New Year’s Resolutions… What Good Are They?…

Did you know 85% of all New Year’s Resolutions don’t make it through the second week of February?  Why don’t we stick to these resolutions?  The problem is the motivation behind the resolution.  You have to have the desire to reach your goal that you have in mind.  If not, these are not resolutions, they are merely things you hope to achieve.  A mentor of mine told me a long time ago in the business world that ‘hope is not a plan’.  So why do we approach the anxiety filled New Year’s Day with hopes and not plans on how to reach them?  If you wanted to reach them, it would be a year round exercise and there is truly nothing special about January First every year.  Your training, ambitions, and goals should not change on one day.  You should refocus your priorities and evaluate your plans while reflecting on what has brought you success in the past.  Finally, as Tony Robbins often talks about, create a Massive Action Plan (MAP) or update your MAP for what you want to achieve.


The game of Steel Challenge in getting faster and faster every year.  As I have reflected upon my own performance there is a glaring opportunity in my classification time in Rimfire Rifle Open; Outer Limits.  As someone who has traditionally carried extra weight I know moving from box to box is not going to be my strength, but I can makeup through self-analysis and hard work.  At the time I write this, I have the third fastest classification time in the Rimfire Rifle Open division and my goal is to be #1.  The first place I start with people I work with is stages they are the furthest away from their peak time.  After practicing what I preach, three months ago, I did the same evaluation although I already knew the answer; Outer Limits.  This is where I needed to shift my focus because of the fastest of the fast rifle shooters, this is where I need to make up the most ground.


The intent of this article is not to break down all of the secrets of Outer Limits in Rimfire Rifle Open, but it is to share the split times I have on all five shots as a place for you to benchmark yourself.  I feel comfortable shooting Outer limits sub 10 seconds and this has taken a lot of repetition.  In the below video found on youtube I started the camera and ran a string.  I will admit in a match I like to be in the 3.35-3.45 on the first run and dial it up a bit, but I was able to hit a string at 95% of what I believe my current EDGE is.

Outer Limits RFRO Splits


Now, what is your MAP going to look like for 2020?


See you out on the range soon!


It’s a struggle every day at the range…The Foster Effect

Years ago somebody gave me the advice that I shoot plenty fast enough, I just needed to focus on my sights more in order to get my hits. Whenever I was shooting I always felt like I was not shooting fast enough. For some reason in the back of my head, if I wasn’t slightly out of control I wasn’t shooting fast. The feeling that I had inside was a rushed and panic feeling. Typically, I would have my sights lined up on the first shot and then as a string of fire progressed I would have more of a target focus than a sight focus.  I was just trying to pull the trigger as fast as I thought I should be instead of actually looking at the sight(s). For some reason, my subconscious kept telling me I had to transition my eyes before I saw the sight of the gun on the target. The truth is, I’ve battled the same sensation every time I get up to the shooting box.  For some reason, it’s taking a very long time to burn this into my subconscious to keep a focus on the sight as I transition the gun from target to target.  Albeit, my pursuit to be better fuels this behavior.


At the 2019 world speed shooting championships in Talladega Alabama I arrived at what is arguably the fastest stage in all steel challenge; Smoke and Hope. As I have written about before, I wanted to make sure I got a 85 to 90% of my shooting capability run first. I saw the sight on every single target and it was a 1.68 second run.  Being able to see the sight on every single target as I squeezed the trigger gave me a lot of confidence. Second string I knew that I could pull the trigger just a little bit faster and push my same picture just a little bit faster. The next couple runs were in the low 1.5s and 1.4s. And then on the last one I decided to shoot at 100% of what my capability is and I landed at 1.42 and I saw the sight on every single target.  This lead to a new World Record and the fastest time of the 635 entries on this stage.


