The Difference 6 months can make..

The intent of this article is to provide some insight of where hard work, training and dedication can take you in Steel Challenge.  I have been fortunate to work with many competitors across the country to help them identify their Shooting Tendencies and put actionable plans in place to help them grow in the sport to reach their goals.  Steve Cooper is a competitor from Florida who was at a plateau in his shooting and wanted to make an investment to take his game to a whole new level.  Steve is the eptimoe of the type of shooter I like to work with; he takes the sport serious, willing to make the investment in his development, and not afraid to be a good student.  As a baseline to his progress for the past 6 months, below is his classifications and percentages in Steel Challenge as of January 30, 2020;

As you can see from the above, Steve is a solid shooter with two Master Classification times in PCCO and RFRO.  While on the range Steve asked me an interesting question.  He said, “so, do you think I can be a Grand Master by the end of the year?”  I think it is important to manage expectations, so my reply was, “if you practically apply what we are doing this weekend and put in the time and dedication, it was possible.”  Below is a table of Steve’s classifications taken on July 7, 2020;

I admit when I pulled his classification times I was surprised he made Grand Master in four different divisions, I was expecting two.  Based on our time together and his progress, I wanted to share a little bit of insight of his journey and hopefully inspire others who are headed down the same path.  Here is our interview together, I hope you enjoy and find some inspiration and motivation through his words!

How long have you been shooting for?

I am a slightly older guy (60+- years old) that had never shot competitively until about 18 months ago when some friends introduced me to Steel Challenge.  I immediately fell in love with the sport and started shooting once a week on average, either at local matches or practicing. After about a year of this routine I was able to pick up enough tips and pointers from fellow shooters to achieve master classifications in both RFRO and PCCO.  I was thrilled with this progress but really wanted to step up my game some more.

What are the three keys to your shooting improvement in the past six months?

Six months ago I decided to find a coach. I was lucky enough to get a weekend of training with Steve Foster at his home range in Ga.  Steve is not only one of the best Steel Challenge shooters in the world but also a very talented teacher. He has a great eye for catching the things that need to be improved upon. For me at that level, the things I needed to improve were very basic. They included stuff like keeping my eye on the sights, stance, grip,

movement and footwork on Outer Limits, and going “one for one.”  The concept of going “one for one” and the “Targeted Edge” is something Steve talks about a lot. I made a list of about 5 or 6 of these basics and had it with me each time I shot. For the next several months, I would refer to the list at every practice session or match to make sure I was incorporating the changes into my shooting. I worked until all the things on my list became a part of my subconscious so eventually I no longer had to look at it.

What have you struggled with the most while training these past 6 months?

The thing I struggled with the most is probably the most basic thing of all: keeping my eyes on the sight and going one for one.  If I am shooting well, I have a tendency to believe that I am a better shooter than I actually am. I will get over confident and start shooting beyond my capability. When this happens I cut my eyes forward to the next target before I have a good sight picture on the target I am shooting, Basically, I start to push too hard and my level of accuracy goes down the drain. Steve calls this “shooting over the Edge”. 

Did you ever find yourself at a plateau? If so, how did you get past it?

Yes! It seems like every level of improvement is followed by a plateau. This may be because of the struggle stated above or it may be something else altogether. I see a lot of people go through the same thing. For me the key to getting past this is to not get frustrated.  Keep shooting and practicing the basics. Shooting a stage over and over will eventually get your body to react faster and your times should start improving again. There is no substitute for putting time in at the range.

What advice would you give to new shooters of the sport who would like to become a Grand Master?

My best advice to someone wanting to shoot at that level would be to find a mentor or coach already at Grand Master level. I realize this may be difficult for many people; but I 

believe it is critical. Practicing doing something wrong is no way to get better. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good shooters out there that are happy to give advice and that’s great!

But it wasn’t until I had a Grand Master level coach watch and correct the things I was doing wrong that I was able to turn the corner. Would I have ever been able to make Grand Master

without this coaching? Maybe, I am not sure.. One thing is for sure: it would have taken a very, very long time. It took me almost 6 months to unlearn most of the things I was doing incorrectly!

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

My goals for the next 12 months are to continue to get my times down and percentages up, to hopefully become a more competitive GM, and make it to a few major matches.  

