Think, Don’t Plink

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One of our mottos here at the Tactical Performance Center is “think don’t plink.” More than just a catchy phrase, there is deep wisdom in this statement: each round you fire should have a purpose.

I have lived by this motto and every shot I have fired, of my own ammo, in the last eight years has had one of three purposes:

Does the gun work?
Did my outcome match my intent?
Did I follow the process I wanted to follow to release this shot?

Unfortunately, this approach is rarely seen at the range. Too often I see shooters simply turning money into noise without gaining performance improvement. Occasionally I’ll even have a shooter tell me something like “Yeah, great practice. 1,000 rounds down range.” They grow quiet though when I respond with “Great! Did you get 200 bucks of improvement?”

As shooting becomes more expensive and the reasons we shoot–whether it be training to defend our life, protect the public, or win a match–have become more pressing, we owe it to ourselves, and those we protect, to be as good as we can be.

The good news is that improving our performance doesn’t mean that we need to spend more money on ammo or even more time at the range. We just need to build better practices!

At our TPC boot camps, we do just this. While we focus on principles and fundamentals for world class shooting, these concepts are new to most and unlikely to stick after just three days of instruction. For that reason, we also teach our students how to design practices that lock in those fundamentals and improve the speed and consistency with which they can deliver shots.

Here is how we work with our students to develop a practice:


Start and end with the fundamentals of grip, stance, isolating the trigger, letting recoil happen, calling shots, and active follow through. If these are not holding, stop and work on just them. If you have 200 rounds, use a large percent of them here.


You can perfect a reload with very little live fire but a lot of dry practice. We can hone technique dry and then measure or experiment live.


I recently had a fellow instructor who was visually leaving targets early in a rush to get to the next target. This was causing misses and hurting his competition performance. Together we designed an *exercise using dots focused on follow thru. He did this exercise with 100 rounds a day, over two days. At his next performance at a large competition he found that his problem was solved.

*Note that we designed an “exercise”, not a drill. We want to improve a fundamental skill that we can reuse elsewhere, purposefully, not just as a series of sequences where we can fool ourselves with improvement by memorizing a sequence of actions.


We used this process to design a 200-round practice with a group of students at a recent boot camp. Our “look small” goal was to improve our ability to isolate the trigger, including under speed stress. The class had wisely deduced that a lot of low hanging fruit in improving their performance could be found in the trigger pull.

Here is what our practice looked like:

  • 75 dots, dry, focusing on a different element of the shooting cycle on each row
  • 75 dots, live, focusing on isolating the trigger on each dot (3 shots per dot)
  • 40 alpha exercise (from the Army Marksmanship Unit Action Shooting team)
  • ½ USPSA metric target, at 15 yards (this simulates a 30 yard shot)
  • 40 shots, in 5 shot strings, as fast as the sights present what you need to see
  • Strong focus on isolating the trigger
  • 75 dots, live, focusing on isolating the trigger on each dot (3 shots per dot)
  • 75 dots, dry, focusing on isolating the trigger on each dot and active follow through

This practice took 190 rounds and an hour and a half to complete. Every person on the line got 20+ Alphas, with some in the high 30’s. When I asked them “was that worth 1.5 hours and 20 bucks in ammo?” the universal answer was that it was the best experience shooting, in terms of improvement, they’d ever had.

Now imagine doing that twice a week. How good would you get with $40 a week in ammo and three hours of your time?

I encourage you to bring PURPOSE and PLANNING to your practices. You will improve at a dramatic rate and the gains will be more permanent.

Think, don’t plink!

Competitive Shooting: Not Just a Game

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Field Notes Ep. 13, Competitive Shooting with Robert Vogel, Not Just a Game.

It’s worth noting that Mr. Vogel won his first national championship using the same firearm he carried on duty as a law enforcement officer.

More from Robert Vogel:

Cover Use vs Real Life


From John P Correia

I was watching a video of someone shooting IDPA yesterday, and it struck me that they demand use of cover. And my first thought was that I almost NEVER see shooters using cover in real gunfights.

And then I went back and looked through a couple of months of videos. And the reality is, I do occasionally see the use of cover/concealment in defensive gunfights. Not OFTEN, but not almost never. A majority of gunfights just don’t provide any options for cover, and most people move a step or three and then go to work with their roscoe.

I ain’t nobody in any competitive shooting organization, but if I were, I would consider whether all shooting MUST be done behind cover. If there was one thing I would change, it’s the amount of time I see people have to lean into weird stances as they shoot to keep their feet in bounds and get their hits. THAT, I have never seen in a gunfight. Some squatting, some minor leaning, but not anything like what I see time and again in competition videos.

If an organization really wanted to mimic real-life gunfighting, they would all but eliminate reloads as parts of their CoF. (I know they won’t because it adds a skill metric and a differentiating factor among competitors, but still) Maybe throw an intentionally staged malf in there once in awhile instead. Or allow dropping of partial mags and recognize that movement from one place to another actually stands in for “first gunfight is over, now staging for second scenario as soon as you get more bees in the blaster.”

Just some random thoughts.

I am only an occasional competitive shooter who does it for fun and for grins & giggles with friends, so please don’t take what I am saying as a call out of any shooting org or yelling at gamers to get off my lawn or any of that silliness. Their game, their rules!

