This from Jim Higginbotham.

[O]ne does not want to get the big head about performance. I was once walking around the U.S. Region IPSC Championship (this was before the days of USPSA) with Ross Seyfried, a gentleman of the first order! A vendor asked him how it felt to be the best pistol shot in the world (Ross would become World Champion the next year). His response was:

“I have no idea. The best pistol shot in the world is probably some farmer out in Colorado or someplace who we never heard of.”

It was a point I took a lesson from. Both as to one’s attitude and probably as to the factual reality that there are indeed great shooters who are unknown to the press and public.

Interesting point. As a plinker-type once pointed out to me, a National champion is someone who has only beaten everybody at that match, not everyone in the nation. It is possible that somewhere, some unknown gun owner has managed to independently develop skills and/or never-before-seen techniques that would demolish the very best known champions.

It is also possible to win the lottery twice in the same week.  Champion shooters use the best known techniques, training methodologies and equipment to build their skill. Events evolve over time as new ideas are found that prove consistently successful. Continuing on the practical shooting theme, at one time Jack Weaver and Jeff Cooper were unknown gun enthusiasts. Rob Leatham and Brian Enos were as well. Their ideas, radical at the time, proved to be a better way.

What if Cooper and Weaver chose to remain at Big Bear, and Leatham and Enos tucked away in an unknown Arizona gravel pit, content to plink on the weekends and never stepping forward? There are no talent scouts in the marksmanship world. We only know of them now because they created and/or attended shooting events where their skills could be compared and measured. Only after stepping up and consistently demonstrating a high level of talent in open competition did people take notice.

There are several valuable lessons here:

  • At no point, regardless of past success, can you assume to know everything. If you do, you’ll likely meet that Coloradan farmer (or Big Bear Leatherslapper or Arizona speed shooter)  one day.
  • For every single “Coloradan farmer” truly possessing the skill to beat a champ, there are thousands of pretenders willing to claim they can. Find a metric to measure against, or create your own, so you can effectively separate all that chaff from the rare grain of wheat.
  • The unknown expert might as well not even exist unless he is willing to at least occasionally shoot somewhere besides his own back forty. The world will never know without his courage and willingness to come forth.