Only 3 shots…

When I was five years old we went over to a friend’s house who had this cool and amazing gaming system, it was an Atari 2600!  I still remember playing Frogger and Pitfall!  I did not know it would be a classic, but Pac-Man was a personal favorite.  The challenge of the game was stopping, going, and changing direction quickly.  It seemed simple in nature, but it was very difficult to get more than a couple levels deep!


For the sake of this discussion, there are really only 3 different shots in Steel Challenge; “Burn it Down”, “Easy Now”, and “Focus Shot”.  The Burn it Down targets are the four 18X24″ plates on Smoke and Hope, the front targets on Roundabout, the second plate on Accelerator, etc.  The “Easy Now” shots are are the fourth plate on Speed Option, fourth plate on Accelerator, the back plates on Showdown, etc.  And finally the “Focus Shots” are plates such as the 12″ plates on Outer Limits, plate #3 on Accelerator, plate #4 on Five To Go, etc.


As a shooter, it is important to understand the sight picture required to get your hits on all there different shot types.  Each shot needs something just a little bit different.  Refresh yourself on previous blog posts where I discuss Rubin’s Vase, Shooting on the Edge, and Speed vs. Accuracy.  With this being said lets talk about one of the least talked about elements of our action shooting, motion in between shots.  


While training a shooter this week I did not do nearly as good of a job as I could have articulating the importance of the motion in between shots.  We were practicing Speed Option. This stage has all three types of shots and they are slightly exaggerated with plate #2 really being a “Focus Shot”.  Despite being a “Focus Shot” many of us want to shoot it as a “Take it Easy” shot and it is not.  While participating at many matches around the country, this is probably the number 1 plate missed in all of Steel Challenge.  There are some top contenders!


Real speed on the Steel Challenge stage Speed Option comes from starting the gun fast, transitioning the gun fast, and stopping the gun fast.  If you are able to shoot all three types of shots equally, you have to work on moving the gun real fast!  The other key to a stage such as Speed Option is not to let panic set in when you approach the stage because of the largest transitions.


The next time you are out on the range, think about your stage breakdown with the three shot types in mind and then how you are going to transition the gun in the more expeditious manner possible… just like playing Pac-Man…


See you out on the range soon!




When Panic Sets In…

When Panic Sets In…

It was eleven short years ago when my wife was pregnant with our first daughter.  This was one of the happiest and yet anxious times of my life. I remember looking in the mirror at the hospital as my wife’s contractions were getting closer and closer together and I said to myself, “don’t panic and it will be OK!”  It was not long after, I met my amazing daughter for the first time.  The experience was crystal clear and time did not quite stand still, but it was very clear and all of my senses were accentuated.

As I fast forward to last weekend, I was training a shooter and we discussed the ‘Panic’ that can occur when shooting.  There is an insatiable need to feel like you need to shoot faster.  When this happens, you are shooting past your EDGE and the fundamentals break down.  What often times happens is you start to miss your shots and your string of fire ends up being a lot slower than you would like it to be and far short of your potential.

For me, the way I battle this phenomenon is to start off with a string of fire well within my Edge and then I dial it up from there.  All matches are not the same.  Your level of comfort is not the same.  The conditions are not the same.  This means should not necessarily be able to shoot your 100% times all of the time.  Evaluate what level you are shooting at and dial it in so the panic never sets in. You will always shoot better and faster when you are executing the fundamentals well!

See you out on the range soon!


Focus.. Focus..

I remember the first time I saw the Rubin Vase in Psychology class. If you are not familiar with Edgar Rubin, the Danish psychologist, and what is commonly called the Rubin Vase or Rubin Face, below is a picture you have probably seen before.

Two Faces


At first glance, do you see the vase or do you see the two faces? For me, I see the black vase first and then I adjust my focus to the side of the object and then I can clearly see the two white faces almost simultaneously.  What I find interesting is I can only maintain one of these visual images at one time.  Meaning, I cannot see both the faces and the vase at the same time. Despite my best efforts, I can’t focus on them at the same time.


