Words, Tips, & Quotes

  • Words could be from anywhere.
  • Tips pertain to shooting in general.
  • Quotes are shooting-related utterances of relevance.

Specific Topics:

Forum Topics on Attention (open in a new window):

Thanks for coming in.


Consider, experiment, and figure out for yourself if there is any truth to what you read.

In your daily life as well as at the range, study where you are placing your attention. Are you placing it specifically? Or is it random and unpredictable? Different temperament types place their attention in different ways. Shooting basketball, I focus on the backside of the rim. I asked another player where he placed his attention and he said the front of the rim, just where he wanted the ball to pass over. I asked another player and she said – “I don’t know, I just throw it up there.” She can beat me playing basketball even though I’m two feet taller than she is. I’m a little out of practice, however…
Examine where you place your attention at the practice range, and note if it differs when you are in competition. Are you “in the gun” or focused on the targets. Or maybe staring blankly at nothing in particular.
Check the Photos of “The Flash” and “The Blur” for an example of correctly placed attention during the reload. I’m right in the gun.

Failure is good – without it we would be lazy and wouldn’t motivate ourselves to change. Look at failure as an opportunity to improve. Do we sometimes fail because we are too greedy? Do we want more than we are currently able to have? Stay tough. Don’t allow greed to undermine the manifestation of our capacity, which is the product of our individual training.

In practice, tell yourself to become aware of something that you are not normally aware of. Pick a drill – then repeat the same drill over an over an over, while just watching to “see what you see.” If you can do this – just watch the activity with no preconceived notions or any regard as to the outcome – you may see or realize something extraordinary.

During practice, become aware of exactly how and when you see your sights. Do you see them silhouetted like a giant building on the skyline, or maybe you don’t remember any details of the sights themselves. (Don’t think of good and bad, just see what you see.) As the gun is moving toward the target, when do you “pick up” the sights? Do you see them as they are approaching the target, as they touch the target, or after the gun is stopped on the target? As the shot is firing, do you see the sights lift up, or are you looking for the next target? How does this vary according to the types and placement of the targets.

The speed at which you see is the speed at which you will shoot.

To fire an accurate shot means to not just hit the target, but to know where the target was hit before the bullet got there.

After developing repeatable skills, your job becomes managing them.

Scope Vision

The majority of shooting problems introduced by optics is the result of being able to see everything required to fire an accurate shot on the same focal plane. This induces a feeling of shooting “on the blur.”
With irons or optics, it is paramount to precisely call each shot at the exact moment it fires. The visual inputs necessary for this vary according to the difficulty of each individual shot. On close targets, you may only be aware of seeing your scope tube in the A box, on more difficult shots, you should be aware of the dot lifting peripherally, or see the hole appear in the target. At whatever distance, you must learn to wait to get the visual input necessary to know exactly where the shot went at the instant it fired. If you are not doing that, you’re not shooting, you’re just blasting at brown. (BAB)
What you actually see is everything when shooting with optics. After completing a practice or match string, ask yourself—exactly what did I see? For example: did I see the upcoming target outside the scope, and then peripherally see the dot moving onto the target, or did I just see each target through the scope, after the scope was already on the target. Applying this distinction of when you become aware of seeing the upcoming target (inside or outside the scope tube) will get you on the way to opening up your vision, thereby quickly indexing on the targets.

