How to Become a USPSA Grandmaster

 

Garran Singleton.png

Garran Singleton, a Production GM, shooting his CZ in Production Division at 2019 Lo-Cap Nationals. 

The unapologetic warrior maniac of all things pistol with moves like a love child between James Brown and Doug Marcaida, yet possessing the focus & accuracy of Chris Kyle on Adderall. The top of the carnivorous food chain in the world of USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association). The best of the best & a beast among beasts!

 

Anyone who has participated in the addictive, yet tantalizingly frustrating sport of USPSA has asked the question… “So, what’s the highest level you can achieve in this game?” From somewhere in the back, someone utters with a hushed reverent whisper usually associated with characters like Jason Bourne or Max Michel, Jr., then a word ominously escapes from their lips….“GRANDMASTER!” [enter thunder clap]

Your next question: “Alrighty then!  How do I become a Grand Master?”

  • So, what does it take to achieve such a high level?
  • Is it natural ability?
  • Is it only possible for those at the pinnacle of physical conditioning?
  • Must you have the mental disposition of a goat-bearded guru meditating on a desolate mountain top?
  • Do you have to be a member of the Lucky Sperm Club (aka be born into a rich family)?
  • Must you have no life with the exception of locking yourself in an underground dryfire dojo, and only emerging to live fire 5,000 rounds per day at the private pistol range on the compound of the cult leader? All the while chanting “This is the way” from beneath the hooded robes that are covered in sponsor patches…

Yes to all of these!  Just kidding.

He>i

All of the above would certainly help, but it may surprise you that according to most successful shooters who have reached the level of Grandmaster in the sport of USPSA have done so with a little bit of effort over an extended period of time.


Garran Singleton, GM

Garran Singleton going “Pew-Pew” fast-fast.

I really liked the advise that Garran Singleton was kind enough to share with us for the blog.  I’m sure that we can all appreciate his contribution to help other shooters increase their classification, and up their training.  Below are Garran’s three tips for achieving the rank of GM:

  1. Mental game. What separates the “great” shooters from the “good” shooters, is the ability to control their mind. Being able to block out everything else in your life, how many people are filming you, how many people you’ve watched shoot that stage. Being able to not think about that stuff and just focus on your shooting, and what you know how to do.

 

  1. Dryfire. I believe dryfire is way too much underrated. It is one of the easiest things you can do to get better. And all it takes is your rig and some time. I think dryfire is more valuable than livefire in a lot of ways. A lot of times people look at livefire as “oh, well if I shoot more I’ll get better” when that’s not the case. Everything besides recoil control, and learning to track the sites during recoil, you can practice and train in dryfire. And it’s a lot cheaper.

 

  1. Stop trying so hard. When it comes to classifiers, a lot of people (myself included) try so hard to shoot a GM level classifiers, that we push too hard and mess up somewhere. A lot of higher level GMs will tell you, and I’ll back it up. When they stopped “trying” to make GM is when they did it. I switched guns, and decided that I’m not going to try and make GM anymore, when it happens it happens. I knew I had the skill set, but I was trying too hard. Once I stopped trying I made it one week before Nationals. Once you know you have the skill set, and you’re at a GM level, but you can’t seem to shoot classifiers consistently. Just shoot the classifiers just like it was a normal stage of the match.

You can follow Garran Singleton on Facebook by CLICKING HERE.  Or you can follow him on Instagram by clicking @grsngltn.


How Good of a Shooter Must You Be?

In short what is required to become Grandmaster in any division is for a shooter to shoot an average of the best six (6) classifiers out of their most recent eight (8) classifiers with a score of 95% or greater of the national high hit factor for each classifier shot.  In short you have to shoot 95% or greater of the best shooters in the country on those specific classifers in order to become a GM. 

In case you’re curious, the high hit factor is determined by taking the top ten (10) shooters at Nationals for that classifier, and averaging their hit factor, and POOF! High Hit Factor.  Your score/class is determined by your percentage of that high hit factor. What’s also interesting is that the classifiers all have a name and number.  The classification numbers have a number, a dash, then another number (like 18-03).  The first number is the year of the national competition that the classifier was taken from, and the second number is the order it fell in the match.  For instance the USPSA classifier “We Play Games; CM 18-03,” is from the 2018 Nationals (hence the “18”), and it was the third classifier shot at that year’s national competition (hence the “03”). The dash is just a dash.

