While it’s not good to dwell on poor past performance, the lessons learned can be educational and serve as a motivator for improvement. I went into the final combined arms phase of the 2013 All Army match with solid placement in the more precision-oriented rifle and pistol phases but failed to secure an overall win. The bitter irony of that is this part of the event is speed oriented (scored as Time Plus, like Vickers count) and in a previous life I was a fairly serious, though not particularly successful, USPSA and IDPA shooter, having earned Master classifications from both organizations.
The USAR Marksmanship Program doesn’t currently sponsor action/practical competition and it was clear that my lack of participation there caused a drop in my speed shooting and gun handling skills. I “knew how” to do it, having done it somewhat competently before, but things had rusted up a bit in the interim. Realizing I needed a refresher, I came across Practical Pistol: Fundamental Techniques and Competition Skills.
Author Ben Stoeger is a two time national USPSA Production champion. I’m dating myself by admitting that USPSA didn’t recognize a Production division back when I was competing in these events, having only Open and Limited at the time. Stoeger managed his wins with a Beretta pistol similar to the rack grade M9 issued by the US military and shot in military competitions. So much for all those low skilled tactical timmies whining about competitors only winning because of unrealistic gamer guns.
This book is a fantastic overview of all the skills needed to excel in practical pistol competition. Stoeger explains the fundamentals of each skill area and discusses the “best” way to do the particular technique with a step by step breakdown yielding the fastest times and the highest scores. Sticking points and potential mistakes are pointed out and the bar is set with performance benchmarks and methods of improvement. Not everyone agrees what is best and controversies are addressed with other schools of thought on various issues by other top shooters, including Bob Vogel, Matthew Mink, Dave Sevigny, Keith Garcia, Blake Miguez, JJ Racaza, Mike Hughes, Brad Engmann, Chris Bartolo, Taran Butler, Jay Hirshberg, and Matthew Hopkins.
Practical Pistol: Fundamental Techniques and Competition Skills is comprehensive, covering every important topic needed to win. Subjects are arranged in a unique, logical order. Rather than organizing by chapters, every topic is listed by page number, making everything easy to find and reference.
While the subjects would prove helpful for beginning shooters, this book really shines for more experienced, serious shooters looking to make big gains in skill. Instead of the thoughtful, no-thought Zen approach taken by Brian Enos in Practical Shooting: Beyond Fundamentals, Ben Stoeger takes a more practical and just as thoughtful approach to teaching readers how to better think about their shooting and make improvements. I hope to write a book this good one day. In the meantime, this book gives me a fresh perspective on how to get my practical shooting skills back up and better than before.