I was thinking about Rubin’s Vase two weeks ago while training a fellow competitor and we were discussing Smoke and Hope. What I have been doing is maintaining a target focus prior to the first shot, and as the buzzer went off my mind would switch to a sight focus whereas when I saw the sight on the white background I would pull the trigger.  I would then revert back to a target focus for the next three shots until I arrived at the stop plate.  As similar to the first shot, I would see the target, see the sight and as the sight landed on the white background I would pull the trigger.  When I would miss the stop plate, I would forget to change my focus back to the sight in hopes the gun would be there.  In the example of Rubin’s Vase I would see the faces, then the timer would go off, I would see the vase appear with the white faces in the background, pull the trigger, look at the white faces three more times while pulling the trigger, and then finally see the final white face and when the Vase arrived I would pull the trigger.


What I decided to do is to look at the white faces, look at the vase, pull the trigger and then for the rest of the shots focus on the vase and when there was a white face background pull the trigger for the remaining targets. I saw the sights on every single shot of every single string of fire. This sight focus made a marked improvement in my time.  I was able to shoot my fastest stage time ever in Steel Challenge after hitting a plateau on the fast stages.

Two Faces Time


The next time you are out on the range, remember Rubin’s Vase and make sure you are focusing on the ‘Right’ thing at the ‘Right’ time and watch your times drop!


See you out on the range soon!



You want to be a Shot Caller do ya?

Being able to be a Shot Caller or able to call your shot is critical to any action or speed shooting discipline.  We have discussed in the past your need to be accurate in order to go fast.  You also need to be able to self-diagnose where you are shooting and if you miss, why.  One of these ways is to call your shot or determine where your shot is going.  The way to do this is to see your sights when the trigger breaks.  There are a lot of reasons why this is tough to do.  For me, I still have a tendency to blink my eyes when the firing pin hits the case/primer.  I have noticed this lately as I have been experimenting with shooting my centerfire open gun.


One of my biggest challenges as a student was always “When am I going to use this in the real world?”. So, let me share with you a practical application of Shot Calling.  I was recently working with a student on this exact topic with their Rimfire Rifle Open gun and they were blazing the Steel Challenge Stage Showdown.  We then transitioned to their Rimfire Pistol Open gun.  They immediately were having a tough time on the back two 18”x24” plates out at 25 yards.  I asked them where they were calling their shot and they stated the middle of the plate but in the top third.  The tough part was they were missing the plate.  As a coach I was not sure if they truly were not calling the shots correctly or if there was an equipment issue.  This happened for several strings of fire intermittently hitting the back plates.  I told them to stop and ‘bullseye’ two shots on the back left plate, plate #1 in the center of the plate.  Both shots were hits, but they were 1” from the top.  I then asked to shoot the gun with similar results.  They sighted their gun in at 10 yards to be just above the middle of the plate.  We made some adjustments with his pistol and shots were in the center of the back plate and .5” low on the 10” plate.  If they were not able to call their shot, they may have thought it was them and not their equipment.


The other issue I have as a shooter is I tend to be more target focused instead of sight focused when the buzzer goes off. I know, we should start a support group because I don’t think I am alone.  Remember, every shot needs something different.  A close shot, say 12” plate at 10 yards you can be more target focused and speed onto the next shot.  A 10” plate at 18 yards requires a sight focus shot.  By working on calling your shot you will do better at hitting ‘tougher’ targets at distance.  Not sure who said it, but you need to be able to shoot accurately to shoot fast.  This is very true in speed shooting!  One other insight I have to share.. I find my ability to call my shots degrades over time when I don’t shoot or practice.  This is why I recommend, even if you are on a tight budget, to shoot at least once a week or twice a week.  It keeps your skills you have worked so hard on, sharp!


See you out on the range soon!


What a difference .27 seconds can make…

We all have our predisposition when it comes to shooting. Mine is one of the worst ones to have as a speed shooter, I always try to go too fast!  In a previous post I have discussed the topic of the “EDGE”.  In lieu of rehashing the details of this concept I will share the basics.  The EDGE is the point where your basic fundamentals of shooting breakdown IE you move your eyes to the next target prior to fully depressing the trigger and firing the gun.  Everyone’s EDGE is very different, but with some experience it is easy to find.