When you open your vision—seeing everything instead of seeing one target and sight relationship at a time—often, the scope tube will seem to disappear and you will remember seeing the targets and the dot as if they were on one visual plane. It is difficult to describe; visually, it’s like the old TV commercial where the ball bounced over each word of the tune.
With optics, you must learn to wait to get the necessary input from the dot, just as you would wait to see the front sight, even though with optics this input is peripheral. You do not need to try to focus on the dot because peripherally, your mind knows exactly where it is. The technique is to always look at the targets—exactly where you want each shot to go, and then wait, mentally and visually, until you have enough feedback from the dot for the shot to fire. The number one cause for poor (uncalled) shots with optics is lack of visual (peripheral) and mental patience—this is caused by rushing. Again, with optics it’s easy to feel like you can rush because you can see everything at once.
Many shooters effectively focus so intently on the target that they see the holes appearing as they shoot—at incredible distances. When shooting 4″ plates at 35 yards in the Sportsman’s Team Challenge, I would see the bullet splatter on the plate before it fell down—and they fell really fast. I would see the dot lift peripherally from in front of the bullet strike, just before the bullet hit the target. The dot was not my primary focus; my focus was the exact center of the target. I would describe this as a feeling of waiting which is produced by really looking. When shooting at my best, it felt like the dot was actually a distraction from my focal point.
Some have told me they look for the dot in the same way they look for the front sight when shooting iron sights. This effectively forces them to wait before shooting the shot. This is not bad, but it is not the optimum way to apply your vision; the speed advantage that comes with optics is the result of constantly focusing your vision where the gun is pointed, or where it is going.
One last thing—I often hear shooters comment that they feel like they see the dot moving all over the place as they are shooting, so it is difficult to call the shots. This is a common complaint with optics, which can be corrected by telling (teaching) yourself to ignore the movement of the dot, will the gun to be as still as possible, accept the movement, and release the shot. If the gun was held perfectly still (as in a bench vice) and the target itself was moving (in the same pattern your gun moves), imagine, what is the only thing you could do to fire a good shot?


Tuesday Night Steel
It was “Tuesday Night Steel” at Rio Salado. Robbie was shooting his usual brilliant match, three stages in a row without a flaw. On the final stage, he shot the first three positions perfectly – hit the last box (the easiest position in the match) and shot several recovery shots, adding a second and a half to his time. The following day on the practice range I complimented him on his match. His first words were – “You know, when I got into that last box I thought I could hit those targets just because I wanted to.” What is the meaning behind this? What is the relationship between your will, and the motor skills required to accomplish a task?
Another quote by Rob Leatham –
“I hate everything.“ Of course by now, you should know what this means…

“I hate myself.”
A good one by myself, on national TV.
(Ask Jim Scouten about that one.)

The Masters

Because of the restrictions imposed by the course designers, the action event at the Masters was one of the most pressure-cooking events an IPSC shooter could ever face. One year as I was waiting to shoot the event, Jerry Miculeck walked up to me and asked me what my plan was for tackling the event. (Some might think this was a head game. However, Jerry and I have discussed this topic many times in the past, sometimes right on the line, so I knew he was genuinely interested.) I rattled off a bunch of words about shooting for the center of the targets, not rushing, and some more crap I can’t remember. After finishing my spiel, I asked him about his plan. He answered, “You ever fire a shot and not remember seeing a sight picture?” “Of course,” I replied. “That’s what I’m going to avoid,” was his reply.” A beautiful answer.
We both shot successfully on the event.

Just shoot

I was talking to Doug Koenig on the phone one day about some technique I was struggling with in my IPSC practice. After listening to me for at least 5 minutes, he stopped me in mid-sentence and said, “How about if you just shoot.”

They only score the holes
From Mike Dalton:
I was on your site and thought of a quote you might find funny and insightful. At the IPSC Nationals in Arizona Don Hamilton and a group of competitors asked me for some words of wisdom before the match started. He said “old sage, tell us what to remember while we are shooting the match.” I replied, after a little thought—”They only score the holes. That cracked them up…”


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We improve as we continue to recognize our limitations.

Sit quietly and examine the space between yourself and everything else.

War is failure.
Andy Weed

Humanity is the failure of reason.

Tomorrow’s dream is today’s illusion.

Everything good has awareness for its root.

Observe the observer.

We notice what we don’t completely comprehend.

Where do you spend your attention?

Freedom is letting things be.

One never can see the thing in itself, because the mind does not transcend phenomena.
Hilaire Belloc

Where will you find meaning if you don’t find it in everything?

Action involving uncertainty is confusing, at best.

Do not think or act randomly.

Thinking and labeling separate you from experience.
Look right at something and you’ll both disappear.

You cannot change what you didn’t create, nor is there anything you can have.

Stop compulsive labeling if you want to see what is really going on.

Fools want everything to be different; the wise abide without wanting.

