Thursday, January 22, 2015

Part 2 of 2: The Ever Elusive Shooter’s Notebook

In my prior post, the process of managing a notebook or diary—is to say the least—labor intensive. There’s no magic, there’s no fireworks, and there’s no insights hidden by mystical shamans except for two things: Goals and a commitment to the diary’s maintenance.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Then look around at your shooting friends and ask them where’s theirs. This tool is typically absent from most shooters, except for the most elite. Although, shooters who practice bullseye casually, there’s probably no real reason to even have one.  But if you’re inclined to meet your near and long term goals going without one can be problematic.
As a reminder, the bulk of what’s useful or gives these things their horsepower was actually noted in Part 1. It’s all about the goal(s).

For the rest of what’s required, let’s look at the following items to help craft a roadmap for your shooting future.  
Photo provided by Accuracy Tech

Technical Baselines  

Before getting started, for some, it might make sense to review the not too distant past. A shooter needs to know where he is right now before determining how far they’re committed to go in the future.
A rule of thumb would be to review your shooting performance for at least the past six months (longer is better). Pull up those old scores from past matches and start to determine where your technical skill level really is during a specific course of fire. And you’ll need to do this for like-to-like match formats. In other words, don’t assume that if you can routinely shoot a 282 NMC with a .22, and that it will or should average throughout an entire 900 point event.  

As an example, I’ve seen gallery shooters apply their average NMC scores or their 600 point scores, and then extrapolate them to a 900 event. And for some reason that average rarely plays out as expected.
By looking back you’ll get a feel for where you are now. There will be stages that are better than others from a scoring standpoint. And there will be those stages that are so poorly executed it becomes easy to identify those weak spots.
It’s not about an emotional negative. It’s about identifying with great precision what areas need concentrated effort.
If you methodically review your past performances all kinds of things come to light. You might be someone who doesn’t start well in a match but comes on strong after warming up. Some shooters tail off at the backend because they don’t have the physical stamina to complete the course. And most of us at many points during a match have what I would call “technical” problems (i.e.: jerking the trigger, milking the trigger late in the match, over gripping during rapid fire, poor first shot during sustained fire, etc.).
It’s for you to identify the things that are holding you back.
Get out the calculator and compare your past scores against your nearest attainable goal, and it reveals what level you’ll need to perform at in the near future.

Performance History and Analysis

Going forward, it’s an excellent idea to record the values of each target shot throughout a match.  There’s lots of information to be gleamed later when you’re not shooting. What I typically do is take a photo of my score card with my smartphone because it all there and I don’t have to disrupt my concentration during a match. And it’s easy enough to transcribe later.
It’s generally a good idea to make notes after you’re done shooting.
There will be some targets that were shot exceptionally well and others not so well; let’s call them the extremes.  I’ll collect them and take them home or make an immediate note in my diary about what went right or wrong. Then later I’ll make notes about those items to understand and ingrain a good habit, or start looking for solutions to correct bad ones.
This is where most of your insights need to be documented. Whether it’s a dry and matter of fact observation or that floor-stomping epiphany, feel free to craft your thoughts in detail.   
This is about the only way you’ll be able to recognize redundant errors and calculate how much they affect your match scores. Whatever you do, don’t rely on your distant memory from a week ago, it’s extremely unreliable.
Over time, don’t be surprised that this type of data collection might appear to be the bulk of your diary. Charting your performance by using graphs by gun and type of matches, will provide a visual validation where you’re going.  All of this is the necessary data you can’t avoid. Generally your performance history, skill baseline and performance analysis appear to be interwoven, and it is. But they still must be dealt with individually.  
Training Methods and Commitments

Here’s the area where novice shooters over concentrate.
I’m not suggesting this area isn’t important. Although, most shooters visualize this is where all the work is. In some respect that’s true. Having new guidance by knowing what you’re currently capable of and where you’re going, it now becomes much easier and more efficient applying new skill solutions.
Novice shooters generally assume that by practicing they’ll get somewhere. History tells us that most do little more than not backslide using this approach.

Knowing where you need to concentrate you training allows you the productivity of zeroing in on the specific required labor that has to be applied. So, when searching for a training solution be diligent about what drills meet your needs.
There’s a drill for every problem. A simple Google search will deliver more than you can shake a stick at. And this gives you talking points where you can approach more knowledgeable shooters for their training insights.  

