Wednesday, March 19, 2014


At our practice session today we had a very experienced and accomplished shooter demonstrate an experiment. This shooter was willing to test his own muscle memory skills and prove his theory of cock, level & squeeze. At master gunfighter distance he blindfolded himself. (Sounds scary but it was conducted in a safe environment and manner) of course he couldn't see the timer light came on so he reacted to the shot of the shooter next to him. Him his stance he has done thousands of times, lined up to the target the same way he has thousands of times reacting to an audio start he cocked the gun drew out of his holster, leveled the gun and squeezed the trigger like he has done thousands of times. His results were that he hit the target 3 out of 5 times blindfolded. When you subtract the time of the first shooter to his hit times he averaged in the low .400 actually a little faster than his sighted practice shots the rest of the practice session.

There are a few things we can take away from this experiment. First of all, don't be afraid to experiment to prove things to yourself.

Second, trust your muscle memory to work for you. You have done that motion and action successfully thousands of times yourself. Trust that you will successfully do it again every time you cock, level and squeeze.

Not only did the blindfold block his vision but it also took away the need to concentrate on aiming. He was aiming by memory and not sight. He was not sight aiming or trying to place a shot on the target. He was doing what was natural and just let it go when it felt good not caring about the results. 60% accuracy is pretty good without being blindfolded. He achieved that by instinct. The blindfold also blocked out a lot of thought. He knew he had to rely on instinct and just let it happen.

Press on,
Rodeo Romeo

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Practice Techniques

My Dad taught me a long time ago that anything worth doing is worth doing well. If you want to be a champion do what the champions do. I am a big supporter of practice and I practice a lot. The point of practice is not just to do it but to do it with a purpose and practice with goals. Practice makes perfect right? WRONG!!! Perfect practice makes perfect. When you practice fast draw know what it is you want to practice. The next and every shoot you go to watch the top shooters to see what they do to be so fast, accurate, confident, cool under pressure, strategy or what ever trait you want to improve in your own game.
Accelerate your learning curve by eliminating trial and error. Other shooters are on the line right now that do what you want to do and are where you aspire to be. Fast draw is a learned skill, if any other person on the planet has done it you know you can learn to do it as well. Don’t reinvent the wheel, practice doing what they do. Quick Cal or even Bob Munden didn’t just wake up one day and found themselves to be great, they have a lot of range time practicing.
Don’t try to do too much at once work on one thing at a time and get good at it then add the next thing. It will all come together in the end. We all know that the fastest draw with the fastest realized times come from a short draw. The least distance the gun travels from your holster to firing position is the fastest shot but our natural tentendency is to thrust the gun forward aiming to help the gun do its job. I promise you the bullet travels faster than the fastest punch so the sooner you send that bullet off out of the gun will be yor fastest times.  First things first. Get comfortable drawing that gun fast keeping the draw very short. If your like me you want success and results right now. So let’s set ourselves up for success and build confidence right away. Practice technique 1: set up in your stance 3-5 feet from the target. Don’t worry about anything else other than developing speed in your draw.  This is a reaction drill, your just reacting to the light and firing wax at the target. Your goal should be to prove to yourself that you can draw fast and hit the target. This will build muscle memory and you should be able to duplicate that same draw at Master Gunfighter range to be on target. This stage took me 60 days shooting 50 rounds every day. I said earlier that you can accelerate your learning curve but there are no shortcutts. Wax down rang will get you better.
Practice all out and don’t give up. Too many people get stuck not improving because they don’t give it a chance to prove to yourself that you can do it. I am probably a lot like you in that I wasn’t born with a naturally fast draw, I had to develop it, learn it, practice it, improve it. It took me 2 months don’t give up and go back to your comfort zone ever. Always strive to push yourself to improvement. Yes you will be missing a lot in the beginning and yes you will be frustrated but push through it and don’t give up ever. You will hit the target by accident sometimes pushing for it and you will surprise yourself with the times your getting. Keep practicing all out and don’t quit then your accuracy will follow.
Practice technique #2: close up practice will show you your natural draw. You don’t want to be thinking a lot about aiming. Find your natural draw with the close up practice and adjust your feet or body position on the line. Someone may have told you to square your feet, square your shoulders to the target, position your stance where the gun is in line with the center of the target. All crap in my opinion. You have to do what is natural to you. My shooting style may not work for you, you have to develop that for yourself. A lot of factors are to be considered that may be unique to you. How high or low you wear your holster, cant of your holster, where you position it on your hip, old model Vaquero, New Vaquero, Colt, Pietta, etc. I have noticed that most shooters natural tendency is to shoot across your body slightly. If your struggling to hit the target and shooting left a lot, move your feet to the right on the line. It is easier to move your feet than change your natural draw.
Practice technique #3: accuracy? Lots of wax down range. No shortcutts. Just do it.
Shoot like you practice. Practice for improvement. Practice with goals. Press on don’t give up. Work with your natural draw. (don’t confuse that with natural tendancies. You will have to work against  yourself to develop a short draw) Let the gun do the work, don’t try to help it.
Get this book
This book teaches you to tap into the power of your subconscience mind so it can work for you. Used these principles my whole life.

