Blake Miguez: USPSA Grand Master and Top Shot Competitor

After his stunning elimination from the History Channel’s new reality show “Top Shot” we managed to track down Blake Miguez to talk a bit about his background in the shooting sports and his appearance on Top Shot. To say that Blake is a busy guy would be an understatement: in addition to competing regularly across the nation and around the world, Blake works as a corporate attorney and helps to run his father’s businesses. Still, he managed to find time to talk to us over the phone about his experience.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Tell us about how you got started shooting. Did you grow up around firearms? Blake: Yeah. I’ve been shooting since I was a kid and my dad used to bring me out to the local shooting range, just recreational shooting, not competition shooting. I remember the gun I shot the most when I was young was a Smith & Wesson Model 41, which is a .22 semiautomatic pistol. He and my uncle had a store called “Howard Brothers” going out of business in town and they’d bought up all the .22 ammunition they had left in stock, which was a quarter million rounds, and they split it down the middle. By the time I was a teenager we only had eighteen thousand rounds left, so I probably fired over a hundred thousand rounds as a kid with a .22. That was just shooting at sticks and shootin at bottles I’d like to throw in the water, or just homemade targets like plates, anything I could shoot. I wasn’t in competition at that point until I turned about twelve and a half.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Wow, that’s really young to get started in competition for a lot of people. Blake: Yeah, I started USPSA/IPSC shooting when I was twelve, right before my thirteenth birthday. I started with a Beretta 92F similar to what was in the TV show, but mine had a compensator on it and it had the double action removed. It was a single action. It was the gun my dad had kinda configured as a starter gun.

I see… Then after that I started shooting, about a year into it, he passed on an STI Open gun and I shot that until I was probably twenty or twenty one, and I switched to the Limited category in .40 and I’ve been shooting that for probably ten years or so.

Did your father already compete in USPSA and get you started? One day he went to a range in Baton Rouge, which is about an hour away from us, to buy some reloading equipment and a Lee Press and some single stage loading equipment. When he walked in he heard some rapid gunfire going off at the indoor range. It was an indoor range/bullet manufacturer. He went to find out what was going on and he met some guys that let him use their gun. It was a Wednesday night practice match that he still competes in today, he goes every Wednesday. He’s been doing that for the last fifteen or twenty years. That’s how he got into it. He shot it for about a year and then he got his twelve year old son, me, into it. He passed on his gun and got him an Open gun and then passed that one down to me and that’s how we got going.

I got really good at it. I made Grand Master at age 17-

Wow- I think I won the Louisiana State match at age 17 and shortly after I think I won Area 4. I’ve been in the top 16 at the Nationals for ten plus years. I’m ranked second in the world right now in IPSC shooting in the Standard Division. I’ve been doing pretty good. I’ve been shooting all my life. I’m a really quick shooter.

What does a regular week of training look like for you? Well, I’m kind of different from all the other guys out there. I’m not sure how much you know about my background, but a lot of the guys I compete with on a Grand Master level, they’re all professional shooters, and shooting is basically a hobby for me. On the show I call it semi-professional shooting because I went to college after high school and I went to law school and now I’m an attorney and also run my father’s two oil field service companies. So I stay busy in my real life with my career and everything.

Shooting-wise, practice and training haven’t been up to par with many other people. I’ve had a year when I shot a whole lot, I took a semester off from college one year when I was about twenty or twenty one and I shot really hard that year and hung out with people like Matt Burkett who helped me do some training. He was also one of the experts on the show which was quite a coincidence. That year I fired forty thousand rounds, but I’ve had other years like when I started law school, and that was three years long, where I’ve only fired a few thousand rounds. But I’ve always managed to compete in the big tournaments, whether it was my Area match, the State Match, or Nationals. Even without a lot of practice I’ve got a lot of natural talent and speed, but just the major match experience that I’ve had for the last sixteen years definitely helps.

I wish I could practice more, but I’ve got a lot of things going on in my real life. What it boils down to is when a match comes up two weeks out I’ll do a few practice sessions and then show up at the match and do the best I can.

