American Handgunner > July-August, 2003

Uncle ed knows - Better Shooting
Dave Anderson

Around 1970, during my university days, I had a summer job on a survey crew. The small city where we were headquartered had a rather decent library. A librarian in the past must have been a hunting and shooting enthusiast, for among the books I recall were Shotguns by Keith, Bell of Africa, Hatcher's Notebook, and Larry Koller's Shots at Whitetails.

The book that got me in trouble, though, was Ed McGivern's classic Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting. I was especially fascinated by McGivern's speed shooting feats. McGivern and a man named Frank Fish developed quite sophisticated (for the era) timing mechanisms connected to the revolver's trigger guard and activated by trigger movement.

On September 13, 1932, using this timing gear, McGivern fired five shots from five yards into a group the size of his hand, in a time of 2/5 of a second. The shooting was done at the Armory headquarters at Lewiston, MT, witnessed by officers of Company K, 163rd Infantry. He repeated this performance on several subsequent occasions.

Shortly after I read this, my crew and another survey crew were working in the same area. When noon came we moved our trucks to the sparse shade of some trees. We were gabbing along as we ate our lunches, and then I made a big mistake. I mentioned this fabulous character I'd been reading about, who could fire five shots in 2/5 of a second.

Any credibility I had with those guys, on any matter whatever, was gone in that instant. The guys just roared with laughter, practically rolling on the ground. If I'd said five shots in one second, they would only have called me a liar (or words to that effect). But 2/5 of a second? It was as though I'd claimed someone could run a mile in two minutes, or high jump twenty feet. From then on whenever there was a job to be done someone would be sure to say, "Let Anderson do it, it'll only take him 2/5 of a second." Soon it became a nickname. It was a long summer. When it ended we went our ways, and I haven't seen any of the guys from that day to this. I'm sure if I did the first thing he'd say is "How's old Two-Fifths doing these days?"

COPYRIGHT 2003 Publishers' Development Corporation
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

American Handgunner > July-August, 2004

How fast is fast?
Gentleman Jerry Miculek tackles McGivern's record

Charles E. Petty   ·   [Video of Jerry Miculek in action... 800Kb/40sec]

A lot of guys like me grew up with awesome respect for the feats of Ed McGivern. Legendary is the only word that fits. I remember those grainy black and white movies of the short squat man in the big hat and the five shots that sounded almost like one.

McGivern did most of his recorded high speed shooting in the 1930s using the best timing equipment of the period--stopwatches. He used a solenoid operated plunger to start and stop the clock that was certified to be accurate to 1/20 (.05) sec. The feat everyone know, about is firing five shots in 9/20 (.45) seconds. All the shots were within an area about the size of a playing card. Without taking anything away from his accomplishments there is an inherent source of potential error in the timing. If each tick of the clock took .05 seconds then there is the opportunity for that much error at each end of the event and mean that the very precise time--by modern standards--could be from .040 to .050 seconds.

The gun he used was a Smith & Wesson M&P Target revolver. It had a 6" barrel and wore the famous McGivern gold bead front sight. The world knows the M&P as the longest lived revolver ever made. When S&W started using model numbers it became the Model 10, the one with adjustable sights became the Model 14 and when stainless steel took over, it would have been a Model 64 or 65.     [ GunBlast · History · Models]

The New Guy

Now let me tell you about McGivern's successor. He's Jerry Miculek (properly pronounced Mish-u-lak, by the way), a soft spoken 49 year old Louisiana Cajun who made a big splash in practical and speed shooting competitions some years ago by using revolvers to thoroughly clean the clocks of guys--good shooters--using autoloaders. I know these things because I watched both at matches and clinics how Jerry could take a S&W Model 625, shoot it just as fast or faster than the best autoloaders and, using moon clips, reload even faster. Anyone who thinks revolvers are obsolete don't know nothin'.

It was simply ordained Jerry would go after McGivern's records. We know about the five-shot speed but there was another feat of his not many know about. McGivern tells the story in his book of shooting five shots from each of 10 guns in 25 seconds. This time Jerry went after that one too.

The occasion of Jerry's effort was the NRA National Police Championship held in Jackson, Miss., September 22-25, 2003. This is a big deal match that brought 460 shooters from 35 states and four foreign countries together for four days of competition with both revolvers and autoloaders. It's held at the Jackson PD range, as it has been since 1989.