I would also like to make GM in RFPO.

I hope you took something away from Steve’s words and it will make you think about your own training and path you are on!

See you out on the range soon!


Out of control does not mean fast..

Being out of control while shooting does not mean you are shooting fast, you are just out of control.  I have found my fastest stages while shooting I have experienced a sense of calm and clarity.  If I could tap into this pace of shooting at will, I would be a much better shooter.

I share this reminder on the heels of a training experience and match experience where this concept kept popping up.  When you are practicing, we have to focus on The EDGE and have command of the Targeted Edge Dial.  How do we ever expect to execute the command of the Targeted Edge Dial in a match if we can’t do this in practice?  As an insight into training, I always write down my times.  I use this as an accountability tool.  Just because you shot one string in practice on Five to Go of 1.75 seconds doesn’t mean you are going to go out and shoot four strings of 1.75 ea totaling 7.00 seconds.

This past weekend was an exercise of “dialing” things back.  The West Florida Steel Challenge Championship hosted at the Wyoming Antelope Club in Clearwater Florida is the most challenging venue I have ever shot at.  All of the range bays have concrete walls and ceiling, which is a requirement because of the neighboring airport.  The lighting is challenging to see targets past 15 yards whereas lighting outdoors even on a cloudy day is much easier to see the plates.  There are gaps in the ceiling, assuming for ventilation, which casts rays of lights down in front of the shooter.  Even the smallest smoke emitted from the end of the muzzle makes a curtain you can barely see through.  The other anomaly is the acoustics of the shooting environment.  There is a significant echo when you pull the trigger making it impossible to listen for hits in the plates. 

Having shot in these conditions before it is an exercise in turning the Dial way back.  With this in mind, I could not help but push the pace on certain strings and was quickly reminded these are unique shooting conditions.  Mentally, this did take a toll on my mental state fighting my Foster Effect on every single division, every single stage, every single string, and every single shot.  This type of shooting is something I need to work on throughout the year.  On the heels of a sub-60 performance and a 40.8 second 6 stage local match, my goal was to match this time. These conditions are just not the same and therefore I should not try to shoot as they were.  After my first string at a 70% performance it was a swift reminder we did not have the same conditions.  It was very challenging to dial my strings back to a level I have not shot at in a couple of years. 

The result of ‘dialing’ things back resulted in 4 Championships.  I admit it was not as clean as it could have been.  I lost the dial on my Rimfire pistol open gun on one stage and despite making a concerted effort I had to ‘eat’ a miss on this stage and it cost me first place in RFPO as well as Title of Steel Master.  For me, this is a great reminder every string and stage is equally important.  My mission as I hit the practice range this week is to now ‘dial’ things back up to where I was prior to this match and instill confidence in my ability.  I share this experience with you as some insight of my thought process and the importance of control.  I hope this helps just one of you, it will be worth the time to document my thoughts.

I hope to see you out on the range soon!


Shooting Segmentation, it’s not all the same..

In my professional life, I have situations that arise where there is not a one size fits all solution to every problem.  When interacting and leading people, they are each unique in their life experience from how they grew up, religious beliefs, race, gender, age, etc.  Every single person has a story and it is important to understand their perspective before you are able to effectively communicate and address situations as they surface.  As my good friend and colleague often says, “where would the fun be if everyone was the same.”

Shooting is very similar; rarely do we find two targets, which are the same on the gun range when shooting Steel Challenge.  Every shot has its own timing, its own sight picture, and its own trap when going fast.  There is a phenomenon, which happens where a shooter tries to shoot all targets the same way.  Batching is the process where you shoot all of the targets at the same exact speed regardless of distance, size, or overall difficulty and/or apply the same speed increase to all targets instead of one in an array.  As an instructor, we see this happen when people focus on practicing a first shot in Steel Challenge, Rimfire Challenge or SASP.  There is a lot of focus on the first shot and we often times see a speed increase of 10-20% on this one target.  Then, if we start the student on the full array the Batching process happens and they start missing other targets because they are applying the same assertive speed to the other targets.  We must remember each shot has its own sight picture and requires a different amount of focus. Shooting Segmentation is the process of treating each target differently with its own sight picture and speed.

