Becoming One with the Gun: “Zen, Meditation & the Art of Shooting”

Zen Meditation Art of Shooting

Ray Mancini is an internationally known trainer and professional security consultant with experience in the fields of close personal protection, close quarters combat, K9 security training, risk assessment, risk management, crime loss prevention, as well as general firearms and tactics training. He specializes in the anticipation, recognition and prevention of crime on commercial and industrial properties.Zen Meditation Art of Shooting During this time, Mancini absorbed thousands of hours of highly specialized training to augment his natural skills, including various martial arts, and he compiled his experience in a book, Zen, Meditation & The Art of Shooting. So with 2015 in front of us, New Year’s Day seems like a great time to see how one professional in the firearms field became a better shooter — and person, according to his account in the book.

For our readers, The Shooter’s Log has gotten permission to excerpt a substantial amount of Mancini’s “Zen” book to see how its precepts might apply to shooters who are looking for training on firearms beyond the basics of grip and trigger pull. The information is particularly useful for competitors, but it can also apply to anyone who seeks to get more out of any training scenario.

The 75-page e-book is available as a Kindle download, $19.99.

This material is reprinted with from “Zen, Meditation & The Art of Shooting” with permission of the publisher. Copyright 2011, Vivid Publishing, a division of Fontaine Publishing Group.


When you can accomplish a task successfully without thinking – it merely occurs – this is Zen. Zen is learning how to shoot without thought.

Frank Higginson is one of the most accomplished shooters of all time. He still holds records that have stood since the 1970s. As Higginson has said; “In shooting, you learn more about yourself than any other sport.” This important self-discovery that occurs through practicing the art of shooting is nothing more than Zen itself.

It seems contradictory that to acquire great skill, you must think about every aspect of execution, and do so all the time — but to achieve great PERFORMANCE – you must not “think” AT ALL!… The blank slate of the accepting mind is the most powerful tool one can own. The mind that is ready and able to listen to whatever words are spoken. The mind that has no preconceived thoughts to clutter perception… To succeed in the art of shooting – you must become one with the pistol.

You must be extremely analytical, cognitive and dedicated in your quest to perfect the skills of shooting by learning and perfecting your form and technique.

But, when actually performing, you must let your powerful mind/body combination operate on the subconscious level – so it can do what it has trained so diligently to do without the interference of the conscious mind… Training your mind and knowing what that is will put you ahead of 80% of other shooters before you fire your first shot!

Self Control

You must be in control of yourself, and the pistol. You must have a clear mind that is perfectly still.

Most shooters’ minds are all over the place with self-doubt, fear, and irrelevant thoughts… When we practice the art of shooting, our minds must become calm and simple. This will not happen by accident, because by nature our minds are busy and complicated. Usually, while undertaking an activity other thoughts intrude. These make it difficult to concentrate fully on what we’re doing. In fact, most people are distracted by two or three other things while they try to complete one activity.

Like the old saying, most people are trying to “Kill two birds with one stone.” Because we try to kill too many birds, we cannot concentrate fully on one activity — and that means we may end up killing no birds at all.


If you allow the merest trace of mental distraction to intrude on your activity, you will become attached to and focused on that distraction, and not the activity.

When preparing to fire a single shot, or a string of shots, our first priority is to bring all of our awareness to the present.

The routine processes of taking our stance and focusing on our breathing should act as the triggers that automatically bring our thoughts fully to the moment at hand… How much quality can you compress into any single moment by simply being there and nowhere else? This is the magic and the life lesson of Zen.

Conquering Ego

The ego — it comes from the Latin word for “I” — is the part of our minds that reacts to reality and has a sense of individuality. It has been developed over countless generations of life and is an essential part of human beings living together in a civilised manner.

However, the practice of pistol shooting allows us to transcend the ego by mastering it. As we progress in our art, we gain increasing insight into our own psychological makeup. This can be a painful process as we must acknowledge flaws in our character that can make us shoot poorly at times.

Greed, competitiveness, vanity, self-criticism, shyness, fear and the need for approval are just some of the personality traits that can lead to destructive thoughts that cloud our awareness. However, we must recognise these negative traits before we can overcome them.

Achieving success in shooting involves an ongoing struggle with the ego — a battle with oneself.

Putting it all Together

In order to see and feel what is necessary to deliver an accurate shot, the eyes and the hands need to be coordinated. Dry-fire practice will allow this to happen naturally without the cost of ammunition. It gives the student plenty of repetitions with basic skills, such as, stance, grip, trigger control, sight alignment, sight picture, and follow through. By increasing the number of repetitions, we also program the subconscious mind to act under stress.

Close-proximity, short-time-duration events will cause the body’s alarm reaction [to go off], and by training the subconscious mind to act under stress, we can decrease the reaction time so that there is less hesitation in the decision-making process.

How do these ideas fit into your training? Let us hear from you in the comment section.

SLRule Ray Mancini has been and continues to be involved in high-risk protective security details as a private contractor in Papua New Guinea, Africa and all over the Middle East. In the mid-1990’s, Mancini was responsible for the personal security of Mariah Carey, Ice T, Alaa Zalzali and recently Zoe Badwi.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. Are we talking about the Frank Higginson who is the Marine Corp pistol champion I worked with him for many years at Navy Arms in Ridgefield N.J
    If so would you be so kind as to pass my email address on to him
    Many thanks

    Roy Ricketts
    72 years of age still shooting and still winning medals

  2. You are spot on Roger. I studied Zen some years ago and learned much about myself and how to concentrate. It isn’t so much what you think about but what you don’t think about. Focus and a clear mind are but two of the secrets. Too often I find my thoughts involuntarily turn to “quicker-better-easier” rather than clearing my mind.
    Great thought provoking article.

  3. I understand what this guy is saying about letting go of the mechanics of doing and to just do IT. I have practiced quick draw with single action pistols for years. Once I got the cautions, safety and consequence out of the way the draw became easy. There is a second nature that comes from the repetition of course but it wasn’t until I “let go” that I was able to relax and shoot accurately. There is speed of which you can only go to the limits of your muscle and tendon ability. There is accuracy which is your minds eye, letting the brain computer do it’s work. For me Kung Fu was my instructor. It is called “the way”. There is also the extra sence of knowing, feeling when to use this Zen but that is a whole additional article.

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