Just relax and let go of everything.

Quantum science estimates our bodies to be over 99% space.

Space has a name but no form.

How could it not all be you?

The closer you look the less there is.

Discern between what comes first and what comes later, or primary and secondary knowledge.

What matters most is what you are thinking and doing, right now.

The function of the perceptual fields are conditional in nature. So does it make sense to believe that anything created by them isn’t?

Embrace change to avoid loss.

Playing with reflections, struggling with the form, you don’t realized that the form is the source of the reflection.
Book of Serenity – Case 57

Looking left, you see what’s to the left.

Looking right, you see what’s to the right.

Leave it at that.

You believe when you don’t know.

Trying is the child of uncertainty.
Doubt – gone without a trace –
Fearlessly, the mind functions straightforwardly.

Is there any other time or place?

See imperfection as opportunity.

Is it possible to be aware of thought?

Subtly: When something works without being noticed. And like most things, it can work for you or against you.

Whatever you notice has already happened.

Subjectivity is an illusion.

The appearance of anything – birds, trees, thoughts and the self – is conditional in nature.

The color green looks blue in red light.

Things will never be more perfect than they are right now.

We often see the surface of desire, but seldom its depth.

Because what’s in front obscures what’s behind, perception weaves the illusion of subjectivity.

Awareness is the water for the seed of insight.

The truth is what’s left when delusion stops.

Ask – but don’t answer.

Recognition obscures awareness.

The goal of practice is to reach certainty.

There is no freedom in logic.

Remain aware without accumulating anything and you’ll find intelligence itself.

What we call seeing only sees the shadows of things; what we call hearing only hears echoes.

Belief is the measure of ignorance.

Careful with that axe, Eugene.
Pink Floyd

Don’t base your understanding in words.

Observe how the mind clings to categories as it grasps for understanding.

It’s not “all good” –
It all is.

If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both.

The mind, habitually seeking instruction by looking outward, is distracted from looking inward. Everything worth knowing we already know. Observe the totality of the self, expressed by our actions and behavior. When we directly observe what we are creating, our actions change spontaneously because the body-mind naturally seeks harmony.

Grace is the true measure of man.
Richard Salem
[One of my favorites.]

Indeed, since people lack nothing, it is a pity that they wander so much in illusion once they have been deluded by their perception.

Once again, feeling takes over where the mind concludes.

All beings form habits of action influenced by subjective feelings and affections based on ignorance of the essence of awareness.

The body is like a puppet; its movements driven by attachments to appearances.

Confusion is the result of losing touch with our inherent nature.
What is it?

There has never been anything given to anyone, and there has never been anything received from another. This is called the truth.

All goals apart from the means are illusions.
Bruce Lee

It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.
Mark Twight

Pain is the movement away.

He who binds to himself a joy,
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies,
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.
William Blake

Look! Examine carefully, without understanding.

Whether you come by this naturally, or through training—
Expect the unexpected.

You die with belief;
Live –
with wonder.

Learning is attention dependent.

You have to see it for yourself.

Specific Topics

With the Forum Challenged in mind (folks that can’t deal with navigating a Forum), I snagged a few discussions from the Forum, edited them slightly, and posted them here. The first topic examines the difference between the fundamentals of shooting and the techniques used to accomplish them. And since the next two topics deal with speed and accuracy, these two seemingly diametrically opposed topics have been confusing IPSC shooters for years. Think about how each topic relates to your natural tendencies and preferences.

Fundamentals & Technique

It is important to distinguish between fundamentals and technique. “Fundamental” means essential.

The Fundamentals of shooting are:

  1. Locate the target (visually, or with the force).
  2. Aim or point the gun at the target.
  3. Hold the gun there until the gun fires and the bullet has left the barrel.

The physical description of the body’s movements we use to execute the fundamentals comprise our techniques. The varieties of individual techniques are endless, and vary according to the tendencies, preferences, and physical construction of the person. The various techniques that comprise the stance should, logically, enable us to best accomplish these fundamentals under the widest variety of conditions, both mental and physical.

Let’s start with the principles of the shooting stance or “Index,” and then go into the importance of correct technique within the index.

