This is Your Brain on Competitive Shooting

Published January 16, 2012 by
Filed under Competition, Mindset, USPSA

It’s been about a year and a half since I dove head first into the world of competitive shooting, and while I’m making some progress with my speed and accuracy, there’s something holding me back, and I can’t seem to shake it. I’m no stranger to the stress, anxiety and pressure present when participating in sports (especially since my nature is to be ridiculously competitive), but there is an element of practical pistol shooting that I have never experienced before, and it’s making me look like more like Jerry Lewis than Jerry Miculek when I’m shooting a match.

3 gun Rio Salado 2011
Some call it the Red Mist. My better half has referred to it as bezerker. It is an indiscriminatory and unrelenting force that is laser-focused on sabotaging your performance. Ridiculously clever and devious, it will allow you to build up your confidence just until you step up to the line and into the shooting box. And then the timer goes *beep*, the red mist appears, and all careful planning and strategy disappears as if it never even existed.

If you’ve been watching Top Shot on the History Channel, you may have noticed that the Red Mist makes a cameo appearance in almost every episode. During episode two of season 3, it appeared during the elimination challenge and prematurely knocked my favorite contestant and WOMA home girl, Sara Ahrens, out of the competition.

During Sara’s commentary at the end of the show, she recognized the role the red mist played in her loss when she said, “I’ve had practice in friend and foe targets, it’s just a matter of I’ve never done that next to another person. I’m kind of being overcome by the intensity of the situation.”

Yep, that’s the unmistakable mark of the red mist. It doesn’t just effect your performance on the range, it also leaves a trail of amnesia and dumbfoundedness in its wake, making it that much more difficult to overcome.

So, is it possible to defeat the Red Mist, and if so, what’s the secret? Watching shooting greats like the Leatham’s and the Miculek’s make it pretty darn obvious that it can be overcome, but how does a mere mortal like me fend off this unwelcome creature that has the power to take over my brain at will?

I recently had the opportunity to ask World Championship competitive shooter, and all-around awesome woman, Eva Micklethwaite how she deals with the pressure and anxiety that builds up when she’s competing in a big match. Eva was kind enough to explain to me what she did to conquer the Red Mist when she found herself a bit “freaked out” by one of the stages at the recent USPSA Area 3 match:

It’s the preparation I do BEFORE I even step on the range that helps me with that. At this particular stage, though, I told myself to take your time and get through it. Don’t rush it, stay focused, and be patient with myself and the trigger. Basically a mental talk off the ledge. Once the buzzer goes off, instinct kicks in as well.

Experience helps a lot, you’ll get there. Mental strength is also a BIG part of this game. And if all else fails….breathe!

Looks like I’ve got some dues to pay to the Red Mist. If you’re looking for me, check the local ranges. I’ll be the one trying to reload my left thumb into the magazine well.

Reprinted with permission of


Run and Gun, Fun Gun

Published January 16, 2012 by
Filed under Carry, Competition, Practice

Mz. VRWC from Great Satan Inc. got a a nice shot of her beau RO’ing me in tonight’s Carbine/Shotgun match at Phoenix Rod and Gun Club.

Proof that even the slowest of shooters will look fast if you drag the shutter speed enough…

Reprinted with permission from Misfires & Light Strikes

Womens 5.11 Tactical Taclite Pro Pants Review

Published January 16, 2012 by
Filed under Clothing, Equipment, USPSA

I’ve previously established that I’m not tacticool, but I don’t mind admitting that there are some gadgets and widgets in the tactical gear world that I would be happy to own. I now have another item to add to this list: 5.11 Tactical’s Taclite Pro pants for women.

tac lite pro womens tactical pants image

I’ve looked at purchasing tactical pants in the past, but the options for women have always been extremely limited. While there are a few companies that make women’s outdoor clothing, the vast majority of tactical and outdoor sports pants are made only for men. Another issue that has prevented me from finding a pair of pants that are suitable for competition shooting is that I’m a bit vertically challenged, and pretty much all the tactical-ish pants for ladies I’ve looked at are ridiculously high-waisted. I don’t enjoy wearing pants that go up to my armpits in my daily life, and that would be a serious no-go when I’m shooting.