The final part is when a new training plan is crafted, and its most element is, writing down your new commitments. Without applying a known or measurable amount of labor, and then later a performance review, you’ll never know what will be required of you to meet your nearest goal. You’ll need to weigh the price of labor, money and time that you’ll need to pay before making a training commitment.
And this section of your diary where you're constantly amending and always evolving that shot plan. The plan will develop with you as you mature into a more skilled shooter.


This section is more of a convenience than anything else. It's where you collect information that you can get your hands on quickly during a match.
As an example, I have notes about which way I need to turn my sight adjustments for 6 different guns and their impacts at 25 and 50 yards. Sometimes I list the windage and sight adjustments for different types of lighting conditions. I have notes on sub-6 aiming areas for different guns. And in some sections I have notes about how certain ammunition loads react under extreme cold or hot conditions. Heck, there are even telephone numbers and addresses for several different gunsmiths.
What I list in here are items that might be useful at a moment’s notice. It’s stuff you just can’t afford to forget and you always know where it is.  

When you dare to visualize those new goals for your shooting career, it’s acceptable to make them extraordinary and unlike yourself. Use these tools to take a chance and shape a different future for yourself. But always know where you’ve been and where you’re going.

Use these links to get started:

Friday, January 09, 2015

Part 1 of 2: The Ever Elusive Shooter’s Notebook

At the end of last year I had several posts that alluded to shooting diaries. You know, they’re the things we all know we need but few of us actually have.

Even during the most productive of times, shooting notebooks can transmute into ephemeral phantoms. Their lifespan is much like an unearthly spirit, where material insights become easily recognized only to have their valuable essence slip away by the fog of time.

Mundane and laborious, notebooks require constant vigilance and updating.  To be effective they demand perpetual tune-ups.
So, what are the rewards?

A shooter will immediately know what they’ve learned, where they’re deficient, how they’re trending (hopefully progressing) and what new training strategies may be required of them. Think of having a diary as a tool that will unlock your shooting potential.

All of us know people in the sport who have achieved a certain level of competency and then stopped progressing—for years. Without knowing where you’ve been, and by having little direction where one is going, most shooters without a plan will simply maturate at their base level.
Over the years I’ve routinely mentioned that few people know what to put in a notebook. And there’s a reason for this pervasive dilemma. Most coaches don’t want to pollute their students or mentally throw them under the bus.  

Since notebooks or diaries are such a personal thing, they must all start with a goal or a set of goals. It’s the basic foundation of all shooting diaries. When a coach or instructor encourages their student on this subject, they have no desire to suggest any specific goals. Their assumption is they’ll falsely implant one, and more than likely it’ll be one of theirs and not yours.  Their goals, whether well intentioned or not, will not evoke the same emotional investment or desire as your own.

As mentioned above, it all starts with your goals as the foundation for everything else you’ll put in the diary. Much like a coach, I don’t want to be accused of unintentionally steering shooters into something that’s “not them. “ It takes a little soul searching, reflection and ultimately a strong desire to actually get to your desired destination.    
The process of making a goal commitment is generally the reason why most shooters don’t craft a diary. It’s where the train becomes derailed. Goal setting is so simple but it’s an activity that eludes most people even in their daily lives.
Search yourself and be realistic about what you want to accomplish. I’m 57, and if I decided to embrace my proposed ultimate goal to become a National Champion—then somebody out there please, start the laugh-track now. If I was 30 odd years younger with a massive trust fund, it might be a reasonable item to work towards.
After applying a weighty dose of reality, then the heavy lifting comes into play by setting smaller benchmarks to verify you’re progressing towards your goal. This might be something as basic as learning how to consistently shoot slow fire in the low to mid-90s, attainment of a Distinguished badge, perhaps being your local club’s match champion, or attaining 2600 Club membership. Start with small steps in the beginning and work your way up the skill ladder. It’s that old adage of moving a tree by chopping it into manageable pieces.
Whatever those smaller steps are, you must emotionally own them. They must be accomplished one at a time. And they must be written down. 

