Kristoffer Friend shoots with the U.S. Army Reserve Competitive Marksmanship Program Service Rifle Team. He is the winner of two President’s Trophies as well as many other accomplishments partially listed below – followed by his interview:
President’s Trophy: 2007, 2015
President’s Hundred: 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2015
Hilton Trophy: (Reserves – National Trophy Team Match):
2007, 2008, 2012
Celtic Chieftain Trophy:
(Reserves: National Infantry Trophy Team Match): 2010
(National Trophy Team Match – High Individual): 2012
(National Trophy Team Match – High Army Individual): 2012
Hearst Doubles: 2014
1: What was your experience like when starting out in highpower?
I had a fairly successful start to my highpower career. I started in a smallbore program and quickly found a passion for Highpower when I started with the Connecticut State Juniors in 2002. The program was amazing at getting dedicated juniors to as many matches as possible and providing support in the form of firearms, equipment, ammo and reloading supplies, you name it, they tried their best to help. At the time, there were only two 200 yard ranges that I practiced and competed on in the state. The team made regular trips to Nashua, NH, Reading, MA, Albany, NY, and Quantico, VA.
I had great support from the team which allowed me to do relatively well starting out.
2: Who were your mentors? What do you remember most from these experiences and what still rings true?
I have had a number of mentors in this sport. That is one thing I love about the highpower community. Most everybody is willing to help and share their knowledge to better everyone around them. Some major mentors starting out were Brad Palmer, John Kallenbach, and my fellow CT junior shooters John Coggshall and Julie Coggshall.
Brad was one of the primary coaches and organizers of the program when I was a junior and he still is to this day. He has a great way of troubleshooting positions and tweaking the smallest part of your position to make your groups smaller. John Kallenbach was another Connecticut shooter that would bend over backwards to help the juniors and I learned a great deal from him as well. John and Julie were early mentors because I went to the same high school as them and they started shooting well before I did. Both are amazing shooters and helped me learn the ropes of the highpower shooting world as well as helped me with reloading early on.
The USMC Shooting team also had a big hand in molding me into an effective shooter. The Connecticut Juniors made regular trips down to Quantico to train with the Marines.
What I remember most from my early time on the range as a junior highpower shooter was everything I love about the sport today. The camaraderie, the challenges, and the willingness of everyone to help you when you ask.
3: Can you describe some of your most memorable milestones or breakthroughs? Both starting out… and along the journey to competing nationally.
I would have considered myself an above average shooter as a junior, but I never had the consistency to be named to the National Junior Team, win a Whistler boy championship, or be well known outside of Connecticut like some other Juniors I competed with at that time. But I would say my most memorable milestone as a junior shooter was my first leg points at Perry. To come to the mecca of highpower shooting and perform well enough to bring home leg points was a huge accomplishment for me starting out.
I have had an incredible career full of memorable milestones. I was accepted onto the U.S. Army Reserve Competitive Marksmanship Program Service Rifle Team at the end of my last junior season in 2006. My first full season with the team in 2007 included earning my High Master card, earning leg points at Interservice Rifle Championships, becoming distinguished at Perry, being a member of the Enlisted Men’s Trophy winning team, and winning the Presidents Rifle Trophy. It was an amazing season that I can never imagine duplicating.
Since then, I have been fortunate enough to have the support of the Army Reserve and have continued on the same path of success. I have 3 Enlisted Men’s trophies, a Hearst Doubles trophy, was a member of the first Army Reserve team to ever win during the 6-nman team match at Interservice, and fired my personal best high score, a 499-19x during the 10 man team match at Interservice in 2012 as well. But this last season, winning my second President’s Rifle Trophy was something I had never thought of doing. I join my coach, MSG Norman Anderson, someone I’ve looked up to and learned from for many years, as one of only five shooters to ever win the Presidents Trophy twice, as a fired match. (Gary Anderson won it a few times when it was an aggregate trophy during the NRA Championships)
4: Describe your routine to help you stay on top of your best game? Off-Season, Mid-Season and ramping up to bigger matches?
Well to be honest, I do not do as much training as I want to or should do. Living in the north east shortens the shooting season compared to other parts of the country.
During the off-season I do mostly planning for the following season. Do I want to change long line load based on the overall performance of the previous season? Do I need to invest in better lenses, shooting glasses, rear sights? Am I concerned with round count in my barrels? What matches am I going to request orders to attend? What matches do I need to, want to, or can’t go to? There’s a wide range of questions that need to be answered before the start of the next season and that’s what I use the off-season to do. Plan.
What about dry firing? Well, here’s where I need to confess that I do not do much dry firing at all. I do dry fire for maybe an hour before my first spring range trip, but other than that the only time I usually dry fire is when I need to fix something or get used to a new piece of equipment. If I am having issues with a position I will dry fire, but I do not use it as off season practice.
For new shooters, however, I suggest dry firing a lot. You need to make handling the firearm natural, like putting on the jacket and slinging up is like getting a missing appendage reattached. Dry fire with a purpose. Have an objective in mind like “I want to get in and out of prone and establish the same natural point of aim each time” or “I want to call 100% of my shots in the black during standing dry fire”
As far as practicing, I typically get one day in the spring at my in-law’s farm or local range to dust the cob webs off. I’ll shoot standing and a few strings of rapid in each position. I do not get focused too much on performance. I just want to get through the motions and figure out what I think I need to work on further. Position, trigger control, etc.
After that, my practice is almost completely done in the form of actual matches. The best way to get good at something is to actually do it. It is hard to recreate the environment and stress of a match outside of an actual match.
Mental training is very important. I like to use mental imagery as a way to make walking up to the firing line feel like something I’ve done a million times. Imagining step by step, breath by breath my shooting process the night before a match typically helps ease that initial first shot jitters.
