Learn from my mistakes

So that you don’t have to make them.

If you’re wondering what goes wrong in that video, the easy answer is “everything”. I’m shooting my Single Stack 1911, a heavily modified ParaUSA LTC in 9mm. The stage is simple, turn and draw and fire two shots at each target at 10 yards. Piece of cake, right? Apparently not so much – I failed to completely take the safety off the gun; as I was pressing the safety down I had my support hand interfere with finishing that; total bonehead mistake. Then as a result of that I was rushing to make up time, so I dropped a head shot.

Like I said, I show you this video so that you can learn from my mistakes. The positives are that my draw is good, my press out is nice, and my head is up; but that’s about where it ends. But here are some good “takeaways” from that video if you’re trying to improve your skills.

  1. Dance with the one who brung ya. I’m shooting a 1911 in that video. The last time I shot a 1911 in competition? July 12, 2009. Over a year ago. Since then I’ve shot only striker fired guns and revolvers in competition.
  2. Matches are not practice. This second bit is what makes the first bit important. If I had been serious about shooting that 1911, I would have practiced with it a lot before hand – drawing, sweeping the safety off, etc. I didn’t, because I just wanted to make sure it would run before I use it for a project this week. I can’t stress this point enough though – matches are not the time to perfect your fundamentals; that’s what practice and dry fire is for. Say you’ve been shooting revos and striker fired guns for over a year, but you’re switching back to 1911s for a Single Stack match. It would behoove you to spend 2 weeks in practice dry firing to make sure you’ve got that draw stroke anchored and the safety is coming off. Match conditions are not the time to discover your mechanics are off.
  3. Don’t chase the zone. Some days, you just are not going to be able to get into your “unconscious action” space. While the goal of every match and every practice should be to shoot without thought, it’s not always going to happen. When it doesn’t happen and you’re struggling to find your groove, don’t try and force yourself in to the groove. You should still push yourself; because we don’t always get to shoot in perfect conditions, but don’t push so hard that you end up going past your line and making stupid mistakes.
  4. Learn. I would love to only post videos of me shooting screamingly fast Master class times, or of my best days at the range. But if I did that, I wouldn’t learn anything. When you have bad days at the range, the worst mistake you can make is to dismiss your bad day. You have to be honest with yourself first about your mistakes and the stupid things you did, or you’re not going to get any better at not doing those things. Learn!

Of all the bullet points there, the last one is the most important because it allows the mind to remain open. I could watch that video and say “oh well it was all because I switched guns” or “I had just finished recruiting for work and wasn’t focused” or whatever excuse I’d like to toss out there. The problem with that is that I wouldn’t learn from that; I wouldn’t be able to see my mistakes and diagnose and solve them. My biggest mistake was that I didn’t practice – to quote Luke Skywalker “Overconfidence is your weakness”. Or my favorite from the Patriot – “Pride. Pride is a weakness.” Don’t change horses in mid-stream, and if you must, make sure you spend some time practicing with the new horse before you hop on. As your skill level increases, the ability to switch platforms at will increases – much like the goal of the Quest for Master Class is to be able to use any gun to shoot IDPA Master, as you get better the curve for the amount of practice you need to re-adjust to a new platform flattens out.

So practice hard, but practice correctly! Don’t cheat yourself in practice by only doing things you’re good at; focus on the struggles and fundamentals.


  1. That is actually why I bought my CZ with the decoker instead of the safety option. I came from the world of striker fired pistols and no safeties. I’d rather not have a gun with a safety so that I don’t have to remember to transition.

    1. That was me chambering the round, actually. Guns with Bo-Mar style sights I tend to grip forward of the ejection port.

    2. With guns that have Bo-Mar style sights I usually chamber a round by grabbing the slide forward of the sights.

  2. You bring to mind something that I’ve been curious about. In competition how common is it in order to switch between two or more different styles of pistols like say single stack to a double stack or auto to revolver?

    Most of the stuff I see on OutdoorTV on Wed is very limited in scope so I honestly do not know how common it is or not.

    1. Hoppes makes a heavy lubricant that I use, but unlike some guys I don’t pack the slide rails with grease.

  3. Caleb, thanks for sharing. “Manning-up” with yourself is one thing – doing it for the benefit of others is commendable. I continue to learn…

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