Mental Preparedness

Cowboy Fast Draw is largely mental. Any athletic or competition driven activity is mentally important. Fast draw requires focus, concentration and relaxation. Getting prepared mentally before a practice session or match is challenging some times. Top level performers don’t just show up on game day and perform at a high level. They come with a well tuned mental attitude.
High level performers practice on and off the range. A University (don’t ask me which one) conducted an experiment with the basketball program. The whole team shot free throws to get a baseline score based on the number of free throws made out of 10. Half the team physically practiced improving their skills on the court for 2 weeks. The other half of the team never stepped foot on the court for the same 2 week period. The second group did nothing but in a relaxed state vividly imagined themselves shooting free throws successfully. Imagining the feel of the ball and the smell of the gym and the sound the ball made going trough the hoop. At the end of the two weeks the first group did improve their skills. The second group that didn’t touch a ball for 2 weeks but vividly imagined successfull shots improved more than the group that physically practiced. Athletes call this “skull practice”. A night or two before a big match rest your body but excecerise your mind getting mentally prepared vividly imagining yourself standing on the line, imagine the feel of the grip, watch the light come on and explode into action hiting the light, imagine your perfect trigger pull position, smell the gunpowder in the air. Your subconscieous mind can’t tell the difference between a real experience and one that is vividly imagined. That’s why dreams seem so real.
Mental preparedness plays a big roll in your confidence. When you are on that line you need to believe that you are the best shooter on that line. You have practiced, you know what your abilities are, you know what is going to happen, you know you can do it you’ve done it thousands of times before. Believe in yourself to be successful. Believe you are good enough not to be afraid to face anyone, your the best, nobody is better than you are. I realize for this to work for you that you have to have the skills to get yourself to believe that so practice until you develop the skills so you can believe that winning attitude.
When you are standing on that line empty your mind of everything. Flush your thoughts. You have made the decision and investment to be standing on that line at this point in time. All that matters is focusing your attention on exploding on that target when the light comes on. This is the fastest sport in the world measured in thousands of a second. You can focus 7 seconds at a time and not have a thought in your mind for that long between “Shooters on the line, shooters set” to the 3 – 5 seconds the light comes on. Then let the world rush back in until you hear “The line is ready.” Flush your mind and focus for another 7 seconds.
Relax. Relax your mind and body on the line. Loosen the grip on your gun grip, relax your shoulders, relax your arm. Explode from the relaxed position when that light comes on. Have you ever had a practice session where you are tensed up and the harder you try the worse it gets? I have. Then you give up to the point you almost don’t care anymore so your not trying as hard, your more relaxed then you just let it fly and happen on its own is when you get your fastest times ever. Easy to say relax, hard to do. Practice it.
Prepare mentally, relax, focus, develop your skills for a confident winning attitude. See you on the line.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Champion Gunfighter

"Frank didn't lose the light of his cigarette during the encounter. Wonderfully cool man." George Parsons' journal entry, November 14, 1882. True West Magazine, March, 2014.

