TRAINING: Taking The Sport To The Next Level
In my earlier article, I touched on how I got started in the competitive pistol shooting sports and a little background on the shooting sports that I compete in. This article will take you a bit further on the path I followed.
I am striving to learn all that I can in the shooting sports, be it techniques or how to play the game better. I am always looking for new drills that keep me excited to train. In addition to my competitive pistol sports (USPSA, Steel Challenge, SASP), I also take tactical classes, when taught by someone I wish to learn from. I have been repeatedly asked by a tactical school here locally to take their classes, so they can get my feedback. They don’t seek my feedback because I’m a tactical expert, but because being pretty well-versed in competition shooting, I may have something I can bring to the table. I am constantly looking for ways to be more efficient, as efficiency equals speed. Likewise, many tactical schools are open-minded enough to realize that we can learn from each other. So, there are times I may share a unique perspective on something that a tactical instructor has not thought about for whatever reason and vice versa.
As we get further along, I will get into the practical pistol basics, because without a strong foundation, it is tough to build a quality shooting game. First of all, I must tell you that I did not start out doing everything right by any means. When I started shooting it was just Dad and I going to the range and doing whatever we felt like doing. In hindsight, I’m sure we spent a lot of what I would now consider wasted time, in regards to training. We also had a lot of fun, but we never saw any great gains in improvement. That’s because we were just there having fun. We had not done any homework as to how to do things the right way or how to improve in the areas that we may have been lacking.
All that began to change once we joined the USPSA at our local Holmen Rod and Gun Club. We began to meet a bunch of really good people that had a love for competitive shooting and we were fortunate enough to have some Grandmasters and Masters at our club as well. They were incredibly helpful in all areas, from minor gunsmithing tweaks to the sort of drills they worked on when they practiced and how they read stages to run them more efficiently.
Probably my biggest help from a single person in USPSA competitions has been Ronnie Casper. Ronnie is a member at Holmen Rod and Gun Club and is a Grandmaster in production and a Master in limited. Ronnie has competed for years and has a wealth of knowledge and a love for the sport. He helped me a ton when it came down to reading a stage and running it. In USPSA you have 5 minutes to walk through a stage before we shoot it. In that time, we need to figure the most efficient way to run the stage and commit it to memory. Then, when the buzzer goes off, it’s off to the races. USPSA is all about speed and accuracy. I’m still learning to read stages, but Ronnie has been a great help. He is also very knowledgeable about firearms themselves and was a great help in teaching me all about my Glock, which is what I shot the first 5 years of competition. So, I highly recommend that you find someone like a Ronnie and bug them for all the knowledge you can. It also builds great friendships, Ronnie and his wife Lori will be my dear friends for life.
Another big help to me was attending the MGM Junior Camp in Idaho. Mike and Ronda Gibson run two of the greatest camps! One for USPSA and one for 3 Gun. Two summers I attended the USPSA camp and it was a great experience. World renowned competitors take time out of their busy schedules and share their knowledge with us Juniors and it is invaluable. The years I attended we had instructors like Eddie Garcia, Manny Bragg, Steve Shroufe, Travis Gibson, Matt Burkett, Phil Strader, BJ Norris, Iain Harrison, Chuck Anderson, and Travis Tomasie. If you can afford to get to a quality camp or a class from a world class instructor, take it! They have so much knowledge to share. MGM was the first time I actually had any kind of professional instruction. I moved from A class to Master class between the two camps.
Once I’d begun to strive to get from A class to Master, my biggest jump came from following Ben Stoeger’s materials. I had enthusiasm from the camps and Ben was coming out with great materials that I soaked up. Additionally, I took an additional class from Ben and that really got me moving. Before materials like that, I just shot when I could and hung around knowledgeable guys like Ronnie. Once I read Ben’s materials, then I began really seriously dry firing, using my timer and working drills hard. I firmly believe that following Ben’s training routines, especially dry fire training, is how I made Grandmaster in the production division at age 15.
Ben Stoeger is a 5 time USPSA Production National Champion who has made shooting and training for USPSA his life. He and his wife Kita have become great friends of ours over the years, but that is not why I recommend his products. I truly believe his materials touch on all the good stuff we need to practice to become the best competitors that we can. Ben has multiple books and CDs available, and he is constantly on the road instructing small groups of competitors across the country who pay to spend a couple intensive days being trained by one of the best in the world. I would have to say that following Ben’s materials alone and doing what he says, can turn most folks into very good shooters. However, you have to train, not just read the materials. For me, Ben has a way of taking what seems complicated and breaking it down to its simplest form, as well as making it fun. Ben has just come out with a dry fire book and, though many people feel dry fire is boring, I love it! I look forward to reading the materials and improving further. This isn’t a sales pitch, there are plenty of good instructors out there, I’m just sharing the path I’ve followed.
My advice to you is to find the shooting sport you like, get to know the people involved and get some mentoring from someone knowledgeable and caring. Work to be safe and to build up a strong skill set. In the future I’ll touch on some great drills to practice, the type of equipment you may wish to use and outline some of the rules of USPSA, Steel Challenge, and SASP. So, until next time!
You can continue the series HERE for Part 3.
If you missed the beginning, you can find Part 1 HERE.