Interview – John Scandale –

.

From Blue Bell, PA, John Scandale is a Nationally Distinguished Highmaster and National Trophy Winner. In his interview, John recounts some of the many lessons he’s learned from his years starting out, through his time with the All Guard Marksmanship Team and being the proprietor of Keystone Accuracy. John still shoots hard on the circuit and is the Highpower Match Director at the New Holland Rifle & Pistol Club in Gap, PA.

.

.

1: What was your experience like when starting out in highpower?

My first experience regarding anything relating to competitive high-power rifle shooting happened rather suddenly in the Winter of 1995. I was in my mid 20’s and the event was a locally sponsored monthly CMP 100-yard match with a rack grade M1-Garand. Prior to that, my only exposure to any type of competitive rifle shooting was my dad’s American Rifleman magazine – that I eagerly read as a kid. To say the least, it was a very humbling experience: The shear lack of knowledge & technique, coupled with the brute force of a rifle that I was unfamiliar with – all the while doing it in a t-shirt. Because of the support I got from the network of regular monthly participants, it was extremely enjoyable and kept me interested from the very first shot (even if I had no idea if that shot would even make paper). The experience shortly evolved into the event that I couldn’t wait to happen in the coming months.

.

2: Who were your mentors? What do you remember most from these experiences and what still rings true?

My very first mentor was a retired PA state trooper who was shooting the Mighty M-14 on the 600-yard range. Next door was the 100-yard range at the New Holland Rifle Rifle & Pistol Club – where I cut my teeth on this sport. I remember thinking, “some day, I’ll do that” – as a full-time college student scraping my pennies together in order to participate at all.

My first significant mentor, now a good friend of 20 years, was Paul Irvin. He really took me under his wing and greatly helped to cultivate any potential that he though I had.

Another long time friend, Carl Bernosky – also had a big impact on my development early on. We shot at the same range and he was only too glad to help me think outside the box when developing solid shooting positions.

From my true start in 1997 with adequate equipment to the time I got on the All Guard Marksmanship Team in 1999 – these gentlemen truly helped boost my performance from Sharpshooter to High Master in just two years with a Service Rifle. I don’t know what the outcome would have been without their valuable help.

.

John Scandale - 2003 MCCDC Team.

3: Can you describe some of your most memorable milestones or breakthroughs? Both starting out… and along the journey to competing nationally.

One of my most memorable milestones, to which I can never forget – was breaking a 450 in a 500-point agg 100-yard match with the Garand. It happened my first year shooting across the full course and I remember thinking that “I had arrived!” I have since gotten over some much more challenging obstacles and rewarding accomplishments, but that was one of the sweetest.

The next big hurdle was to shoot a 195 offhand. I’d thought this was impossible until I somehow managed to post that very score after returning from my inaugural trip to Camp Perry – where I learned so much from the people that I met there.

I think that setting goals is a big part of any plan to be successful at any sport.

When I first started, my curiosity for 1000-yard shooting was off the charts – and I set a goal to win a 1000-yard trophy at the National Matches within 10-years. I accomplished that goal with a match win in the 2002 Porter Trophy Match, awarded for 1000-yards with a Service Rifle. I did it testing out the relatively new 90-grain JLK bullets, using a 1:6.5″ twist barrel. I am very proud of that moment, particularly since it was branded into my memory during a sudden death shoot-off against a fellow military shooter from the Marine Corps Rifle Team.

John adds some additional thoughts on the .223 cartridge:
I think that the .223 in a Service Rifle is a more than an adequate round to be quite successful in this sport. It’s very reliable, easy to load for and for the most part – very predictable regarding performance. I have had some great performances with the .223 Remington in both the Service Rifle and Match Rifle. For the short lines, it gives up very little to the bigger cartridges. With emphasis on wind reading and becoming a student of the environment where the wind is observed – the .223 gives up virtually nothing to the faster / flatter match rifle cartridges. For the longer yard lines, the .223 is also a very formidable cartridge for success. I have shot my best score to date at 600-yards with the venerable .223, posting a 200-16x at Camp Perry. Granted, it was during a team match with a wind coach, but the predictability and performance characteristic of the cartridge allowed everything to come together in order to make it happen. I have also done quite well at several 1000-yard matches in multiple states with the .223 using a 90-grain VLD bullet. It easily remains supersonic at the target, where lighter bullets often shed too much velocity.

.

John Scandale - All Guard Team

.

4: Describe your routine to help you stay on top of your best game? Off-Season, Mid-Season and ramping up to bigger matches? Practice? Dry-Fire? Mental?

Practice is very important, but only good practice. Bad practice is only self defeating. If I planned for a day at the range and practice was going well, or even just felt good… even if the scores didn’t corroborate the efforts – I’d walk away with a feeling of accomplishment. If I got there and nothing felt good, or felt like I was all thumbs… It was best to pack it up and head home. Trying to emphatically overcome what I knew was a terrible day, for whatever reason – only helped to bolster bad habits. My performance would surely reflect it and my self performance image would suffer.

Dry firing and electronic training is a great way to build muscle memory, but nothing reaffirms the well orchestrated compilation of movements, that are imperative for perfect shot execution – like firing a live round. Centerfire, rimfire or even an airgun. Regardless of how loud the round is, or how much recoil it produces – the releasing of a live projectile comprises the constant battle against human anticipation which can easily produce the slightest flinch. We all battle it. It’s a human instinct to flinch when there’s an explosion just inches from your face, but we must learn to suppress it in some way.

