gun sport analogy to practical shooting. The scoring can be a bit weird (yes, it’s time-based, but your spot in the race order can dramatically affect your run time) and the difference between first place and fifteenth place can come down to minute adjustments of movement and angles that’s hard for skiers to explain to people outside of the sport.

Science, not intuition is making the difference in skiing right now, and that science-based approach to success hasn’t popped up yet in practical shooting. Why? Because nutritionists and pschologists and precision GPS tracking gear cost MONEY, that’s why. The money and sponsors to pay for such things just isn’t there for practical shooting right now. That’s changing as the cost of such gear gets cheaper and the prize tables at shooting matches get better, but there’s still a gap between what the amount of science needed to win costs and what shooters can pay for. 

Someday soon, someone will use science to win a World Shoot, just not now.