Over the years I’ve done a lot of self-analysis and testing when it comes to shooting. It is very seldom when I take my eye off of the sight when I’m pulling the trigger that it is any faster than seeing the sight on every single target. 99.9% of the time, seeing the sight on the target as I pull the trigger is faster. During a recent practice session on roundabout it was .15 seconds on average faster per string to actually see the sight. A lot of people say slow is smooth. I completely disagree, slow is just slow.  What you’re focusing on when you’re shooting is what is important.


The Foster Effect is the reckless and undisciplined shooting without a proper sight focus I struggle with every single day at the range. Over the course of time, while shooting as well as training others, I have found that I’m not in unfamiliar territory.  It may seem as though this concept is a matter of the chicken or the egg; it is not. It is a matter of cause and effect. My lack of sight focus when I need to have it is the cause, the effect is the sense of panic manifested by my desire to unrealistically surpass my current shooting capability. We all need to take solace in the fact if you do have a proper same picture you’ll end up shooting faster.  Admittedly, there is the rare occasion you hit a ‘one for one’ string ‘point shooting’ a stage.  Unfortunately, there’s no pill to take to fix this. As in changing any other behavior, while at the range we need to consciously work on our sight focus and burn this into our subconscious. This way, the next time we’re at a major match and the pressure is on, we rely back on the perfect sight focus we have engrained in our subconscious through thousands of rounds of practice.


When you are practicing in the off-season, don’t just burn rounds down range without a goal.  Have a plan when you practice and write down you want to get out of the session.  My goal is always to shoot a personal best on a stage so when I am at my next match I can replicate the results.  If you shoot a blazing run in practice, this is merely a hint of your capability, but should not be expected at your next match because you have not yet put in the time and effort to make it repeatable.


Happy Holidays and see you out on the range soon!


The Little Unicorn

As I type this post, my oldest daughter Vanessa is sleeping next to me in the Hospital after having major back surgery two days ago.  There is something about times like this that have a way of putting a lot of things into perspective.  As soon as she knew she was going to have surgery her mother and I asked her what she wanted to do.  She said go to the Rimfire Challenge World Championships in Arkansas.  As I discussed on the podcast with Jeff Jones and Heather Martin, it was a great time to see my extended family all across the United States.  Something happened at this match which I took for granted, my daughter met all of these amazing people as well.  She had met a few people from training at my house and a few matches we have gone to together, but this was the first large match of this nature she attended.


Vanessa quickly appreciated all of the great people in the shooting sports and she has been to the range a couple of times learning to shoot.  When we returned from the trip, she had a couple of requests to see some people before her surgery.  Her first request was to go out to dinner with the Baker’s; Mike and Elsie.  Bryan Haaker has two of the best Brand Ambassadors in the sport!  They have adopted Vanessa and our family as their own.  They are a loving and caring couple who do so much for the sport, more than people realize.  It is not their style to post all of the great deeds they do on social media, nor is it my place to say, but there are a lot of junior shooters out there who have benefited from their generosity.


The weekend prior to her surgery my daughter asked to see some of her newly found friends, the Fox brothers; Seth, Ian, and Brennen.  They have been to our home before with their grandfather Chet Whistle, but became closer at the World Rimfire match.  The timing worked out and we had a range session and a cook out!  It was a brisk 35 degrees outside when we started shooting on Saturday just after 8AM.  No worries, we broke out two of the propane heaters and what was briskly cold outside became mild and enjoyable.  We started off trying newly acquired guns, after all this is what you do at the range!  We then did some training on a Steel Challenge stage.  After a couple thousand empty cases stacking up at our feet we turned to the newly acquired plate rack from GT Targets.  It was at this point a good time at the range turned into a time to remember!


