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Advance School #1

The first Advance Class was a true learning experience. We had some new faces and some repeaters, but it was a good mix, and a lot of “aha’s” came about.

Day One: Preloading and Finishing the Shot

The theme was to preload the shot and finish the shot. By preload, we mean being clear to the brain what you want it to do. The notion of telling yourself “see the target either behind the gun or across the barrel” was new to most folks just because they had never thought of it that way. Your preload will then equal your reality. This helps to quiet the brain because there is no confusion about what you want it to see. This preload will enhance a suspended circuit so that anything confusing or non-essential is suspended and the brain has a better understanding of the shot. It also helps to see the target well behind the gun as you insert.

We talked a lot about stretching your peripheral acceptance of the gun. The farther out you can play, the easier the shot becomes because there is less panic and the target will appear to slow down.

The second theme was to finish the shot, meaning “same speed at the end.” Several students thought that we were changing what we had been teaching in the past several years, by bringing the gun to the face and taking the shot. We have not given that up on some targets like quartering targets or fast targets. But on those big crossers, this is so much better to have more control over the target by being way out in front and waiting to “catch” the target.

So run with the target in the last 5 percent of the shot and match the barrel speed to the target speed. When everyone did that, it slowed the target down and made the shots more relaxed. We spent the whole day on just crossers, challenging each student to preload and finish the shot on every shot.

As we went through the clay target reviews in the conference room that morning, we told them that today they were not trying to change a habit but to make a new one. Hal Tobias, a doctor of neurology in Florida, had sent us a study that explained that to make a new habit it takes 300-500 repetitions, but to change a habit it would take 3,000 to 5,000 repetitions. So everyone agreed that making a new habit would be better.

We brought out the movie of Gil breaking a target that was measured 100 yards away, and boy did that target look small. Then we showed a target being broken at 30 yards away. The lead looked the same for both targets, which it will if you adjust target speed to gun speed.

One student asked about lead and said that he had no idea what lead is. We then talked about focus ratios and how the best ratio is 95-98 percent focus on the target and a 2-5 percent awareness of the gun. The gun is a part of the picture; it is there. Your goal is to get used to it coming into the picture without your eyes going to it. The brain will suspend anything non-essential to perform so it suspends the gun when it comes into the picture if you practice the three-bullet drill.

So today we will be clear to the brain what we want to happen. When you see the target, the move is away from the target with the gun. Engage, meaning get the gun into a soft mount to the shoulder and take the mechanics out of the shot so that you can go the same speed at the end and finish the shot. It’s all about gun speed = target speed.

Day Two: Believing in the Preload

Today we are going to try to really believe in the preload because many students are still letting the gun get in the way. If you look at the barrel in the setup, you will see it when you take the shot. Don’t look at the barrel then the focal point. Just close the gun and get ready to move away when you see the target.

Tom P. said that if you do it right it all looks the same. Merle said if you do it right they all break. Art said it was okay to have the barrel around. Accepting the barrel in the picture is huge and it makes everything slow down. Get a better preload so the brain can suspend the other stuff.

Another interesting fact is that your eyes are always looking in the peripheral to find the bird, not at the gun. Hard focus will come automatically when the picture is stabilized. We are going to imprint crossers all day today and make sure that the muzzle is not in the picture in the setup.

Day Three: How the Pros Practice before Tournaments

A wonderful surprise with a guest speaker. Bill McGuire. He was at the 74 Ranch resting after being in Saudi Arabia for a big tournament put on by a sheik. Different targets, he said. But we were more interested in how he practices before a tournament.

Bill said he makes small goals, ones that you can digest and accomplish. Three months beforehand, he works on his routine. He also realizes that it’s important that everything is in order at home and work. That makes him clear-headed.

His preload is conscious, then it goes to the subconscious to take the shot. He works on specific targets so that he is confident and there is no doubt or fear. He practices about 100 shots two or three times a week and that’s all. But it’s all quality practice.

Bill began his journey in 1996 and works on fundamentals in every practice. He teaches a lot too, and people will come to him to work on the mental game. He watches them shoot and tells them that they need to work on the fundamentals before the mental game can be coached.

At a tournament, his routine is to always have a plan. When coming up to the stand, he will find the machine and look at the background. Then he visualizes his three L’s: Look, Line, and Lead. He gets in the stand positive and comfortable doing his plan, that way he can stay within himself throughout the shots. He will visualize what it will look like and that helps him finish the shot.

He talked about controlling his gun speed and that to be competent and confident when you got into the stand. What a great gentleman to come and give us all some advice and learn from his experiences. We thank you, Mr. Bill McGuire.

Day Four: Wrapping Up

Gil and I gave a critique of each student, how they had progressed, and what they needed to do to practice after they got home. If they didn’t need to catch a plane or leave, they went out and shot the targets that had given them a little trouble. Then lunch and home.

The 74 Ranch experience is all about eating, sleeping, drinking, and shooting for three and a half days. Who could ask for anything else? And we get to do it twice more.