Book Review – Path of Focused Effort (Perez, 2018)

USPSA Grandmaster Charlie Perez self-published his “Learning Guide to Practical Shooting” in 2018. Perez has been a competitive shooter since 2008, achieving a GM rating in Limited in a year and half after his first match. He offers competition training through his company Big Panda Performance. The book is an excellent and very complete compendium of information that will help anyone active in USPSA (or IDPA or Steel Challenge) competition improve their skills, and more importantly, improve the way that they practice.

The book is separated into 7 chapters, as follows:

The introduction and general information includes a lot of match- and competition-specific advice about mindset (have fun, train hard but don’t let competition shooting unbalance your life). Perez points out the importance of volunteering and supporting the local clubs that run matches, mentoring new shooters, making sure your gear is appropriate and works properly, and offers advice on clothing and nutrition for match day. Both of those topics are often overlooked by shooters, getting too cold, too hot, wearing shoes that don’t provide enough traction, and falling into to “OD on caffeine and greasy food for breakfast and try to make it through the day until dinner” trap.

The second and third sections focus on training and skills. In his discussion of grip, his comments about the importance of grip strength align with my own (and Ron Avery’s) conclusions that a minimum grip strength for competition shooting is 100 lbs. Perez (and Avery) prefer 140 lbs. as a goal, and that’s something I’m going to work on in 2020 to assess whether I can see any differences in my shooting at that higher grip strength.

Perez also includes some very detailed discussion (6 full size pages’ worth) about front and rear sight widths, shooting with corrective lenses, LASIK, and monovision.

Chapter 4 covers competition gun handling skills: grip, draw, unholstered starts, reloads and related topics. Chapter 5 is a detailed discussion of movement – a critical skill for most USPSA stages, including tricks and tips, like using visual markers within the stage itself to land on “sweet spots” to engage multiple targets. More topics in that section include when to break grip when moving, getting into/out of positions, and shooting through ports and around walls. Chapter 6 is about Mental Management Skills, including mental focus during practice, preparing for matches, shooting stages, setting goals, and chasing others’ performance.

The final chapter covers “Strategy Skills”, which includes stage planning, managing match risk, shooting moving and disappearing targets, and how to break down (analyze) a stage.

The “ambush” approach to shooting a moving target.
The “tracking” approach to shooting a moving target.

I liked this book a lot. It’s an information-dense work, 130+ pages in 8.5×11 format, single spaced, with useful photos and drawings. It will go on my recommended reading list for the competition-oriented classes I teach, as it would be useful to anyone getting started, or trying to improve in competition. The book can be purchased direct from his website.