The High Hit Factor for CM 18-03, was determined from the most skilled competitors in the nation, which are the individuals listed below:

We Play Games 18-03 Classifier High Hit Factor.png

Open Shooters Who Determined HHF on 18-03 “We Play Games”   (Shout out to my boy J.P. Garcia at #8.  The lone B Class guy on the list! Get you some bro!)

Disclaimer [I’m kind of a loser]…

In the interest of clarity, and before we go any further I’d like to make one point quite clear…at the time of this writing, I am nowhere near the level of Grand Master. But, like many of you, when I started shooting USPSA, the first thing I did was to determine the top level of competitor, and set my sights on becoming that competitor.  Then the reality of my own level of time, financial, and emotional commitment, mixed with my personal disaster of skills hit me in the face like the aftermath of swiping the last doughnut at a fat convention.

As a result of my lack of knowledge on the subject, I’ve done my best to find the answers from those who have personal experience.  In this case, that would be Grandmasters, or those who have the training & lifestyle expertise necessary to eventually achieve GM level (even if they have yet to achieve it themselves).  Short of providing a series of individual interviews, I will show the top concepts that were common among the parties that I’ve included in my discussions, with specifics picked up from GM’s that I’ve spoken with throughout the process.  Whenever available, I’ve used publicly available resource materials they’ve published, as well as other people’s interviews with Grandmasters on the subject.  In no particular order, below are the things that I found most common among all of the people who are able to achieve the level of GM, and compete at the highest level of the sport.

#1 FOCUSED, CONSISTENT, PLANNED PRACTICE:

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Max Michel, Jr.  Unfortunately there is no secret sauce that will let you avoid practice (not unless you consider hard work the sauce).  If you want to become the best in any sport, or activity, you must practice the skills necessary to compete at the top levels of that sport. This may seem like common sense, and it is.  However, you would be surprised how human nature makes us want something for nothing.  I see tons of guys who never practice, and only shoot matches…tons of matches, but ZERO practice.  Those shooters can get to be pretty good, but eventually plateau and stop gaining skill.  How many times have you seen an NFL player who said in an interview, “Well, I only played in games in high school & college.  I never really did the practice thing.  I still played at the highest level of the sport, and the next thing I knew I got drafted.  I still don’t practice, but dominate the NFL.”  NEVER!

Your game day performance in any sport is a direct result of your level & quality of practice, and your level & quality of practice is a direct result of your level of commitment. 

You must have a consistent, focused, planned practice routine that addresses all of the skills used in the sport (not just the skills that are fun to work on or that you are naturally already good at).  Lets break down #1 into its parts.

 

Joel Park USPSA

Joel Park, GM in Production Division (aka GMJP)

Focus:  Your practice must be focused, and skills based.  To steal a concept from Joel Park & Cody Axon on the Shoot Fast Podcast (which I highly recommend that you listen to), there is a difference between going to the range to go shooting, and going to the range to practice specific skills. In other words, don’t think that shooting a 5 gallon bucket of ammo will replace isolating a specific skill, and then shooting realistic amounts of ammo on drills to improve that skill.

 

  • Don’t go to the range and do the same thing every time. 
  • Don’t go to the range and “practice” things that you are already good at. 
  • Don’t go to the range to train, and shoot every gun in your safe.  Stick to your USPSA pistol (in your division)
  • Shoot drills focused on the skill that you suck at the most.
  • Make your worst skill your not-worst skill (a/k/a suck less).
  • Don’t try to fix everything in one practice session.  Limit your practice to only 1-3 skills, and really work hard on improving those.  You can work on the other stuff later.
  • Repeat this process for as long as you want to improve as a shooter.
  • All of these same concepts also apply to dry fire.

These are the driving elements behind the most popular training programs from every one of the big names in the shooting sports that you would recognize, and for good reason.  Quite simply, it works. 