To better understand the totality of our stance, it helps to divide the body into two sections. Let’s call the lower body, the waist and below, the “Base,” and the upper body the “Index.”

Basically, the function of the Base in high-speed shooting is to provide a forward stability to the Index. Within reason, it doesn’t matter what the Base is doing while the Index is shooting. Ideally, you should be able to maintain your Index on the target no matter what your feet are doing.

The principles of the Index are:

  1. The shoulders should be square, or at least fairly square to the target.
  2. Both arms should be fairly straight without either extending or contracting the arms or elbows unnaturally.
  3. The grip, with each hand, should be as high on the pistol as possible. (There are many subtleties of the grip, however, since this is a stance/index discussion, we won’t go there here.)
  4. The head should be fairly straight up, without excessive tilting, and the shooting eye should be looking as squarely as possible out of the socket.
  5. This is paramount: Once this position is assumed, your entire upper body, including the head, arms, and grip—your Index—should never change in relationship to each other.

To nutshell it, the entire upper body is square to, and pointing at the target, while the Base is providing an aggressive forward lean or balance for the Index. Think of your upper body as a non-moveable, locked together unit, which pivots from the waist.

A few subtleties on the above:
Your arms should have the feeling of “pushing through” the last few inches of their extension. To get the feeling of this, assume your stance (you don’t need your pistol) with your arms not quite fully extended with the front of your grip touching a wall. Push forward on the wall as if you were trying to firmly push through it. This is the feeling of “extending without locking.”

A consistent Index enables you to quickly and consistently point at and shoot targets. The more variables you introduce into your Index, i.e., one arm excessively bent more than the other, one hand pushing or pulling more than the other, the less chance you have of reproducing a reliable platform to shoot from under a wide variety of conditions—especially under stress. This is why the Index, as currently used in competition, has evolved to its present state. Any unnaturally excessive Index, such as the Weaver, etc., will be more difficult to reproduce from day to day, from stage to stage, or just from moment to moment because our mental state and resulting muscle tension is in a constant stare of flux.

Your Index is the most important aspect of your overall stance. The more consistent your Index, the better you will shoot (execute the fundamentals). In the early years, as we experimented with various techniques, we found our consistency improved as we eliminated the variables introduced by pushing and pulling, straining and struggling. Sound principles of technique consistently control the pistol more effectively than muscle tension.

Top competitors use the current Index because results are their primary concern—technique is secondary, and is a by-product of the intention to perform the fundamentals effectively under stress. First see what is important (consistently hitting the target), and then see what you need to do to get there. This is called—not starting from a conclusion.

When I began shooting IPSC in the late 70’s, I used the Weaver/Chapman stance because I was told that was how you control the recoil of a .45 ACP—you know, the man’s gun. Some years later, after experimenting and altering my Index, I was shooting a Bill Drill (6 shots into the A zone of an IPSC target at 7 yds in under 2 seconds) with a single stack .45 with 230g, 190 power factor loads. (I was practicing for the SOF match.) A local shooter was watching as I shot a 1.8 something run from the modern or “modified” Isosceles position. I remember him commenting, “Wow, I guess your technique doesn’t require wimp loads to be effective.” This is a common misconception – he was starting to get the picture.

I consider Rob Leatham the greatest “instinctual” shooter on the planet with an iron-sighted pistol. Time and time again, I’ve seen him acquire and shoot targets so quickly it leaves you speechless. I questioned him on his approach. Basically, he said: Upper body (shoulders) square to the target, arms fully extended but not locked, and most importantly, once in position, the head, arms, and body move as a unit. He commented that he would not hesitate to adjust his feet while shooting if that will preserve the integrity of his Index. He also said, and I agree, “Why ‘aim’ if your position can do that for you”? This should not be taken to mean that he doesn’t aim when he needs to; it’s just that with proper technique, the gun points and shoots wherever you look. After enough practice, of course.

Investigate the stability and repeatability of your Index. Assume your Index and then introduce variables such as: Pulling back with one hand and not the other, pushing out with one hand and not the other, bending one elbow slightly and not the other, or bending both elbows the same amount. You’ll find, the more your position varies from the above outline, the more your pistol’s point of aim will change as you slightly alter small components of your Index.