We took some of our training tracking forms and we started a friendly competition shooting our CWA Rimfire Pistol Open guns.  You had to shoot either the 1911 platform or the 2011 style grip.  To add a little bit more excitement we went live on facebook to document the shenanigans!  With four of us competing, my daughter was an amazing score keeper who kept us honest.  It wasn’t long before she rocked the plates with my Oreo Blizzard CWA and she did amazing.  We then turned to ‘run what you brung’ round where you could shoot any gun you wanted to.  Some shot RFPO, RFRO, and I brought out my JP GMR 15.  It was an absolute riot!  The friendly banter kept spirits high.  Regardless of skill level, the sound of the ‘Ting’ on the six 8” targets was gratifying.  Just when someone had a ‘good’ run there was always an insatiable need to try to go faster.  It was a good old fashion drag race.


After the guns were packed up, we celebrated the day with a cookout.  The boys presented my daughter with unicorn to keep her comfortable on her big day.  When Monday came, the only thing that brought her comfort during one of the most stressful times of her life, was this unassuming unicorn with a small gold horn.


Little Unicorn


This weekend was not about shooting sub 1.5 second runs, breaking the 60 second barrier, improving first shots, it was about having FUN and taking a few moments away from the stress of life.  Ironically, these are the main reasons why I started to shoot in the first place.  I share this story with you as a reminder to have fun while you are at the range.  Life is way too short not to shoot and have fun!


See you out on the range soon!


Perfect Practice IV

Life has a way of being so busy and often times I stop and think about where the time has gone.  Most of us have a job, family, friends, and a hobby or two.  Making time for shooting and getting better can be a very difficult task.  This is why it is important to have a Perfect Practice.


What do I find the secret of success? Having a plan.  This means I have a plan to practice and when I practice it is intentional.  I go to the range and I know what I want to work on.  Two weeks ago, my plan was to spend three practice sessions (~1k rounds in aggregate) and work on my draw with my new Sig Sauer Legion 9MM.  Of course, I had to sneak in the same amount of practice with my new CWA rimfire pistol.  As a rifle shooter who enjoys the pursuant of matching my pistol times with the long guns, it is a lot of work.  Through self-analysis my transitions in Carry Optics are as fast as my rimfire pistols, but my draw is severely lacking.


The first thing I did is to find the best Carry Optics holster out on the market which lead me back to the industry dominating Red Hill Tactical.  Below is a picture of my setup; Red Hill Tactical Holster with a  Betsy Ross Flag, Sig Legion topped off with a Vortex Razor 6MOA.  Note, the magwell is take off for Carry Optics.  The fit and finish is on point.  I have found with my Single Stack holster I prefer the Safariland USPSA Kit and the adjustment it offers.  Now, I have the best equipment, time to work on the draw.  After setting up a camera to analyze my draw I noticed I was so tense through my hands when the buzzer went off it was taking a brief moment for them to relax before they would move.  My average draw was 1.45 seconds on Roundabout.  I decided to relax my hands and the results were immediate.  My draw time on Plate #1 dropped to an average of 1.24 seconds.  It was inspiring move from shooting Master Class times to Grand Master times with a small adjustment.



The reason why I share this example with you is practice is not just putting rounds down range.  You don’t have Hank Haney, or Phil Jackson standing behind you if you are training without a coach.  You have to do some observation and personal reflection to make improvements.  If not, you are just wasting ammunition in the process of trying to reach your goals.  My goal in 2020 in Carry Optics is to bump up from an A class shooter to Master and then Grand Master.  After this training session and shooting a local match last weekend, when the scores update I will move to Master!


Make sure before you go to range, you have a goal.  It may be to start your first stage with 4 solid runs and burn down a 5th as you would in a match.  Maybe it is to end practice in this same fashion.  Maybe it is to improve your first shot?  Maybe it is to work on Calling you Shot?  Whatever your goal is, write it down.  Hold yourself accountable.


See you out on the range soon!


Light vs the heavy Part II

Recently, I posted an article which discussed the difference and some benefits of having a light vs. heavy shooting setup.  Having a light gun makes transitions faster and a heavier setup offers stability while shooting targets.  Needless to say, this sparked a lot of thought and great discussion.  The first article focused on Rimfire Rifles and this follow-up installment will involve Rimfire Pistols.


