Practical Shooting Basics 4:
Copyright 2013 Brian Wardell
The art of pistol craft has been around for more than a century. But practical shooting really came to the fore in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Practical shooting can trace its roots back to the old gunfighter days in many ways but really became organized in 1976 with the founding of the International Practical Shooting Confederation or IPSC. IPSC is an organization dedicated to the art and sport of practical shooting and the United States Practical Shooting Association (or USPSA) is the American component. With the founding of this organization the sport began to catch on. As the sport developed new equipment and techniques began to develop as well. But it wasn't until the 1980s that innovation began to change pistol craft as we know it.
The 1980s saw changes in both equipment and techniques. Early innovations such as barrel weights and compensators began showing up at this time. New shooters such as John Shaw, J Michael Plaxco, Rob Leatham, Brian Enos, and others introduced new techniques as well. The venerable 1911 was the mainstay of the sport and began undergoing some of the changes that we see to this day. Things like optical sights, high-capacity magazines, compensators, flared magazine wells, etc. More importantly, a new type of shooting technique was introduced. Until that time most shooters used stances like the Weaver or Chapman. These stances involved some type of tension or force. As these new shooters entered the sport they brought with them a new technique which I call the natural or relaxed technique. This technique revolutionized pistol craft as we knew it at that time. This new technique enabled shooters to shoot much faster and more accurately than was thought possible before. For example the "EL-Presidente": a drill which consists of three targets 18 inches apart at 10 yards in which the shooter starts with his back to the targets. On the start signal, the shooter turns, draws and shoots each target twice, reloads and shoots each target twice again. Until the introduction of this new relaxed technique, 6 seconds was thought to be a very good time for an "EL-Presidente". As these new shooters began employing this new technique times dropped to less than 4 seconds. I was fortunate enough to be one of the shooters in the middle of this revolution. I was blessed with the opportunity to train with many of the world champions including John Shaw, Rob Leatham, Todd Jarrett, J Michael Plaxco, Ray Chapman, Brian Enos and others. At the time, I had a range in my backyard and would shoot 500 rounds every day in practice. I would travel every weekend to shoot matches all across the country. I also traveled to visit the champions mentioned above and spent weeks training with them at their facilities. In 1986 I won the Maryland state championship and many small local matches. I was lucky enough to be sponsored by several companies including Springfield Armory, Safariland, Dillon Precision and others. In 1988, I moved to Arizona so I could practice more with Rob Leatham and Brian Enos. My performance got me slotted on the "super squad" at the USPSA national championships for several years where I won several stages but never the whole match. In 1992, I stopped competing on a regular basis. Using the techniques I learned from the shooters above, I continued to teach others how to shoot. Fortunately, I had kept my notes from all the classes I had attended and many of the practice sessions. I condensed those notes into this series of books in the hope that I can pass these techniques on to you the reader. You can also check out my YouTube channel: shootingcoach for videos that relate to some of these techniques.