The journey to Rogers Shooting School

For the vast majority of my adult life, all the way through 2012, I was a perfectly stereotypical casual shooter.  I made it to the indoor range every month or three and shot 150-200 rounds of ammo.  Because I shot better than the drunk monkeys in the stalls around me, I told myself that I was a pretty good shot and felt good leaving the range.

The problem was, every once in a while, there would be someone there who didn’t just shoot better than the drunk monkeys — they’d shoot so much better than me that I could hardly believe it.  For a long time, I convinced myself that these folks were specially trained ex-SOCOM types, freaks of nature, or possibly both.

The day I figured out that I sucked…

Then, one fateful day in late 2012, I followed a link from my usual gun-related online communities (CalGuns and the TTAG comments sections) to this place called pistol-training.com.  From there, it wasn’t long before I discovered pistol-forum.com, and the last of my warm fuzzy delusions were shattered.  I realized that I had been, in terms of my practical shooting ability, a poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect.  If looking through the drills and practice targets posted by Todd Green was an eye-opening experience, then reading the discussions between folks who could really shoot was mind-blowing.

At the same time, I realized that my ability to shoot and move well was hindered by a lack of general fitness, so I signed up for the Fundamentals program at a convenient Crossfit gym — which is a story for another post.  Suffice it to say that Crossfit had the intended effect and then some, radically improving my ability to properly drive a sharp-recoiling H&K USP40 by way of significant increases in hand, arm, shoulder and core strength.

Throughout 2013, any time I wasn’t completely destroyed from Crossfit (which was quite often) I would work in a range trip or dry-fire session.  My wife clearly thought I was a man obsessed, and I had to find a balance between getting in dry-fire after she went to bed vs. doing worthless dry-fire because I was too tired to make it worthwhile.  Nonetheless, I persevered, and my skills began to steadily improve.

I credit Dot Torture, in particular, for helping drive my abilities to a whole ‘nother level.  In Crossfit, your times, weights, and rep counts don’t lie: your performance is what it is.  It’s the same with Dot Torture: it doesn’t care if I’m tired, hungry, too cold, too hot, or just plain doing a terrible job of pulling the trigger smoothly that day.  Dot Torture will always tell you the truth about how well you’re running the gun.  It doesn’t cover everything, but for a single test it comes pretty damn close to covering most of the major skills one can practice under public-range restrictions.

Wallflower no more…

It wasn’t until nearly a year later, in September 2013, that I felt that I’d put enough time, effort and focus into improving my pistol-wrangling skills that I created an actual account (“TheTrevor”) at pistol-forum.com and began participating actively.  It seems a long time ago now, but on 14 Dec 2013 I started posting detailed training journals at pistol-forum complete with pictures of my targets.

It’s because I was willing to take a risk and put my progress out there for all to see, despite knowing how far I still had to go, that the regular participants at pistol-forum were able to get to know me better.  I received feedback from some of the best pistol shooters in the world, some of whom I have since had the pleasure of meeting in person.  My goals remained the same throughout: hone my skills until I shot to my revised standard for “good enough”, and then take the next step into USPSA/IDPA/3-Gun competition.

Because I’d lurked on pistol-forum for a long time before creating an account, and because I’d read all of the archived articles on Todd Green’s pistol-training blog, I had been aware of this “Rogers Shooting School” for quite some time.  It never occurred to me that it was something I’d get to do anytime soon, though, as I still had a long way to go before I’d feel like I didn’t suck at pistol-wrangling.

Excitement and terror…

On 17 Jan 2014, slightly more than a month after I started posting my training journals at pistol-forum, I received a private message from “GJM” asking if I’d be interested in joining a private intermediate/advanced class at Rogers in April 2014.  I may or may not have made “squee” noises and possibly done an excited happy dance before I responded.  It was a few weeks before I could confirm my spot, but I knew from the minute I read that message that I hadn’t wanted to do anything else this badly in many years.

In the 2.5 months between receiving the invitation and packing my bags for Rogers, I trained like I’d never trained before.  My tempo went from a range visit every 1-2 weeks (already a serious step up from before) to hitting the range for live-fire time a minimum of twice weekly, and doing a mix of dry-fire and gas-blowback airsoft training 3-4 evenings/week.

My average ammo burn rate, for pistol ammo alone, climbed to 600+ rounds/week for that 2.5 month period.  Frankly, if I hadn’t had the option of buying cheap yet high-quality remanufactured ammo from Freedom Munitions, I probably would not have been able to shoot enough to get ready for Rogers in the time available.  I basically compressed 5-6 months of practice into 2.5 months.

I began carrying a large stack of targets that I’d downloaded as PDFs and printed on cheap printer paper.  In addition to my usual targets with their accompanying drills (Dot Torture, the FAST, and 3-Two-1) at any given time I’d have a dozen other targets/drills to try just to keep things interesting.  In the last month before I left for Rogers, I started taking stacks of 8″ paper plates to the range to work the reaction drills Bill Rogers prescribes in his book Be Fast, Be Accurate, Be the Best.

It wasn’t enough.

Despite literally thousands of dry-fire shots AND live rounds invested in shooting strong-hand-only and weak-hand-only under typical indoor range conditions doing the Rogers drills, I wasn’t ready for the reality.  I was not nearly as prepared as I should have been to face the Rogers target array, much less The Test running at full speed.  Going to Rogers was at times genuinely scary, infuriating, soul-crushing, and ultimately, exhilarating.  It was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and I can’t wait to go back.

Full details on my humbling, ego-squeezing first three days at Rogers… coming soon in my next post in this series.

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