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A Conversation with Patrick Flanigan

A Conversation with...

Patrick Flanigan is a man who has a passion and has devoted his life to fulfilling it. You can not be anywhere around him and not feel his enthusiasm, his excitement and his absolute joy for what he does.

Experience one of his shows and if you’re a shooter, you’ll marvel at what he’s able to do with a shotgun but even if you’re not, you’ll be entertained and energized.

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending some time in conversation with Patrick and would like to share that experience with you.

CB: First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to “visit”. I know your schedule is full and there’s a lot of demand for you time. It means a lot that you’d share some of it with us.

PF: You know we’ve been trying to do this for a couple of years. I’m glad we could finally get together and do it.

CB: Many of us have seen your truly amazing shooting skills and I always find myself saying, “How does he do that?” but before I ask you how you do that, I’d like to know a little more about you, where you grew up, your family and how you became involved in the shooting sports.

PF: I grew up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, still live here and shooting and hunting have always been a part of my life. My Dad, my 4 brothers and my Uncles all hunt and shoot. I’ve been hunting and shooting since I was about 6 years old. We  have a long history of  shooting in our family. I just happen to the one who does it professionally.

CB: I know you also have an interest in the martial arts. Would you tell us a little bit about that?

PF: The martial arts for me are all about competition and discipline. I’ve always been competitive, involved in sports and this was just another way for me to be competitive. I think the discipline that I’ve learned has also helped me in shooting. It’s important for me to take care of my body and mind. It’s just another way to do that.

CB: Shooting, martial arts and music. That’s not always a combination that comes to mind.

PF: I’m just a very lucky guy. I’m able to do a variety of things and I enjoy all of them.

In mixed martial arts, I  work and train with Matt Hughes, in my opinion the very best at what he does.  He’s taught me a lot and even offered to arrange a professional match for me. I don’t think that’s in the cards but I really enjoy his friendship and all that I’ve learned from him.

I also work with Aaron Tippin a great country music star. We’ve done shows together and he’s been a great help and a good friend to me in many ways.

I think really all of these, shooting, martial arts and music all go together. They are all entertainment. They help to make me what I am today and what I really want to be, an entertainer.

You and I have also talked about the importance of rhythm in speed shooting. I have been a drummer for twenty plus years, and as you know a successful or accomplished drummer must have solid rhythm.  My rhythm, like my shooting, is very instinctive and natural.  I had to work to develop it but I feel as though I have always had it in me.  A part of drumming is learning rhythmic patterns that are structured numerically and accented on different beats. I apply different rhythms to my Xtreme sport shooting, especially my speed shooting!

My music, the discipline of martial arts and the rhythm of music are all a part of what I do.

CB: With all the various different interests that you have, how and when did you decide that you wanted to have a career as a professional shooter?

PF: I’m still digging for that answer. I’ve been asked that many times but truly, I never had any aspirations to be a trick shooter. I always just wanted to entertain people and play into my passion. When I finally made the decision to do it, I went at it with everything that I had in me. I’ve always had a passion and I just followed it to make it into a career.

CB: What led you to Winchester?

PF: Winchester has always been a big part of my life. My Grandfather had a huge collection of Winchester guns. Whenever we visited him, we always looked at his Winchester guns, both shotguns and rifles. It was like getting a history lesson every time we walked in his door.

That made it one of the first that I tried but frankly, I tried all the other major brands too. When I came on the Winchester Super X, it was just a great fit and I was able to do more with it, in trick shooting than the other brands. You know how it is, you pick up a gun and it just has a natural fit. I tell everyone who asks, try a bunch of guns and find the one that works best and fits you best. For me, that was a Winchester.

CB: I’ve seen you shoot many times and  always try to pay attention to the guns you shoot. I know your Super X2 has been retired to the Winchester Museum and that you’re now shooting a special Super X3. Would you tell us just a bit about that gun?

PF: I feel really honored that Winchester would create a gun, just like the one I use and make it available to the public with my name on it, the Super X3 Flanigun Exhibition/Sporting.  It’s a great gun. I shoot both 28” and 30” barrels and honestly, it doesn’t matter to me which length I shoot. I like the longer barrels because they give me a bit more front-end weight. To me it’s all about balance and I like that weight out front to help balance the weight of the extended magazine. I want to be able to close my eyes, pick up the gun and feel it balance in my hand.

CB: As you know, I’ve been shooting the Super X3 for the past 12 months or so and that’s been one of the qualities that I found most appealing. It balances well in the hand and comes up to the shoulder so quickly.

Shifting to another subject, since you fire so many thousands of rounds each year, what do you use for hearing and eye protection.

PF: I use a number of hearing protection products. I like to use electronic plugs at my shows so that I can hear everything that’s going on and also so that I can have interaction with the audience.

I use solid plugs, ear molds,  when I make videos. I also make sure my eyes are protected and use a variety of brands of shooting glasses. I wear contacts so I don’t want to get  debris in my eyes.

