​A Journey Of Practice - Inside MDT

Posted by Les Voth on 2023 Aug 10th

​A Journey Of Practice - Inside MDT

Editor's Note: Les Voth's writing style is analogous to the late Hunter S. Thompson—first person, thoughtful, brisk, deliberate, and fun. Break out the Chivas Regal and settle in for this introspective story on deliberate practice.

Sitting on the hillside as kids, we shot our iron-sighted single-shot .22 rifles at the targets surrounding us. Twigs on Oak trees, shale pit rocks, water in the third bend in the creek 300-ish yards off, floating chunks of wood flung into the current - all received a salvo of lead and copper. Then, pistols became a passionate pursuit. Thousands of rounds went down range as untrained practice. IPSC came to town demanding safety training before participating in a sanctioned competition. So, I signed on the dotted line, loaded a few hundred rounds, and sat at the foot of a champion. I learned that every move should be planned—every motion rehearsed. Every tactic is thought out, considered, and deliberately executed. Every seemingly simple technique was a number of teachable steps comprising the whole. Even drawing from an open carry holster was five distinct and separate movements.

Go slow, to be fast.

Home from training, I practiced each move, each step, and each technique that the best of the best were currently employing in competition to win. An hour of this. An hour of that. An hour more. Then 4-500 rounds down range - without distraction - sometimes every single day. Every single shot was purposeful. The invitation to the Canadian 1981 IPSC National Finals arrived in the mail, validating those efforts. I'd learned something by putting my hands on the gear. I'd learned to practice with a purpose - toward a goal. Planning practice toward achieving a desired outcome is more useful than simple repetition.

I learned that simple repetition is not necessarily practiced. Practicing what is not useful only gets you used to doing something that's not helpful. The "go slow to be fast" thing? It works.

I would go into a match after a few thousand reps of each move, and time slowed. It was as if I was watching myself operate. Then, when the stage timer stopped, I was amazed at the outcome - hardly thinking I'd been capable of what I'd just done.

Long-range shooting has become the author’s new pursuit.

For the next 35 years, I practiced many things - on purpose. My belief in the usefulness of practice had proven itself in my ClueLes youth - so why quit now? More than shooting in those 35 years, I practiced hunting. My family was raised on the results of that. We ate well. I snuck up on the wary, the unwary, the dumb, and the unlucky. Throughout those years, I hauled every kind of freight around the continent. I was reading, watching, and trying to keep up with the shooting sports that intrigued me.

Almost old enough to be the grandfather of the youngest legitimate PRS competitors, my quest to learn long-range began. A blue-printed Remington Short Action with a 27" Krieger barrel in 6.5 Creedmoor was purchased. Throughout its ownership, I fitted it with four different stocks, three scopes, and two triggers. It shot factory 140s and hand loads from the laughably ridiculous to the most precise. I went to school with that rifle. JM took me to MJ's, where steel was set up at 535, 779, 887, and 965. We computed, drilled, hit, and missed. One day JM told me, "Les, I just gotta tell you - you CAN shoot. You can shoot really well, but if you keep showing up with sh—ty ammunition, I'm done with you!"

I'd been using any factory stuff I could come up with and was the laziest reloader on the planet. Now it was time to step up my reloading game. Recruiting the help of a former F-Class competitor showed me the dumb mistakes that I'd been making. Paying attention to precision steps and actions while adding quality components changed the results at MJ's "Steel Farm."

The goal was to make first-round impacts on each target. Finally, it started happening. First-round impacts on each target! JM had made it happen. He took a guy without a clue and turned him into someone who could shoot at distance. Before the shine wore off, I thought I should shoot a PRS match. Convincing my buddy "Trapper" to drive me to the competition, we set off at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning. When we parked at the range, I hoped Trapper'd get an emergency call to return home. I didn't want to get out of the truck.

He got out, so I got out.

Trapper broke the handle off his bolt on the first stage and couldn't compete past his third shot. I shot the whole match and didn't finish last. When we drove home, I was consumed by how I would set the world on fire at this new-to-me shooting sport. Without doing well but not totally sucking, I saw a world of improvements I could make to do better.

A lifetime of hunting has given me the flexibility to use different positions. Now I had to practice getting to them more efficiently. I needed more weight on my gun. I had to practice recovery after recoil. Target acquisition skills needed much enhancement. With a shooting range full of targets, discerning which ones are for which stage is a skill all on its own. What I learned quickly, though? Shoot what you've got, and shoot it a lot. Don't shoot what you're comfortable with - practice what you're bad at, then you will improve.

Till next time. Les Voth.



Les Voth was born in Canada and spent his youth hunting on his father's farm. In 1991 he settled in North Dakota and started a family. Les Started his long-range shooting journey in 2016 and has been active in the shooting scene as both an RO and a competitor. 


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