Another example of Batching is shooting Trap.  Early on, my mentor, said I had the “Pull/Bang” issue.  It took me a bit to figure out exactly what he was saying.  If I am standing at station #3 in Trap and I have a straight away bird it is a pretty fast shot and it is fun to see the pigeon disintegrate as close to the Trap house as possible.  If I am standing at station #5 and I have a hard right angle bird, this is one of the toughest shots in Trap and it takes approximately 3x-4x the amount of time to swing the gun to the right to get out in front of the bird to get an acceptable break. As a shooter Shooting Segmentation is key, each clay pigeon has its own sight picture and unique time to move the gun to pull the trigger.

The next time you are on the range, break down your array in which targets require more time than others.

See you out on the range soon!


The next 405 days..

The World Speed Shooting Championships (WSSC) concluded on May 19th 2019.  Being exactly 1 second from a World Title, I knew I needed to build a plan to shoot sub-60 seconds to have a chance at a world title in 2020. Immediately following this match gave birth to the plan below, Road to 60 seconds (or 59.95):

StageStage #DivisionPersonal BestPeak TimeRoad to 60Avg String
5 to GoSC-101Rimfire Rifle Open8.2910.5             8.00            2.00
ShowdownSC-102Rimfire Rifle Open6.327.5             6.25            1.56
Smoke and hopeSC-103Rimfire Rifle Open5.257             6.00            1.50
Outer LimitsSC-104Rimfire Rifle Open10.4411.5             9.65            3.22
AcceleratorSC-105Rimfire Rifle Open7.729             7.80            1.95
PendulumSC-106Rimfire Rifle Open8.469.5             8.00            2.00
Speed OptionSC-107Rimfire Rifle Open8.129.5             8.00            2.00
RoundaboutSC-108Rimfire Rifle Open6.437.5             6.25            1.56
Total Time61.03                 72.059.95

Starting on the left, the first column is the Steel Challenge Stage name, followed by the Stage Number, Division, my personal best times from classification, the peak times for 2019 (at the time), the stage times to shoot sub-60 (in this case 59.95), and finally the average string times needed to shoot sub-60.  Please note times are rounded to the nearest hundredth.

The weekend after the match, I sat down with Chris Barrett and his dad and I said, “we need to talk about something.”  “Steel Target Paint needs to be on the top spots of the podium in 2020 at the next WSSC and here is the roadmap to shoot sub 60.”  We all started to smile and reviewed the road map of how we were going to make this happen.  We first had to assess the times to make sure they were reasonable and we agreed they were.  We thought about moving some times around from bucket to bucket, but agreed the goals and plan were solid.  Then, we went to work.  Every practice session was calibrated by the ability to hit these times.  For me, I knew I had to be stronger on Outer Limits because this was my largest gaps in time and so this is what I did.  I studied every movement, broke out the video camera, and examined every nuance of the stage.  Footwork is only part of the success of the stage, albeit an important one.  The rest, well, I have left some tips on the podcast and on some of my other blog posts for consideration.

Below is a summary of the Road Map to breaking 60 and my stage times from Saturday 6/27/2020 at the Little River Sportsman’s Association in Valdosta Georgia.

I knew I shot the match pretty clean only taking 2-3 makeup shots into my score, but I was not ready for what the ‘pad’ revealed.  I thought it was 60 seconds or maybe a hair under, but a rush of emotion hit me when it displayed 58.42 seconds.  Admittedly, I immediately validated all stages were scored and there were not an errant time.  Needless to say, as of the writing of this post, 58.42 seconds is the new watermark for Steel Challenge.

Words cannot express how grateful I am for the loving support of my family and sponsors who have helped me reach this goal.  It was all that more special because I was shooting with friends and my oldest daughter Vanessa.  My message from this experience is if you build a plan and put in the work, great things can happen.  Additionally, now that I have been here, I know the path and it will be easier to find my way back.

A quick gear review:

Steel Target Paint

ELEY Force

Magnum Research Switchbolt

Powder River Precision Trigger

Tandemkross Fireswitch, takedown knob, and Kross pins

Vortex Razor 6 MOA

Hunters HD Gold Velocity eyewear

SteveFosterShooting Compensator – manufactured by Wiland USA

SteveFosterShooting Bolt stop pin/buffer

Pro Ears

CelCal Cerakote Basepads

Hogue rifle bag

Transported on my Range Tactical Gear Cart

Targeted Innovations Magazine caddy

See you out on the range soon!