Michael Hyatt has written an excellent post about the importance of writing down one’s goals. It’s titled, The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting.  Take my word for it, it’s worth reading, pithy and not complicated.
Simply be realistic about where you want to arrive. Then identify those smaller mile-markers that are clearly along its path.  Without identifying realistic goals, all the other items most people struggle with about what to put in their diary becomes secondary.
Everyone needs a map to get from point A to point B. What your coach never told you was it’s up to you to craft the map by yourself before taking the first real step. The single biggest hurdle in crafting a useful and productive diary is to know where you want to go, and what price you’re willing to pay to make it happen.
In Part 2, I’ll try to offer some insights about how to: determine technical baselines, record performance history, do performance analysis, develop basic training plans, develop commitments for your goals and physical fitness.

Friday, January 02, 2015

2015 CMP Rule Changes

Last Tuesday, December 30th, the CMP revealed some elements of their new rules dealing with service pistol competitions. For those of you who are return readers, this may sound like old news. For many, it is. Unfortunately there are other readers who don’t subscribe to the Bullseye List or Bullseye-L Forum.

For some, I’m certain this came as unsettling news. Tradition plays a big part with our community and substantial changes generally spawn hard feelings. At the very least, it might generate skeptical caution about what’s been instituted.  
The changes for Service Pistol, as they were announced are both broad and sweeping.  It goes right to the heart of what we’ve practiced for over these past several decades. There are substantial changes as to what new firearms will be permitted in future service pistol matches (yeah, polymer pistols will be allowed), new ammo rules again, effectively loosening the equipment externals for current service pistols, and the addition of a .22 caliber distinguished badge has been approved. As well, there will now be minimum scores (Service 250, Rimfire 260) that must be achieved before receiving award points.

If you haven’t seen their announcement, use this link 
The changes are so dramatic, that I know a number of ol’ timers who are going to tell me the CMP is cheapening the game again. Many of us can remember when the CMP changed course and allowed reloaded ammo thus ending their mandate for using commercially manufactured products. At that time, the reaction from previously distinguished shooters would have led to you to believe the apocalypse was about to crest over the horizon.
Sure, things were different back-in-the-day. There was a time, well within living memory, when a competitor had to accept CMP issued .45ACP hardball ammo upon their arrival on the firing line. Think about it: You never used this ammo before, it was probably surplus left over from WWII, and only the Almighty knew where it was going to print on your target for the first two or three rounds. Thereafter, everything was based upon your skill with Kentucky windage.
Back then, it was a “precision service pistol match.” The competitor had to know how to overcome certain obstacles that might be common in a fighting environment.  For over five decades, the game has been played as a “precision pistol match” that mandated the use of service “like” pistols. Obviously these two matches are very similar, but worlds apart in practical execution.    
Before the community cringes over this new development, let’s take stock of where we are.
If you’ve been involved or have noticed the most basic current events within our sport, there have been a lot of recent proposed changes from both the NRA and CMP.  “Times are a changin’,” isn’t an accurate observation. In fact, for far too long there hasn’t been much in the way of any real change for bullseye.  And that’s the problem; we’ve been doing our Thing thinking it was timeless—or static.  

What’s occurring here with the CMP is they’re fully aware that unless something is done, the game we so deeply love just might disappear.  Both the NRA and CMP know they’re living in a time where there’s been massive declining participation. Fortunately the CMP has the foresight to be proactive.
Take a quick look at what the CMP has recently instituted. The above rules changes are one. Another is their new shooting facility in Talladega, AL. And the way they do commercial business has changed too with regards to their custom shop. Their business model has changed so that they, and the rest of us, might have a future.

The days of the CMP getting their hands on vast numbers of returned vintage M-1s is coming to an end. Originally their single largest source of revenue—these US issued 80 year old battlefield implements—are almost no longer in inventory with our allies except for South Korea. Those incredibly inexpensive rifles subsidized our sport for decades. This means new sources of income as mentioned above have to be created.
As well, the CMP must meet their statutory mandate to train the public in marksmanship. And in doing so, they’re obligated to recruit new shooters.

It’s obvious to me Director Emeritus Gary Anderson, sees the present, is anticipating the future and has the grit to do something about it. Basically, what we’re seeing is the practical application of substantive leadership.
Possibly after the passage of ten years or so, we might look back and label Mr. Anderson as the person who singlehandedly saved bullseye.

Note: At the time this post was published the CMP has yet to update their rulebook. Expect to see the 2015 Rulebook released in the latter part of this January.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Greetings

Friends and fellow shooters, be advised that I will be absent over the next three weeks. Generally, I try and post on a weekly basis—and as such—sometimes it becomes a little much. Due to family, job and holiday obligations this blog will come to a standstill for the next few weeks.

