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A Conversation with Jerry Miculek

A Conversation with...

The International Revolver Championships (IRC) will take place this June in San Luis Obispo, California. Jerry Miculek will once again defend his title in the Open Division, one he’s taken each and every year he’s entered the match, and that is 18 of the 19 years it‘s been held.

I heard recently that another shooter was quoted as saying  that coming in second to Jerry means winning the title of “First Human”. That’s a pretty understandable statement if you’ve ever seen Jerry Miculek shoot.

His skill level with all types of firearms is almost unimaginable. Just watch him in a 3-gun match sometime.

I am a Jerry Miculek fan and have been for years. I have watched him shoot  many times and still have a hard time believing what I see.

Jerry was kind enough to take some time away from the range at his home in Princeton, Louisiana, recently to have a conversation with me. Many of his observations are not just  about shooting but about life in general, how he looks at it and how he lives it.

Jerry really created a buzz  a few months ago when he started shooting the Mossberg 930 shotgun in his 3-gun matches.  I wanted to learn more about why that happened and to ask some of the questions that I thought you’d like to ask him.

CB: First of all thank you for taking some time to spend with me this afternoon. I really appreciate the opportunity to spend some time with you and  I know that the readers of http://www.allaboutshooting.com will find what you have to say to be of interest to them.

Like so many others I’ve watched you shoot for years and marveled at both your speed and your accuracy. I’ve visited your sites http://www.jerrymiculek.com/ and http://www.bang-inc.com/  and have watched many videos of your shooting that are available on the Internet.  Your accomplishments are so numerous and I, like  anyone who ever watches you shoot,  comes away saying, “How’d he do that?”

Would you tell us a little bit about  how you got started?

JM: Clark, I’m happy to spend some time with you this afternoon. I know we’ve been trying to get together for a while now but I’ve been on the road a lot already this year. This is a good time for me to take a break. So I’m happy to spend a little time with you talking about shooting.  

When I began shooting, I had no formal training of any kind in this sport, so it’s all been on the job training, so to speak, for me. When I got started there weren’t schools or videos like there are today. I’ve learned what I know today by shooting and just spending a lot of time at the range.

I shoot pretty much all year. I may take off 4-5 weeks during the hunting season but I still have to shoot some even then. It’s just so much a part of my life.

I’m always thinking about shooting no matter what I’m doing. I may be thinking about some gun modification or technique.  I’m always trying to tweak something to make it better, faster or more accurate.

CB: Since you’re always thinking about shooting, would you tell me about the “mental part” and how that relates to your shooting?

JM: The mental part is very interesting. After you’ve been exposed to the game for a while, you tend to think it’s mostly a mental game but it’s not so much that  as  it is  the ability to see well, see quickly and be able to use what you see to your advantage.

You don’t necessarily catalog all of that, what you see, or even recognize everything that you see.  It’s really exposure to the game that gives you the ability use all that information. We all see things but we don’t always know how to use what it is that we see. The time I spend shooting  and at the range helps me to be able to interpret what I’m seeing better and more quickly. In my game if you’re seeing well, you’re shooting well.

CB: Jerry, that leads me to one question I’ve always wanted to ask you. I’ve watched many of your videos including the series on “How to shoot a revolver”. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such intense focus. Your comments about the visual nature of the game, seeing well and using what you see, explain a lot of that to me.  Along that line, are you blessed with “eagle eye” vision naturally?

JM: No, I actually have a lot of vision correction including bifocals and that can be a challenge, especially with metallic sights. My left eye should be seeing the target while my right eye is seeing the sight.  All of that changes when I shoot  red dot sights.  I’m as fast as I’ve ever been, if not faster than I’ve ever been, when I use them.

I work on improving my vision all the time. I am constantly doing things with my eyes, playing eye games of some sort and  constantly trying to increase my peripheral vision. I do exercises and when I’m driving down the road, I try to use my peripheral vision constantly. It’s a good use of my time.  It helps and it also keeps me from getting bored.

Your eye speed has to be as fast as your hand speed because in competition the more you see the faster you are.

CB:  I really appreciate your sharing that information about the importance of the visual part of shooting.  On the physical side, are there any special exercises that you do to increase your hand and arm strength?

JM: No, not really, but arm, wrist and hand strength are very important.  I’ve just done a lot of hard work in my life and all my occupations have been physical. I’ve turned a lot of wrenches over the years as a mechanic. That’s helped me with hand, wrist and arm strength. That strength  is the key to the way I grasp a gun.

If you don’t grasp and hold a gun properly and the front sight is in the air after a shot, you’re wasting time to get it realigned. You have to develop a technique where you accept no effect on your sight picture from recoil whatsoever. That’s how you shoot faster than the other guy.