Sometimes you need to take a close look at things..

Back in 1995 I turned 18 years old and I had aspirations of conquering the world.  First of all, I have always wanted a corvette, so I found one!  You know, it was a status symbol people around the immediate area recognized success with.  There was a 1976 Corvette sitting at a mechanics garage with a for sale sign on it.  I must have driven past the car 100 times on the way to the local place to eat during the summer, Rudy’s.  This car was a unique color being a brown and gold two-tone finish.  One day, I had the courage to drive into the establishment and started to look around as if I was an expert car guy.  The Paint was in great shape, the fiberglass was all solid, but the interior needed some long overdue loving.

After peaking through the windows, a burly guy came out and asked if he could help me.  I said I was considering buying a corvette and I have seen this one sitting by the road so many times and wondered why it had not sold yet.  He said that the interior needed to be replaced, but the engine was where the value was.  It was a 350 bored out, cam, blah blah blah.  I sat in the car and started it for the first time.  It started quicker and more effortless than any other car I have ever placed a key in the ignition of.  You could clearly tell there were a lot of ponies under the hood that wanted to get out to run.  He said he dyno’d the car and it made over 400hp.  I asked him how much he was asking and he said he just dropped the price down from $7500 to $5000 but he needed it gone.  I told him he was a little strong on price and I would offer him $3500.  He politely said no.  I told him to take my number down and call me if he changed his mind. 

A month went by and the phone rang at our house.  My mom answered the phone and said some person wanted to talk to me.  It was the owner of the Corvette.  He said that if I got down there today with $3500 it was mine.  I had to talk my dad into driving me down, but he reluctantly did.  He got out and said it was the ugliest color combination he had ever seen.  I told him, we could change all of that!  I drove the car home and as I type this you can’t get the smile off my face.  When we got home, I told my dad he should drive it, it had a ton of power.  He said those cars do not make much power.  I told him to stand back and watch.  I dumped the clutch and pressed on the gas and after burning the tires in 3rd gear I let out of it.  All I could see in the rearview mirror was my dad holding his head with his hand and shaking his head.  I made a victory lap and said, that was cool huh?!

The next day I brought the car out of the garage to wash and wax the car.  While washing the car I started to notice the minor imperfections of the paint here and there, definitely did not see this when I first looked at the car.  With every motion of the soapy rag I found every single nuance in the paint and fiberglass.  It was not perfect, but it was still amazing!

A few weeks ago I was training a student who is a Grand Master in multiple Steel Challenge divisions.  On the surface they were a bit intimidating to watch from 7 feet away.  As we started to document our string times, evaluate his match and stage management we started to see all of the slight imperfections.  As I shared with him, we all have a Shooting Tendency and we needed to figure out what his was.  It was important to spend the time and effort to look closely at his total shooting performance so we could identify these areas of opportunity and make them better. 

The next time you are out at the range practicing, think about how you are practicing and critically look at your shooting performance to see where you have opportunities to improve.  If you do not look at how you are shooting, it will be challenging for you to get better at the pace you would like. Sometimes you need to take a close look at things.

See you out on the range soon!


Suggestive Shooting…

It was not too long ago I was offered an opportunity to open a new facility with my current company.  The plan is for a largest facility in our network, with state of the art automation, and industry leading processing.  This new location was 45 miles further than my current drive so my prized pickup truck which gets 13.9 miles per gallon would have to be parked in favor of something with better fuel economy.  After doing some searching I landed on a Toyota Camry XSE which is a little sporty but would realize 33 MPG on the highway.  It was at this point in time when I did not recall seeing many Camrys out on the road.  After I made my purchase, I was driving down I 75 in Atlanta and I saw one.. two.. ten.. twenty Camrys in a 10 mile stretch of interstate.  Were they not there before or did I not notice them?  I think the answer is they were always there but the power of suggestion unconsciously made me aware to look for similar Camrys on the interstate.