Take the skill that you suck at the most, and train that skill until you master it.  Wash, Rinse, Repeat.  Pretty soon, your worst skill will be better than 95% or more of shooters in the US.  A real world example of the application of this concept from an athlete outside of the shooting sports is Mat Fraser.  Mat holds the title of “Fittest Man on Earth” because he dominates the CrossFit Games.  Yes, I agree that CrossFit is a cult that won’t shut up about the cult, but hang with me here.  At this point Mat is working on his fourth consecutive title in the sport. In his most recent title win, he beat the second place finisher by an astonishing 220 points, so not just winning…DOMINATING! When referring to his training mindset Mat, age 29, was quoted by USA TODAY Sports as saying, “Every day of my training is thinking, ‘All right, what am I awful at?’ and working on it.”  So go to the range, identify your worst skill, and polish that turd until it shines!

The following is an excerpt from Ben Stoeger’s book Dryfire Reloaded, and I can’t think of a better way to put the point that I’m trying to illustrate into words, than to steal it from Ben, “You need to hunt down your weaknesses and relentlessly crush them.  If there are technical elements that you find challenging to the point to demoralization, then work through them.  If it is hard for you, it is probably hard for everyone else too.  You just need to put in the time and you can get better.”

Have a Plan, Be Consistent & Get Serious:  When you decide to take your practice seriously, and devote a specific place, amount of time, money, and effort, then your skills will improve.  To some degree, you must decide the following:

  • When & where you will dry fire?
  • When & where you will live fire?
  • How many rounds can you & will you devote to live fire practice in each session (or in my case I ask how much money, and that translates to ammo)?
  • How many days per week?
  • For what length of time, and how many times per day will I practice? 
  • What skills will you work on, and the drills associated with that skill or skills? 

If you do not assign training a specific time, place, goal, and a slice in your busy life, then that time WILL get filled with work, family, or other hobbies (or beer).  Keep in mind that you can do the “Get Serious” portion of this without it losing the fun factor (or causing you to get fired, or loose a relationship).  Don’t plan yourself into hating the training or dreading the sport.  Those who are good practice a lot, and those who practice a lot learn to enjoy the practice time, or they will burn out and quit.  When your skills improve to a level where you begin crushing souls and dragging skulls at a match, all of it will be even more fun.  For instance, I don’t have a goal to win a certain match, or achieve a certain classification.  My goal is to train until my match performance makes at least one grown man cry & I cause at least one person to rage quite the sport.


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John McClain, GM.

John McClain also was kind enough to contribute valuable advise for all of us would-be GM’s.  John shares a name with the protagonist from the movie Die Hard, except that this John McClain shoots better! John is a funny guy (and wears crazy pants), but there’s nothing funny about his shooting.  John hadn’t even handled a gun until he reached the age of 19, when he went shooting with a friend.  Despite the late start, he still managed to quickly achieve the class of Grand Master in USPSA, and began competing at the top level of multiple shooting sports, including multi-gun, and USPSA.  

John McClain’s advise is as follows:

  1. It’s not the gear, it’s the shooter.

 

  1. Execution is greater than planning.

 

  1. You tell the clock when you’re finished, so stop trying to beat it.

#2 GET SOME PROFESSIONAL ADVICE:

 

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Ben Stoeger, multiple Division GM, multiple time National Champion & World Champion.  Picture courtesy of http://www.benstoeger.com

The reason you are not a GM yet is because you don’t know everything.  If you want to achieve 95% or better of the national average, then find out what the top 5% are doing for training.  Buy some books, they are the cheapest investment for the largest return you will ever make if you get the right ones.  I would highly recommend ANYTHING that Ben Stoeger has written.  His dry fire, live fire, fundamentals, and (co-written) mentality books are useful no matter what level of shooter you are.  He also has proven that his methods work.  After his first USPSA classifier match, he famously walked away with the initial classification of Grand Master.  Also, he just finished winning his eighth Production Division National Championship, and has placed 3rd in 2018, and 2nd in 2019 Limited Division at Nationals, and is the current IPSC World Champion in Production Division.  Another great resource for dryfire is Steve Anderson’s book Refinement and Repetition, (more on Steve Anderson below).

In addition to books, videos, and articles, you can take a class from a professional or top level shooter.  There are tons of guys who teach classes to help to develop a training program for what you need to work on.  The most important thing that you will learn from a class being put on by a top level competitor is how to practice, what to practice, and what to look for in practice.  You will not be any better by the end of the class, but you will leave having direction, purpose and focus for your training. The remainder is up to you as the competitor to do the work.