It was at the 2019 Rimfire Challenge World Rimfire Championhips where I was able to handle the much anticipated CWA new double stack grip width platform.  The grip is compatible with other time tested 2011 parts and topped off with the CWA slide.  My initial feeling is this setup is going to be great for people who want to transition between double stack guns such as a 2011s commonly found in limited or open in both Steel Challenge and USPSA.  Being able to shoot the same platform and having a familiar feel and grip was going to make training with one gun transferrable to other divisions.


Recently, I purchased a Sig Sauer Legion chambered in 9mm.  After touching one for the first time I knew I had to have one.  The grip is tungsten infused so all of the weight was in my hands with a lighter slide.  After the long awaiting phone call came in and I rushed to the gun store to pick up my Legion, it was only when I took it to the range where a sense of confirmation was displayed on the timer.  I have always liked a little bit heavier handgun and my transitions were faster than my 2011 lighter open gun.


After some discussion with Chet Whistle, owner of CWA, I wanted a heavier gun but not too heavy with the weight in my hands.  When I saw and shot my new CWA .22 for the first time I knew Chet had nailed exactly what I was looking for.   When shooting the gun for the first time, the sights did not even move.  Transitions were steady and follow-up shot were blistering as fast as I could pull the trigger. The gun weighs in at a precise 41 ounces.  Below is a YouTube link to a slow-motion video of first shots.  A lot of people look at the muzzle of the gun and see there is little movement.  As an open shooter you do not look at the muzzle when shooting, we look through the optic.  In this video you will see a near perfect “return” of the gun.  The optic is in the same exact place every time when the gun returns to battery.  This is why you have seen video and reactions where people are in love with the gun after shooting it for the first time.


CWA Double Stack Width Grip Slow Motion


The grip is machined out of aluminum.  The grip safety (albeit pinned) is made out of aluminum as well.  The frame, with a 2011 is where the slide rides on the gun, is made out of steel.  Below are a few pictures where weight has been removed from the frame to keep the weight in the back of the gun and allow it to stay fast and flat when shooting. Note, the trigger guard is double undercut to allow your hands to get higher.  I particularly like the recess of the grip at the grip safety.  This allows me to  cant my right wrist more forward to help with recoil management and keep the gun on target.


So, what does all of this mean?  I have been shooting an all-aluminum CWA for the past season, so I have done a side by side comparison.  As a person who shoots a lot of Steel Challenge, I have a lot of data on how I shoot these specific stages.  My first test was Speed Option.  I shot 5 strings cold, you don’t have accurate data if you shoot 500 rounds on one stage and take the top five times, and my average was .14 seconds faster on each string.  This is a stage with wide transitions.  The results were promising.  What I did notice, as a shooter, is the gun was right where I expected it to be before I pulled the trigger.  It was stable, flat, and fast.  Next was one of the faster stages, Roundabout.  As outlined above, I performed the same test a few days later.  My roundabout times were .10 seconds faster on average, per string.


As I have written about before, we all have shooting tendencies.  One of my tendencies with a handgun is I don’t grip the gun consistently hard when I am shooting.  Each time I get up to the firing line I tell myself to grip the gun and mid-string I seem to loosen my grip from time to time.  With the Legion as well as my new CWA .22 the additional weight helps keep the gun flat and stable to make up for my technique deficiencies.


Whether you are one of the fastest pistol shooters in the world or just starting, I would put a CWA in your hands so you can feel and see the difference!  They not only look great, they shoot amazing!  If you would like more information about CWAs products, please reach out to me and I will get you in touch with the right people.


See you out on the range soon!