You don’t go home every night and do some dry fire practice or anything like that? No, I’ve never dry fired. I should. Recently I tried doing it, I did it for a week or two straight. That was good for me. I’m just starting incorporating all that into my program now that I’m done with school. At least I always say I am. but I never was one of the guys that went and dry fired or any of that stuff. I’ve just always had a knack for shooting. I’ve been shooting so long I’m just good at it.

I never fired Airsoft. When I was a kid it was .22s, .357 revolvers-category”>revolvers, .38 Special, and a few .44 Magnum but my dad tried to keep me away from the large calibers. I grew up shooting, dove hunting, and duck hunting, so I have some shotgun experience. I’m pretty good with sporting clays, just being a hunter. Then I got into pistol shooting heavy so I could shoot 9mm and .40 pretty well. I practice what I could, but like I said I have a solid resume and a career in my every day life that doesn’t involve shooting, which kinda keeps me off of the practice range.

Now that I’m getting settled down over here back in my home town, because I lived away from my home town for almost ten years being in college and law school, my dad has his own range and I’m going to try to get back into training once things get settled down in my career and the house is completely renovated. I’ve got a project with that. I’m going to try and train more, but I’m still attending the matches and I’m still trying to train as hard as I can but with real life it’s hard to get the time to do that stuff.

Moving on to Top Shot, let’s talk about the show for a little bit. What was your motivation, what were your reasons for applying to be on the show? It’s kinda a funny story. Reality shows, Top Shot, and TV in general were really the last thing on my mind back in January of this year. I was on my way back in from work which is always a hectic day because I’m in the process of picking up my father’s corporation so I’m doing a lot of learning. I’m pretty much involved in the business 24/7.

My mother called me one day and she’d saw that they had an ad on the USPSA they had put an advertisement for a new reality show. It sounded like me when she described it to me, they were looking for someone who was young, over the age of 21, good physical abilty, had a good personality that looked good on TV and had mastered a firearm. That was the perfect description of me. She told me that, and told me it was the History Channel so I knew with them it would be legit.

I thought about it and I think the midnight before the deadline I made a video from my iPhone, didn’t do anything special. I talked to one of the guys on the phone and and asked what kind of video they wanted and they said “Just be yourself” so what I did was I came off the practice range, straight off the practice range, took my hat off, sat down in a chair, had someone hold my iPhone and just, no script, no practice, just talked for about five to six minutes. It’s on Youtube now. What caught their eye was I did a deep Cajun accent for the first 15 seconds. Sounded like a goof-ball Cajun. I did a really deep accent, “I thought ah wuz good wit’ a Fahr-arm ’cause I could shoot dux from a movin’ peerogue” and then I just stopped, smiled really big and in the clearest voice I could manage, because I already have a Cajun accent as it goes, who I was and started talking about myself and the whole story.

That’s kinda how it went down for me. I went to the SHOT show for the first time and took my buddy Max who’s a pro shooter and I got a call from the History Channel telling me that they’d got my application and I was one of the top picks and they wanted me to come down for some final cuts. They picked 50 people to come down for a week and I went through that. Then, I was at the Houston Livestock show with some customers at a BBQ tent when I got the call that I was picked for the show. They offered, and I told them I’d do it.

A lot of people were concerned with how they would look on TV and if it would ruin their reputation and so forth. I never had those doubts in my mind. I knew it didn’t matter whether I lost the first episode or won the whole thing, I was going to show everybody my personality and do the best I could. I was more worried about the life experience that it brought me. It was a good experience for me. Even though I didn’t win it, I handled myself well. I was satisfied with the way I looked on TV.

Now, tons of people know who I am. No matter how many championships Rob Leatham or Todd Jarret have won in the last twenty or thirty years, me being on one reality show because shooting’s been my life since I was twelve years old, more people know who I am than these guys who have been around the sport forever. That’s just kind of a cool deal. I go in the airports and restaurants in the middle of nowhere and people come up to me and they already know my name. It’s kind of a cool feeling.

It doesn’t bother you that millions of viewers saw you pull that bullseye shot low? No, no, I just said it on TV “I just looked like a jackass on TV” but you know, my whole phrase with that is “You’ve got to know what it’s like to lose before you can ever become a winner.” I have a lot of confidence when I go out on the range, and I’ve lost tons of matches. But for every match that I lost I won two. You can’t win every one, you just try your best.