I started shooting my Carolina Arms Group Trenton Pro 9MM this year in Single Stack and I have struggled getting consistent times. While doing some trouble shooting I discovered the accuracy out of a plated bullet is not what I needed and therefore sought out a Full Metal Jacket Bullet and discovered Precision Brass and Bullet 115grain FMJ with the help of my friend Steve Cole.  After doing some testing the true potential of my 1911 was unleashed.  MD Ammunitions does amazing work and found that 3.7 grains of Western Powders Competition was delivering reliable results at 1050 FPS.


As I started analyzing my times, I was absolutely struggling coming out of the holster. The beep went off and I thought I was going to yank my belt off with my gun.  I realized this had to do in part with my poor technique, but then I ordered a Red Hill Tactical Holster.  The fit and finish is top notch and now I know why so many people were running their holsters.  I still was not at the level of drawing my gun in as smooth of a fashion as I should be, so after some discussions with Tom Naelon, I purchased the Safariland USPSA kit.  This allowed me to make a couple of small tweaks to the draw angle and I was more confident then I have ever been!


Despite steady progress in Single Stack and my first major win in the division, I have a long way to go. One of the stages I feel can help my overall Steel Challenge game is Five to Go.  Last night I setup the stage and began to run some strings.  I knew in the back of my head that the peak time for Five to Go for Single Stack is 13.50 (four strings) or 3.375 seconds a string.  In order to be classified as a GM I would need to shoot 95% of this time and each string would have to be (3.375 secs * 1+.05%) 3.54 seconds.  The very first string I shot at my predisposition pace was 3.27 seconds with a 1.33 draw.  As I have seen in the past, I had a miss on one plate that I did not make-up.  I tried to shoot a couple more strings at this pace and then realized I was shooting past my EDGE and my fundamentals were breaking down on plate #3.  It was interesting, I tell people with this stage the transition from plate #1 to plate #2 should be the fastest transition and then plate #4 to the stop plate, but my times were showing me something else.  I was accelerating from plate to plate which can be okay, but I needed to be careful.


What I did next was tough and a step I have taken with every division I shoot; see the plate, have proper sight alignment on the target and squeezed the trigger. My draw was deliberate at 1.41 seconds, 2nd shot was deliberate at .59, 3rd shot about the same at .57, the 4th shot at .52 (a little bit fast, but connected) and my hard transition to the stop plate was .45 for a GM time of 3.54 seconds.  I decided to try to do the same exact thing as I just did and here are the splits;

Draw – 1.44

2nd shot – .60

3rd shot – .52

4th shot – .56

5th shot to the stop plate – .44 seconds

The total time was 3.56. Albeit this is just over the GM time, I would take it.  My third string I was focused on doing this one more time and my total time was 3.57 seconds.


What does this all mean? My true EDGE for Five to Go is close to the 3.50 second mark.  When I was having faster times I would sometimes connect, but then I was missing the 3rd plate and sometimes the 4th plate.  My focus is to shoot at my current level of ability, this is tough, but something I am working on.  My other area of focus is and has been to work on my draw.  I am confident I am leaving between .2-.3 seconds out on the table on this stage.  This adds up to 1 second a stage and close to 8 seconds for a match in this division.


I hope the training insight I had out on the range helps you and offers a little insight on how I work on a division and a stage to get better.


See you out on the range soon!

Putting yourself out there…


It’s not always easy being in a position to make a decision to ‘put yourself out there’. Whether you are in your personal life or professional life, some of the best and fulfilling experiences is where I went for it.  After surveying the content available, Jeff Jones and I agreed to put ourselves out there and start a Podcast.  So here we go!!


The intended audience of the Podcast are business owners, competitive shooters and family in the shooting sports. These shooting sports span Steel Challenge, Rimfire Challenge, USPSA, SASP, etc. We plan to bring industry news to the community.  We will talk about relevant issues in the shooting sports and share our joint perspective on the ‘now’.  Along the way we will share tips and tricks to help make you a better shooter.


In doing some research, we found podcasting allows the listener to retain up to 3X the amount of information by listening instead of reading. The other good part about podcasting is you can listen at your leisure.  We have researched and have published our podcast on iTunes as well as SoundCloud.