Short History Lesson

NRA PPC (Police Pistol Combat) match has a total of 150 rounds fired at ranges from seven to 50 yards on the standard B-27 silhouette target. Positions include: prone, kneeling, sitting, and standing. Some of the standing portion provides for the use of a barricade for support and cover. The hook for this one is if you shoot on the right side of the barricade you use your right hand but on 'tother side it's the left. This means everyone must shoot a few rounds with their weak hand. With the exception of a stage at seven yards everything can be fired with two hands. For revolvers it's all double-action except for the 50 yd. stage where single-action is permitted, but almost everyone shoots that double-action too.

Of course law enforcement handguns have undergone a paradigm shift to autoloaders so, in 1990, the match rules were changed to permit the shooter to use either a pistol or revolver. But the real change came in 1992 when a separate class was established for pistols and the National Champion became the shooter with the best score for both guns. This year the winner was a soft spoken Mississippi State Police Lieutenant named Philip Hemphill who won the revolver portion outright with a score of 1,496-120x out of a possible 1,500. He's the kinda guy who probably said "excuse me" if he had to pop some miscreant during his days on the road. He only managed to finish third in the pistol phase but the combined score bested two shooters from the famed U.S. Border Patrol team. Agents Robert Vadasz and Clay Tippit finished second and third only two points behind Hemphill's 2,988 of a possible 3,000 points. Hemphill is not exactly a stranger to the winner's circle. This year was his sixth National Championship and he is one of only two men to shoot a perfect 1,500 score. He's done it twice.

The PPC nationals are a big deal for shooters, but there are also social and entertainment events. Corporate sponsorships paid for banquet dinners two nights, the Jackson Police Department hosted a fish fry at the range and shotgunner John Satterwhite put on a trick shooting show, but the event that captured the most extra attention was Miculek's effort to better McGivern's records.

The Happening

Jerry is one of those genuinely nice guys who doesn't let fame get in the way. I've known him for some time but it was still impressive to watch him talk to folks with no hint of pretense. I've also watched professional athletes, you know football, baseball and basketball players who are much too important to speak to a kid or sign a piece of paper. But put this in perspective, there are literally hundreds of players in each of those sports, but right now there is only one guy in the world who can do what Jerry does with a revolver. I know the pond is smaller, but it sure is refreshing to know you don't have to be a jerk to be good at sports.

Timing is a lot better now and Jerry used a group of three PACT timers that started with the sound of the first shot. Standing there watching, it didn't really seem very fast. I guess I was expecting something like the ripping sound of a minigun and as he began warmups Jerry was actually complaining he couldn't seem to "wake up" his finger. He griped aloud about "sixty" or "fifty-nine" and was obviously not happy with his performance. He went through quite a few runs--maybe eight or ten--and ended each with a glance at the timer and, "Another fifty-nine." He's complaining about shooting five shots in .59 seconds!

And there was another dynamic at work not always easy to see--the effect of the crowd. "It's hard to get cops enthusiastic," he told me. "They think you're trying to sell them something." But gradually the crowd got into it and you began to hear, "Go Jerry," or other support. You could see Miculek begin to perk up too, but the fifty-nines still came. So he changed gears.

Another of McGivern's feats was to fire five shots from each of 10 different revolvers in a time of 25 seconds. Miculek's goal was to fire six shots from 10 guns. "I think I can do it in 20 seconds," he told me. The drill was to set up 10 identical S&W Model 64 revolvers, all completely unmodified. He did this by laying a strip of carpet on the bench mid then using boxes of ammo to support each gun in an upright position with the grip in a position where he could grab it as he laid the other gun down. Again there were a couple of hiccups. On the first attempt he short-stroked the trigger on about the third or fourth gun and missed a shot. He just stopped, told the crowd what had happened, and set everything up again.

Practical Joker

He was being assisted by famous practical shooter J. Michael Plaxco who also works as a law enforcement representative for Smith & Wesson. Between them the guns were reloaded and Jerry got ready to go again. At the beep of the PACT timer things really started to happen. The first and second guns were emptied in a flash but when he picked up the third all we heard were six amazingly loud clicks. Miculek lowered the gun and turned to see Plaxco doubled up in laughter. What followed was some laughter and mutual finger-pointing, with each man saying, "I though you loaded it."