The Beretta is obviously hard to shoot in double action, that’s why I pulled the shot. I anticipated and I jerked the shot. Will that be the last shot I’ll ever jerk? No. I’ll jerk many more for years to come. But for every jerked shot I’ll have five hundred perfect shots. Those are going to win me championships, and I’ll never stop. Win or lose, I just keep driving for my goals and you eventually get what you achieve, what you’re trying for. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life.

Did you do any particular training in preparation for the show? They didn’t give us a lot of information when we signed up, when we got picked for the show. First of all like I told you before it’s hard for me to train. What I did was, I put down my pistol training for my normal matches because I knew I wasn’t going to be shooting any for a few months.

I went to my dad’s safe, he has probably eighty different types of guns. I grabbed a few of the cowboy guns, which I’m already good at shooting cowboy guns. I shot an M1 Garand. I shot an M1 carbine. I shot a few historical guns. I shot a .308 rifle, just touching in a few areas to make sure I’m comfortable. I shot one compound bow one day, you know, just to get the basics real quick.

Then I went on the show. I was relying more on just the experience I already had under pressure, and the experience I had with pistol shooting. I already knew how to shoot a shotgun… My impression was that they were going to give us more time to practice going out there, but the practices were very short. They told us when we signed up for this deal, “You guys are going to have to adapt to new weapons very quickly, and this is our show. This is our competition, we’re going to do what we want.” That’s why I never complained. Whatever they threw at us, I just went for it and did the best I could in the time I had. Just like life, you don’t know what’s going to be around the next turn. You don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring. You just try your hardest and hope for the best.

In the beginning episodes, the show revolved around more than just shooting. They tended to play up the drama and interpersonal conflict such as with Caleb and the conspiracy against you and J.J. Did you go into the show with any sort of plan as to how you would negotiate the social aspect of the competition? No, I didn’t go into the show with a particular plan per se. I felt that when we first all got there, everybody was sizing everyone else up, looking at each other. I noticed a lot of egos came out, people were trying to say “Well, I’m this,” or “I’m that,” or “I’m good at this,” and I kinda just shut my mouth and just listened, because you know you really don’t want to go out there and put yourself out on a limb and insult somebody or offend anybody unintentionally.

I don’t really watch Survivor but I know that it comes down to a voting kind of a deal, and sometimes people don’t vote based on performance, they vote based on who they don’t like or they don’t get along with. So I kinda stayed neutral. Basically what I was doing was being myself. I’m nice to everybody, I respect everyone until they don’t respect me. To say they played the drama up, I would disagree. I just think they showed everything exactly how it went down. That wasn’t scripted, they didn’t add to anything. I was really upset with those guys, they really tried to backstab me and J.J. on the show. They were treating the small guy unfairly, trying to intimidate him. I just stood up for him, I stood up for us.

When the Blue Team first walked in there we had made a handshake deal that we were going to vote based on performance. The Red Team seemed to be voting on whatever they though was good that day. They voted on performance one day, the next day they voted on the person they didn’t like. They had so much going on, and as a result of that you could see they failed. They weren’t much of a team for most of the challenges. Pretty much the blue team decimated them for the most part. I know we didn’t win every time, but the Blue Team was trying to act more like a team. That’s how we started off. Everything was good until we lost and then some of the guys on the show started thinking, getting into the Survivor mode. They picked me and J.J. out obviously, they voted us as being world class competitors. We are good shooters, but we also understood the nature of the competition, that anybody could win this competition. It really wasn’t about being the best shot. You had to be a good shot to win it, but the challenges were set up where anybody could go.

Nobody was a sure bet. We valued everybody equally, and when we started out we didn’t think that anybody was better than another person, but some of the guys kinda started getting intimidated. Then we had that whole falling out deal. I told them what I was thinking, I was just honest with the guys. After that I guess it set well with he team. We got into that argument, but after that the Blue Team came together, got over their differences and from that point on we decimated the Red Team until the teams went away.