Last night I concluded a training session with a new student.  This student is a fellow Grand Master in Rimfire Rifle Open (RFRO) and Pistol Caliber Carbine Open (PCCO).  After doing some analysis of his match scores and times we setup Outer Limits to gain the most improvement.  I shared with him at the beginning of the session everyone has a “Shooting Tendency” and we would find out what his was, identify it, embrace it, and make improvements.  Being a top tier shooter his Shooting Tendency was a little bit more difficult to figure out, but through observation and discussion he was able to put into words what I was seeing.  On the first plate all of his shots were within a 1” circle 2/3rds up the plate.  After the first stage worth of shooting I had him put a round on the far plate dead center.  I did this because sometimes people would sight their guns in at 10 yards not realizing the bullet was still climbing.  As he fired the test round it was a bullseye on plate #2.


My next observation was he was missing the back right plate (the 18” x 24”).  After watching his shots several were just off the left side at 9 O’Clock.  His Shooting Tendency is he was not pulling the trigger when he needed to.  It was a slight delay from when his eyes saw the dot on the plate to when this message went to his brain, to when the brain sent a message to his trigger finger to pull the trigger.  It was very interesting to watch in person.


The interesting part of the training session was when I told him I would shoot the stage and it was an exercise of knowing where your Targeted Edge Dial was and when to turn it.  My first string was at my 85% at 3.55 seconds.  I then told him I would turn my dial to shoot a 3.25-3.3.  Sure enough, I shot a 3.27 but something interesting happened.  I missed the back right plate in the same exact location he had.  Right off the plate at 9 O’Clock. I told him I was going to name this, maybe after him, but I wanted to write this up for some time, so here I am.  I then loaded my next magazine and said I would back my dial back to a 3.50 second run.  This next string was 3.58 seconds and you would not believe it; I missed the back right plate in the same exact spot.  I would wager a paycheck you could cover his misses and my two misses with a quarter.

This phenomenon is Suggestive Shooting.  We consciously tell ourselves not to do something and our subconscious overrides our actions while shooting.  Some other examples of this are:

  • I always don’t shoot well if I start on Smoke and Hope.
  • I won’t shoot well if I don’t practice once a month.
  • I won’t shoot well at a larger match because I have not shot a major match in 3 months.
  • Hey Steve, why do you shoot pendulum that way, aren’t you afraid of missing plate #3? No, because I have not missed plate #3 in a year.  Then I proceed to miss plate #3 in the next Three out of Five strings.
  • I will shoot well if I only shoot one gun per session.
  • You have a squad that is not shooting well at a major match after a long break due to COVID 19 and you tell yourself to shoot your match and then you go to the shooters box and lose your fundamentals of shooting on the first string.
  • Etc


Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they told you not to say something or a word and at a later point you say it anyway.  Then you are dumbfounded you said what you were not supposed to say?  You work hard at consciously telling yourself not to do something and your subscious does it anyway.  There is not a magic pill that I have found.  It is something you have to be aware of and find strategies to mitigate Suggestive Shooting.


See you out on the range soon!


Sometimes I don’t think things all the way through…

In 1997 I saved up $5k while I was going to college working 60 hours a week with a full time course load.  There was nothing I wanted more than to buy a new car; it was a status symbol.  I had a well running car and it was fantastic in the snow, but it was not nearly as cool as a new one!  My dad and I walked into a Chevrolet dealer to look at some great deals on corvettes.  This is one of the car buying regrets I have in my life, I should have bought that 1996 Green Convertible.  However, my dad did drive home in a 1996 White Corvette, it was slightly used with just a couple miles on it.. what a deal.  I took the more practical approach and went to the Mercedes dealership.  I know what you are thinking, how was this practical?  Well, they also sold Subaru, which I heard great things about.  They were All Wheel Drive, with decent performance, and had a great aesthetic to them.  I remember seeing this shiny white Legacy GT with awesome rims and I knew I had to drive it!  As you can imagine, one test drive and my “wanting it” quickly turned into “needing it”!  We sat down, did the paperwork, and I was driving home in my new $27K car.  How could life be any better?!


Unfortunately, despite being all-wheel drive it was a horrible car to drive in the snow.  It only took my first winter in upstate New York before I found the ditch doing 360’s down the middle of Interstate 81.  Shortly after this roller coaster ride, I decided to upgrade the shoes and spent $1k on the best snow tires on the market.  Despite my investment, the car resembled the handling of a rear-wheel drive car and it was not suitable for the amount of driving I was doing.  I did not have the car longer than 18 months before I traded it in on an all-wheel drive SUV.  I lost a significant amount of money on the trade.