It’s that time again…

It is hard to believe it has been almost a year ago since the last change of the Peak Stage Times (PST) for Steel Challenge.  As anticipated, there will be some changes to the PSTs in some of the fastest and growing divisions in the sport.  With more competitors participating in the sport, the competition is getting faster and faster.   I was able to see this first hand at the 2019 Alabama Steel Challenge Championship at the CMP Range in Talladega Alabama.  Team Steel Target Paint competitor, Chris Barrett was able to penetrate the elusive 60 second mark shooting in the Rimfire Rifle Open (RFRO) division.  Needless to say, the new PSTs are below which outline changes to just seven of the 13 Steel Challenge Divisions with total time difference in five divisions:


2020 Peak time


With times starting to normalize, increments of adjustments are now at the quarter second time interval and this is the first time in Steel Challenge where less than one second changes have been made.  As illustrated above, the big news is in the four rifle divisions.  Let’s start with Pistol Caliber Carbine Iron Sights.  With a total PST decrease of 3 full seconds it seems the division is growing and becoming more competitive.  I speculate this is due to the fact the iron sight options for PCCI have expanded in the past 6-12 months.  Striplin Custom Gunworks released a fiber optic front sight for the AR platform making a marked improvement in sight acquisition.  We have also seen a recent offering from TANDEMKROSS with a fiber optic front sight for the entry level Ruger PCC with the same impact.
The next division seeing one of the largest decreases is Pistol Caliber Carbine Optics (PCCO).  A decrease of four total seconds is over a 5% reduction.  We have the top shooters consistently shooting in the mid 60’s.  With a 70 second PST, to become a GM you have to have a classification time of 73.68 (95% of the PST).  Based on results in top matches around the country, this change feels in line.


Rimfire Rifle Iron Sight (RFRI) division is seeing the largest adjustment in PST of 5.5 seconds.  This is a growing division in the sport.  It is my belief this is a result of the cross over shooters from Scholastic Action Shooting Program (SASP).  At the recent World Rimfire Championships, there were 80 of the 246 competitors shooting iron sight guns.  Three of the top six total times were shot by iron sight competitors who regularly compete in Rimfire Challenge and SASP events.  The competition is picking up the front sight quicker in the past 12 months!


The last major change is in the popular Rimfire Rifle Open (RFRO) division.  At the majority of major matches I have participated across the country, RFRO is one if not the largest divisions.  As with all of the rifle divisions, the barrier to entry is low shooting a rifle.  You can get into the divisions being discussed at a reasonable price and, it is my opinion, it is easier to shoot a rifle compared to a handgun.  As we have discussed on the Steel Target Paint Podcast, it was not that long ago when the top shooters in the country were breaking the 70 second barrier.   At the 2019 World Speed Shooting Championship, the top 9 competitors in this division were all under 70 seconds.  At the 2017 World Speed Shooting Championship we did not see a single competitor in RFRO breaking the 70 second barrier.  You will now have to shoot 95% of 68 seconds to classify as a Grand Master which is 71.58 seconds.


After the team at USPSA conducted the analysis Optical Sight Revolver (OSR), and Single Stack (SS) had stage time increases with offsetting decreases.  Iron Sight  Revolver (ISR) was the only division where a total PST for the division increased. Yes, there are no changes at all in Production, Limited, Open, Carry Optics, Rimfire Pistol Open or Rimfire Pistol Iron.


The bar has been raised.  Time to get out there and train!

See you out on the range soon!



Keeping it safe…

I remember the discussion like it was yesterday, my wife said “shooting is dangerous isn’t it?!”.  This was part of a discussion we had when I told her that I wanted to take my shooting to the next level.  As with everything, she is right.  Shooting can be a dangerous sport if safety measures are not taken seriously and by everyone.


During the first Pro Am I shot, I remember shooting open centerfire on a 30 target array.  There was a target which was approximately 5-7 yards away from the shooter and it was an 18”x24” plate with an exposed hook style hanger.  The hook is the hanging mechanism to support the target.  In order to make this design work there is a hole drilled/cut into the face of the target.  It seemed instantaneous, when I touched the trigger I was hit in the forehead with a fragment of a bullet.  I was fortunate, I was wearing a hat which absorbed the majority of the blow but left me with a reminder of the experience.