If you haven’t already, join us on this journey. In the first episode, Jeff Jones and I interview Larry Joe Steeley Jr, the creator of Steel Target Paint.


If you have suggestions, please reach out to Jeff or myself. We have an extensive list of business owners, industry influencers, and competitive shooters lined up!  There will be exclusive announcements made on the podcast.  Stay tuned!


See you out on the range soon!


I can’t do this anymore..

Life has a way of trying us with adversity and moments of self-doubt.  During my undergraduate college years I was working a minimum of 40 hours a week and taking a full load of classes to pay for my education.  There were many short nights and questionable choices of what was a priority; Was it work?  Was it school?  Was it my social life?  There was just not enough time in the day to do everything so I had to take a step back and focus on the ‘Main Things’.  What was going to be important to prepare me for the future?  I decided to focus on my studies and the job which was affording me the opportunity of a college education.  It does not mean it was easy listening to my friends talk about the great party which happened over the weekend.  It was tough at a young age to make mature decisions to give me a fighting chance at what I wanted in life.  Over the course of four years, self-doubt was abundant especially not knowing if my conviction was going to truly pay off.  Shortly after I graduated with my four year degree, I landed a job that would shape my professional success for the next two decades to come.  It did all work out.


I share this glimmer of insight with you because if you truly care about progressing as a shooter, you will encounter these moments of doubt.  There will be times at the range, maybe at a practice session or a major match where things are not doing your way and you will say “I can’t do this anymore.”  During these times it is important to remember why you started shooting in the first place.  Why do you travel to matches?  Why do you want to get better?  For me, I stay grounded knowing I am doing this because it is a stress reliever and the social side of the sport is very fulfilling.  It also invigorates my competitive spirit!  When I started this journey two short years ago I promised my wife one thing: if it is not fun anymore, I will stop.  Every day at the range may not be filled with ‘fun’ in the endless pursuit to be one of the best.  Outside of my passion for the 2nd Amendment, the most rewarding of times is when I can help a fellow shooter, help a junior shooter, being able to give back, and when someone shares that I have helped them.


At the end of the day, you have to make sure the Main Things in your life are in order and hopefully it leaves some room to pursue something you love.  Not everyone will always get it.  There are people and situations that will try to take you down and cast self-doubt.  A good friend of mine shared some advice with me recently in my professional life.  He said, “Just because someone else may try to blow out your candle will not make theirs burn any brighter.” Someone told me a long time ago, it does take more effort to lift someone up than it does to push them down.  What side of the coin are you on?  The next time you see a fellow shooter struggling at a stage or having equipment issues – lend them a hand.  Some of the seemingly small efforts will make a long lasting impact on the people you have the opportunity to influence as well as the sport.


With the utmost hope and optimism, see you out on the range soon!



Let’s talk about Classification!

I get a lot of questions about the Steel Challenge Shooting Association (SCSA) Classification System. My intention is to try to simplify the Steel Challenge Classification System and answer any questions you may have.  The Steel Challenge Classification System overview is located at the following link:


The full classification policy is listed below:





Common Questions:


Q: Do I have to be a member of USPSA to be classified?

A: Yes. You need to have a USPSA # for you to be classified.


Q: If I am classified in USPSA as an A Class, what is my classification in SCSA?

A: Your classification in USPSA has no bearing on your classification in SCSA or vice versa.


Q: Do I need to be a member of USPSA to participate in a level II match or Higher?

A: Yes. You need to be a member to participate in these events.  At this time, Level I matches do not require you to be a USPSA member, but it is highly encouraged . As of January 2019 Level II matches or higher require membership.


Q: What is your opinion of the benefit of the Steel Challenge Classification System.

A: There are two main benefits of the classification system. #1 – you can track your performance as a shooter.  This helps in goal setting and the self-motivation process.  #2- If the required number of entries is reached for recognition at Steel Challenge Matches there will be awards given.

Tier 1 (club) minimum of 3 but I don’t know of any one that gives out awards at club matches.

Tier 2 (state) minimum of 5 is recommended but Match Director can use any schedule they choose.

Tier 3 (area or higher) 10 or more per class.


