In many businesses, the employees complain that the guy at the top just doesn’t understand what the job is. Members of the U.S. Practical Shooting Association can’t say that. Since 2000, when they elected Mike Voigt as their president, they’ve had a professional shooter running the show. Both before and since he was elected president, Voigt–who is also the group’s CEO– has won national and world action shooting titles.
Voigt was first exposed to shooting by his father, who shot Bullseye competition for years. Then he discovered what at the time was called “combat” shooting.
“I was 20 years old then, so my patience level for Bullseye and high-precision shooting was not great, so the whole idea of running around appealed to me a lot,” he says.
Voigt freely admits that his early training regimen was unusual in that he rarely dry-fired. “I know everybody talks about the importance of dry firing. I’ve done it once or twice and hated it the whole time. Rimfires are fun, but they don’t recoil; they seem to be sort of a halfway deal,” he says.
His father’s business ran a number of trucks, and at the time wheel weights were considered junk, so the Voigts had a steady supply of cheap ammo.
“I shot 2,000 rounds a week back then, in between school and work, and on Sunday evenings we cast bullets,” he says.
Voigt has done quite a lot of training over the years, although lately it has been more military and federal law enforcement personnel than civilians or competitive shooters.
“The guys who bad-mouth competition shooting say that we teach bad tactics. That’s kind of funny, because we don’t teach any tactics,” he says. “Tactics get you somewhere, tell you when to shoot, how to get to a place you can shoot, and how to get out of a shooting situation. But once you get ready to draw a gun, there are some very fundamental things that have to happen, and those are not tested anywhere better than in USPSA and IPSC competition.”
Voigt points out how the sport tests accuracy and speed and says if there’s a flaw it’s that the scoring tends to reward speed too much and not punish lack of accuracy enough. Still, he notes, he recently ran into a former student from a federal agency who told him the skills he’d learned from competition shooting had saved his life.
“If our guys are safer and more efficient when they’re working, that’s a huge deal to me,” he says.
Voigt thinks the biggest mistake beginning shooters make is striving for speed when accuracy is really more important.
He advises shooters to change their mindset and think that any time they raise a gun and put a finger on the trigger, the first priority is to hit the target–no matter how long it takes. Then work back from that and learn how to do things earlier, not faster. Learn efficiency instead of speed.
But aside from what competition can teach, it also serves another important function: public relations.
“ ’Public opinion’ is not really driven by a mass of the public; it’s by a few people with access to media,” he says. “We need to keep presenting ourselves as a responsible user group so we have a voice, and it’s really important for us to come together. We can’t have the trap guys hating the skeet guys hating the pistol guys.
“We’ve got generations of recreation ahead of us as long as the upcoming shooters keep their heads up and are responsible. Guns are a tool, there’s nothing wrong with them, but if we don’t get that message out we’ll be on the back side of any laws that get thrown at us.”