A couple of months ago I was shooting a major Steel Challenge match with targets that had an exposed hook.  In the morning session I had at least two shots where I called a ‘hit’ on the target but I did not hear a ring or I could not see the ‘hit’.  When we went out to look at the first target, sure enough, there was a hit right at the top of the hanger.  The second target was tougher to see, but the bullet impact was on the edge of the hole of the plate where the hanger protrudes.  It was during the second session when matters took a turn for the worst.  On the first stage, the first string of fire, the competitor took their first shot.  A fragment of the bullet hit the top of my Hunters HD Glasses and I felt like I was hit with a pellet from a pellet gun.  On the third string of fire, on the third target the RO screamed and threw down the timer.  Blood was rushing from his arm.  The paramedics were called and after a short trip to the hospital they stitched him up.  When looking at the target, the bullet impact was on the bottom of the hanger and the best we can surmise, it was a bullet fragment from the target.


Fast forward to a match I recently attended.  The same style of hook/hanger steel plates were being used at another major match.  It was on the first day, we had just broke for lunch with one squad finishing up their last stage.  We were approximately 100 yards behind the squad with their backs to us.  You heard a gunshot at a target and immediately you heard a bullet tumbling past us.  This was one of the scariest sounds I have ever heard.  Thankfully no one was hit.


One of the large shooting organizations has incorporated into their rules to prohibit targets which do not have a flat face.  A flat target face has a consistent splatter pattern at bullet impact.  As described above, an irregular face, bolts, hooks, etc cause erratic and unpredictable splatter patterns.  Targets should also have a slight angle as illustrated in the picture below.  When a bullet impacts a target with a ~10-15 degree angle the majority of the splatter is directed safely to the ground below the target.  We hear AR500 or AR550 steel types a lot when discussing targets.  So why is this important?  The lower the steel rating IE AR350 the softer the steel is and easier for it to pit, crater, and deform.  As with the situation with the hooks, these irregularities can cause and erratic splatter pattern from the bullets.  Please do your research on your style of shooting to determine which hardness is right for your application before you buy.


If you have a range, looking to purchase a set of steel to practice, or you manage a club I highly recommend GT Targets.  They are targets for shooters made by shooters.  They have a flat front design with a desirable angle of defection.  Afterall, shooting can be dangerous enough, why not remove one variable from the equation?  Karl and GT Targets is who I have trusted for the past ten years and these are the only targets I shoot on my range.  Karl’s contact information is below.

Karl McKeever
816 Limerick Road
Collegeville, PA 19473

Office phone:  610 287 5868
Cell phone:      610 247 0633


See you out on the range soon!

Not always as good as it seems…

Recently, I posted a video shooting my JP rifles GMR 15 with the Lightweight sleeved barrel, Vortex Razor 6MOA, with MD Ammunitions 115gr 950FPS fueled by Western Powders Competition Powder on the Steel Challenge Stage Speed Option.  My total time was 7.91 (the aggregate of the four fastest times).  This video sparked some discussion on the shooting order for the first two shots.  I will breakdown my thoughts, analysis, and summary with some data.


In order to do some analysis we have to make some assumptions.  The assumptions I am making are as follows;

  • Let’s assume the club where you are shooting has the start position to the maximum allowable distance per rule; 5.2.3 and for the sake of this discussion will be 12 total feet (10 feet out and 2 feet up).
    • In the Rimfire pistol, Rimfire rifle, and pistol caliber carbine matches, there will be an aiming point (marker, cone,flag,or sign) centered downrange directly in front of each shooting box 10’ away and a maximum of 2’ high.’
  • The next assumption is the stage is setup level to the shooter’s eye and the gun moves laterally from target to target.


With these assumptions in place, below is a diagram of the stage with the plates named in order from left to right without counting the stop plate.