Expect new posts in the early part of January.
Although, this might be a good time to remind my readers about my blog’s basic mission: to assist novice members of our sport. If by chance you’re a well skilled Expert or rated higher, your time would be better spent elsewhere. The contents within are something of a recap of my experiences, advice given to me by other creditable and skilled sources, or simply my occasional haranguing about the sport.

Most of the posts have been very personal, and at times, they’re a retelling of events that have been enlightening for me that I thought would be useful to share with others.

I’m very much aware how difficult it is to get started in our sport. I easily remember what the hurdles were for me during my entrance. And unfortunately, I’ve seen firsthand far too many newbies give up because they received little if any constructive encouragement.
In the meantime if you’re a new reader, consider perusing the Resource Links and Topic Labels on the far right side of the main page. There’s a lot of stuff there, enough for shooters with varying skill levels.
Since we’re into the final stretch towards the holiday season, I’d like to give thanks for some notable and positive changes within the sport this past year: 

                    The increasing census of new female shooters is noticeable and I hope they feel welcomed. I’m a firm believer the broader we cast our nets socially and culturally, the less we look like suspects for who-knows-what by the broader public. Diversity is a good thing for us now and our sport’s long-term future. 
                    From July to the present, the issue of electronic targets put our community into a tizzy. Although the underlining cause—the root of the problem—has more to do with our sport’s declining participation than anything else. Declining participation is a truly systemic hindrance; the issue of electronic targets is nothing more than its symptom.  …I’d like to thank Dennis Willing for addressing all of us the day before Thanksgiving Day with his post on the Bullseye-L Forum. Dennis rightfully pointed out there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in regards to recruitment. I’m certain many of us will disagree about which methods might be the most productive. And I’m thankful that the process of a two-way dialog with the Competitions Division has begun on this subject.
                    I’d like to thank Brian Zins and the other members of the Rules Committee for advancing an official name change to our sport. The name Precision Pistol might not sound like a dramatic change, but it does provide us with a starting point for rebranding. Rebranding will provide a foundation for future marketing and promotional opportunities; something that’s been sorely lacking for decades.
                    And as the year comes near its end, I’ve noticed .22 ammo is starting to become available. It’s not at the price that I’d like to pay, but there are signs its starting to trickle out in our direction. Hopefully by next summer we’ll see availability and pricing become more stabilized.  The funny thing about .22 ammo it’s become commoditized much like gold or industrial chemicals.

For the items I’ve noted above, we should be grateful.  They should be seen as new opportunities for our future, and I hope they aren’t squandered. New opportunities, whatever they are, require real effort to effect change.
I’d like to wish you all, no matter where you are, a joyous and memorable holiday.

Friday, December 12, 2014

What’s the Deal with Your Scores?

Most of us who shoot competitively gradually improve over time. Although, almost all of us really don’t recognize that we’re moving forward, standing still—or for even that matter—backsliding with our shooting goals. If we’re that attuned to those types of minuscule movements, it sucks the life out of all the fun.

I highly doubt your memory is much better than mine. As we reflect on our scores many times it’s interpreted through the rosy haze of a biased or selective memory. It’s simply way too easy to remember those really nifty good scores, and then minimize the impact of the poor ones. Typically, people recall their scores at a much higher average than what they really are.   
Over the years, many instructors have told us to get a shooting notebook or diary. For the most part, this is when the wheels come off. Almost no one instructs students what they need to put into these things. Then later on, a shooter might actually be scoring their real average, only to be needlessly frustrated by assuming their average is much higher than it actually is.   

The illusion of having a higher average provides the shooter with a warped foundation. He needs to know where he’s truly at to formulate a training program for future personal growth.

