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Baller, Shot Caller, Twenty-Inch Blades, on the Impala…..

June 21, 2016

One of the apparently more obscure skills I try to emphasize in my shooting-centric coursework, is the ability to “call your shots.” Generally, somewhere around half of the students in any given class will have heard of the concept. In turn, of those, about half will actually understand what the skill entails. Outside of combat arms veterans—and actually a relatively small percentage of them—very few shooters have any understanding of the practical applications of calling your shots, outside of the pure marksmanship theory applications.

What It Is

Calling your shot is—quite simply—the practice of accurately determining the expected point-of-impact of your shot, predicated on the relationship between the sights and the target at the moment you break the shot. In other words, if you actually have a legitimate sight picture…at the moment you break the shot…and you know the zero of your weapon…and you understand the external ballistics of the weapon-cartridge combination…as soon as you break the shot, you KNOW where the round struck the target.

On the same hand, of course, if you call your shots, then—when you do miss—you can also call your miss, and this will help you fix whatever induced the missed. That’s the skill in a nutshell, and a pretty solid reason, purely from a marksmanship skills perspective. What was that part though, that I mentioned about an “understanding of the practical application of calling your shots, outside of pure marksmanship theory applications?”

Combat Shooting Applications

One of the mantras of effective combative shooting is that we need to be shooting bad people as much as necessary to stop them from being bad. We need to forego the “double-tap and assess” school of thought, and simply keep shooting a motherfucker until he is no longer a threat—or, at least, until they are no longer the most dangerous, immediate threat. Step one in that, of courses, is actually being able to fucking hit what you are shooting at. Right? That’s the “pure marksmanship theory application” part.


Presume for a moment, that you’ve just shot at someone who was posing a legitimate lethal threat to yourself or someone you care about. Immediately after you shoot at them, they drop. Did you shoot them, and they dropped because your shot was effective? Or, did you shoot at them, and they dropped because you almost shot them? In the first case, you can—generally speaking—start looking for other work. In the second case however, if you start looking for other work, you’re probably getting ready to get shot by a very pissed-off bad guy.

Or, presume for a moment, that you’ve just shot at someone who was posing a legitimate lethal threat to yourself or someone you care about. Immediately after you shoot at them, they don’t drop. Instead, they turn towards you and start advancing. Did you hit them, but they were wearing body armor that protected them? (Contrary to popular mythology, getting shot with body armor on does not generally result in the victim being thrown backwards. Often, the recipient won’t even miss a step.) In that case, it might be prudent to know—sooner, rather than later—that you need to adjust to shooting him in the hips or head, instead of wasting precious time putting more, ineffective, rounds into his chest. Did you hit him, and he’s just not a pussy, and is not pissed off, and coming to rip your head off? In that case, while two or three or five more rounds to the same spot would probably drop him, finally, shooting him in the dick would probably rapidly accelerate the termination of hostilities. I’ve yet to see anyone get shot in the dick, and maintain interest in being a…well, dare I say it…a dick…

Did you hit him, but somewhere less vital than you were trying to shoot him? Or, did you miss entirely, and need to modify what you were doing?

How can you know, in the heat of the moment, which of any of the above, is the appropriate response to these situations? Simple answer? Confidence in your ability to call your shot, accurately, effectively, and correctly.

If I call my shot—correctly—every single time that I break a shot, with every single firearm that I fire, then, even under the stress of a gunfight, a part of my brain will have been conditioned to function outside of that terror or excitement, and tell me, “Hey, knucklehead! You pulled that shot low and left! Of course he’s not stopping; you missed!”

At the same time, it might be telling me, “Damn! You just smoked that dude in the heart, but he’s not stopping! You need to alter course! Shoot him in the dick! That always stops them!” It’s my ability to call my shots, which gives me absolute, legitimate confidence in the point-of-impact of my shots, that allows me to assess the available data from the environment, and come to correct conclusions about what I should be doing next. If I lack that ability—and the resulting confidence—what almost invariably happens is one of two things: 1) dude shoots at bad guy, but doesn’t see the anticipated result. He completely shits the bed, and proceeds to mag-dump the bad guy, continuing to miss the intended target, but shooting up bystanders instead, or 2) dude shoots at bad guy, with his patented, trademarked, “SuperDeathRayCaliber” gun, and doesn’t see the anticipated result. He completely shits the bed, and freezes, because the world is suddenly not what he thought it was, and he doesn’t know how to respond. In either case, this is bad.


Shot-calling is one of those undervalued, misunderstood—if it’s even known—skills that makeup the meta-skill of shooting that we really need to reemphasize more often in our training and practice. Start today. It WILL make you more dangerous. If you don’t know what calling your shot means, go take a training course. If that training course doesn’t cover calling your shots, take a better course, with a teacher that is actually worth a shit.

(Some long-term readers will notice that this is an extremely brief article, compared to what I typically write and post on Mountain Guerrilla. Others will just be excited that I’ve actually posted something new. I will be posting something covering the reasons and explanations behind both of these in the coming days. For now, I will be posting more regularly again. –J.M.)


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  1. Dustin permalink

    Always get excited when I see Mountain Guerrilla in my inbox. Hope all is well with you and your tribe. Out of all the websites and blogs I’ve come across yours is by far my favorite. I think you broke the mold. Keep up the awesome work. But put more out please!!! Thank you

  2. Papagrande310 permalink

    “…excited that you posted something new”


    This was something learned from you at Combat Rifle Applications class that was valuable to me. Thanks

  3. Andy permalink

    Good to have you back posting, enjoy reading your no nonsense style.

  4. Wes permalink

    Haha nice title there. I Can always count on your article names and chapter names for a laugh.

  5. I see this.
    Not to make it too “zen”, but when a shooter shoots, enough, and with focus, they begin to have “aha!” moments, repeating back to me what I’ve told them and acting out what I’ve shown them.
    Legitimate sight picture, smooth and decisive trigger press, all while gripping the pistol/rifle/shotgun correctly, and then begin to call out their successes…and failures.
    They do what they can, correctly, back at the gun and the bullet begins to land where they send them.
    I cannot help but rejoice with them when they “get it.”

  6. Not Trying to be a Dick permalink

    “I’ve yet to see anyone get shot in the dick, and maintain interest in being a…well, dare I say it…a dick…”

    I don’t doubt the veracity of this one bit; but, out of curiosity, what’s your sample size of witnessed dickshots?

  7. Jake 98 permalink

    Came across this while searching for a different article of yours but “calling your shot” always struck me as the tipping point in training new shooters. If they get to the point where they can reliably call their shots then I assume they have begun to master the fundamentals. They may not be there yet but they are well on their way. To me the ability to call shots can be summed up in the following;

    If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong it’s hard to correct it. If you don’t know what you’re doing right it’s hard to repeat it.

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