Speed Option Dia.png

The question attempted to be answered; Is it faster to shoot plate #3 first or plate #4 first?  Let’s apply some mathematics to the scenarios in hopes of answering this question. I have applied the Pythagorean Theorem to find the hypotenuse or distance from the start position to either of the first plate options.  The table below for option #1 is to engage target 3 first and then target 4.  The calculated distance from the start position to the 3rd target at 13.6 feet, the distance from the 3rd to 4th Plate at 14.5’ and then back from the 4th to 3rd plate.  The total gun movement in this shooting order is 42.6 feet.



The table below for option #2 is to engage target 4 first and then target 3.  The calculated distance from the start position to the 4th  target at 39.1 feet, the distance from the 4th  to 3rd  Plate at 14.5’. The total gun movement in this shooting order is 53.6 feet.




So, what does this tell us?  Option #1 has less gun movement by 11 total feet and in theory could be quicker.  Let’s apply some more math to calculate a theoretical time savings based on distance and speed.  After 20 samples, shooting my PCCO, the mean or average transitions from Target 4 to Target 3 is .25seconds.  I calculated this to be 58 feet per second and then converted to Miles Per Hour.  The result is I am moving the gun at 39.5MPH between the time the gun is shot between these two plates.  If we applied the extra 11 feet it should equate to roughly .189 seconds saved as outlined in the table below.




After conducting the analysis above I tried to replicate the results.  My average string time with option #2 with my PCCO was 1.98 seconds.  When trying option #1 my average string time after 20 runs was 2.08 seconds. Why was my time slower if the total distance traveled is less?  Here are my theories;

  1. I have shot the plate order of option #2 countless times over the years and through repetition it is faster.
  2. The assumption of the speed of my gun moving at 39.5MPH is over-inflated due to the start and stop nature of option #1.
    1. Option #2 is a brief pause on Target 3 seems more of a calculated change of directions in option #1 and is taking more time for me.

In summary, what I have taught over the years remains true.  If a particular stage order feels more comfortable, you will shoot it better.  Practice the order you have determined is best for you.  There are some stages in Steel Challenge where the order ‘makes sense’ and this one appears to be in the personal preference category.  With some practice


See you out on the range soon!


Light vs HEAVY…

The debate; is light better or heavy better?, started off early in my childhood.  As a fanatic lacrosse player it was important to have a lighter stick to be able to throw the ball harder.  As I progressed in my skill level I had the opportunity to play on the Onondaga Native American Reservation where lacrosse is a way of life.  This was a faster game than I was used to, it was my introduction to box lacrosse.  Sparing the intimate details, box lacrosse has smaller goals, smaller fields and typically is played in a dried up hockey rink.  The other distinguishing feature of this style of lacrosse is you can cross-check your opponent.  This is where you place two hands on your stick, with your hands spread apart and hit your opponent with the shaft of the stick.  If done right, this makes the contact of football look like the contact in playing checkers.


I learned a lot about a lot of things while spending time on the reservation, the life lessons could be another blog series by itself.  Sticking with equipment, as I would cross check my opponents I would bend the shaft of my stick and it seemed as though I was replacing one every practice or game.  A lot of people were using hickory wooden shafts which were noticeable heavier, but they were unforgiving when firmly pressed against an opponent.  After a few weeks, I saw an older leader of the tribe using a metal shaft and it never seemed to bend.  I asked him about the shaft of his stick and asked why it did not bend.  He laughed and told me he told the kids it was magic and guarded by the sacred ancestors.  I then raised an eyebrow and asked him again why it did not bend.  He shared his secret with me.  It was a cut down defensive shaft to 40” (for regulation).  I asked him why it mattered and he took the butt of the shaft of the stick off and I was mesmerized.   The thickness of the wall of the shaft of the stick was two to three times the thickness.  So, on the outside it looked like a normal aluminum shaft of the stick and in actuality it was a heavier duty version.  It was lighter than the wooden option, but a little bit heavier than the traditional aluminum and still maintaining good ball speed when thrown and could take the abuse of cross checking opponents.  Pretty innovative.