The Call to Followthrough

Please bear with me as I repeat myself.

Shooting an iron-sighted pistol accurately…

The Hard Part
Aiming is not the hard part. Releasing the shot without disturbing your hold is (the hard part). After establishing correct intention, your body will aim your pistol without effort.

The Third Fundamental
Hold the gun in alignment with the target until the bullet has left the barrel.

Sight Picture
Sight picture consists of two components:

  1. Sight alignment, which is the alignment of the sights in relation to your eye, ONLY
  2. Sight picture, which is the relationship of sight alignment to the target.

The “Call” to Followthrough
You improve followthrough by becoming aware of what you see, or “remember” seeing, as the bullet is leaving the barrel. This acquired skill is called “calling the shot”.

Will yourself to “hold” your attention on the sights until they lift in recoil. Look right at them—ignore the target. You will remember where your sight alignment was on the target without conscious effort. (Think about what that last sentence implies.) If you are actively observing the sights alignment and your eyes remain open DURING the firing of the shot, you should remember the last exact relationship you saw before the sights lifted in recoil. When you compare what you remember with where the shot actually went, you’re on the path to successful shooting.

If you do not have intimate knowledge of the Third Fundamental, you must consciously train yourself to remember “the call.” After “training to remember,” the call will occur simultaneously with the firing of the shot. If you can maintain this state, you will shoot without doubt.

The Problem
The pistol is the most difficult firearm to shoot accurately offhand. The reason for this becomes apparent if we investigate the phenomena of “the hold.” The hold has two components. First, let’s call the guns movement in the hands only, “the wobble.” The movement of the wobble on the target, originating from our arms, produces the hold. This all to observable visual input distracts us from what is paramount, the aforementioned third fundamental of shooting—releasing the shot without disturbing your established hold on the target. A trick I learned from a silhouette shooter might help: Imagine your pistol is in a machine-rest even though you are holding it offhand. Now imagine the target is moving (in the same pattern/manner as your hold). Now, what can you do to have the best chance of hitting the target?

Knowing this, it’s best to begin by shooting from a bench rest or other supported position. Sandbag your pistol so it’s rock solid. Aim into the backstop (do not use a target, or spot to aim at) and then consciously direct ALL your attention to building the pressure on the trigger until the gun fires the gun fires as a surprise. It can help to use the “one to ten scale,” this time use your sights and the trigger as your two components. Become familiar with the feeling of firing the gun with all your attention on your trigger/finger, while simply observing the sights lift in recoil. Then place a target at 25 yds and repeat the above procedure with the following addition: Use this “order” to fire the shot—1) Align your sights in the center of the target. 2) Shift all your attention to your previous feeling of your finger building pressure on the trigger until the shot breaks. During step #2, you are still seeing the sights; however, you are no longer “trying to aim.” At this point, your concern is not in trying to shoot a particular spot; you are simply looking with the intention of remembering where the sights were aligned at the moment the shot fires.

Again, begin by shooting into the backstop with no intention of hitting anything in particular. This will allow you to focus all your attention on what is important—”releasing” the shot without disturbing the gun’s hold. Relax your attention into the gun, look at the sights without staring, and then shift all your attention to the feeling of your finger on the trigger. With great determination and purpose, increase pressure on the trigger until the gun fires—”FEEL” the shot off. At the moment the gun lifts, recall the sight alignment—again, this is what you must see. After mastering this, when you put a target behind your sights, you simply recall the last relationship of the “sight picture”(sight alignment plus their relationship to the target) at the instant the gun lifts in recoil.

Only after you’ve mastered “benchrest calling,” should you begin shooting offhand.

Now to shoot a “good shot” (one that not only went were you wanted it to but you knew it did AS the shot fired), you must combine the feeling of releasing a perfect shot with the feeling of “willing the gun still” as you build pressure on the trigger. Eventually, with training, this becomes ONE FEELING.

