Book Review: Shoot To Win (John Shaw & Bill Currie, 1985)

He is a self-taught shooter who recognized that the techniques and lessons he learned could be used to train our war fighters.  Accordingly, he founded Mid-South Institute for Self Defense Shooting (MISS), in 1981 just south of Memphis, TN where he developed the most comprehensive firearms training program in the country.  For over 41 years, Mid-South has been continually regarded as one of the premier shooting schools in the world by the United States Special Operations Community. To this day, their shooting principles and tactics have become the operational doctrines for numerous Special Operation Forces as well as Federal and State Level Law Enforcement.  Mid-South Institute for Self Defense Shooting (MISS), is still operating (under different ownership) and is only open to military and law enforcement personnel.

In 1997, John retired and moved his family to Southern Idaho.    Shaw’s son Houston was also a top competition shooter. Houston has his own training company, Shaw Shooting, that continues the family tradition of providing quality firearms training in the Idaho area.

In an earlier blog post I shared links to online clips from his mid 1980’s instructional videos.

The Book

If anyone knows Ed Porter, I have his signed copy of Shaw’s book, purchased online.

In 1985 Shaw and Bill Currie published the book “Shoot To Win”. The book captured the best knowledge of what the top shooters in IPSC and 3-gun were doing. Highlights:

Bracing against the barricade was a popular technique used in PPC and the Bianchi Cup. You don’t see it much in modern USPSA matches, possibly because modern matches rarely use that type of wood barricade any more.

Shaw’s gun was worn at a 2-oclock position, canted for optimum speed. The details about drawstroke in his book are still relevant and valid regardless of where the gun is worn.

Shaw was one the early USPSA champions that shot with both arms extended, and his grip changed from thumb over thumb in 1982 (in the previous book), to something closer to the modern thumbs forward grip that is popular today.

This book included discussion of shooting on the move. I had socks like that in the 80’s too.

Shaw’s match winning shotgun shooting technique circa 1985.

Back in the early days of USPSA, stages required climbing a wall using a rope and many other physical challenges.

At this match in 1994 shooters had to climb up a telephone pole and shoot over a barricade. Over time those physical challenges disappeared from the sport.

More pics of Shaw shooting combat rifle stages in the early days of 3-gun matches.

This picture shows Shaw with yet another grip variation, part way between thumb over thumb and thumbs forward. This may have occurred to make it easier to see his finger on the trigger. One advantage of skinnier guns is that it’s possible for people with shorter fingers to put that much finger on the trigger without dragging the trigger finger against the frame. Tom Givens and many others still teach the “center of the fingerprint” as the best place to contact the trigger with the firing finger.

Copies of both of Shaw’s books are still available from

For anyone interested in the origins of modern pistolcraft, the books are a “must read”.

When I posted my blog review of Shaw’s first book, some of the comments from top trainers and top shooters included these:

If John Shaw isn’t a household name, it’s only in the non-military community. Mid South was the shooting destination of almost every special forces group in the US military and a bunch of foreign ones as well. He was the first real instructor to take high performance competition shooting techniques and apply them to combative shooting. LE/Military shooting techniques might still be in the dark ages were it not for John Shaw. – Michael Brown (retired SWAT officer)

John was shooting PPC in 1976 when I introduced him to “practical shooting” with our group in Memphis that became the founding club of the Tennessee section of IPSC in 1977. John was always a gifted athlete and a helluva shooter. – Tom Givens (Rangemaster)

MISS training back in about ’91-’92 changed my whole approach to pistol shooting and helped me make strides and increase capability like nothing else. – Wayne Dobbs (Hardwired Tactical/Aimpoint)

John Shaw taught me how to shoot. When I was first learning, I got the book and video and copied what he did. It has worked for me for 44 years, and while people tell me that things evolve, most cannot outshoot me.- Marty Hayes (Firearms Academy of Seattle / Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network)

Michael Bane, co-author of Shaw’s first book, You Can’t Miss, discussed John Shaw and my review of the book on a recent podcast episode.

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