There has been a lot of debate in the competitive shooting world surrounding the weight of guns.  At the 2017 Alabama State Steel Challenge Championship I shot the fastest time ever shot at a major match with a 7+ pound gun in PCC.  This record stood for over 18 months.  At this time people asked me what I was shooting and I told them a JP Rifles GMR13 with a 16” steel barrel and compensator.  The consensus in the community was this was too heavy for the general population to shoot fast.  As a brand ambassador I shared this feedback with JP and in a couple of years a light weight barrel was developed.  Earlier this year I was afforded an opportunity to shoot this lighter setup and the difference was amazing.  I estimate this setup to be 1-1.5lbs lighter than my previous setup.  In the first two matches I of shooting the gun I set personal bests on every stage.  It is not only the weight, but where the weight was trimmed.  The weight was removed from the end of the gun therefore lowering the Moment of Inertia.  (If you have trouble sleeping, read the Wikipedia page on Moment of Inertia).
The Moment of Inertia, in layman’s terms, is the force or torque required to start or stop an object.  In this case, the gun as you transition from target to target.  The value of having a higher Moment of Inertia is on stages such as Steel Challenge’s ‘Five to Go’ Stage where you are moving the gun quickly, a heavier gun appears more stable and the sights bounce less because the gun or specifically the end of the gun is heavier. On a stage such as ‘Smoke and Hope’ a heavier gun is slower because of the wide and fast transitions if you exerted the same exact force on the gun.


So, what is the right option for you?  Regardless of the details above, a gun has to be ‘shootable’.  For younger shooters who have not developed their mature muscles, a lighter gun is going to be easier to shoot and more fun.  As you get older you want to balance the pros and cons of each setup.  Based on my testing and results with my JP Rifles PCC, I am lightening the front of my rimfire rifles to test how fast I can really go!  In this case, will my setup enable me to shoot all 8 stages in Steel Challenge Faster?  We will soon see.


See you out on the range soon!


What is there to be nervous about?

Recently, I was asked about major matches and how to control nerves. Jeff and I had a guest on the Steel Target Paint podcast where we touched on this very subject. Shannon Smith is an accomplished shooter and has made shooting his career through teaching and running some of the best matches in the country. When asking Shannon about this topic he calls it the “juice”. When you are in a situation you have never been in before or you have not performed at the level you would like to, the “juice” gets flowing. He then talks about a USPSA World Shoot performance where the “juice” was flowing with him. He did not shoot his best performance, thought he ‘blew’ two stages, and the “juice” stopped. So what did he do? He just shot and had fun. You know what happened? He shot some of the best stages of the match.


I had a similar conversation with an amazing competitor at the 2019 World Speed Shooting Championships this year. They asked why I was having fun and shooting well. For me, the “juice” got me several times on the first stage at way too many level III matches and I am out to spend time with my shooting family and have fun. What taught me this? Well, this was my 5th WSSC and never did I realize close to my truest potential. Undoubtedly, I would blow a stage and then all I could think about the next seven stages was how I just blew up a stage.


These major matches do cost a lot of money to compete in. They do attract the top talent in the shooting community and you have to be spot on or someone else will. There is a lot of prestige in being on the podium or even in the top 5. This is undue pressure we put on ourselves and we can control it. What I have found is the more matches you shoot, especially these level III matches the pressure will subside over time. There is not a magic pill to take and there is not a secret I can share. It’s tough trying not to think about who is there at the match competing against you. It’s tough to not think about the scores already posted the day before you are scheduled to shoot. It’s tough to not think about the weather. I always tell myself the same thing I told my wife four years ago. When this stops being fun, I am done.


Once last piece of insight. Whenever I am consciously thinking about something while I am shooting, this prevents my subconscious from taking over. The subconscious is where the countless hours and tens of thousands of rounds I have engaged in practice all live. When you get to the line, take in the moment and focus on the sound of the “B” in the beep. Just remember to be safe and have fun!


See you out on the range soon!