Possibly one of the handiest things to place in your notebook is a running chart of your scores. Not the gross scores from match aggregates, but the scores of individual targets by gun and event (.22 SF, CF TF, 45 RF and so on). For Bullseye, there’s no need to do all 15 stages at one time. Although, I would suggest you start with events that give you the most trouble first.  
By charting your scores you’ll have the advantage of knowing when there is a change in trend. You should be able to make notes about the things you did well, and things you didn’t. Since failures are typically redundant this will be an opportunity to look for solutions.  
The most difficult part of this exercise is running to Staples and purchasing graph paper for your notebook. The rest is easy and takes very little time.
I’m going to suggest when you craft a new chart, start by vertically numbering the left-hand column of the graph paper from 100 at the top to 70 at the bottom. Then make the dispersion points (shot target scores) horizontally at least 18 points wide. Every time you complete a target, enter its score by penciling in a dot to its corresponding value along the adjacent vertical line. Then after several inputs, connect the dots.
Sometimes, a visual chart can just scream at you. Their insights being almost self-evident. 
For things to play out properly all targets shot for each gun and its related event must be recorded. Having incomplete data will only skew your results.  From here on out it’ll be easy to calculate an average and plot trend lines.  
At the bottom of the chart leave room for basic notes about individual targets, because this is where the real horse power begins.
I know several of my friends who manage this on Excel spreadsheets. And I’m under the impression many of them do little more than record their values, and then plot their trends. I presume doing this creates a massive lost opportunity. Generally so much time passes from match to computer keyboard, the fog of time sets in and they’re unable to recall what happened with each individual target. They’re just generating stats without getting any real information out of it.
While you’re still at the match or possible later in the day, make notes about those targets that were above normal or below your expectations. More than likely many poorly shot targets had similar or redundant failures (i.e. vertical stringing, healing or whatever); then the search for appropriate corrective drills or training programs can begin.
It’s all too common for a shooter to know what their breakdowns are. What they generally don’t know is how frequent they are and how much they loose from it in overall points. Don’t be surprised when you begin to chart and note these aberrations, you’ll be taken back by their frequency and severity.
As well, it’s good to make notes when things played out better than expected. Writing down your thoughts about how good timing or minimized movement (or anything else for that matter) played a positive role. This will only ingrain good habits any good shooter would want to repeat with ease.  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Holiday Shopping

Now that Cyber Monday has passed, many of us will be forced into that last minute holiday shopping crunch. For those of us who are diehard bullseye shooters, it would seem difficult to say the least, how we might  steer our significant others into a gunny type purchase? Especially since they generally don’t know where to find them, let alone what ‘it’ might be.

Several years ago my wife wanted to do just that. She had visions of giving me a gift that was both useful and germane to my hobby. It had to be practical and something she thought I would really want. She understood that my sport was important to me. So, on a Christmas Day oh so long ago, there at the base of our tree was a Dillon 650 case-feeder.  

In secrecy she labored by meandering around and soliciting advice from my friends through countless phone calls. Then she polled them about which items that would be useful, all the while referring to each potential article as a “doohickey.”

I’ve got to give her credit. She tenaciously waded into an area, a discipline, that she knew nothing about and arrived triumphant. And on a deeper level, she demonstrated respect by attempting to understand the things that are important to me. (And no, I’ve been lucky enough to never receive a tie as a gift.)  
So what I’ve done is collected several holiday gift ideas that might be of interest to most bullseye gunnies. Some of these items you may already have. But if you don’t, their utility value is almost understated. I’ve tested all of them and be appraised, no one in our sport would be disappointed with receiving any one of them as a gift.

These sharkskin 1911 grip panels are constructed from a DuPont polymer, making them impervious to most solvents and oils. Featured with an aggressive texturing that closely resembles sharkskin in both feel and appearance; it’s the only practical reason why anyone would want to use them. They’re not only handsome but allows the shooter with truly sweaty palms not to lose their grip. Yes, they really work. They’re offered in desert (tan), black and olive drab.
They’re available from Midway USA and Kensight directly for about $37.99 a set. But Brownells inventories them as well at the modest retail price of $19.99.  

The Arredondo Powder Drop Slide with Micrometer is a tool I’ve been using for over five years. Some time ago I had a need to have a power drop that would accommodate .32 S&W Long’s ultra-lite loads, and do it consistently. For those of us with a Dillon auto powder measure this thing will accommodate loads as low as .7 grains to as high as 15 grains with most powders. It was originally designed for powders that had a very fine grain, such as AA #2.
And has the added feature of a micrometer; where it can be dialed-in repeatedly for different loads. If you’re tired of playing around with that finicky old slide bolt trying to adjust proper flow, simply dial your load in with this little marvel and record its repeatable setting number. They’re available from UniqueTek for $104.99.
Another item from UniqueTek is the Time-Out™ case cleaner timer. It’s one of those must haves. Years ago I would either make certain I was nearby when I tumbled my brass or I just didn’t care how long it took. There was a time when I’d turn the tumbler on when I left for work in the morning, and then turned it off after returning in the evening. Granted, that’s not a smart habit to get into.
Timers you might purchase at Home Depot or Lowes are generally not designed for use with tumblers. Their primary purpose is to manage incandescent lighting for the most part. The Time-Out was specifically designed for use with motors and has two separate three prong outlets.
One simply sets the run time and forgets about it. At $29.99 its a bargain.
Over the years I’ve used all kinds of shooting glasses. And I’m certain you have too. But most of the ones I’ve employed in the past were cheap polycarbonates things.
Though currently discontinued, years ago I used to have a pair of Zeiss SCOPZ shooing glasses.  I just loved those things, they were The Shit back in the day. Unfortunately all things have a lifespan and this one’s no longer in production