Speaking of your reputations, you and J.J. seemed to be singled out as the ringers on the Blue Team, and you got picked very often to sit out of particular team challenges. Do you feel that you were treated unfairly? Do you feel that you missed out on the chance to prove yourself and participate more? Yes. Me and J.J., we’re probably of equal talent when it comes to shooting handguns-category”>handguns and weapons of that sort. We really have a lot of talent that the world didn’t get to see because of the nature of the competition. I know those guys were still learning, it being the first season. They did a very good job. It’s very entertaining.

The challenges were mostly based on accuracy and not a lot of speed or movement or manipulation of the gun, you know reloads and such. That’s a lot of stuff that we can do amazingly quick. If you go on Youtube and if you look at any of our competitions you’ll see me and J.J. can do some amazing things. We’re able to show a little bit of that with the pistol. It really came out with the AR practice where you saw us mow through these plates at incredible speeds. I think that once word got around that we could do that, a lot of the guys didn’t know what the next challenge was going to be so they figure, “Well, if they throw something that’s got multiple target engagements and quick shooting, we don’t have a chance so let’s get these guys out.”

Also, if you look at J.J. he’s an animal. He looks like an all American athlete, he’s real ripped up and in good physical shape, so they sat us out for a lot of the deals. I thought it was unfair. I really wish that Colby would have told us that the Blue Team got to pick who they would sit out, but each time they let the Red Team pick. The only rule they had in our favor was that they couldn’t sit us out two weeks in a row. But the way the competition went one week they’d have a pistol and the next they’d have a knife or a bow and arrow and then they’d swap back to something we were good at. It just so happened that I got picked on the week that all of the good weapons were, the guns that shot quickly or that I could shoot well. The only ones I got to compete with were the Kentucky long rifle and the bow which I’d fired once in my life.

So yeah, that part was unfair, but that’s the show and you’ve got to go with it. I knew that in the end eventually I’d get to shoot. I got to shoot, but like I said I would have liked to compete more. But you don’t always get what you want.

Tell us about the end. The final challenge you got to was the fuse. When you saw what the challenge was, what was going through your head? We get out there and it’s a fuse, and I’m looking and we’re shooting a 9mm at this little tiny fuse. These were round nose 9mm, and I’m thinking “Wow, this is going to be something else. This is going to take the perfect shot to hit this thing.”

I actually hit the fuse a few times shooting at it, but it was just a nudge. I edged it and the fuse just kind of goes around the bullet if you don’t hit it directly on. You saw some of the other guys hit it a few times and it didn’t fall and the flame went right through and they had to re-shoot the deal. Like I said in my interview on TV I was hoping that we’d have like a .45 caliber or .44 wad cutter or something along those lines so that when you got a decent hit it would just cut that thing and tear it apart. But that wasn’t the case, and I’m thinking in my brain when I walked up “How in the hell am I going to do this? I mean I’m a great shot and all, but just because I’m a great shot doesn’t mean I’m going to cut this deal. There’s a lot of luck involved.”

Some people got lucky and some people actually shot well. If you look at J.J.s group on the second go round his group was like a silver dollar and just ripped away at that fuse. Some other guys hit it with one shot and the entire fuse just falls down to the ground so that there’s no way that it can burn through. There was a lot of luck involved. Some of the guys got through it, but then it was just me an Kelly left and we had to shoot just one shot. The part that I wasn’t happy with, but it was a part of the competition, was that they told us “It’s one shot, but you have to start with the hammer down. It’s got to be a double action shot.”

Well, I did all these cool shots on TV, but I had the gun cocked in single action. If anybody knows the Beretta 92F it probably has the most horrible double action in the industry. It seems like when you pull that thing that it’s about to go off and then it doesn’t go off, and then is does go off. That’s the experience I had. I’m not really a slow fire guy, but I pulled it up and said “I’m going to try to shoot this thing like a rifle, just line the sights up, keep pulling pulling pulling and let the thing surprise me.” On TV, when I thought it was going to go off it didn’t, and then I pulled a little bit more and I felt it. I felt myself jerk the shot. That sucker released and before it hit the target I knew, “Well, it’s over for me.”