Folks, I don't know whether Plaxco did it on purpose or accidentally, but it was just the icebreaker needed to really get the crowd involved. They laughed and then cheered as all the guns were loaded and checked and Jerry got ready to go again. You could feel the atmosphere change. This time there were no glitches and I almost forgot to take pictures for it was truly an amazing sight. One after another the revolvers seemed to jump into his hand, empty themselves and fall to the table. In far less time that it takes to read write this sentence he was done. The timers were consulted and an NRA official came forward to verify the result: 17.12 seconds. The crowd went wild--really.

And with the ice truly broken Miculek set up again for the five shot effort. This time you could feel the atmosphere change as a confident Miculek stepped up. Once more five shots ripped out almost as one and the timer showed .57 seconds. "You live or die by a couple of hundredths of a second," he said. The target showed five solid hits and once more the NRA referee verified the result.

Jerry talked to the crowd awhile and answered a few questions while everything was tidied-up and the ammo put away and then the spectators were invited to examine the guns. The only notable modification was that all wore grips Jerry had designed. Otherwise the Model 64s were just as they had come from the factory. It's fairly common practice for shooters to cut a coil or two off the rebound spring to lighten the trigger pull, but that's the last thing he wants because his type of shooting depends on the spring pushing the trigger forward so he can do the next fast shot. No mods are permitted. The gun he used for the 5-shot effort came from the S&W Performance Center in 1994 and is basically a Model 66 with a special "V"-shaped, ported barrel. The action is stock, although Jim Rae, the Performance Center's revolver magician, who was there, said that it had been "smoothed up" a bit but everything was stock. The ammo he used as a standard target .38 Special handload of 2.7 gr. Bullseye with a 148 gr. cast wadcutter bullet, similar to what McGivern shot.

When you talk to him it's easy to see Jerry isn't just some guy who can shoot fast. He's a serious student who can talk about the mechanics of both firearm and human, and who is continually thinking about how to do better.

I can't begin to count the number of instances where the statement, "timing is everything" would apply. Modern electronic timers such as the PACT Mk. IV that Jerry uses, break a second into four million parts (0.00000025). So what we have here are two thoroughly modern records that await breaking. Miculek wasn't completely happy with the 5-shot time and has done better in training, so we'll surely see future attempts. I sure hope to be there--this was a fun assignment.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Publishers' Development Corporation
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group
GunsMagazine Jan 2002 issue

Jerry Miculek's rifle speedshooting techniques - RIFLEMAN
Guns Magazine, Jan 1, 2002 by Dave Anderson

Jerry Miculek is renowned for his phenomenal prowess with revolvers. He is also an excellent rifle shooter. A testament to this are his many victories in rifle speed events, which require hitting small steel plates at various ranges against the clock, usually from unsupported positions. Miculek recently talked about some of his winning techniques. It should be noted that these are match techniques that may not be appropriate for hunting situations.

For example, Miculek doesn't have to worry if he's a bit wobbly and misses a shot since the steel targets aren't going to run away and an edge hit is as good as a center one. In the field, a hunter shouldn't shoot from the standing or offhand position unless there is no other option -- and then only if the range of movement of the sights is within the vital area.

Miculek Likes To Use High-Power Scopes For Competition Shooting

"A lot of shooters don't like powerful scopes because they say they wobble too much," Miculek commented. "I want to know how much the gun is moving. I know I can't hold perfectly still, but the high-power scope lets me see the movement pattern of the gun. When I bring the gun up I watch how the reticle is moving -- if it is oscillating back and forth across the target or making figure eights."

From long practice, Miculek's evaluation of the motion of the gun can be done very quickly. He then coordinates the gun movement with the trigger release. As he begins the trigger press, he steers the reticle toward the target. The objective is to have the shot break just as the reticle settles on target.

"Some shooters like to 'stage' the trigger release, pressing only when the sights are on target. I don't use that method; I think it leads to flinching and yanking the trigger. Instead, I release the trigger with one smooth press, continually increasing pressure until the sear releases." Miculek explained. (This is the same method of trigger control recommended by pistol champion Bill Blankenship, as covered in a previous column.)

Operating The Bolt Quickly

Miculek's speed in operating the bolt is amazing. He demonstrated his technique with an unloaded rifle. He keeps his righthand shooting thumb along the right side of the rifle's grip. "It takes time to cross the thumb across the grip, and there's no need to anyway," he pointed out.

After firing the shot, his hand moves straight up and grasps the ball of the bolt handle between the thumb and the first two fingers. He applies strong pressure both up and back so that the instant the locking lugs clear their recesses, the bolt begins moving back. Mechanically, the bolt has to move in a 90-degree pattern. But observing from the side, it seems that Jerry's hand moves diagonally -- up and back simultaneously, then forward and down.