Q: What is a category, division, classification?

A: A division is the type of equipment used in a match IE; Single Stack is a 1911 style gun with a set guidelines of magazine capacity, holster location etc. A Classification is the level of proficiency achieved in a division IE: GM = Grand Master and is the highest level of classification.  Category is meant for special recognition such as “Junior” where competitors are under the age of 18.


Q: How many stages do I need to shoot in order to be classified?

A: 4 stages need to be shot at a SCSA (Steel Challenge Shooting Association) affiliated event. Note: all 8 current Steel Challenge stages are ‘classifiers’ at even affiliated match.


Q: Why haven’t I seen the scores posted for my classification updated?

A: The classification system is updated once a week on Wednesday at 8AM EST .  If you shot a match on Saturday and it is Tuesday, you need to be patient and wait a day.  If it is the Wednesday after the match and you still have not seen your times updated, contact the match director.  Some common setbacks include the payment to SCSA has not been made for the scores to be posted .  If you see 0/0/00 by the match that means the activity fee hasn’t been paid yet and those results won’t be used for classification until they are.


Q: When do peak times change?

A: At a minimum the peak times are reviewed and evaluated once a year .  If a change needs to be made, there is no current limitation on when these changes can be made.  The initial classification system was implemented on July 4, 2016 and there have been (2) updates to peak times for certain divisions.  These updates are typically after the World Speed Shooting Championship.


Q: I still don’t understand the math for classification, can you explain it to me?

A: Let us use an example and we will assume this is our first match and we are not classified. We are going to focus on PCCO this year.  Below is a breakdown for all stages, classifications, and Classification times for each Classification, for PCCO;


SC 2


I shot my local SCSA match and they are affiliated with USPSA. My times are as follows:

Five to Go = 12.15 secs

Smoke and Hope = 8.02 secs

Outer Limits = 14.00 secs

Accelerator = 9.25 secs

The Pendulum = 10.54 secs

Roundabout = 9.12 secs


There are two different ways to look at classification 1- what is my classification on a stage and 2- what is my total classification for the division? Let’s walk through the First Example; In order to find your classification on a stage you take your Peak Time for the division and Stage and divide it by the time you shot.  In our example above you would take your time for Five to Go (12.15) and divide it by the Peak Time for the division and stage (11.00) to get your Classification % which would be (12.15/11.00) = 90.53%.  This Classification % is between 85% and less than 95% is MASTER Classification. Pro Tip – The stages you have a lower classification on are the ones you should practice.


SC 3


In order to determine your total classification you take the sum of all of the times you shot and divide by the peak time for the stages. In our example the total Peak time for the six stages shot is 59.00 seconds as illustrated above.  The total times I shot for the six stages in the match is 63.08 seconds.  My classification for this match is (59.00/63.08) = 93.53%.  This Classification % is between 85% and less than 95% is MASTER Classification.


After you shoot your next match your classification will update and keep the lowest time for every stage of each match for classification purposes. An example of my PCCO Classification is below:


SC 4


The Peak Time is 78.00 seconds. My total time for my best stages shot in competition is 64.38 seconds which is GM time.  In theory, if I shot my personal best times all in one match it would be a 64.38.  As a point of reference, my best total match time with PCCO was 67.59.  You can find your classifications at the following link:


Q: I am a Master in RFRO, how do I know how much time I need to take off my classification times to become a Grand Master?

A: After looking at your classification you need to drop 1.56 seconds! Here is the math below;


SC 5


In order for you to be a GM you have to shoot 95% or greater of the peak time.  The peak time is 76.00 seconds.  95% of 76.00 is actually (76*(1+(1-.95)) = 79.8 Seconds for a GM time.  This means you need to drop 81.36 (current classification time) – GM time 79.8 = 1.56 seconds somewhere and you will be a Grand Master.


Send me any questions you may have regarding the Steel Challenge Classification system and I will make sure they are answered for you.


See you out on the range soon!


Stepping Up – If you want it, what are you going to do to go get it?!