One bad shot and I’m gone, but that’s Top Shot you know. A lot of other guys had their bad breaks, some guys got lucky but that’s part of the show. It’s just entertainment. You can get a bad shot. Sometimes you can get by, but if you have a bad shot when you could be gone then that’s it.

You know, I’ve talked to a number of other competitors on Top Shot, and one thing that sticks out is the long lasting friendships that were formed by all of the participants in the competition. On other Survivor style elimination shows, many of the participants walk away with what seems like hatred for the other people. What makes the Top Shot experience so different? Well, if you know shooters, if you’ve been around the shooting world, then you know we’re pretty cordial and nice to each other. Every shooter is. That’s how my dad got started [in competitive shooting]. If those guys at that range that he went to buy the reloading equipment from hadn’t been so welcoming and let him shoot their own gun, I mean he shot their ammo just to get him introduced [to the sport]. That’s a perfect example. They’re just very friendly people.

We’re a tight knit community. We’re real people and we treat each other with respect. We made a lot of good friends on the show. Even a guy I couldn’t stand for one whole episode, Adam, we talked it out after. I wouldn’t call him my best friend like I would Peter, but by no means is he my enemy. We’re friends, we’re acquaintances, just like everybody else on the show was. I guess it’s just that shooters in general are nice people.

What did you take away from the Top Shot, what’s one thing that you learned? Besides the need to focus on Bullseye shooting that is…. {laughs} No, I don’t think I’m switching from USPSA and going into Bullseye shooting.

The best thing about the show was that I made some new friends, people I never would have met. The one thing that I got out of the show is that I’ve got a lot more respect for all the different firearms now. I’ve always been a shooter, meaning that I was always good with a gun, I could shoot very well, but I never was a gun enthusiast where I had to have each different firearm. Now, I have a lot of respect for all the different firearms that were used in the show. It used to be that I’d walk by a gun show and if it wasn’t something I shot like a pistol, I wouldn’t look twice at a Mosin Nagant. Now I have respect for the Mosin Nagant, the Springfield 1903, all the firearms that wrote the history of our country and all the battles fought for it. I have respect for all different firearms now and I have a better understanding of them.

I bought a Mosin Nagant, I picked one up. I have one of those now, and I’ll slowly start acquiring each one as I find a good deal at a gun show or at a gun shop. I also have an increased respect for each person’s discipline. Knife throwing and bows, I’d never messed with that before. Now, I’ll probably order a set of knives because I can throw that in my backyard at a home made target. I’d love to pick up a compound bow and I may get a recurve after that. It’s just got me wanting to be a better shooter all around with different disciplines.

I used to really be just focused on pistol shooting, and I’d shoot shotguns when hunting and just for fun because, in our business, sporting clays and shotgun shooting is kinda like the new golf. Now I’m wanting to just excel at all the different disciplines whether it be bow and arrow, knife throwing, pistol shooting, rifle shooting, I just like to have one of each and get pretty good with all the guns.

Should we look for you on the Cowboy Action Shooting circuit or at an NRA High Power competition? You can’t shoot everything, because there are so many different types of shooting that you kinda have to pick what you want to do. It takes so much time to travel around the country and do all of this. I will be branching out though. The first way I’ll be branching out is by going into 3-gun next, which carries over from USPSA shooting. All I have to do is add a rifle and shotgun into the mix. I’ll probably be doing some small sporting clay competitions, I don’t know how involved I’ll get though. It’s a new goal and a good way to have a good time with some of my customers and clients.

Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. I want to thank you guys too, I saw that ya’ll sponsored the Area 3 competition, so thank ya’ll for supporting the USPSA and the shooting sports.

Blake lives in Lafayette Louisiana where he helps his father run the family business. He enjoys getting outdoors as much as possible to go hunting and rock crawling with his Jeep or ATV.

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Comments (4)

  1. Blakey mate I am from Perth Western Australia and I would like to ask you what load do you use and which gun is your favourite for ipsc practical pistol shooting because it seems incredible how your gun doesn’t seem to have any muzzle flip at all.
    Blakey if you ever want anyone to show you around the Western Australian shooting circuit mate I am your man. Even if you just want to go around and see our great land.
    Best Regards Stevie Wong

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