You can also ask better shooters at your local club to take a look at some practice or match video, and give you some help.  I did this, and it was a HUGE help (thanks JP Garcia).  Step #1 above applies here as well, because you won’t walk away from a class nor will buying a book make you any better.  You have to use what you learn in the class, information from a friend, or in the book to develop a training program that will work on your deficiencies.

 

Note that the links provided in this article are not affiliate links, and I don’t make crap if you click on them or buy their stuff.  I recommend them, because they are good, not because I want to make money off of my readers.  This doesn’t mean that I can’t be bought, I’m just sayin’ that I’m not good enough for these guys to pay me!

#3 DRY FIRE:

When I started in the shooting sports, dry fire was not a thing for me.  I’d never done it, and the concept seemed pretty silly to me.  It seemed like some kind of stupid looking hippy – kata – Tai Chi business with a pistol in my hand, and I wanted no part in it. I have since learned that it can be and usually is the cornerstone of most successful shooters’ training and development. This is true for both competition shooting as well as self defense pistol training.

What is dry fire?  I will again quote Joel Park (a Production GM) who is a “dear friend and co-host” on the Shoot Fast Podcast because I believe that his definition of dry fire is the best description of the truth of dry fire, and how it should be applied.  Joel says, “Dry fire is the act of shooting without having any ammunition in the gun.”  It is just that simple.  When you dry fire, you will do all of the same actions, with the same stance, grip, grip pressure, sight alignment, trigger control, intensity and so on as you would if the gun were loaded, and firing live rounds.  I load dummy rounds with whatever projectile I’m using into empty brass (no gun powder) with no primer in the brass in order to have the same weight as when firing live ammo (plus it helps to protect the feed lips on my mags.)  However, to the best of my ability, I dry fire as if I expect the gun to recoil when I pull the trigger. 

This is part of the “10,000 Hour Rule” outlined in the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gadwell.  The book was an attempt to discover where “child prodigies” came from.  It turns out that all that is required is 10,000 hours of correct practice to become an expert in a skill or subject.  Dry fire is a way to do that without breaking the bank, and within the time & range constraints of the regular Joe. 

What are the benefits of Dry Fire?

  • It is FREE!  For a cheap bastard such as myself, dry fire is great!  There are very few things about the shooting sports that are inexpensive, much less free to the shooter.  Do this for any length of time, and you will quickly realize that ammo is the most expensive part of the sport (most people think its the gun…it isn’t). Once you have obtained the gear that you will compete with, it literally costs you nothing to dry fire except for your time. 
  • It can extend the life of your gun.  If I were to fire as many live rounds as I’ve replicated in dry fire, I would be on my 3rd or 4th gun, and would have burned through a small fortune & God knows how many extractors, springs, whizbanglers, and whatch-a-ma-dingles. 
  • You notice things that recoil can cover up.  That’s right.  Certain skills are actually better to work on in dry fire (but later confirm in live fire) because they are not cloaked in the distraction of the recoil impulse, added noise, and smoke.  Things like trigger pull, curing “pre-ignition push,” target transitions, etc. are better to work on with no recoil getting in the way.  These skills can be confirmed in live fire after they have been burned into your subconscious.
  • You can Dry Fire just about anywhere at any time.  You don’t have to pile up all of your ammo, gear, targets, & heavy steal into the car, and schlep everything to the range. If you have a room that is a few feet by a few feet, you can use scaled down (1/2, 1/3 or smaller size targets) to replicate distance.  It really doesn’t take much room to be able to effectively dry fire.  You can do it at any time.  I have about 25-30 minuets after I drop my kids off at school, and before I have to jump in the shower and get to work that I like to work on a few skills.  I also have 15-30 minutes on my lunch break, or after work sometimes to get some weapon handling done.  I know people who dry fire in hotel rooms when they are working on the road (& still probably not the most embarrassing thing they’ve had a hotel maid walk in on).

