Book Review – Breakthrough Marksmanship (Ben Stoeger, 2019)

Multi-time USPSA and IPSC champion shooter Ben Stoeger recently published another book, Breakthrough Marksmanship. This book is all about troubleshooting. As Ben puts it:

There is a disconnect between what happens and why it happens for many shooters. Connecting the dots between what happens and why it happens is complex, and that’s the reason most people … don’t understand what corrections to make.

Breakthrough Marksmanship, Ben Stoeger, 2019

Ben’s been teaching for about a decade now, and I was one of the first people to host him early in his teaching career. One of my first observations about him was that he got more value out of each round fired in practice than most shooters. That value came from spending more time in dry fire preparing for live fire practice, more skill at structuring his live fire time, and better mental focus during the drills themselves. Many of his earlier books explained how to do effective dry fire practice, and the best drills to develop skill. This book is the fix-it manual – like a well written set of notes from one of his classes.

It has 4 major sections: Intro, Marksmanship, Practical Marksmanship, and Drills. The Intro section puts the rest of the book in context, giving some examples of target arrays that have been shot, showing how the shooter can gather information about what errors occurred during the run from reading the holes. That skill is something that comes from firing hundreds of thousands of rounds and observing thousands of shooters — and it’s a topic that really hasn’t been addressed or explained in any other shooting book I’ve read. His analysis goes beyond the over simplified “bullseye chart”. Practical shooting involves engaging multiple targets, drawing, reloading, movement – many skills that induce errors that aren’t addressed by the bullseye chart.

The second section, Marksmanship, has sections on each of the key fundamentals of basic marksmanship: grip, index, acceptable sight pictures, acceptable aiming areas on targets (relative to target distance from the shooter), shot calling, trigger control, recoil management, and one handed shooting.

He uses the international IPSC target for all the examples, but the concepts translate easily to the USPSA and IDPA targets and their larger scoring zones. His concepts about what are acceptable aiming areas and acceptable sight pictures connect nicely with the ideas John Daub and I presented in our own book.

The third section, Practical Marksmanship, adds in all the dynamic elements of practical shooting matches (and defensive shooting) such as gun handling, drawing, reloading, target transitions, movement, shooting on the move, and stage planning/mental preparation.

The final section, Drills, includes 9 drills familiar to readers of his earlier books. The difference here is that for each drill, he provides examples of what usually goes wrong and how to fix it. This is valuable information for those trying to improve without a training partner or a coach.

(Aside: Ben is now offering online coaching through the Practical Shooting Training Group, which is an excellent resource for USPSA and IPSC competition shooters wanting more instruction than a normal weekend course can provide.)

Who should read this book? The first group I would recommend it to are instructors, particularly those teaching carry permit and mid-level students (including those teaching law enforcement officers). They should take the book and go to the range and run the drills in the last section, and learn how to improve their own shooting using the fix-it information the book contains. Then they can start applying that information in classes with students to become better coaches.

The other group that should read this book is it’s stated target audience: people that practice a lot and are working to get better, but may have roadblocks that need to be broken through. Back when I started training with Ben, this was me. His approach to training got me past the USPSA Master level up to the Grand Master level, after being stuck at M for many years. This is one of Ben’s shorter books, but it condenses the key knowledge from his program and presents it very well. Highly recommended.