CB: You mentioned that you wear contacts. So you don’t have that “eagle vision” that we sometimes hear about that allows you to see more than most of us.

PF: No, not at all. My prescription is pretty strong. I know some shooters have really great vision, some are almost like Super Man or somebody. Without glasses or contacts my vision is pretty poor but honestly, most of what I do is very instinctive. I think I could close my eyes, throw targets up in the air and shoot them. If there’s anyone out there who aspires to be a trick shooter but has bad vision, I’d urge you not to let that be a roadblock. Instinct is a big part.

CB: Following up on that, how much of your current ability to you attribute to natural talent or instinct and how much to practice?

PF: Natural ability is always a huge part of any athlete’s success. For me coordination and rhythm have always been easy and natural. I just never had to work at it. Once I discovered I had those gifts, it became my responsibility to fine tune them. I think that’s true for everyone. Whatever your gifts are, you have a responsibility to use them to the best of your ability.

CB: Switching gears, would you tell me about your turkey hunting experiences?

PF: I’ve always been a bird hunter but had not hunted turkeys until last Spring when I was invited by Aaron Tippin to hunt with him at his farm in Tennessee. I’d just never had the opportunity. I was really impressed by his athleticism. We were all over those mountains. We’d hear a gobble here and then one there. He’d be almost running over those hills and mountains and I’d be right behind him. I’m sorry to say I did not get a turkey but I sure got hooked. I’ve got a lot to learn about the sport however.

CB: Patrick I know that the last several months have reinforced your belief that shooters, who truly are competitive athletes, should train and prepare for their events just like a runner or any other competitor in any other sport. Would you share with us, some of what you’ve been through in the last few months, what it’s taught you and what lessons you believe each of us can learn from your experiences?

PF: I have to say that for some time I did not respect the physical responsibilities of my sport, like I did that of other sports.

I know that you’ve seen my shows many times and that you know just how hard and how high I throw those targets.  I really put everything that I have into doing that and it resulted in some severe damage to my throwing arm. I’d noticed some pain and strain but because of my participation in sports, I tended to just try and ignore it and work through the pain.

In late August of this year, I was diagnosed with a significant and potentially career-ending injury. I had lost 70% motor function in my right arm. There was fear that I might have permanent nerve damage. I had total numbness in my right hand and could not feel anything from my elbow down and my right hand was pretty much useless.

On top of all that, I had excruciating pain. Nothing that they tried helped. Finally, as a last resort before surgery, they tried a series of very powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that began to relieve some of the pressure on the nerve. Slowly, the numbness and then the pain began to subside.

I also had physical therapy, chiropractic treatments and something unusual for me, rest. It was a very dark period and left me wondering about my future not only as a shooter but as a provider for my family.

CB: How do you feel today?

PF: That’s the good news, I’m back at about 75% - 80% of arm strength and my hand strength is back to almost normal. I feel great and have no soreness or pain.

I’m now convinced more than ever before that all shooters should take stretching and warming up seriously. We need to give our sport the respect that it deserves. After you shoot, consider icing your shoulder. I now spend at least a half-hour stretching. I’m out there holding a gun, throwing targets, twisting and turning in all kinds of directions, it’s important that I warm up just like a runner or other athlete.

CB: When you first told me of your injury, I was frankly frightened and very concerned. Watching you for the past couple of years however convinced me that you just have the determination to overcome whatever obstacles are put in your way. No one wants to go through something like this of course but I think, as in many other challenges, you’ve used it in a positive way to help others.

PF: I’ve tried to do that. I’ve tried to use everything that I’ve learned from all the important people in my life to make me a better person. I feel very fortunate to have met so many good and helpful people and fortunate to be where I am and doing what I’m doing.

The people at Winchester have been very loyal and supportive. They and my good friends helped me through this very tough period in my life and I won’t forget it. I had friends who came out just to throw targets for me. How could I ever thank them enough for that?

My Grandfather used to say to me, “Patrick, just be a good person and everything else will work out.” I’ve tried always to remember those words and even in tough times to try and be a good person.

I’m looking forward to 2009 and hope all your readers will try to come out and see one my shows.

CB: Would you tell us how we can keep up with all of your activities and see your schedule for next year?

PF: Sure, you can visit my web site and from there you can probably find out more than you ever wanted to know about me.

CB: Again, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to share some information about yourself and let our readers learn just a bit more about you. My very best to you in all that you do and I look forward to seeing your next show.

PF: Clark, we’ve talked about sitting down and doing this for so long, it’s great that we could both find some time for this conversation. I look forward to seeing you out at the shows and hope your readers will take something from this that they find helpful.

Patrick Flanigan is not just one of the most amazing shooters you'll ever see but also one of the finest men you're likely to encounter in the shooting trade or any other.

He lives his values and in a sport where it's easy to become "full of yourself" he keeps everything in the proper perspective. You will really like this man!

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