Relax… A Story from The Bianchi Cup

“Only when you can be extremely pliable and soft can you be extremely hard and strong.”
-Zen Proverb

I was at my first Bianchi Cup in 1981. I trashed the first three stages: The Practical, The Barricade, and The Falling Plates. Headed to the final event, The Moving Target, I had kind of given up.

On the the first pass on the Mover at the 20 yard line, the sights were shaking and tracking terribly, compared to how they did in practice. For whatever reason, on the next pass, as the sights came onto the moving target, I heard, softly, “relax.”

What I saw after that fundamentally altered my entire approach to shooting. The sights floated, perfectly aligned, right along with the lead point on the target. As each shot fired, the front sight returned to perfect alignment to the lead point. It was so beautiful to see—and effortless—the pistol was firing itself. 

I didn’t drop more than a couple points for the rest of the stage.

I left the stage out-of-my-mind excited. In a bold extroverted move, I approached John Gordon, the Chief Range Officer, and blurted, “I just learned something so mind-blowing. I’m coming back to win this match next year.” To which he responded with a crazy belly laugh. (The following year, I finished second; but I did win the match the year after that.)

That night, in the match hotel bar, I was drinking beer with Leonard Knight, who I regarded as a legend. I was still so excited I couldn’t stop talking about the experience. I tried to convince him that what happened was so extraordinary—even he’d better watch out—I was a new man. He didn’t say much, just nodded a bit now and then, as was his character. He was probably thinking, just relax son and drink your beer.

I learned to shoot like I caught rattlesnakes: calmly.

From that lesson, I realized that my match grip pressure was significantly greater than it was in practice. Today, I know the “given up” feeling I had going to that stage relinquished control, which allowed the “relax” insight.

Although I shot with with a very firm grip, I’m often associated with a “relaxed” style of shooting from my book, Practical Shooting, Beyond Fundamentals.

In competition, relax meant backing off from an overly tense grip ignited by the start buzzer.

My consistency improved dramatically when I learned how to create and manage an optimum grip pressure for match shooting: as firm as possible without being tense.

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.