So, about three years ago I laboriously searched for real shooting glasses. And they needed to do a few things other than just provide protection.
The first item was the lenses needed to be a large enough; I have a tendency to tilt my head down while shooting and smaller lenses forced me to look through the bridge.
My second consideration was the need to be able to get the darn things with prescription lenses. I’m older and my vision isn’t what it used to be. Not having corrective lenses was a deal breaker.  

And the last item of attention was they needed to be extremely durable.
I eventually acquired a pair of Randolph Engineering’s Ranger Edge shooting glasses. They fit the bill for all my requirements and they have a lifetime warranty.

I lug these things around in my pistol box. Since they have a quick removal lens system, I use clear lenses for indoor matches and then switch to light purple ones for outdoor events. And the nose bridge has a handy click adjustment for height. Frames cost $170.00 with the additional cost of lenses at $35.00 per pair.

As the holidays approach, remember, your spouse or girlfriend for the most part doesn’t have a clue what we need. To them our sport is an easily misunderstood pastime. Granted, what we do is both rare and difficult. So, they might need a little hint where to go. I’m certain they’d be thrilled to give a gift that was considered thoughtful and had unique meaning.

Just give them a gentle nudge in the right direction. Shrugging your shoulders or saying, “I don’t need anything” isn’t being respectful of their feelings.

Disclaimer: I have had no contact direct or indirect, nor have I received any compensation from the manufacturers or suppliers for the above items.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Repost: When to Release

Funny how things turnout. Over the past several years I’ve gone down the traditional road of trying to find the proverbial ‘sweet-spot’ for a classic release. You know, when the wobble becomes its most stable. Good Lord, if I could only do this on demand I’d have made Master long ago. I’m certain we all have room for improvement but when is the moment golden?

I’ve written about this before and there’s a secret about this process that I’ll get to in a moment. To me the perfect release has to do with knowing yourself and how the process typically plays outs. The perfect shot is when its released during the most stable part of your hold (duh), but generally by then, for most shooters it’s way too late. I’ve had more than one coach refer to this as being “behind the trigger.” The shooter sees the sights go to its minimum wobble, which visually provides psychological affirmation, and only then applies consistent pressure to the trigger. In the process he releases the shot long after the best part of their minimum arc of movement.

Seeing the perfect sight picture plays with the mind. And unfortunately what must be accomplished during the release process can feel extremely counterintuitive.

In an ideal environment, once committed to the shot a shooter would apply consistent and sustained trigger pressure long before the sights were to settle into their minimum amount of wobble. If that’s so, it begs the question: When do I start to pull the trigger with real commitment?
Since the conscious mind is being used as the initiator for all our actions it needs to be trained right alongside with our subconscious. Most human actions from a conscious perspective take about a tenth of a second to respond. That’s a huge stretch of time relative for what we’re doing. What it comes down to is not so much as when, but how well we’ve interpreted a flowing and non-static sight picture.
While dry firing, you should be far more aware of what is occurring during the last half or quarter of a second before the release—than the actual release itself. Most novice shooters dry fire in an attempt to learn how to release the shot well and consistently. That’s a great starting point, there’s nothing wrong with that, and it should be done extensively. But the next phase from an advanced standpoint is a shooter should know when to initiate the trigger. I don’t believe in a surprise trigger break (because your subconscious knows when that’ll happen), although this type of observation can provide a greater element of control.
So, while watching the front post or the dot, be very aware of what’s happening to that thing as it drifts across your field of view. One item that’s been reported by many Masters and High Masters is they’ll notice clues in the pattern and timing of their movement prior to and during settling in. Those patterns are generally different from one person to the next. Although for the individual, it’s not uncommon for those clues or patterns to be somewhat redundant from shot to shot.

