Feet don’t fail me now!
Bring, buy or borrow a second set of footwear suited to conditions “other” than your primary set of boots or shoes. I am a boot guy and bring an aggressive tread rated for mud, grass, sand and a second set that offer good traction on rocks and hard, dry surfaces. Having two sets of footwear is a good idea if only to have one set drying out while you wear the second. Your feet are your wheels, keeping them well shod improves your ability to get out-of-the-gate and into position.
The Eyes Have It!
We can only reliably and safely shoot at and hit, targets we can SEE! Seeing better in poor lighting conditions can be improved with the proper selection of protective eyewear. Here, I run glasses that have interchangeable lenses. Colors can range from (Joe Cool) midnight black mirrored to ice blue, smoked and plain old clear. My favorite Vermillion lenses can be counted on for good target and iron sight contrast in most conditions with me only swapping to clear or yellow when it is overcast or dark. Be aware that yellow lenses can fatigue the eyes in bright conditions. Be sure to keep a few anti-fog wipes in your range bag too, so your baby blues can see through your “Joe Cool’s.”
Shape-up! (round is a shape)
Many of us could be in better shape, I know I could, but giving up chocolate chip cookies and my wife’s smoked salmon fettuccine for treadmills and free weights just ain’t gonna happen! So how do I (or you) get through a physically tough match without being particularly fit? Let me tell you what you are up against and then maybe I’ll share.
One of the toughest 3-gun matches on the “circuit” is the MGM Iron Man. It is an epic match with more shooting than any other three matches combined! Between the running and gunning and oversize kiddy-slide. The 100+ yard zip-line and breeching door. A surprise stage shot by flashlight in a dark house and the carrying of an 80-pound stage dummy and you have by any measure one heck of a physical match! Damn fun too! Last, you have to do all that crazy stuff with enough ammo on your body to complete one of the ten, 80+ round stages! You say you are “strong like bull” and the dummy’s “not heavy, he’s your brother?” Good for you, Mondo. Tell me, big boy, how well do you breathe at 6,700 feet after running up hill, over rocks and dead fall, with your rifle slung on your shoulder while shooting a dozen rounds out of your shotgun, leaving it behind smoking and empty only to transition to your pistol, running that empty too, then un-slinging your long stick, loading it and shooting at targets over 150 yards away off-hand? Say what? I can’t understand you dude, are you OK? Stop your wheezing and talk to me! That was pretty much describes several stages at Denise and JJ Johnson’s widely known and loved JP Enterprises Rocky Mountain 3-Gun. When August rolls around I know it’s time to head to the NRA’s expansive Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico. Not only do you get to shoot this awesome match but you get to do it in one of the most beautiful ranges in the USA! Recalling that for you, reminds me, that I better lay off the cookies and pasta and hit the treadmill!
Hydration and Homework: (aw Mom, do I have too?)
The more physical the match is, the more importance I place on a good night’s sleep. At my age (52), sleeping in the car does not work as well as it used too. Quiet hotels with working A/C and comfortable beds help much when at these “away games.” Keeping fully hydrated ranks even higher for me than sleep and is not to be overlooked nor underestimated. Grab your favorite electrolyte brew and drink a bunch before, during and after each day. This keeps your brain and body working to capacity. At higher elevations, this is even more important! In addition to quality sleep and hydration, I snack all day. Dried fruit, nuts and sweets in the form of trail mix and breakfast bars are consumed between stages. This helps to keep me working well for the whole day. Again, I am not an exercise fanatic (not that there is anything wrong with that). I do walk and try not to overeat, holding my midsection down to a modern “mini spare.” In addition, the body parts you fail to warm up by stretching, you may break on race day. Make no mistake, the practical shooting game is an athletic endeavor, treat it as such.
As I have said before, the competitors at the top of the game know how to shoot; we have mastered the fundamentals. It is the application of those fundamentals under the stress and strain of match conditions that can make or break a winning performance. Now you know how I prepare for changing match conditions, the question is—are you ready?