When I wanted to prepare for a important match, I always prepared by firing live rounds with a rimfire upper on my centerfire lower. It always proved to improve my performance, particularly my shot followthrough – since the barrel time for a rimfire round is virtually double that of a center fire round. Once I got to a certain phase in my skill level, offhand was the primary focus of any live fire practice.

.

John Scandale - 2004 Interservice Team

.

5: How important is technique, mental program, and equipment in influencing your performance? What is their proportional influence?

Performance is 10% technique and 90% mental, although I think it’s important to mention that, as a novice – technique comprises 90% of the equation – while the mental aspect is just doing its best to play “catch up” with what is actually happening. Once settled on a technique that feels good and produces pleasing results, the body gradually goes into auto pilot. While reaffirming those good physical characteristics, the mental capacity for the sport can adapt and find new ways to overcome challengers like nervousness, fear of performing poorly – or even the fear that comes with performing above normal expectations.

Everyone has their own ways of dealing with these hurdles. As time went on for me, I found that the less pressure I put on myself the better. Attempting to concentrate so deeply on my performance was replaced with the deliberate thinking about anything and everything. Whether my thoughts were shooting related or not, they helped my ability to force these challenges to become a bit more manageable each time.

.

John Scandale - 2003 Camp Swift

.

6: What was the toughest match you’ve ever competed in where you held it together? What was that like?

The one time I remember like no other was one of the the offhand matches at Camp Perry. I’d gotten a very late start to the line that morning and wasn’t ready on my firing point until about 5-minutes into record fire for a 20-shot standing slowfire string. I ended up going the through the entire preparation sequence in record time, just hoping to get all 20-shots off in the time allowed. It was very windy that day, yielding a rather low score of just 195 for the match win by Karen Mangus of the AMU… who I just happen to be squadded opposite on the same firing point. Without keeping track of my shots or my score, I just loaded and shot while trusting my instincts until the targets went back in the pits for good. When I was out of bullets, the targets went down with less than a minute to spare. Asking the scorekeeper how I’d done, I was ecstatic to learn that I’d just shot a 193 under such conditions. It was certainly not the best numerical score that I’ve ever posted, but certainly one of the most memorable under a somewhat pressing situation. It proved what others had told me for years; just take one shot at a time and the scorecard will take care of itself!

.

7: If you had to choose only ONE answer, what has helped you improve the most towards your goals in highpower?

John Scandale - 2003 Orange Blossom TeamMotivation. Self-motivation is the one common link between being able to take direction from such knowledgeable sources, the desire to stick with the sport through the up’s and down’s and the willingness to learn about the mental management that is required to excel at this sport. Without motivation, I would have never been able to scrape enough money together as a poor college student to get the equipment that I needed to develop.

.

8: Why do you continue to stay involved with highpower?

I continue to stick with this sport for many reasons, but mainly because it’s ever challenging. Shooting a perfect score is certainly possible, but so hard to do – even in the best of conditions. Although I truly believe that goals should be grounded with practicality, adhering to the fundamentals and the many tenets of marksmanship can give some surprising results from time to time when you least expect it. When these results happen, the reward is indescribable.

Camaraderie is one of the great byproducts of setting personal goals in this sport, because every other participant is shooting for the same goals on some level. The friendships that develop on the rifle range are often very strong because they are forged in the same undulating experiences and quenched in many of the same great personal achievements. They are also often tempered by unforeseen disappointment. I’ve made some great friendships in this sport, some of them remain from my very first season.

.

9: The Keystone Accuracy Team had a very impressive win at the 2014 Nationals for the Rumbold Team Match. What can you tell us about that experience and Keystone Accuracy in general?

John Scandale - 2014 Rumbold Winners - Keystone Accuracy on Viale RangeThe team was formed as four good buddies that shot half decent decided to get together for a team. It was my idea to sponsor the team under Keystone Accuracy, just so we could look somewhat organized! The most important part of that team, that I must emphatically state – is that our goal was to have fun with zero pressure. How we ended up in the standings was of little concern as long as we had fun on the range. I know that some of the guys wanted to represent the name on the shirt they wore for the match with a strong performance, but in the end – it truly was about the fun-factor and nothing more.

.

Regarding Keystone Accuracy: I have always tinkered with gun, cars, hell… anything mechanical. In 2003, I bought my first lathe and mill to start building my own guns. The simple fact was that I just wasn’t happy with the products and service that I got from any of the locals or most of the well known guys, with the exception of my a very few. Having a machinist and engineering background, it didn’t take me long to figure out that there were no magical secrets in building accurate rifles – as so many smiths around the country try to conjure up. After I put the wheels in motion on my first cartridge in 2011, the .240 Tomahawk – people started to ask for it. Once the word got out that there was another competent gun builder, who focused on this sport and left handed stuff (while not trying to sell pixie dust) – the business basically formed itself. Today, I am very busy with a steady backlog and am always willing to develop new things.

.

John Scandale - 2014 Rumbold Winners - Keystone Accuracy

.

10: What would you like to talk about that wasn’t covered in the previous questions?

The only thing that I would add beyond what I have already stated, is that I shoot the sport because I like to. I don’t do it in the hopes of impressing other shooters that I may post higher scores than – and I don’t do it for posterity. I do it to beat myself and have a good time. If I no longer have a good time, I’ll no longer participate. But for the last 20 years, I like it! I just hope that feeling continues, because the range is where I see my friends more than any other place!

.

Proudly powered by WordPress   Premium Style Theme by www.gopiplus.com