Wisdom from John Hearne


“It’s all about context. Off CONUS military gunfights are different in size and duration. In such a fight, keeping magazines, using cover, communicating, firing and maneuvering are all important concepts and key to victory. They have almost nothing to do with Leon approaching you on the stop and rob parking lot and demanding your valuables.

Are there exceptions – yes but they are rare and most often found in the LE context. Cops have an obligation to corral, cuff, and control suspects. This means that their fights (not contacts) are initiated by the bad guy and when you have dedicated bad guys you get gun battles like Miami or Newhall. The armed civilian should not be initiating the contact but they should be starting the fight. To paraphrase James Yeager – the faster you finish the fight, the less shot you get.

If you put a 2-4 solid hits on the dude before he realizes he’s failed the victim selection test, you will win. Even if dude has friends, definitively burning down the first one sends a potent message and the odds of them sticking around to fight it out are low (gang members being the obvious exception).

If you look at the research on police gunfight winners, you don’t see cover being used by WINNERS. One in six (15%) of the WINNERS used cover in their fight. These aren’t protracted, drawn out engagements. The first person to make the gun go off (hit or not) has a huge psychological advantage. If that loud noise is accompanied by a high, mid-line hit, that solves most problems. If you spend your time working to cover, you diminish your ability to make meaningful hits because very few of us can shoot and move briskly (concurrently) very well. In the stateside engagement, cover is something you worry about AFTER the initial fight is over. Burn dude down, then worry about cover – don’t end up like Trooper Coates.

For the armed citizen, and most cops, knowing who’s around them and what they’re doing will go a long way. The other part of that is not denying what you’re seeing. If someone plots an intersect course with you in the parking lot that is not an innocent coincidence. If someone offers you violence, offer them more violence, more quickly.
Reloads are generally like cover, they are something you do after the initial exchange. The friends may decide to get engaged, the bad guy may realize he’s not hurt that bad, having a full gun is nice (if you’ve got a double stack pistol how many rounds do you have left?) The speed reload works great for this as it is very quick and simple. Emergency reloads are important because they’re a sign you’ve screwed up. If the guns empty, it’s most likely because you’re not hitting – you need to get more bullets in the gun but more importantly YOU NEED TO HIT THE SOB high and along the mid-line.

Personally, I think that one can train enough to perform tactical reloads after a fight. The problem is that this skill should be really far down your training priorities. Most folks just don’t have the resources (time and ammo) to practice the really important stuff, let alone the esoteric.”

– John Hearne

“People need to stop worrying about tactics and buy a few thousand rounds of ammo, take a class, and learn to shoot before they even worry about cover, concealment, or any of that jazz. If you can’t pull the trigger straight to the rear without disturbing the sights all the rest is of lower priority.”

– John Vlieger

My response to the “OMG, competition will get you killed”-people… Well, if I’m ever faced with three dudes and am able to draw, shoot, and hit them all in the chest in under three seconds and still get killed, I deserve to die.

– Caleb Giddings

What You Need To Know About The Barrel Break-In Process

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What You Need To Know About The Barrel Break-In Process
by Grant Ubl

Mystery and misconception surrounds the barrel break-in process. Is it necessary? How long-winded should this process be? What are the benefits? All are viable questions.

Before we get into various break-in procedures, let’s look at how barrels are manufactured and what shooters face when approaching a virgin barrel. Barrels are manufactured using several different processes to put the rifling into the bore. The processes selected and the finishing or final-lapping technique used will determine interior barrel smoothness. Here, we’ll assume that all barrels in this discussion have the exact same interior dimensions. Always keep in mind the barrel production process might leave minuscule marks in the bore that are 90 degrees to bullet travel, which will affect the collection of fouling.


US Army’s got a new pistol. But can they shoot?

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George Harris
President & CEO
International Firearms Consultants, LLC

It’s a battle that I fought all the way to the Pentagon to simplify combat marksmanship training. I even proved it with live examples. Got great reviews and promises but in the end, little changed.

Some of my former team members and world champion shooters still do what they can but big Army can’t see the forest for the trees. Reminds me of the “Hardly Able to Do Little Construction Company” Fucked Up Like a Football Bat and apt to stay that way.

BTW, I shot and maxed the pistol qualification more than one time with witnesses, shooting the pistol upside down, left handed, just to show that qualification meant little more than being able to point the gun and pull the trigger crudely. This when many of those that needed to qualify, having been “previously trained”, could not hit the target anywhere with more than 50% of their shots. Just like the L.E. community where the safest place on the range is behind the target.

As a wise man once said, “Shooting is the hardest simple thing to do that one is likely to undertake.” I believe the man once had a speed shop and gun shop under the same roof, which was ventilated by the mother of one of his friends when she wanted to know if the gun she was holding would fire or not….

How to improve your handgun accuracy

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Anthony Maldonado has over Thirty (30) years of experience in the field of hunting, sports and self-defense related fields. Now he keeps on doing it through teaching others about how to prepare and DIY. He is an expert in the area of DIY. He is presently working at his

How to improve your handgun accuracy

by Anthony Maldonado

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