Michelle Cerino describes how she went from #24 to #9 in a similar 3-gun match in 1 year.
I love the West, but I’ve never been to Utah, where Brownell’s held its inaugural West Coast Lady 3-Gun Pro Am Challenge match recently. Flying into Las Vegas and driving 2 hours northeast, I easily found the site for my first match of the year — the Southern Utah Practical Shooter, Inc. range in St. George. I enjoyed the quiet drive, with dry desert and high mountains surrounding me. This lack of disruptions offered me plenty of time to mull over my tactics and techniques for the match, as well as think about my equipment (I brought a new shotgun) and contemplate how the heck people could live out here.
The dictionary defines tactics as, “An action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific goal.” My double-load shell caddies and match saver are my tactics for reloading the shotgun. My techniques (aka, “a way of carrying out a specific task”) for reloading have been subpar. To improve my score, I needed to smooth out my techniques.
Understanding gear and firearm manipulation is imperative for success. As a competitor, a person can have the latest, greatest equipment, but it’s meaningless unless you know how to use it. Now, I place gear on my belt in the same place every time. Knowing where and how to grab for a magazine to reload reduces fumbling, and saves time and frustration. Likewise, knowing your firearms and having automatic motor programs for loading, unloading and clearing malfunctions really helps. Spending time manipulating your gear and firearms is just as important as practicing to shoot them accurately.
When I arrived at the range I spent the day walking the stages, with a paper and notebook in hand. I planned the order I would engage targets, from where I would shoot them and with which gun. Also, I looked for areas where I could make my rifle shooting a little easier by using available supports — like tables, railings or barricades.
Back in my room later that day, I checked over each firearm: mentally loading, engaging targets, making them safe and unloading. Then, I prepared all my magazines and organized my range bag. All I needed now was a good night’s sleep.
Arriving early at the range the morning of the 3-gun match, I calmly unpacked my gear and headed over to my first stage. Kay Miculek, our coach and squad leader, helped us plan each stage, and provided support both before and after we shot. When my time came to shoot, I stood on the starting box, looked over the stage, and visualized myself making my first few shots and took some deep, slow breaths. With a nod of my head, I signagled to the range officer to sound the beep and start the timer.
As with every match, bringing home a new tactic or technique is always a bonus. This year, while watching Lena Miculek-Afentul prepare to shoot, I learned about Barney loading. For the rest of the match, I practiced this technique where I loaded my pistol with my rearmost magazine, then swapped it out for my front magazine and bumped the rest forward. Now, the last magazine I would grab would have one less bullet; however, my pistol now held one more. So now, prior to starting, I had a full magazine and one in the chamber. After learning this tactic for loading, I used it throughout the match.
Although I encountered a few bumps during the competition, overall, my match was a huge success. My shotgun suffered from a few malfunctions, but I cleared them without any concern. When I heard a click, not a bang, I went into automatic mode and took care of the issue.
The few times my shotgun ran dry or when I needed to shoot a slug, I used my match saver for the reload. And although I fumbled on one of the first reloads from my shot shell caddy, I performed well for the rest of the match.
My final score proved that the tactics and techniques I used, along with a better understanding of my gear and firearms, really made the difference. While last year I came in 24th place in my division, this year I finished 9th. A marked improvement.
As for figuring out how people can live in the desert? Even with a 2-hour ride back to Vegas, I couldn’t come up with the answer. I guess I’ll need to return for some further research.