Not having been there I only know what I see, but I think being a champion gunslinger involves nerves or being cool under fire.

At a recent club practice we had a match between a older gunfighter who was world champion and a younger gunfighter who was a two time state champion.  Both were shooting at about 30% accuracy which means any point and shoot shooter hitting more than 60% would have defeated either.  The younger gunslinger was 30 milliseconds faster on average than the older gunfighter.  The match started with misses and then the older got up 1-0 on accuracy.  More misses then both hit twice in a row with the younger taking a 1-2 lead. Then the older gunfighter did the only thing he could do to have a chance, he let the younger draw fire and miss, then very deliberately drew, carefully aimed and tied the match at 2-2.  It was a clear attempt to unnerve the younger shooter or at least slow him down by the 30 millisecond difference.  The younger gunslinger was not unnerved and on the next shot won the match by the 30 millisecond difference.  You can see this match at search Arizona Gunslingers

The match was especially enlightening because before the start of the practice shoot, the younger gunslinger, being a mentor to most of the club, had gone on a prep rant on how this was cowboy fast draw, not cowboy slow pokey draw.  Apparently, he had been at an out of state shoot where he had been sent home by the slow pokey draw point and shoot shooters.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Sport for All Ages

Cowboy Fast Draw is truly a sport for all ages.  Not only is it timeless as a sport, participation can be lifelong generally not affect by the defects of age.  It is a sport in which all ages can participate against each other.  In what other sport can an eight year old go up against a world champion and not only be competitive but win A eight year old point and shoot shooter hitting 90% will defeat a world champion hitting 40% every time, it is a mathematical certainty.  An accuracy rate of 60% tips the scale in favor of the quick.  But as we have all observed on any given day the fastest may not prevail because of accuracy or chance.

It is truly exciting to win a match against a faster opponent, just as it is frustrating to lose a match against a slower opponent. Some might say we should rewrite the rules to insure only the fastest win, but that is not the way life is and that is not the way life was in the old west.  The fight did not always go to the fastest, and it did not always go the most accurate, but most times the quick and the deadly won, with a little chance mixed in just to keep it interesting. And that is the way cowboy fast draw is and should be!

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Comfortable Gunslinger

The third stage in the life of a gunslinger is the Comfortable Gunslinger. Here the shooter is comfortable with his draw.  He shoots the same every time because he is no longer tinkering with anything. His draw is set, how he cocks the gun is second nature to him, the position from which he fires is set.  He may from time to time revert to the Draw Developer but pays the price in an increase in his times.  Many times he or she almost hits in the same hole because the draws are almost identical.  This is what we strive for.

 The Comfortable Gunslinger is still pursuing improvement but it comes in a completely different venue.  He now works on the mental part of the game. He works to get his mind to the place where there is only the startle reflex determining the time.  Scientific studies have shown that elite athletes do not have above average reflexes.  Their reflexes may be better or worse than the average person.   The difference is the skills that they have acquired.  The startle reflex of the average person is about 225-250 millisecond. That means for a 400 millisecond shooter the act of drawing, cocking, firing and flight of the bullet to the target takes less time than the startle reflex.

The Comfortable Gunslinger is honing his startle reflex.  Have you ever been surprised by a fast shot? It is not an accident, but comes when you are completely comfortable with your draw on that shot.  The time is the sum of your startle reflex and your natural draw without any addition for your tinkering or thinking. While you are in the Draw Developer stage you might as well acquire the draw that for you has the least movement, the quickest, the most comfortable and the most accurate solid place to fire the gun.  Once you have that, stop. Don't change! That draw will get faster and faster as it becomes more and more a part of you.  Now that you are comfortable, hone that startle reflex and work on the mental part of the game. 