This experience reminds me a training session I did with a first time student.  We had documented strings and total stage times faster than they have ever shot before.  They were insistent on taking some first shot practice shots.  I told him I advised against it because although we broke down his strings into opportunity of where he could make up time, I stayed away from the first shot.  I shared with him I believe the first shot to be sacred and if it took a little extra time to get it, we would make it up on the other plates.  Too often, I have seen people push the first shot too much and strings of fire have gone down in flames because of it.  He said that he appreciated my perspective and he was going to do it any way.  I then shared with him that was fine.  I then wrote down on a piece of paper what was going to happen as if I was Miss Cleo.


After approximately 40 draws to the first shot he was able to reduce his first shot time by .15 seconds.  I asked him if he was ready to shoot a ‘stage’ worth of strings to see if his practice had paid off.  He said absolutely.  As the timer went off, the first shot was blistering fast as I saw a puff of smoke just over the top of the first plate, he hit the second plate, and then fired two more shots at the first plate before he hit it and proceeded to go one for one on the last two plates.  He shook his head and then I asked him if he had this out of his system.  He laughed and said that he did.  String #2 was reminiscent of String #1, but with one less make up shot.  String #3-#5 were identical, the first shot was .1 slower than what he was running prior to the practice and went one for one.  The total stage time was 3 seconds slower than his personal best he just shot prior to the first shot practice session.


He turned around and I told him I wrote down a prediction on a piece of paper.  He asked what it was.  I told him I predicted how he was going to shoot after the first shot practice.  I opened the paper and I said on the first couple of strings your first shot time was going to be slightly faster but he was going to have make-up shots.  Then on last couple of strings he was going to slow back down to make sure he went one for one, but the total times were slower than what he was running prior to the first shot practice.  Was this sorcery?  No.  As I explained, for some reason when we shoot, we tell our brain we want to do one thing fast and all it registers is we need to do everything fast.  If we tell our brain we want to move our Edge Dial from 85% to close to 100% or more on the first shot, we turn the dial for all of the shots on a string.  An experienced shooter can turn the Edge Dial, shot by shot or even the arrays on the stage.  As we work on strings of fire, I prefer to turn the dial for the whole stage at a time, but still maintain 85% on the first string.


As with my big first car purchase, you really need to think through what is going to happen after you lay out that kind of money and really think about what is going to happen next or down the road.  You have to look past what is going to happen after the first plate.  By focusing only on the short-term benefit, it can have long-term detriment.  Think about this the next time you are out on the range working on your Edge.


See you out on the range soon!


Steel Challenge Stage: Showdown

Steel Challenge is the drag race of the shooting sports focusing on the delicate balance between speed and accuracy.  In order to place well, you have to shoot all eight stages well or your competition will.  In order to be proficient on all stages I am starting a stage breakdown series focusing on some tips and helpful hints on how to maximize your performance in your next match.


Let’s start by examining The Steel Challenge Stage Showdown, arguably one of the fastest stages in all of Steel Challenge with tight transitions from plate to plate. With this stage you have to shoot (3) of your strings from one box and (2) strings from the other box.  It does not matter which box you start in, unlike Outer Limits, or the string order you shoot in from box to box.  Most competitors shoot (2) or (3) strings from one box and then head to the other box to shoot the remaining (2) or (3) strings of fire.  If a competitor desired to do so, they could alternate boxes on every string although there is not an advantage of doing so.  For the purposes of our discussion we number the plates from left to right, while standing in the left box, and we don’t include the STOP plate in counting the number of plates.


So, what is the fastest order for this stage?   The most popular and accepted option while shooting from the left box as we are looking down range and is shot 1-2-3-4-Stop Plate.  When moving to the right box the order is reversed; 4-3-2-1-Stop Plate.  This pattern does not differ for most with the type of division being shot; when shooting any gun from the low ready or from the holster the order is the same.