One of the consistent messages regarding dry fire across the top level shooters is to handle your weapon and dry fire for a short duration as often as possible.  In other words, it is better to dry fire 15 minutes a day, once or twice a day, every day than to dry fire for 3 hours one day a week.  Brian Enos mentioned in an interview that when he would go over to Rob Letham’s house for dinner, or to hang out, that Rob would be constantly handling a gun.  Robert Vogel mentioned that he hasn’t gone more than a week in his 20 year shooting career without firing a gun or more than a few days without handling a gun (of course he was a police officer, so that’s easier to get away with than if you’re a Subway sandwich artist or something). 

#4 BE ANALYTICAL:

Ask the Right Questions:

  • What do I suck at?
  • Why do I suck at that skill?
  • How do I train out the suck?
  • What are others doing to improve that skill or other skills?

In order to reach and compete at the top level of the shooting sports, you must analyze EVERYTHING!  The best in the sport are those who are realistically critical of every bit of their performance.  Knowing what you are doing with the gun in your hand is an absolutely huge part of improving.  When running a stage in a match or in practice, you must be able to identify specific deficiencies, and then develop a method to train those out.  If you cannot (or will not) identify what you suck at, you will always suck.  Practice & match video are a huge help with this.  There will be things on the videos that better shooters will see right away, that you don’t even notice.

If you spend any time around a shooter with great skill, they are constantly picking apart every single detail of their actions.  Proper analysis is not being a gloomy pessimist, nor is it being a sickening optimist.  Quite simply being appropriately analytical about the way you preform is being a realist in all regards. 

The River of De’Nial:

The Everything is Awesome Guy:  Don’t watch your match video, and convince yourself you did better than you did, nor do you blame a poor performance on outside factors if you’re the reason for shooting like dookie.  We all know that guy who constantly “woulda won IF!”  You know that guy, he is always saying things like, If I wouldn’t have hit those no-shoots, and picked up those 4 Mikes, and shot faster, and shot more alphas, then I woulda won!”  Well, no kidding.  What a novel idea… The type of person I’m describing can’t face the fact that they have fundamental skills that need work, and they need to set about focusing on isolating those skills, and working on improving them. Denying that you need improvement, and denying what you need to improve upon will only hold you back.  It is not as simple as just knowing that you suck.  It is being specific about where you fell short, then setting up a training program to fix the issue.  Use a match disaster as a future training guide.  Even GM’s who win nationals leave with very specific things that they were not happy with, and want to work on.

The Everything Sucks Guy:  On the flip side, someone who is constantly dumping on themselves, and not identifying the specific things that need to be addressed in training.  Again, we all know that guy who is constantly saying “I suck at _____” or you say “Hey man, good run” to which he replies, “that sucked!”  But if you push them and ask them to be specific about what they sucked at, they can’t point at one single thing (or the reason that they mention wasn’t the real reason for a bad run).  Everything Sucks Guy might also point out some “problem” that he had that was not the big issue that he should really be focused on in his training.  He might grump away from the scoring RO, and say “Man, if my movement didn’t suck so bad, I would have won this stage.”  The same stage had 5 Mikes (that he shot flat footed)…Movement is not your issue dude.  You can’t fix a problem that you can’t identify.  The match results will speak (loudly & publicly) for themselves.  The question is “What do I suck at the most?”, “What specific skills need improving that would most greatly improve my match performance?”, and “How do I set up my training to master that skill?”

Ben Stoeger, the Dark Lord of Production Division, is probably the best shooter that I’ve seen at analyzing himself (and others for that matter). Ben has a BS filter that is almost otherworldly, and he’s able to actively ignore superfluous details, in order to quickly identify the issue with prejudice.  I believe that (aside from his natural ability & great work ethic), self analysis is a major contributing factor to his initial and continued success in the sport.  As mentioned earlier, he achieved the rank of Grand Master at his first USPSA Classifier match.  There were many who thought that he was some kind of prodigy.  However, I’ve heard him mention that he simply isolated the skills used in most USPSA classifiers, and developed a training program to master those skills.  Then he worked on them all winter in dry fire, until he could shoot any classifier like a boss.  Boom, “instant” GM.  He also mentioned in an interview that he then had to figure out how to win matches, because the skills to become a Grand Master are used in matches, but they are only part of the skills necessary to win matches.