Look for those clues. Learn how it dances pretty much the same way each time and determine for yourself when you should initiate the commitment for your release.
It’s all about timing on a rather small scale. Remember, you’ve got to start a little early to arrive on time.
On the other hand if you’ve become familiar how your typical pattern plays out and then it doesn’t, that’s an ‘indicator of error.’ If that decreasing wobble pattern isn’t similar from shot to shot, take it from me it’s an omen of a different future result. This is another item most novices aren’t quite aware of: Masters and High Masters know when to abort much better than the rest of us and this is one of the tricks in their bag. When there’s indicators of error, it should immediately translate into a flashing red light on your mental dashboard.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Three Free Copies

Typically, I try to stay on topic. But for many of you I wouldn’t be surprised you’re well aware who Brian Atiken is; if not him, possibly the story of his plight? I’ve been following this one for awhile.

In 2010, Brian was a resident of NJ. Through no fault of his own he was arrested for possessing firearms while moving his residence. The original charge, illegal possession of firearms, issued by local NJ police didn’t even exist in the state’s statues and was later amended to unlawful carrying (transportation) of firearms.

That’s right, he was originally charged with a crime that didn’t exist. The guy was just moving stuff from one home to another.
Having a tenacious legal system that presumes guilty until proven otherwise, Brian transitioned from law abiding citizen to convicted felon. By refusing to enter a plea deal with the DA and then demanding a jury trial, he eventually documented his experiences with remiss law enforcement and judicial abuse.
This was a major national news story for over three years.
Luckily for Brian, after his incarceration there was a massive public outcry. And due to that outrage Governor Christy eventually commuted his sentence.

Several weeks ago Brian published a memoir of his encounters with the criminal justice system, titled, The Blue Tent Sky: How the Left’s War on Guns Cost Me My Son and My Freedom.  And if you get a chance to read it, you’ll become dumbfounded how a person who hadn’t committed a crime becomes prosecuted and imprisoned regardless what evidence is produced.
Brian’s memoir illustrates the ingrained institutional dark-side of the Left’s desire to make a safer world. And unfortunately, hundreds of innocent people pay a very high price for their armchair social engineering.
Many of us transport firearms to attend matches in different states, and that process makes this book worth reading. We all need to be very self-aware, informed and careful before we cross state boundaries. And in certain states, for some, just leaving their homes has its drawbacks.

The last time I had a giveaway was during the production of Top Shot. So, just to make things fun I have three ten copies of Brian’s new book that I’d like to give away to my readers. Simply email me your name and address to and I’ll send the first three requesters a copy.

Update: Since the demand was so high, I arbitrarily expanded the book giveaway to total of 10. But the bottom-line is they’re all spoken for.


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

An Open Letter to Shooting Sports USA

I’m certain most of my readers are well aware that as of yesterday, Mr. Dennis Willing published a piece in Shooting Sports USA. It’s a compelling article about bullseye’s declining participation and how electronic targets might be utilized to overcome this dilemma.  If you’ve missed it, use this link .

Within in a matter of minutes after its publication, I was deluged with emails from various individuals within our sport, hoping I would publicly address Mr. Willing. They wanted to respond and I’m not certain this blog is the appropriate venue.
Well, I’ve done this somewhat passively in the past (Post 1, Post 2). In fact, at the very beginning of his article Dennis quickly alluded to the issue of electronic targets, where he made the following statement, “…on Internet forums and emails I have received, both pro and con. To alleviate (or aggravate, depending on your viewpoint) those concerns I offer the following about these systems…”
In the beginning of his piece, we’re given a brief history lesson about how bullseye has changed from the early part of the 20th century to the present. So let me boil it down to I’ll admit there’s need for change—massive change. And most of my peers agree.

We‘ve had declining participation for a very long time. It turned the corner long before most of us even started participating in this sport. Although, because of its long decline it begs a few simple questions that should be addressed before radical changes are made.

·         Since we’re in this downward participation spiral, why hasn’t the NRA invested in us or our sport? Why hasn’t the NRA helped to promote who we are and what we do?