I am very grateful for the life I have. My parents were blue collar workers who did everything they could to make sure my brother and I had what we ‘needed’.  The biggest gift my parents gave me was the motivation of hard work.  If you wanted something bad enough, you would work hard to go get it.  You never left anything to come to you in life.  To this day, I do not think I am the smartest person in my field, but I put forth the discretionary effort to set goals and work relentless to achieve them.


I was recently at a conference with a couple exceptional speakers.  On the first day, I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. John Izzo, author of the book Stepping Up.  His message was succinct; we need to take responsibility for how we perform and make change.  I can spend hours practically applying his key concepts to the business world, but instead during our discussion I thought a lot about shooting.


Over the course of the past two years there has always been a lot of, let’s just say, reasons why someone places better than us in competition.  Some of these reasons may be legitimate IE; you do not maintain a preventative maintenance regimen on your firearms, you make changes to your setup prior to a match, the ammunition you use is problematic during the cold, etc.  One of the many concepts he talked about was taking 100% ownership with 0 excuses.


The key takeaway, for me, was you have choice.  If you are satisfied with your current placements and results, then keep doing what you are doing.  If you are not satisfied with how you are doing, then what are you going to do to CHANGE things?  As a previous mentor has told me, hope is not a plan.  We must make a plan to change our course.  What is your plan for the rest of 2018?  Are you going to practice at all?  Are you just going to shoot local matches?  Are you going to get help from an expert in the sport?  What is it?  In order to truly get better you have to write down a plan and hold yourself accountable to it.


What am I going to do differently? My wife and I are making a large financial decision to sell our home and buy a home with property to have a range.  This will allow me to shoot more and not compromise the time I have with my family.  This change will also allow me to expand what I truly love to do, teach.  It will be great to have a place to bring fellow competitors to where we can work out some of their stumbling blocks and continue to grow the sport.  I truly believe focusing on the fundamentals makes both the teacher as well as the student better.


Just remember, results lag change. If you change something in your routine, your equipment, etc you will not see the results immediately in most cases.  Just know you are making the right decisions and positive results will follow! Now, what are you going to do?!


See you out on the range soon!



What I have learned…

Sometimes you know that something is not a good idea, but you do it anyway. Just like the time my brother started a fire in our wooden fort.  No, it gets better.  Then we thought it would be ‘cool’ to see what would happen if we tossed a lighter into the flame, inside the wooden fort.  Insert your best Wylie Coyote clip here.  *Kids don’t try this at home.  Still not sure how my brother and I made it into adulthood?!


I tell you this brief example because a lot of us look to facebook posts, Instagram, and other social media platforms for ideas. I think they can be a great way to shorten the learning curve, but just because something seems like a good idea, it may not be right for you.  People have told me over and over again you want to have the red dot sight as far forward as you can on a hand gun and on a rifle.  I have tried this method over and over again and something just does not feel comfortable.  I first made a change with my Tactical Solutions Xring and brought the sight to the middle of the receiver and it worked.  When I pulled the gun up – the dot was right there and the viewing window was perfect, for me.


This got me thinking about my PCC. After shooting the Alabama State Steel Challenge Match in December, where I shot a record 67.59, I was hesitant to change anything in my configuration.  I was shooting my JP GMR 13 with my Vortex Razor 6MOA towards the front of the ejection port. The sight picture was good, but it was not at the same comfort level as my Xring.  So, I did what some have said not to do, I started shooting my JP GMR 15 and I moved the Red Dot back on the receiver to the back of the gun.  As soon as I picked up my gun – the sight picture was very familiar… it was comfortable.


I decided I was going to put this configuration to the test at the local match at Strongpoint Shooting Complex in Waverly Hall Ga. I was relaxed and more confident than I have ever been with the gun.  I asked a fellow competitor to video Accelerator.  I shot a personal best this match logging a 8.17 with a personal best 1.82 on the fifth and final string.


Strong Point 1Strong Point 2


I share this experience and example with you to say it is perfectly fine to listen to advice, but make the best decision for you and your setup. The best golfers in the world don’t use the same golf clubs, the same loft, the same ball, etc.  They use what works for them.  Educate yourself and listen to people who have been in the game, at the highest levels, to shorten your learning curve and then make the right adjustments for you.


See you out on the range soon!