The following is an excerpt from Ben Stoeger’s book Dryfire Reloaded, and I can’t think of a better way to illustrate the point, than to steal Ben’s words, “You need to hunt down your weaknesses and relentlessly crush them.  If there are technical elements that you find challenging to the point to demoralization, then work through them.  If it is hard for you, it is probably hard for everyone else too.  You just need to put in the time and you can get better.”

#5 Mindset/Loosen Up, Bruh!

This tip is geared toward shooting classifier stages, but will apply to every aspect of shooting accurately at speed.

Classifier Pooch Screw Scenario:  I hear from people all the time at matches who are shooting great, then get to the classifier stage, and it becomes some other thing.  In their mind, it isn’t “just another stage.”  We’ve all fallen victim to it, especially when we want to class-up.   And what happens?  Say it together, kids “YOU SCREW THE POOCH!” 

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Classifier Scenario: I likewise hear it all the time that so-in-so quit trying, and quite caring and shot a smoking classifier stage.  So is the secret to not care? How do you not care when you REALLY CARE?

Most of us (myself included) have fallen victim to some fallacy similar to the above issues.  The answer is so simple, but it took me a while to figure it out.  It’s not about caring or not caring.  You’re going to care, and you’re going to be nervous.   So what’s the secret? RELLLLAAAAAXXXXXX!

That’s it, relieve your muscle tension, and just shoot the best you can.  To quote Steve Anderson, “Don’t rush, try and hurry.”  When you tense up, you will lose accuracy, as well as speed. This applies to all of the shooting fundamentals:  Draws, Reloads, Transitions, Trigger Manipulation, etc., etc., etc.

Why is it that when you watch a top level shooter, it “looks so effortless?”  Is it effortless? Heck no, they are pushing with all that they’ve got wherever possible, except when it comes to the actual shooting.  It’s because they’re only using the muscles that are necessary for the skill being deployed at that moment.  This is also why you hear a lot of guys say things like “I can run this in practice so much faster/better.”  Well, that’s because they aren’t nervous in practice, and they’re tensing up in a match or losing their head due to pressure (this is discussed below)! 

It won’t take you but a run or two on a timer through 4 Aces drill (@ 7 yds, draw, shoot two shots, reload, shoot two more shots with a goal time of 2 – 2.5 seconds, all alphas) to figure out that I’m right.  Run 4 Aces four times.  The first two times run it through with every muscle in your body as tight as it can be throughout the entire drill, and record your times.  Next try it focusing on applying pressure/strength with your support hand, and relaxing everything else.  You’ll see quickly that the latter is the better (note that this is simple, but not easy, and might take a few runs to apply properly).  Work on this in dry fire, and take it to your live fire sessions.  The more mental pressure you can apply in either scenario, the better.  Focus on applying muscle tension ONLY to the critical parts of the body throughout a drill or stage.

Using Bassham to Bash ’em!

Lanny Bassham wrote With Winning in Mind some time ago, but it is still heralded as one of the best books written on the mental side of performance.  Lanny was an Olympian, who was frustrated after he wasn’t able to take home the gold due to being mentally unprepared at a match. He wondered why the majority of the winning was accomplished by the same 5% of athletes, when the winners’ actual skills were close to those who they consistently beat.  He found that the difference was their mental system. Lanny has developed and currently teaches a system called Mental Management.  The concepts of the book are applicable to all walks of life, but there are some really useful nuggets that can be directly applied to the shooting sports.  He went on to use these methods to crush his competition for years before releasing his secrets in his book.  I found that I was doing some of the things in his books that were benefiting me at matches and in practice, but never realized that I was doing them until I read the book.  I also picked up other things I never even thought of, but have started to apply to my shooting with some success.

Steve Anderson, who is a USPSA GM is now a certified Mental Management Coach, and can teach classes that are specific to our sport.  He also teaches shooting skills classes as well if you are interested.  He also has a podcast where he discusses all of this stuff. Just click on Steve Anderson Shooting to go to his website.

Another book that was written with regard to the mental side of match performance is Match Mentality, Merging Skills and Mindset into Performance, written by Joel Park & Ben Stoeger.  I haven’t read this book, so I can not attest to it’s merits; however, it is a mental process book that is specifically geared towards the USPSA competitor, so might be worth looking into.

