"People look at shooting like it's a hobby, and it is a hobby, but it's my life, and I love it."
Staff Sgt. Max Michel Jr. is a 10-year veteran and current coach of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit's action pistol team. He's also a four-time national and two-time world champion, and he's been tapped to be the manager of competitive shooting activities for Sig Sauer, handpicking the members of its new shooting team, of which he will be captain. Not bad for someone still years shy of his 30th birthday.
"My dad was big into competitive shooting, doing man-on-man plate racks every night in New Orleans. My mother said he should take me, and I became the steel setter and paint boy, the target taper, the brass picker-upper, and I finally got tired of that and said 'Hey, I want to try it.'
"I was nine and shot man-on-man steel events for about a year. When I was 10 they let me start shooting IPSC." Max became a Grand Master-class shooter by the time he was 15.
"I noticed the Army Marksmanship Unit when I was 13, and when I saw what they were doing and what they were about, I had to do it."
Max began winning state-level matches when he was 15 and started getting noticed. When he was 16, the USAMU offered Max a slot on the team, and as soon as he graduated high school his parents went down to the recruiting station with him and signed the waiver (he was still 17).
"The perceived view of the Army Marksmanship Unit is that we shoot all day, every day. That's not the case. We're owned by the United States Army, and any day they can call us and tell us that we have a busload of 200 guys coming out, we need you and your guys to train them up today."
When he was first coming up in the sport, Max would dry-fire three to four hours per day. "I believed in that hardcore regimen, and it got me to where I am today. Nowadays I live-fire more than I dry-fire, but I still dry-fire 10 to 20 minutes each day. You can find that in your schedule, no matter how busy you are."
Max recommends dry-firing at 50 percent speed. "If you do something at 100 percent speed, you only remember two things: the beginning and the end. You don't remember anything that came in-between.
"If you're not dry-firing you're way behind the curve, because that gun has to be an extension of your body. All those techniques that got the top shooters to where they are, they didn't do it on the range all day every day. They did it in their basement, their back yard, their bedrooms."
Max has really enjoyed his 10 years in the AMU but was ready to move on, and he had no shortage of job offers. He chose Sig Sauer.
"My No. 1 goal right now is to establish a presence for Sig in the shooting sports--to show USPSA, IPSC, IDPA, the Steel Challenge, the Bianchi Cup, 3-gun what Sig can do. Nobody out there is using Sigs in competition. Why? Probably because they've never done it before. But if they see a guy like me out there using it, then maybe they'll at least try it."
Max also expects to do a lot more training courses for police at the Sigarms Academy. "I love training law enforcement because I feel most of the agencies are way behind on their training. The military is starting to pick things up, and that's because they're getting the guys in the action shooting industry showing them things that work, guys like Jerry Barnhart, Todd Jarrett, Rob Leatham and Mike Voigt. Law enforcement doesn't do that so much."
Max is grateful to be where he is today. "I got the opportunity to be a professional shooter at such a young age. Getting to move on to Sig, to be an actual sponsored professional shooter, that's something few people have ever done. I thank God every single day. I could not see myself doing anything else."