TPS Cover For most complex activities, the learning curve is steep and riddled with plenty of chances to strike off in the wrong direction. "Back in the day" (which, for our purposes here, means pre-2005), most of us picked our way up the curve through trial and error, question and answer, and lots of fits and starts as we discovered that we were on a dead-end path. Things like match preparation, understanding the implications of the scoring system, maintenance schedule for our equipment, stage and match tactics - all of these things were passed down through word of mouth, and many times learned through hard experience.

In 2005, author and international top shooter This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it changed all of that with the release of his book Thinking Practical Shooting (well, changed it for those who bothered to read it and digest it, anyway). If I'd had this book in 1992, when I started shooting IPSC, it would have saved me a lot of time and energy. Saul's giving away all the "secrets", and for that reason, I highly recommend Thinking Practical Shooting as a "must read".

TPS comes in at 204 pages - not a huge volume, but Kirsch packs a lot of info into that small space. The book feels dense in my hand, almost as if the information itself carries its own physical weight (though probably its just due to the stock he chose to print on...).

The book opens with a discussion on recoil control, accuracy and shot calling, and the scoring system. There's quite a bit of very good information in the 29 pages that comprise Part 1 of the book, but if you stopped there, you'd be doing yourself a huge disservice. Don't get me wrong - Kirsch writes about the fundamentals of the sport very well, and the book would likely not be complete without Part 1, but this information is not what makes the book unique, to me.

What follows Part 1 (what, Dave, Part 2??) is the meat. Part II is a dynamite introduction to the mind game, including some discussion on self-talk and self-image, attitudes, visualization, and those ever present head games that go on throughout a match. The skills Kirsch discusses in this section are critical, in the end, to higher level performances - and I find that, for myself, when I'm employing good mental management skills, I have a lot more fun, too!

Part III discusses preparation - in all of its forms. Right up front, he talks about a goal setting program. I consider that to be a part of the mental game side of things, so I find it fitting that it butts right up against the discussions on mental management. A good goal program is huge! Then he discusses how to construct a training plan to achieve the goals you've laid out - including a section on how to decide what to practice, which I've found invaluable.

Also in Part III is information on how to prepare for a big match - the Do's and Don'ts of using pre-published stage descriptions, getting your gear and ammo squared away, walking the stages ahead of time, and so forth. It closes with a discussion on the importance of physical fitness and training.

Finally, Part IV gets into a lot of topics that you'd have to spend hours and hours bending a top GM's ear to get good, solid information on. Luckily, a top GM wrote it all down for you! Stage tactics, various ways to chip time away from the stage, match day nutrition and hydration, being aware of administrative details on the stage and more.

The book closes with Part V, which covers a few remaining odds and ends, and some final words from Kirsch.

I came to this book as a veteran of the sport, and still found I'd learned quite a bit in the readings. For someone new to our sport, this book could easily save 5 years in developmental time, if not more. Buy it. Read it. Absorb it. Put it to use. You'll be kicking serious butt in no time!

For your listening enjoyment, check out a conversation on the book, and the CED 7000 timer with Saul on Show 4 of Matt Burkett's Practical Shooting Radio.