5 to Go!

“When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.” 
-Shunryu Suzuki

“Act without expectation.” 
-Lao Tzu

In the fall of ’83, Rob Leatham and I drove from Tempe to Los Angeles to compete with our sport’s icons in a local Southwest Pistol League (SWPL) match. The match was two stages from the Steel Challenge: Double Trouble and 5 to Go

(Links to both stage descriptions are at the end.)

At the Steel Challenge in 1982, I watched Chip McCormick shoot a 1.18 average on Double Trouble. I could not comprehend that speed. I went home from the match determined to improve my draw.

I asked John Shaw—who won the Steel Challenge that year—about my draw speed. I can still hear his southern drawl response: “Boy, you shoot pretty fast once get that thing out of the holster, but I’ve hit three targets before you fired your first shot.” That was the inspiration I needed.

I studied Chip’s draw with a renewed enthusiasm and began fine-tuning my technique. 

Me (check that cool, hand-sewn S&W patch on my hat) and Mike Henry, with the loot from our first Steel Challenge in 1981.

When we got word that the SWPL was hosting a club level match with Double Trouble and 5 to Go, we headed to LA. Competing against Mike Dalton and Mickey Fowler on their home turf was HUGE for us.

We were shocked at their range setup. Each match stage had an identical practice range right next to it. We couldn’t believe it; it was like cheating. 

At first, on principle, we decided to not shoot on the practice ranges. To us, the sport was all about shooting match runs “cold turkey.” After a bit more discussion, we decided it wouldn’t hurt to warm up on the practice ranges, mainly because everyone else was. But it still felt wrong.

Practicing Double Trouble, I realized a critical difference between practice and match runs. In practice, you hear your time after each run; whereas in the match you don’t hear any of your times until you are done shooting all 5 runs. I wondered—should that change how I practice? To answer that, I asked not to be told the times until I had shot all 5 runs. 

From that I learned a huge lesson. By not knowing the individual times until I had shot all five runs, I realized that there was no relationship between how it felt to shoot a run and what each actual time was.

I decided to be hyper-aware only of how it felt to shoot each string and to forget everything else I’d normally care about.

The result: I shot faster by not trying to go fast. Imagine that.

On the practice range I was shooting 1.15’s consistently, which I’d never done before. But could I do that in the match?

I asked, what did I just learn? Completely forget about time, and shoot focused only on the feeling I felt on the practice range.

I managed to pull it off, and shot a score I’d have never thought possible for me. It was a huge lesson—forget time altogether and focus totally on what I need to see and feel for maximum efficiency. 

We ended up winning both stages. I won Double Trouble with a 1.13 average, (which was a new record at that time), and Robbie won 5 to Go, also setting a record for that stage. 

On the drive home, we talked non-stop about what we learned for seven hours.

We wondered why we benefited from practicing, but the locals seemed unable to. We decided it was because it was a new experience for us, and they had become used to it. 

The lesson: Maintain a fresh perspective; and be mindful of what you get used to.


5 to Go:


Double Trouble (click the “Double Trouble” icon at the top of the post):


I’ll post a new topic each Friday afternoon, in one of two categories. One will be on shooting, and the other will be on living. Or: how I learned to live from what I learned by competing.
Thanks for coming in. 

2 comments on “5 to Go!
  1. BWHawley says:

    I watched part of the ’89 SC on youtube last night. The best part of the video is your .93 Double Trouble.