Accurate calling of your shots is the most essential ingredient to successful shooting. Set up an IPSC target a 25 yds. Using 3/4″ white tape, tape the target into four quadrants and tape a two-inch “X” or cross in the center of each quadrant. Shooting slow-fire, shoot one shot at each X, offhand. After establishing your hold in each respective quadrant, tell yourself to LOOK RIGHT AT THE SIGHTS (“1 Sights/9 Trigger”), and without “trying to aim the shot,” create a perfect release by feeling your finger build pressure on the trigger until the gun fires. Your only goal is to know exactly where the shot hit the target. Just use the “X” to assist in remembering where the sights were when the shot broke—don’t try to hit the X! Check the target and see where each shot landed on the target in relationship to where you thought it went. (It also helps if you know what size group your gun will shoot off the bench at this distance.) Even if it takes forever, keep practicing this until you immediately know, as you fire a shot, where it hit the target. If you have a spotting scope or binoculars, you can look at the target after each shot to get more immediate feedback. Through the relationship of: where you thought the shot went by “reading the sights,” and where it actually went—you will learn to know as the shot fires, exactly where it went.

For many years I ended each practice session by shooting slow-fire groups at a nine-inch white paper plate at 25 yards. I’d take all the time I felt I needed to shoot the smallest five shot group possible. I’d shoot five to ten groups each session and keep the smallest group as my “record.” This is a great exercise to ingrain all the above.

Imagine how much easier calling the shot would be if you were shooting a scoped pistol. All you would have to remember is where the dot or crosshairs were when the shot broke. With iron sights, you must get this information by “reading” the relationship of sight alignment and sight picture at the moment the shot fires.

To summarize, train to call your shots by accepting your hold, looking only at your sights, and then as the shot fires, remember where the alignment was on the target.

Once reading the sights is firmly ingrained, practice to preserve this most important of all fundamental while increasing your shooting speed. Project your attention into your hands and sights as you shoot. When you master this – it’ll be a (w)hole new world.

Control / Abandon

If your fundamentals are rock-solid (meaning you can shoot – accurately), but you have difficulty “cranking it up,” you might experiment with the following.

In practice, push yourself to shoot at a quicker pace than you would normally be comfortable. Don’t worry about your hits, with good fundamentals, you can always return to basics. Shooters with a tendency towards accuracy often have to force themselves to shoot out of their comfort zone to get the feeling of what “driving the gun” feels like. Once you experience what it feels like to “let go and crank away,” you will have the perspective needed to effectively balance speed and accuracy.

A great drill for this is the Bill Drill. The original drill tests how fast you can shoot all your shots into the A zone of an IPSC target at seven yards; however, to emphasize speed, make the following adjustment: At seven yards, instead of the goal of shooting all A’s, just shoot as fast as possible with the goal of only keeping all your hits on the entire target. (If this sounds crazy, this drill is definitely for you.) Shoot within these parameters until you establish the average time it takes you to just hit the target with all your shots. Then, try it again, this time with the goal of keeping all your hits in the C zone—in the same time you just discovered—do not shoot at a slower pace. This is the opposite of the usual method; however, I assure you this is possible. After mastering this, you should be able to carry what you’ve learned up to this point into shooting all your shots in the A zone in the same time you needed to just hit the target.

When you are doing everything JUST RIGHT, on a target at seven yards, you should be able to shoot A’s as fast as you can shoot hits. I’ve had tremendous insights into “speed shooting” while training in this manner.

It helps me to visualize a “Control/Abandon” scale. I picture it in my mind as a horizontally sliding knob like you might see on an older stereo, on which one end is Base and the other end is Treble. Substitute two opposite concepts for Base and Treble, i.e., control/abandon, or sights/trigger. Then, before you shoot, imagine where the knob is positioned.

Or, if you prefer thinking to imagining, think of two opposite concepts that have a ratio that has a total value of ten. For example, you might shoot a given string with “8 Control/2 Abandon,” or “1 Control/9 Abandon.”

The key is, every time, before you shoot, DECIDE exactly what you are going to do. And then after each string, without attaching to or judging the results—simply notice what actually happened. Eventually, clear intention will dictate your activity.