It’s as plain as the noise on your face, they’ve been conspicuously absent for a long time.
What I don’t need to hear is recruitment is a “grass roots” issue that only local clubs can accomplish. We live in a different time than the 1950s. Today is an era where social media, the Internet and cable television are intertwined for almost any form of effective modern marketing.  The way people socially interact today is much different than at any time in the not so distant past. And responsibility for changing the recruitment model from the local to a national level should be seriously considered. On a national basis the public needs be made aware we exist. Something that’s impossible to accomplish locally; it’s a formula for a crash and burn.
Let’s face it, the NRA uses competitive shooters and hunters in their lobbing and public policy efforts. We’re the legitimate users of firearms they conveniently rollout every time they want to showcase responsible gun ownership. Yes, we’re the example to others in polite society, the people who can do good things with guns without anyone getting hurt. Maybe the board of directors need to be reminded of our value to their other activities at the NRA.
·         Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking electronic targets are going to increase participation. 

I get the need for change and I’m all for saving money. And as a longtime participant of the Nationals I realize what the current state of the equipment is at Camp Perry.  It’s almost criminal how it’s been mishandled. We should seriously ponder how we got to where we are before proceeding to a new level; by making certain things like this don’t degrade in the future, be it equipment or participation.
And I’ve been reminded by others what had occurred to International pistol when they migrated to electronic targets: A massive decline in participation that’s never been recovered. At least here in the States, it’s an example of real failure.
Personally, I’m not opposed to electronic targets. Things change. Change is stressful. And sometimes we all simply need to embrace new things for the common good. But I don’t believe the NRA’s current track is going to get us there.
·         The Competitive Shooting Division has taken on (whether they know it or not) the political task of making fundamental changes to our sport. Since we’re their constituents they might want to consider making us a partner in the process.
The biggest complaint I’ve received from other shooters in this debate is—THERE IS NO DEBATE.

Why would anyone dare to think that with changes this extraordinary, the actual participants be excluded from the process? Since this issue has high status with its members, in a different venue its clumsy execution would be considered laughable.

No one likes to be pushed around. Few people like to be told what to do. So in a sense, it begs another question: Why wasn’t a plan crafted to engage shooters from around the country? Their input would have been invaluable. They would have been part of not only the process but the solution as well. And they would have gladly owned the outcome.
There’s a leadership process commonly referred to as “consensus building.” Building the consent of the base has a lot of merit. My suggestion is for someone to start all over again and pick up the phone—call various leaders of our sport across the country and schedule on-site meetings about the issues relative to electronic targets. Yes, a roadshow.  

Whatever method is used to reach out to bullseye shooters isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a lot work and coordination. But everyone will have had an opportunity to be in the game, if that’s their choosing.

I honestly believe that individuals such as Mr. Willing are well intentioned. And from a practical perspective the Competitive Shooting Division appears to be up against the realities of our sport’s slow and excruciating erosion.
The sport needs solutions for several major issues. But when there’s an enormous game changer such as electronic targets, it’s reasonable to expect the sport’s participants would quickly be divided and repelled through the use of authoritarian and arbitrary practices from their leadership.

Note: I used the above title so that most Internet search engines would easily find this post. My first impression of the SSUSA piece was that it was a little abusive. There doesn’t appear to any real facts to support its forgone conclusions, and reads as though it’s a thinly veiled attempt to artificially steer the narrative. The publisher should have considered labeling this article an Op-ed piece.


Friday, October 31, 2014

The Mainstream Media

Over the past three years I’ve seen firsthand how attendance with women has changed at the Nationals. Even locally, the increased participation with women at our indoor winter league is a welcomed sight.

Apparently, we’re in a new age of inclusiveness. And I think our sport is better for it.

Inserted below is an upbeat CBS This Morning piece titled, Calling the Shots. It deals with new competitive women shooters and how their ranks have swollen over the past several years. The ladies interviewed shoot clays—and I only wish CBS would have come knocking on our door first. 

But it’s one of the few times in recent memory that a dominant mainstream media outlet actually ran a firearms piece that was carefully balanced. CBS clearly went out of their way not to deride or bash anyone on the issue of guns or their owners.

But how could they? These women were just so darn classy.
The interviewees were pumped up, diplomatic and thrilled to share the love they have for their shooting sport.
While watching it, I pondered what it must have been like on the other side of the camera. During CBS’s time at the range I’d like to think, a producer or possibly a reporter, was encouraged to share in the fun too. This was an excellent example of how to deal with a left leaning media outlet.