Next Stop: The Champion Gunslinger!

The Point and Shoot Shooter v. The Draw Developer

We all start out as Point and Shoot shooters. A novice is most concerned with not embarrassing himself and with hitting the target.  He will draw, point, cock, aim and then fire.  At the early part of this stage he will be shooting around 1 second give or take a tenth or two. Speed will be gained as he first drops the intentional aim.  As he moves through this stage he will progress to draw, cock, point and fire and then to cock, draw, point and fire.  He is now solidly in the 7s.  You can recognize the Point and Shoot Shooter by the fact that his arm will be extended towards the target. Competition draws his arm out more and slows him as he tries to be more accurate.  That is why he is slower in competition than in practice.  The point and shoot crowd are the majority of our shooters.  They are a dangerous bunch because they are accurate.  The classic point and shooter is the eight year old who is required to shoot point and shoot by rule and many times hitting 90%.  Mathematically he or she will beat any shooter shooting less 40% no matter how fast they are.

Some of these shooters will move on to the next stage, the Draw Developer.  These shooters become students of the game.  They are constantly tinkering for improvement in their times.  They work on their mechanics, their draw, their stance, their grip, their method of cocking, their holster, their gun, anything that will make them faster.  Most will have acquired a mentor, a rival, and practice mates.  There will be an immediate drop in their times by two tenths.  They become .55 shooters sometime dropping into the high 4s. The club will marvel at their seemly overnight development. One may think this is the final stage, but it is not because the very thing that brought the gains now restrict further improvement.  If you think about your draw, you're slow! If you think about anything, your grip, your stance, balance, aim, opponent, hitting, anything you are slow!  Any tinkering or thinking on the fire line costs you 1 or 2 tenths of a second.  To get faster you must move on to the Comfortable Gunslinger stage.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Elevation or Windage?

What is more important to develop in cowboy fast draw technique, elevation or windage (left-right).
Most mentors would say that it is most important to be lined up on the target in respect to left and right and then to adjust the elevation as you see where the misses are.  I think this is poor advice.   Normally you are told to just "aim higher" or "aim lower" to compensate.  Aiming is only relevant for "the point and shoot" shooter.  You should not be aiming. you should not be thinking about aiming. Any aiming or any thinking about aiming slows you down.

Another method of moving the elevation of the point of impact is to adjust your balance, forward or backward, as needed. Again change during the shot will slow you down, any thinking about change will slow you down. But you can change your balance before the set  command.  Once you have change your balance, forget about it.  Draw your normal draw.

Another method is to use body movement. Some shooter visibly and sometime violently move to adjust the point of impact. Any additional motion can not be good  for accuracy.

Some say you can fire on the up swing of the gun.  Accuracy then becomes a function of timing.  May be quick but seems to be tough to do accurately to me.

I suggest a much better way is to develop your draw so that you consistently shoot 50" inches above the ground from a stable shooting position. When practicing or developing your draw right or left makes no difference.  Every shot should hit 50" above the ground.  A taller shooter will have an advantage, since all shooter will shoot slightly upward, but the tall shooter will have less of upward trajectory. The perfect shot string will be one which all bullets hit in a horizontal line.  That would mean the shooter is consistently drawing and shooting in the same position as it relates to elevation.

Why this is so important is that once your draw has been finalized, you can adjust your point of impact right or left BEFORE the set command without aiming and without any change to your draw. If hitting right turn your stance slightly to left. Once you have adjusted your stance forget it. Do not aim, do not think about aiming, do not think about hitting.  You simply draw your normal draw that will send the bullet 50" above the ground. You change nothing.  If by chance, you now hit left, a slight adjustment back the other way should split the difference.