Here are some tips to be successful on this stage:

Tip #1: I prefer to have my index setup on Plate #4 when shooting from the low ready in the left box.  When I head to the right box, my index is towards Plate #1.  This allows my body to wind up on my first shot and when I transition the gun fast, the height of the gun does not change.


Tip#2: For those who are starting at the low ready, take a few ‘sight picture’ repetitions to the first plate to make sure when you move the gun up the dot or front sight is on the middle of the target.  This allows you to get the gun up fast and get a solid first shot.


Tip#3: This should be a fast first shot, but as with any stage you want to make sure you don’t take your eye off your sight(s) until you break the shot.  The first plate is the largest style of plates in Steel Challenge being an 18” X 24”, but at 25 yards you can’t take this target for granted.


Tip#4: If the stage is setup properly, the targets should be all in alignment on a horizontal axis; you should be able to make all five shots without moving the gun up and down.  If the stage happens to not be setup straight across, I break the targets into arrays.  Plate 1 and Plate 2 are the first array, and then Plate 4 and Plate 3 are an array and finally the stop plate.  This allows me to shoot the back plate and then front plate fast and then I reposition to the next back plate as I would on my first shot and shoot the other front plate fast.


Tip#5: Follow through on the stop plate.  The concept of follow through when shooting in steel challenge on a stop plate means as you drive the gun hard to the stop plate, stop the gun on the stop plate as you are pressing the trigger. I advise students to count “One Mississippi” with the gun on the plate.  This helps reinforce the concept of “calling shots”.


Tip #6: When you are given the “Make Ready” command, bring one magazine to the table/barrel you plan to shoot your last string to.  This allows you to do all magazine changes besides one from one location.  Less you have to carry/forget from the last shooting position.
Tip #7: As most Steel Challenge shooters engage targets from left to right, practice your transitions from right to left.  This will pay dividends when shooting from the right box.




Keeps these tips in mind the next time you step into the box in practice or in a match and watch your times fall!  Stay tuned for more analysis of the other Steel Challenge Stages.


See you out on the range soon!

Steel Challenge Stage: Accelerator

Accel 2


Steel Challenge is the drag race of the shooting sports focusing on the delicate balance between speed and accuracy.  In order to place well, you have to shoot all eight stages well or your competition will.  In order to be proficient on all stages I am starting a stage breakdown series focusing on some tips and helpful hints on how to maximize your performance in your next match.


Let’s start by examining The Steel Challenge Stage Accelerator, one of the most interesting stages with all three target sizes and all three types of shots in Steel Challenge as the newest stage added to the 8 stage venue.  There have been many trials conducted by the fastest shooters in the country to determine which is the ‘fastest’ target order and the majority of competitors shoot it in the 1-2-4-3-STOP plate order.  For the purposes of our discussion we number the plates from left to right and we don’t include the STOP plate in counting the number of plates.   This pattern does not differ with the type of division being shot; when I shoot any gun from the low ready or from the holster the order is the same.



Here are some tips to be successful on this stage:


Tip #1: I prefer to have my index setup on plate #3 which is the plate missed the most by competitors.  A way to test this is to hold both hands out in front of you as if you were holding a handgun and you should be pointed naturally at plate#3.  The reason why this is important is as you are swinging fast you want your natural point of aim at the most difficult target on the stage and your likelihood of hitting the plate goes up exponential even if your shooting fundamentals breakdown during the string of fire.


Tip#2: Make sure you get your hit on the first plate.  This may seem basic, but on this stage Plate#1 is deceptively difficult and if you miss this first plate your string times will go up significantly. The reason many prefer to start on the 10” target on the first shot is you have to draw to the target which takes time and the incremental time getting a sight picture on a small target is negligible compared to re-adjusting your sight focus mid string.


Tip#3: Plate #2 is one, if not the fastest plates to shoot in all of steel challenge.  You want to make sure you are accelerating through the plate, but have a good index on the plate to ensure a solid hit.  I still recommend a sight picture on the plate, but depending on your skill level/index, it can be point shot.


Tip#4: Keep the gun level through all of the targets.  This stage is shot quickly with left to right and then right to left motions, there should little to no up to down movement.  After training shooters from all over the country, a lot of shooters have the same shooting tendency and when they attempt shooting fast, they “dip” or lower the gun.


