Pistol Marksmanship by Michael Cummins

Wendy and I both enjoy pistol marksmanship and hold a number of pistol certifications. Speaking only for myself, I find it a relaxing sport and liken it to Zen Archery.


Zen and the Art of Combat Pistol Shooting

by Massod Ayoob

Zen has always been associated with various marital arts, including archery and swordsmanship. But more and more, we are beginning to apply much of the same Zen principles to enhance our shooting skills. Zen is difficult to define. Yet ask any player of sporting games to explain their peak performance and they'll tell you that in a special moment, the mind, the body, the goal, the tool and the result are simply one.

To accomplish something without thinking - it merely occurs - this is Zen.

"Don't think of what you have to do, don't consider how to carry it out! The shot will only go smoothly when it takes the archer himself by surprise." Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery

Like the Zen archers of Japan and the sword masters, we train to excel at all times with any firearm at the limits of human speed, distance, and against all adversaries under any circumstances. To achieve this level of proficiency, we must learn to become one with the pistol, we must learn to shoot without thought. The physical act of firing the pistol must blend with the mental aspect of con­trol, planning, and discipline to achieve the desired goal.

"In the end, the pupil no longer knows which of the two – mind or hand – was responsible for the work." Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery

The shooter must be in control of him­self, not just the pistol. He must have a clear mind that is perfectly still. Most shooters' minds are like a stream of rapids filled with self-doubt, fear, and irrelevant thoughts.


The Four Basics of Gun Safety

These rules were developed by Colonel Jeff Cooper, and are non-negotiable and have no exceptions.

  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
  4. Identify your target, and what is behind it.


The Seven Fundamentals of Handgun Shooting

  1. Stance
    1. Choosing a Handgun Shooting Stance
  2. Grip
    1. The Combat Grip


Correcting Bad Habits

"…while a diagnostic target … can certainly help you figure out what you might be doing wrong, be sure to pay attention to everything you’re doing. If you hit a plateau and can’t get past it, find a qualified instructor who can watch you shoot and perform some real shooting diagnosis." Todd G


Recovering from a Malfunction

"Knowing how to address different types of handgun malfunctions is crucial to your safety, the safety of those around you, and will minimize any potential damage to your handgun." Brandon Curtis
"Proper cleaning and maintenance of a firearm play a big role in preventing malfunctions." Wikipedia

Tap. Rack. (Assess.) Bang.

A lot of people remind shooters that Tap Rack Bang might clear most malfunctions, but can be very dangerous for malfunctions like a squib load where the projectile hasn't left the barrel for one reason or another. That's why "Assess" is in there. If the discharge sounded much quieter than normal (sometimes called a "pop and no kick") or you are even just suspicious, leave the "Bang" off the drill and make sure your weapon is clear. Check out this Wikipedia article on the different kinds of Firearm malfunctions, or this article on Handgun Malfunctions and Stoppages by USA Carry.



My Book List



Conditions of Readiness

  1. Condition 4: Chamber empty, empty magazine, hammer down.
  2. Condition 3: Chamber empty, full magazine in place, hammer down. Sometimes referred to as "Israili Carry"
  3. Condition 2: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer down.
  4. Condition 1: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety on. Sometimes referred to as "Cocked and Locked"
  5. Condition 0: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety off. Ready to fire.


The Cooper Color Code

The most important means of surviving a lethal confrontation, according to Colonel Jeff Cooper, is neither the weapon nor the martial skills. The primary tool is the combat mindset, set forth in his book, Principles of Personal Defense.

  1. White: Unaware and unprepared. If attacked in Condition White, the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy or ineptitude of your attacker. When confronted by something nasty, your reaction will probably be "Oh my God! This can't be happening to me."
  2. Yellow: Relaxed alert. No specific threat situation. Your mindset is that "today could be the day I may have to defend myself". You are simply aware that the world is a potentially unfriendly place and that you are prepared to defend yourself, if necessary. You use your eyes and ears, and realize that "I may have to shoot today". You don't have to be armed in this state, but if you are armed you should ALWAYS be in Condition Yellow. You should ALWAYS be in Yellow whenever you are in unfamiliar surroundings or among people you don't know. You can remain in Yellow for long periods. In Condition Yellow, you are "taking in" surrounding information in a relaxed but alert manner, like a continuous 360 degree radar sweep. As Cooper put it, "I might have to shoot."
  3. Orange: Specific alert. Something is not quite right and has your attention. Your radar has picked up a specific alert. You shift your primary focus to determine if there is a threat (but you do not drop your six). Your mindset shifts to "I may have to shoot that person today", focusing on the specific target which has caused the escalation in alert status. In Condition Orange, you set a mental trigger: "If that person does "X", I will need to stop them". Your pistol usually remains holstered in this state. Staying in Orange can be a bit of a mental strain, but you can stay in it for as long as you need to. If the threat proves to be nothing, you shift back to Condition Yellow.
  4. Red: Condition Red is fight. Your mental trigger (established back in Condition Orange) has been tripped. "If 'X' happens I will shoot that person" — 'X' has happened, the fight is on.