I’d suggest that anyone who wants to shoot a hand gun well try to develop their hand strength and wrist strength. There are exercise devices that can help. With me it’s just been on the job experience, from the work I’ve done and  from the time I’ve spent at the range.

CB: While you’re best known for your speed and accuracy with handguns, you also shoot rifles and shotguns. I’ve watched you in matches go from handgun, to shotgun, to rifle in what appears to be a seamless transition. Since those guns have such different operating systems, how do you keep everything straight?

JM: Well, I’m always cross-training. I use a lot of different guns in my practice routines.  I’ll have 2-3 different guns and I don’t try to put things exactly as I might want them to be because you just have to learn to adapt, if that makes sense.  I’m training myself constantly to do what needs to be done with what I have in front of me, no matter how it might be laid out.

That helps me in real matches to make the transition and make the outcome what I want it to be. If something is out of place, I just go with it and don’t buck it. Seldom in life does anyone get exactly what he might want and then sometimes if he does, he doesn’t know what to do with it. So I train like I may have to shoot. By not trying to get things the exact way I want them each time, I prepare myself to take it as it comes, whatever that happens to be.

CB: That sounds like not only a good philosophy for shooting but also a great philosophy for life in general.

Jerry, I’ve heard you say that after you walk through a course one time, you have it memorized and could “…shoot it with my eyes closed.” Can you tell us a little bit about that?

JM: Yes, that’s right. Once I walk the course I can see it, visualize it,  with my eyes shut.  In the  practical pistol game (USPSA) you only have 5 minutes  to walk the stage. That’s all the time that you have to memorize it. That’s also the time when you decide how you’ll approach the stage and when you plan your reloads.

That plan only works, of course, if everything goes as you want it to go but you must also be willing to have and switch to what I call, “Plan B”, if necessary.

The first walk through is usually the one that sticks with you and that‘s where you come up with your “Plan A”.  If however you watch a competitor shoot it in a better way that you didn’t see on your walk through, then you have just a few minutes to decide if you’ll change to your "Plan B".

You need to be able to turn off the outside noises, spend some quiet time with yourself and make the decision, do I stay with what I had planned or do I go to "Plan B"?

Many times it’s the ability to adapt quickly, not get held back by what seemed best when you first saw the stage, and change to "Plan B".  That can make all the difference.

CB: Was there a point in your life when you realized that you had the ability to shoot better than most other people?

JM: No, I’ve never looked at it that way. I think I may just train more than some other shooters. The way I’ve always looked at life is that you  look at the guy in front of you to  see if you can gain something from what you see him doing. It’s constantly adapting to the situation. Sometimes you can do that without even thinking about it or changing your basic  technique.

Where a lot of people mess up in life is that they perceive what they do to be right, the right way, maybe the only right way to do things. When I go to the range I’m always open to thinking that what I’m doing could be wrong.  

I’m always willing to try something else. As a matter of fact, I’m constantly changing what I do. That’s my philosophy, I’m still learning. I’ve tried about everything, every stance, and I’ll  try another one tomorrow if I think it will work better than what I‘m doing today.

As you watch other people shoot you have to adapt and learn. I think that’s the main reason that I’m still in this game. When you shoot against the young guys, with the fast feet, like I do a lot, you just have to “out brain ‘em” a little bit. Watching, learning and adapting to conditions.

CB: I’m always interested to know if someone at your level still practices dry-firing?

JM: A little bit because trigger control is so important to shooting well but it’s mostly at the range with live ammunition. I will dry-fire some when I’m changing something. I’ve probably had 3 major overhauls in my technique so far. 

To break through some old habit you probably have to put in 20,000 repetitions  to change just one facet of it. Once you have a muscle memory, especially if you like it, and notice that I said “like it”,
it may take that many repetitions to change that muscle memory.

I said “like it” for a reason. Liking something you do, the perception that it’s right,  may have nothing to do with performance. You can never equate the two. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking something is right or works when it really doesn’t. Recognizing that and making the change is a key to success.

CB: Speaking of change, it was big news recently when it was announced that you’d changed to the Mossberg 930 semi-auto shotgun for your 3-gun matches. Since many of the readers of  http://www.allaaboutshooting.com are shotgunners, would you tell us a little about how that came about and also a little about the Mossberg 930 shotgun that you’ve been shooting in competition?

JM: I think over the years that I’ve shot just about every shotgun on the market. You know that I’ve been shooting 3-gun events for a long time, even before it was a popular sport. I started  way back when Soldier of Fortune was doing their multi-gun stuff in the 1980s.