The bottom line is, even if you’ve mastered all of the skills necessary to achieve the classification of Grand Master in USPSA, but have not mastered your mental processes when under pressure, then you will always preform below your true level of skill. This applies to gaining the initial classification of GM, as well as achieving a match performance worthy of a Grand Master. 

#6 Dude, It’s Not the Gun.

We all know that guy.  The guy who doesn’t put in the training.  Sure, he might dump buckets of ammo at a live fire range, but no meaningful practice.  He has been competing for a while, but doesn’t seem to be improving.  So, what’s the logical next step to improve in the sport?  You guessed it…..Buy a new gun!

Deep down we all know this, but sometimes you just have to hear it.  Your gun is not why you suck.  USPSA is a gear-centric sport.  After all, that’s how our divisions are set apart from one another.   However, it doesn’t matter what kind of gun you’re using, it isn’t holding you back unless it is unreliable.  JJ Racaza or Eric Grauffel could beat me with the worst gun on the market as long as that gun will run reliably.  Quit switching gear, and changing things around because you are only making it harder on yourself to learn the base skills that can later be applied to another platform or division.  If you want to get gooder, then pick a gun, stick with it, train your ass off until you achieve what you want.  Then you can play musical chairs with guns or division because the skills are already there.   

This concept is has been around for a long time.  Learn skills, then apply them to any weapon.  In roughly 1643, Miyamoto Musashi wrote in The Book of Five Rings, “You should not have any special fondness for a particular weapon or anything else for that mater.  Too much is the same as not enough.”  It’s not about only being able to use the finest weapon, its about the shooter.  If you can shoot a stock Glock well, then you can run any race gun, but not always the other way around.

Likewise, quite changing springs, guide rods, whizz-bangs, and whatcha-ma-kall-its! Most of the top shooters aren’t wasting their time chasing performance gains by messing with their equipment.  They’re making gains in training.  If you want a meaningful modification that will revolutionize your shooting, then modify the shooter.  Besides, all of the things that are so popular to change on a gun accomplish nothing more than to take more of the shooter out of the process of shooting.  If you learn to master the skills, then you can shoot at the same level regardless of the gear.  A few examples:

  • Lightening the trigger, lighter hammer/striker springs, or shortening trigger travel covers up poor trigger press.
  • Changing recoil springs, adding weighted guide rods, slide lightening cuts covers up poor grip & recoil control.
  • Switching to a dot b/c they refuse to learn to track sights (I’m not talking about aged eyes, I’m talking about avoiding a problem by changing gear).

Plus, with every part that you change, you are sacrificing reliability for some insignificant performance gain.  If you cover up your performance issues by changing out gun parts, it will just take you longer to identify your faults and train them out.  I’m not saying not to get the gun you want, or not to change out some parts (I’ve done it myself), but don’t do any of those things thinking that will be the recipe for a bump in classification or match performance. All that you can expect to get by buying the new “hotness” is the same crappy shooter with less money in his wallet.

Well if you’ve read all of this, then you’ve proven that you have the perseverance and patience necessary to be a Grand Master in USPSA.  I hope some of these tips have given you some direction.  Just please take it easy on me at the next match, and the best of luck to you on your quest to achieve the highest classification in the sport of USPSA.

Thanks to all of the GM’s who have taken the time to answer a scrub’s questions, especially those who were okay with me quoting them directly in this article.  If you’re a GM, and wish to contribute to the conversation, please comment below.  



Categories: Shooting, Shooting Competitions, USPSA

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. I can’t put a number on how many things I’ve read in this article where I didn’t say to myself, “is he talking about me?”. Great job buddy.

    Like

    • Haha. Never had anybody in particular in mind. Most of the GM’s who responded had very similar advice. Many of the “Do’s” were a reinforcement of behavior for me, and most “Don’ts”, I believe we all fall victim to at some point.

      Like

  2. I didn’t want to but your sage advice and wordsmith abilities have left me inspired… off to go dry fire, I’ll see you at the next match with more skill!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice job of compiling a ton of info! GM does feel like it’s sooooo far away at times. This is great motivation to keep grinding.

    Liked by 1 person

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