Monkey see, monkey shoot

Todd points out the interesting phenomenon of “Range Emulation“; where someone will see Todd shooting wicked fast and will also turn into a brass fountain…except lacking the ability to actually hit the target.  Tam looks at another facet of the same issue, namely how everyone’s range stories always seem to end with “and everyone was looking at me“.  It makes sense that people do this, I’ve seen it happen time and time again on indoor ranges as well where someone will start shooting rapid fire, then sure enough the guy in the lane next to him will similarly go cyclic and spray a magazine at a shaken, but relatively unscathed B27 target.

There’s a similar concept in action shooting, which I’ve taken to calling the GM Syndrome.  Take a relatively novice shooter, an IDPA Novice or a D-class USPSA shooter and squad them with a Grand Master or Master Class shooter – if the lower ranked shooter is still relatively new to the sport, there’s a reasonable chance they’re going to try and emulate the GM, even though they lack the skill level to do what the GM is doing.  It’s only natural after all – if we see a member of a group that is really awesome at something we also enjoy for us to want to be as awesome as they are.

The emulation syndrome isn’t entirely negative, however.  While the guy blazing away at his 5 yard B27 is relatively harmless, he’s not learning anything.  However, take that same shooter and make him aware of his skill level and limitations, and then the desire to emulate can become an excellent learning tool.  Back to that hypothetical D-class shooter squadded with a GM.  Mr. D-class knows he can’t shoot as well as Dave Sevigny, and he’s okay with that.  But he still wants to push his envelope and try to improve his skills, and so being squadded with a GM he tries to emulate the GM to the best of his skill level without getting out of control.  All of a sudden, that dash of self-awareness has changed the emulation from a waste of money and time in to a valuable training tool.

A personal example – when I was out in Virgina at the end of the July, I had the opportunity to shoot with Todd.  Todd is a much better shooter than I am; but because I’m a competitive animal I wanted to push my limits and see how fast I could go on some of the drills we were doing.  The difference again though is that I didn’t push myself to the point where I wasn’t learning.  The awareness of your own skill level can turn the desire to emulate someone awesome into a learning tool.  Of course, for it to work the shooter has to have that awareness of their skill level coupled with a desire to improve.  Some people are perfectly happy making loud noises fast with their gun and not really accomplishing anything; but hopefully the gun nuts reading this are the kind of people who are aware of their particular skill level, and when they see the Todd Green’s of this world they try to emulate what they can within their skills.


  1. I had the same experience as you did a few months ago. I’ve been a cop for 10 yrs and enjoy shooting so I know my limitations. Or at least I thought I did. I was sent to a Strike Tactical Pistol I class and they pushed me to the edge and just a little over. It was a great experience.

    I wish I had the time and money to go to one of Todd’s classes. That Appendix Carry class really caught my eye.

  2. Awesome – being pushed to your limits is a good thing. That awareness that you have of your limits is what allows you to turn emulation into a positive training experience. It’s quite different than hosing bullets at a target because you want to “look cool”.

  3. Even better if the GM/M class shooter is willing to watch you and teach you, and explain WHY he’s doing what he’s doing…

    And then go home and practice what you can, especially any of the non-shooting or dry-fireable parts.

    As I repeated endlessly during EIB training…”Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”

  4. Sometimes though, a good mag dump is good for the soul. Two weeks ago after our “serious” IDPA practice runs, I decided to dump three 15 round magazines on a stage like some hopped up ISPC shooter on speed. I didn’t hit squat but dammit it was fun!

  5. Caleb — Along the lines of your “D-class/GM” example:

    Years ago, my wife (an IDPA Novice-class shooter at the time) was squadded with Ernest Langdon, Rob Haught, Dave Harrington, Dave Sevigny, and me. We thought we were helping her by letting her shoot last at each stage, but really all we did was give her a chance to get a cadence in her head that was much, much too fast. Instead of her normal slow but zero-down performance, she dropped about a million points… but did it really, really fast!

  6. I notice the same thing with the range I set my targets. I tend to train at 15 and 25 yards. After I start I notice adjacent lanes moving from 7 to 10 to 15. I gues it’s the competative impulse.

  7. Todd, well that does follow my other adage of competition shooting – if you’re going to lose, look good doing it. 🙂

  8. I’m with Jeremy P, there’s shooting to improve skill, which is a good thing, and there’s shooting for fun, also a good thing.
    For the most part I train to balance speed and accuracy, but
    sometimes a mag-dump just feels good.

    A friend of mine has a (legal) full-auto Mac 10. It ain’t accurate, but it is fun! Nuthin wrong with that.

  9. Hey Zermoid great reference. One of the best quotes of all time and very applicable here.

    As a mid level C class shooter I not only want to emulate Todd, I am traveling out to Cali in November to take his class!

  10. At a recent IDPA match a brand new shooter (who of course had been talking gunfighting tactics and such all night) decided to emulate one of the better Experts on a stage that required one to shoot two targets three times each while moving forward. The Expert did it at nearly a dead run (they were close targets), and the beginner tried to do the same. He missed all of his shots. Not one round hit cardboard.

    One of the old timers walked up with his tape, saw that the targets didn’t need taping, and said, “Son, do us all a favor, if you’re ever in a gunfight, don’t run toward what you’re shooting at.”

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