For some reason I had just not tried the Mossberg 930.  I’d read about it, of course, but just had never had a chance to try one, and I decided to change that. I’m always looking for a better, faster way to shoot.

When I tried the 930 I could tell within the first couple of shots just how fast it was. The speed aspect of it really caught my attention. A lot of shotguns have trouble functioning at 1500’s of a second, shot to shot time. This one will run quicker than that, as a matter of fact, a good bit quicker than that. In 3-gun it’s all about speed, accuracy and reliability.

What happens to a lot of 3-gun guys is that you dump a lot of money in one gun and then you don’t have a lot of money left for other guns and spare parts. I usually like to have 2 shotguns  available to me at all times.

The Mossberg 930 is  priced right, it shoots very fast, it’s reliable, you can get parts when you need them and it’s American made. It was just kind of a no brainer for me and that gun is working very good for me.

CB: As you and I have discussed we both have wives that shoot with us. We are both fortunate in that respect. Kay Clark-Miculek, your wife, is quite an accomplished shooter as we all know but would you tell me how it’s been to have her as a teammate to shoot with you?

JM: Clark, I’m on the road shooting about 150 days each year and having her with me is great. You know that I mentioned earlier that I always try to learn from other competitors. Well, I’ve learned a lot from Kay. She’s really taught me how to be a better competitor. She helps to keep me focused. She also has an excellent mental game and being around her has really been good for me in that aspect.

I see a lot of guys, I call them flame throwers, have one run that is spectacular but after that run they can’t tell you where anything went. If you want to be a consistent shooter, the ability to recall your shots is where it’s at and Kay has that ability.  I’ve tried to learn that from her and it’s really helped me.

Kay’s just a great competitor. I wish I had her competitiveness on the line. When you’re at a match sometimes you can become complacent and forget why you’re really there but she never does that.

It’s easy to lose your focus. She has the ability to stay motivated and remember the ultimate objective. That can be especially hard at the world match. That match lasts 5 days and you have to stay on your game for each and every one of those days.  You’ve just got to stay focused on the task at hand. She can do that and she’s helped me to do that, too. I just can’t really tell you how much she’s helped me and how much her being with me means.

My daughter Lena is also an excellent shooter, and I’m very proud of her. She has shot for a number of years as a team shooter and really likes the social aspect of shooting with people her age. She’s just starting to branch out into the USPSA and just shot her first revolver match. It was a very difficult match but she was able to keep her senses about her, which really impressed me.

There were a lot of reloads where she had to take her attention down to the firearm and reload it and then take her attention back up to the stage and recognize where she was. She went through it without leaving any targets unengaged. I was very proud of her.

CB: That has to be a little scary to the competition with 3 Miculeks out there now on the range. What advice would you give to young shooters like Lena or other aspiring competition shooters?

JM:  Give it a try. When I started it was hard to have a career in shooting. There really wasn’t much out there. Now, the multi-gun stuff has really taken off so I think there are some real possibilities today. The gun companies seem to be willing to put money up for prizes and with the 3-gun shoots are really just exploding, the next few years should be very interesting.

CB: I know how important it is for companies to be involved in sponsoring and promoting the shooting sports and it’s really good to see a company like Mossberg, an old line American company, really get involved in the shooting sports with folks like you on their team. Many of  my readers are shotgunners, so we’ll all be following your progress and keeping our eyes on you and that 930.

JM: It’s been very good so far and the season is really just beginning.  I’m looking forward to the year.

CB: Jerry, I’d really like to thank you again for taking time today to visit with me and have this conversation. I have spent many hours watching you shoot over the years and viewing your instructional videos, which I’d recommend to everyone, by the way. I’m really looking forward to following your upcoming season and wish you the best this year and all the years to come.

JM: Thanks, Clark. It’s been a pleasure.

As I reflect on the time I spent with Jerry, I must comment on his very gracious manner and the way in which he answered each and every question that I asked. There was no equivocation or dancing around any of them.

His repeated comments about adapting to conditions and continuing to learn really struck a chord with me. Any aspiring shooter would do well to take those comments to heart. Being willing to adapt to conditions, learning and not believing that what we’re doing is the only “right” way to do it are lessons that I’ll certainly try to apply to my shooting.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this conversation with Jerry as much as I enjoyed having it with him. With Jerry what you see is what you get and that’s a very good thing.

To learn more about Jerry Miculek, to view his instructional videos or to see how he’s adapted products to meet the needs of a world championship shooter, please visit his web sites listed above.

To read more “Conversations” with folks who like to shoot please visit http://www.allaboutshooting.com 


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