As the bolt is being closed, the bolt handle is pressed into its final locked position by the thumb, while the trigger finger is already moving to the trigger and the other fingers are closing around the grip. Using a short-action rifle, his face never moves from the stock and his eye remains focused on the scope reticle. With a standard-length action, most shooters have to move their head slightly to provide clearance for the bolt.

Miculek is a physically fit, powerful individual; even for his size he has exceptionally strong hands and wrists. Believe me, he does not pussyfoot around when operating the action. He works the bolt hard and fast.

Jerry Miculek's Match Rifle

Miculek's bolt-action match rifle is a standard Savage in .223 Rem, with the regular, factory heavy barrel and factory synthetic stock. He installed a moderately-priced aftermarket trigger tuned to two pounds. With PMC 52-grain match ammunition, it easily shoots group averages of 0.5 inch or better at 100 yards. Savage rifles have always been noted for their accuracy, but this is still remarkable.

Conventional wisdom indicates that to achieve consistent, half-minute accuracy, we have to square and true the action, lap the locking lugs, fit a match barrel, carefully bed the action, and work up accurate handloads. It's exciting to realize the same accuracy is available right off the rack for a lot less money. Jerry also commented on the smooth feeding of cartridges from the magazine and overall reliability of his Savage -- critical features in a competition rifle.

The scope is a Bausch & Lomb 6-24X variable mounted in Weaver rings and bases. In competition, he turns the power up as high as conditions permit, often all the way to 24X. Miculek fitted his rifle with a muzzle brake of his own design. The objective is to eliminate muzzle jump entirely so he can observe the bullet strike through the scope and evaluate the shot.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Publishers' Development Corporation
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

By: Skip Gochenour

Continuing our study of historical masters, we will look at Ed Mc Givern.

In the 1930's McGivern wrote extensively on his experience with handgun shooting. In his book of over 480 pages he described training concepts that are completely familiar today.

In keeping with the dictate, "if you want to learn a new technique, read an old book!" we will look at some of the lessons McGivern wrote about nearly of a century ago.

Using hand built electronic timers; McGivern recorded five shot, unsighted groups that could be covered with a "silver" half-dollar, fired at 15' in 45/100 of a second. The average modern auto-pistol cycles about 13 times a second. McGivern's revolver was cycling at the outer reaches of the modern auto-pistol's mechanical capabilities.

He recorded one shot draws, with hits on humanoid targets, in 2/5ths of a second.

He recorded one shot draws, with hits on humanoid targets at 50 yards in 2 seconds.