5.11 Tactical decided to tackle the ill-fitting women’s tactical pants issues, and they have recently updated their line of pants for women with a more friendly fit. I got the chance to see their new styling during Media Day at SHOT Show earlier this year, and they caught my eye right away. One of the ladies in the 5.11 Tactical booth was sporting a pair, and they not only looked sharp, the waist looked to be at just about the perfect height (just under the natural waistline).

Thanks to 5.11 Tactical, I now have a pair of Women’s Taclite Pro Pants of my very own. I selected my most often worn pants size, and I was very pleased to find that they fit great through the hip, seat and legs – not loose enough to be called “relaxed”, but still plenty of room to move around in. The top of the pants fall just below my natural waist; I could not have asked for better placement. I was surprised to find that the waistband was on the loose side (hey, maybe I lost some weight. More cake!), but the little areas of elastic on each side of the waist seems to help keep the waist from drooping. I’m almost always going to wear them with one of my competition shooting belts, so this is a non-issue for me. I’m considering that a plus, as the slight looseness will allow me to throw a pair of long underwear on underneath without them being too tight.

The only fit issue I had to deal with was the overall length – a good two inches too long for me. I knew this before I received them because they are only available in regular and long. I managed to hem them myself with no problem (and I didn’t even cheat with hem tape this time), but I really wish 5.11 would add a “petite” length to their line of tactical pants. After all, I’m perfectly average, according to the Government.

The Taclite Pro’s are made with poly-cotton ripstop, which is why I chose them over 5.11’s standard, cotton canvas tactical pants. I figured I would get more use out of a lighter weight pant, and since they are treated with Teflon for a stain resistant finish, I have a chance of keeping them snazzy looking for a decent amount of time. I have a habit of wiping my dirty, grimy magazines off on whatever I’m wearing, so having some stain resistance is a nice bonus.

To put these pants through their paces, I decided to wear them at the two big matches I shot in November: The IDPA South Mountain Showdown and the USPSA Area 2 Championship Match. The IDPA match was an all-day, 8 stage match, and temperatures were unseasonably low with dark rain clouds looming almost all day. I was concerned the fabric would be too light for the weather (anything under 75 degrees=cold), but my legs never felt cold, and they were so comfortable that unlike everything else I was wearing, I didn’t want to rip them off after wearing them for over 11 hours.

For the Area 2 match, I wore them on Saturday, our second full day of shooting. The weather was, again, unseasonably cool with the threat of rain. Once again, the pants felt great all day. I’m really glad I chose these pants for Saturday because it turned out to be the day with some of the most physically challenging stages. The reinforced knees came in very handy while going prone and the deep front pockets allowed me pick up after myself quickly after pulling a couple of yard sales with my magazines. In addition to feeling really comfortable in these pants all day, I also received an inquiry and complement on them from one of my fellow female squad mates, who is of similar stature and has the same problems finding pants to wear while shooting.

To see the pants in action, here’s a video of me shooting stage 7 of the Area 2 match. Yes, the popper on the far right was supposed to go down. (Note to self: the *ding* of the steel does not always mean it went down) Might I suggest focusing on my mag changes instead?

I really like these pants. So much so, I’ve already purchased another pair in black. I decided to purchase a size smaller then the original pair, and that might have not been the best idea. The waist fits better, but the seat, hip and upper leg area are a little too tight (So much for more cake). If you are a skinny-mini, you should be able to get away with purchasing a size smaller than normal, but if you’ve got some shape going on, I’d recommend sticking with your regular pants size.

The tactical pants reviewed above were supplied to me by the fine folks at 5.11 Tactical in exchange for my unbiased review. The 2nd (and soon to be 3rd and 4th) pair I own was purchased with my own monies. Reprinted with permission from