5: How important is technique, mental program, and equipment in influencing your performance? What is their proportional influence?
Technique is something that is ever changing for me. I try to formulate a process in my shot that may include minor changes in technique from season to season, or in some instances day to day. For example, this past season I was dealing with low back and left wrist injuries. I had to figure out ways to get in and out of position efficiently, and also had to change my support hand in standing. Through a little bit of dry firing I established these new techniques. Doing the same thing, the same way, every time is required to be consistent and accurate.
This shot process is part of the mental program I use. I try not to think too much while I shoot so having a repetitive almost OCD shot process takes away from the unnecessary rattling your brain might do during firing. The only thing you should be thinking about is the wind. Your position, trigger squeeze, and sight alignment should all become automatic overtime. If you are actively thinking about your position, or concentrating so hard on only one aspect of your shot that you neglect other key fundamentals, you are not going to be consistent and thus not accurate.
If you are a good shooter, you can get away with shooting with any equipment you have. CPT Samuel Freeman is a prime example of that. He used the same shooting jacket for over 15 years. It was too small and held together mostly by Super 77 adhesive spray, but he made it work. I was issued a used jacket from the shooting team that was too big and didn’t fit right but I used that for 7 years and shot very well with it. Due to wrist injury I’ve changed the glove I’ve used frequently in an attempt to find something that doesn’t stress torn ligaments, but other than that, if you have an accurate barrel, a smooth trigger, and ammo that will go where you point it, everything else is optional.
6: What was the toughest match you’ve ever competed in where you held it together? What was that like?
There have been a few tough matches in my career. During the 10 man team match at Interservice in 2012 I fired a 9 my 6th shot standing. I called it right off the spotter at 2 O’Clock, right where my teammate shot his last shot. I remember looking at the spotter instead of the post right as the shot broke. Then, with the help of my pair fire partner CPT Freeman and my coach MSG Anderson, I finished with a 499-19x. I was keeping an accurate data book so I knew exactly how many points I was down every shot I took. But I kept my mind where it always is during team matches. Usually joking around with my teammates while not shooting, and getting into that natural shot process during shooting. Later that season I also fired a 497 during the National Trophy Team match at Perry. To this day those are the best team scores I’ve ever shot.
All three times I have made the President’s Trophy shoot-off have been completely different. During my 2007 shoot-off I was in 3rd place with two very hard holders to my left and many more to my right within a point or X’s of me. I was extremely nervous. It was my first year on the Army Reserve Team and my first time ever competing in a shoot-off. I just tried to focus as much as possible on my shot, and my shot only. I forced myself to get tunnel vision and not think about what those around me were doing and it worked. In 2008, I was near the big end of the shoot-off with little pressure at all and had a lot of fun just shooting the best shot I could. This past season, I entered the shoot-off in 2nd. I had been on the team now for 9 years and had the two other shoot-off’s under my belt. I was confident in my zeros even though I had been having a rough season performance wise up to that point. The key to keeping from getting nervous or stressed is to remember to have fun. My way of doing this is to joke and talk with those around me and to remember it’s a one-way range that I’m firing on.
7: If you had to choose only ONE answer, what has helped you improve the most towards your goals in highpower?
Shooting. You have to get out there and shoot. You can’t dry fire 1,000,000 shots and expect it to translate directly into a 495 out on the range. You need to learn from your experiences and the only way to do that is to actually get out there and shoot.
8: Why do you continue to stay involved with highpower?
Well to be honest, if I were not a member of the USARCMP and had the funding to compete, I don’t know if I would still be shooting. Unfortunately, this is an expensive sport. I have had the privilege and honor of being a member of an organization that helps me stay involved.
Other than that, I stay involved because I genuinely love this sport. I am a happier person when I am on a rifle range. I enjoy the people I know and meet out on the range. The USARCMP Service rifle team is like a second family at times.
That and shooting an X at 600 yards on your first shot is always going to be one of the most satisfying things you can do in your life.
9: All shooters have ebbs and flows in their desired performance, is there a magic formula for breaking through slumps or plateaus?
Well, there very well might be, but I honestly don’t know what it is. Whenever I am going through a slump I try to pull a few positives from anywhere I can find them. Finding 10 shot strings that are good, focusing on good wind calls, etc. Getting away from negative thinking during a slump is always important. Just go back to the basics and good scores will come back. If you know you can shoot a 10, you know you can shoot. Be positive and remember to have fun. I have seen so many people out at Perry that take bad shots so seriously and you can see it negatively impact them mentally, physically and on their scorecard.
10: What would you like to talk about that wasn’t covered in the previous questions?
One piece of advice I would give to anyone reading this looking to learn one bit of information to make them a better shooter is this: Learn to focus on the next shot, not the last.
This last season during the Interservice Rifle Championships I fired my first shot over the target in standing. During prep I got distracted while talking to those around me while prepping my sights and put the incorrect elevation on. I called it a good shot right down the middle bit it was obvious that it was sent well over the target. I was instantly 10 points down in a 100 shot match that is usually won by someone dropping less than that over the course of those 100 shots. Instead of crumbling, I fired 2 just off the line 9’s for my 2nd and 3rd shot. I took a deep breath, and fired 17 10s and Xs in a row to end with a 188. Before that day, I had never cleaned a 10 shot string in offhand, and I did it after dropping 12 shots in my first 3 out of the gun.
If you are still thinking about the bad shot you just made, you are forgetting something that is going to make the next shot the best shot you can make. Shoot 1 shot matches. Focus on the fundamentals and your shot will go where it should. You can have your split second moment of anger after a bad shot but as soon as you enter your shot process for your next shot your only focus should be on your shot process.