  • McGivern referred to modifying handguns and springs as "mutilation". His overall opinion was they were the sign that the shooter needed a psychological crutch.
  • He saw persistent, consistent, studied, goal oriented practice as worth more than all the modifications and gadgets available.
  • He preferred gold bead's embedded in his front sight blade. He even put them on the front sight blade of his Remington over-under derringers.
  • He said the guns and ammo "of today" are capable of greater accuracy than the shooter.
  • The best way to learn and master shooting is by shooting. Practice must be persistent and goal oriented.
  • Begin training by shooting standard sized targets at known distances in order to assure yourself you can place shots. Then substitute bulls eye targets with standard sized targets and known distances and shoot from all manner of positions.
  • Target shooting is well worth the effort. Any form of studied shooting is worth while.
  • Precision shooting is critical to practical shooting.
  • "Target shooting is to build the ability to actually make hits in certain predetermined places and do it regularly with reasonable certainty. It is the underlying concept of all shooting we call practical, which means doing the same thing we do on targets, without any guides or marks to assist us. In practical shooting we must perform these skills more quickly, with less preparation and do so with less time lapse and repeatedly in much shorter time. "These skills must be done in darkness or low light; therefore you must be "familiar" with your firearm.
  • "The shooter must be able to control the trigger properly during the entire time interval for getting the shot away"
  • Trigger control is the concentrated effort of success in all forms of shooting.
  • Trigger control means releasing the shot at the instant that all things are correctly related and in proper position for the shot required. (It is all relative.)
  • It also means not releasing the shot until all things required for the shot are in relative relationship.
  • It means the ability to hold the trigger release until all matters that are causing interference have passed.
  • Trigger control means not finishing the shot until all conditions are in place to accomplish the needed shot.
  • That means you must have the ability to apply 21/2 #'s of pressure on a 3# trigger and hold the remaining # until all disturbance has passed and the desired shot can be made. Do not release the 21/2 #'s. Hold until the conditions settle and finish the last #.
  • Trigger control is learned through much careful, slow single action shooting.
  • Trigger control is the "mystery" underlying all marvelous shooting performance.
  • The shorter the barrel, the more important the trigger control.
  • A student, under the guidance of a competent instructor who willingly and consistently follows the instructions and advice of the instructor will make more progress and develop more ability than someone who engages in haphazard experimentation.
  • Shooting instructors will only get a little better than medium, average results from a specific pupil unless he recognizes the student's individual mental and physical equipment.
  • No two people walk, talk, eat, work or play the same - because they are different physically and mentally - why would they physically handle the gun the same?
  • Guns, through production standards come with standard size, form and dimension with interchangeable parts. People do not.
  • Do not waste time looking for artificial aides - you won't need them. Everything that is needed for success is contained right within yourself!
  • Skill is developed and maintained by persistent practice. It is developed by consistent training and study. It is developed through a system of study, application and training intelligently pursued.
  • "Repeating and studying these processes and experiences is the method of procedure by which we must develop what is termed exceptional skill."
  • Speed (of presentation) is the result of practice and training which finally brings all movement under subconscious control.
  • Time can not be gained. It must be saved by the systematic study of the various interrelated movements absolutely necessary for the performance. All movements must be reduced to the smallest # and the shortest distance.
  • The shooter must be able to grasp his gun in such a way that it lays and balances in his hand when it leaves the holster in practically the same relative position it assumes when he does deliberate shooting.
  • The sense of feel that comes from knowing when the gun is pointed "just right" comes from repeatedly sighting the gun and getting the "feel of when they (the sights) are correctly aligned. Then the shooter must learn rapid aimed fire.
  • Getting your hand on the gun in a hurry is only a small part of the job. Getting your hand closed around the gun is the key to success in delivering the shots.
  • "If you find it necessary to resort to the quick draw to get out of a tight spot and you are risking everything on the successful outcome of the attempt, watch exactly what the other fellow is doing, also watch his every reaction in response to what you do. In other words, study your opponent without 9if possible) giving him any outward evidence of any emotion or intention on your part. Study closely just how he reacts to certain behavior on your part and try to foresee, so far as possible, his next move in order to forestall it. Keep your mental impulse to act quickly keyed up to the highest tension under which you can still keep it firmly under control. Remember at all times than the degree to which you can consistently perform any of these quick-draw shooting performances, depends to a very great extent on just how persistently you study and practice."
  • Speed without fairly consistent accuracy means nothing whatsoever.
  • There is no "one best position".
  • Always try to be comfortable in mind and body. Adopt a position that is suitable and comfortable for you. Find a stance that provides steadiness and comfort coupled with speed and necessary freedom of movement.
  • Shooting involves positive movement, properly controlled, correctly timed and accurately directed.
  • Body balance involves absolute freedom of body and leg movement and then skillful control determines the ability to deliver accurate blows in boxing and shooting.
  • Speed without fairly consistent accuracy means nothing whatsoever.
    ON UC
  • The most proficient men in all lines and branches of the shooting game are, and always have been, the originators, not the imitators.
  • The most important subject to be studied in connection with all the super speed and positive movement proficiency is you.
  • The development of subconscious control is, in my estimation, the most important point to be considered.
  • As we proceed with this subject it should be constantly kept in mind that a man is an organism for reacting on impressions, his mind is there to help determine his reactions, and the purpose of his education is to make them numerous, immediate and perfect.
  • It is to be remembered that muscles are never active except as stimulated to action by the nervous system and it must also be kept in mind that a great part of the essence of success is contained in perseverance. Resolute action in preference to alibis.
  • The ability to maintain physical and mental balance while under pressure is the mark of the professional.
  • Danger does not interfere with their (professionals) positive movements, properly controlled, and correctly timed and accurately directed.
  • The self-generated start results, in all cases, depending largely on who first issues the signal and first directs the impulse to act.

McGivern's book is one of many, written long ago that reminds us that, where men and fighting are concerned, there is nothing new under the sun!

An article of Ed McGivern: My Challenge to Hollywood Hot Shots,
appears in the Jan-1957 issue of Guns-Magazine.

Quick Draw Applied: a 5-page article in June 1945 American Rifleman
found on eBay, these small images were available.