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yourself to help you get to the level you are at now?’ Most said ‘Pick up gun, shoot gun, put gun down.’ I was like ‘Hey, I pick up gun, shoot gun and I don’t shoot as good as you! So there had to be more to it than that.”

Despite the lack of helpful advice in that fi rst competitive year, Sand- erson went on to set the new match record and win the Marine Corps Division Match Pistol titles in 1998 and 1999, as well as Ma- rine Corps Pistol Champion those years. In 1999, he won the NRA Conventional Pistol Centerfi re title. “After that, I was close to the point that there weren’t a lot of people in America signifi cantly better than me,” he said. “Certainly there are people better than me, but I was coming in second place at Camp Perry Nationals, I wasn’t shooting in a USA Shooting Nation- als yet, but in the domestic, conventional pistol stuff, I was clearly one of the best and those who were better than me weren’t signifi - cantly better, they just had a bit more experience. After that, that’s when I stopped having pistol shooting role models.”

But a lack of role models doesn’t mean he stopped learning. Sanderson will tell you if you look at any of the top Free or Rapid Fire Pistol shooters, you can tell that at some point in all of their careers, they had a “come- to-Jesus moment” with themselves and reevaluated what their position was: what their body is doing in competition. They’re not all the same – but there are

In the 2005 CISM Championship, Sanderson fi nished the 25m Pistol Military Rapid Fire Individual match tied in fi rst place with China’s Zheng Gao with a score of 592. Sanderson won the shootoff against Gao 50 to 44. Photo courtesy of

similarities – and you can see they’re engineered. So what was his “come-

to-Jesus” moment? “In 1997, when I got

pretty good at Conventional Pistol – I wasn’t the best in America or anything, but really good for a second- year shooter. At Nationals, we had this school where the military teams coach civilians and one of the kids I was coaching was the younger brother of a friend of mine on the Ma- rine Corps rifl e team and I couldn’t tell him anything,” Sanderson said with regret. “I said ‘Pick up gun, shoot gun, put gun down.’ I hate hypocrites, I hate hypoc- risy and I had become one myself.

“The next couple months

after Camp Perry, I was back in the Fleet Marine Corps and I didn’t train for most of July until the next March. I didn’t touch a gun – except for M 16s and

40 USA Shooting News | May 2015

that kind of stuff – and I reevaluated everything,” he said. “I’m really comfort- able starting from scratch, with a white sheet of paper, and I wanted to develop a position that was pure, that I built for recoil recovery and wind resistance. I thought stability would come organi- cally from that, which it did. Turns out the things you do for recoil recovery turn out to be the best for steadi- ness too at the elite level. That’s where I came up with the position that four or fi ve years later I learned that the Russians had come up with [in Competitive Shoot- ing]. That’s where I had an epiphany. That’s the fi rst time I actually came up with something that was truly mine without someone showing it to me or reading about it. And they were us- ing this position for reasons I hadn’t thought of, which is pretty cool.”

In 2000, Sanderson

wasn’t competing in the Ma- rine Corps Championships, but that year also happened to be the Olympic Trials for Free Pistol. “When I redid my posi-

tion, I wanted to come up with a general theory for pistol shooting, and I’ve worked very hard since then to adjust and adapt the way I think of that general theory of pistol shooting…I’ve been able to train across all disciplines pretty well. If you do things the right way, cross training has a posi- tive effect, not a negative effect. We had two Marines going to it and I was like ‘I’m better than those guys. I want to go.’ The person who was in charge said I could go if by a certain day I was beating those guys in practice and the trials were four weeks away. I had never touched a Free Pistol before, I didn’t even know what the course of fi re was.

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