Tip#5: Make sure you see the sights/red dot on every shot including the hard pivot on Plate #4.  Although Plate#2 and Plate #4 are both 18” X 24”, Plate #4 is visually near half the size of Plate #2 because it is twice the distance away from you.  What sight picture works on Plate #2 does not work on Plate #4.


Tip#6: Do not take plate #3 for granted, it is a 12” plate but its at 20 yards.  As shared in Tip#1, this is the plate most missed by competitors in Steel Challenge.  Take a brief pause on this plate to make sure you have an adequate sight picture, get your hit and accelerate to the Stop Plate.


Tip#7: Follow through on the stop plate.  The concept of follow through when shooting in steel challenge on a stop plate means as you drive the gun hard to the stop plate, stop the gun on the stop plate as you are pressing the trigger. I advise students to count “One Mississippi” with the gun on the plate.  This helps reinforce the concept of “calling shots”.


Let me know if you have any questions!

See you out on the range soon!


What is your super power?



When I was 7 years old I remember hanging out with my brother and friends and a frequent topic would come up; if you had a super power what would it be and why?  My friend Zack would say he would be superman and we would have to correct him, it’s a power and not all the powers of the character.  He would then follow up with the ability to fly because who would not want to fly?!  My brother always said x-ray vision and as a young man we questioned his intentions. When it was my turn I always said I wanted super strength.  In looking back at my childhood I think this was a function of my place in the hierarchy being the youngest in the family.  After all, when you are seven years old it would be awesome to beat up on any bullies or bad guys!


This past weekend, several of us from the Steel Target Paint Shooting team visited Dead Zero Shooting Shooting Park in Spencer Tennessee.   It was a great trip and worth the time and miles to shoot my first match in two months.  I love squadding with my teammates, but I also love squadding with people I have never shot with before.  Our squad ended up being a great mix of experienced shooters and some new to the sport.  There was a new shooter on our squad shooting an AR style Rimfire gun, which was running pretty well, but had one malfunction.  After watching him shoot there was possibly one or two things going on.  As I watched him shoot our second stage of Pendulum, I could see the end of the muzzle moving around a good bit.  I let him shoot and then when he came off the line I complimented him on his shooting.  I asked what type of gun he had and asked about the trigger pull.  The gun was a little bit heavier with a steel AR style barrel and a factory pull weight in the 5 to 6 pound range.  I shared with him I noticed the gun moving a bit and why I asked.  His dad said that he was thinking about getting into a 10/22 platform.  I told him there was nothing wrong with what they were shooting and offered options of the JP .22 upper to lighten the front end as well as a trigger to lighten the pull weight.  After some discussion about the options I offered the junior shooter to shoot the rest of the match with my Magnum Research Switchbolt .22 and I provided a box of ELEY Force to feed it.  We talked through a couple of safety measures with a lighter gun with a lighter trigger pull and we were off to loading magazines!


As we shot the next stage, I walked to the line with him to walk through the functionality of the Vortex Razor red dot, how to function the TANDEMKROSS extended magazine release and another reminder of the trigger pull of the Powder River Precision trigger.  As the timer went off, he went to work going one for one.  I then shared with him it was OK to push the gun because it was light, fast and accurate.  He then threw down a blazing run.  I turned and looked at his dad who was holding the camera and I told him I was sorry.  He said for what.  I said, “You saw that run didn’t you?” and his son turned around with the biggest grin I have seen on any shooter in a very long time.  I then told his dad I just cost him some money!  His dad smiled and he said “yes you did”.  As a newer shooter, he was on cloud 9!  It was arguably one of the best shooting experiences I have had at the range.  We stayed around and we demo’d some guns and shared stories.


As my good friend Mike Baker says, “Take a kid shooting”.  And let them experience the sport which we all love.  That is our Super Power.  What is yours?


See you out on the range soon!


Rimfire Rifle Open Build:

Magnum Research Switchbolt with red Carbon Fiber wrapped barrel

Steve Foster Shooting Compensator

Powder River Precision Trigger

Tandemkross Krosspins

Tandemkross Fireswitch extended magazine release

Tandemkross Titanium Twister takedown knob

Blackhawk Axiom Stock with cheek riser

Cencal Cerakote magazine extensions

Vortex Razor 6 MOA red dot

Fueled by ELEY Force