“The process of getting good, the process of achieving the status where you’re successful is not an easy process,” says Keith Garcia, Team Safariland Ambassador. “And you have to be very detail orientated, and you have to break everything down to its base movements and then see where you can improve.”
It’s his method of continuously learning, and a dedication to practice that are just two of the ingredients that have made Garcia a six-time USPSA Law Enforcement Multi-Gun National Champion and two-time USPSA Multi-Gun National Champion.
We’re pretty excited to have Garcia join Team Safariland, not only because he knows his stuff and can teach others to be successful, but because his desire to improve and innovate fits right in with Safariland values.
You might be surprised to discover that before Garcia got into law enforcement, he’d only fired a handgun once or twice in his life. In the police academy he had his first exposure to shooting, and was serious about becoming proficient. Five years later he joined the SWAT team and was introduced to competitive SWAT team shooting. “So you run a mile, shoot one shot, crawl through a bunch of bushes, shoot one shot kind of thing, but it was a lot of fun and it was team building and it was exciting.”
As a result he was invited by one of the guys to a handgun shooting match. “It happened to be an all law enforcement match, a handgun match and I went to it and I ended up winning it — which was probably the worst thing that could have happened because I was totally hooked on it at that point.”
Not only did the win have him hooked, Garcia was under the impression he was pretty good. So he signed up for a civilian shooting competition and didn’t do well at all. “Even though I could win a law enforcement match, win a SWAT competition, I would be in the lower to bottom third when shooting against civilians.”
What was the difference, he wondered? Garcia realized that for the civilian competitors, shooting was their passion. They weren’t just doing it because they were told they had to carry a gun or had to qualify, like most officers. Even though Garcia humbly describes his early efforts in the competitions as “terrible,” it became a challenge for him “to be better, and be better with the people who were the best.”
Garcia kept at it, taking classes, practicing and getting better gear, and eventually wound up making it to the level of USPSA Grand Master.
The everyday practice for pistol-only competitions was taking its toll on Garcia’s arm ligaments, and so he decided to switch to 3-Gun, and found that by adding in the rifle and shotgun to the mix, his arms didn’t hurt anymore.
In 2003 Garcia shot his first National championships. “And I did horribly because I really wasn’t very proficient with it yet, but I wanted to try it and I did, and I saw people who were very good at it and I was inspired by it.”
If perseverance and ambition kept him going, it was practice and trust that elevated his skill level and earned him a second place finish at the National Championships five years later in 2008.
“So that was a good experience,” he adds. “Most of the gear, the belt and holsters, and shotgun shell holders, all that stuff was Safariland gear. And what’s nice about that, is I trusted the brand, because I’d been carrying the same Safariland brand as my police gear, for my whole career.”
In 2013, Garcia had a competition highlight when he won the 3-Gun Nation National Championship and $50,000 against 50 of the top three-gunners in the country. “And that was great to me because what it proved was my practice regimen, my gear and everything was top notch at that point.”
One of the most important ingredients to Garcia’s phenomenal success is his simple, but dedicated practice regimen. He believes that you have to do something every day to get better, or you’re not going to maintain your skills—you’re probably going to get worse. Methodically minded, Garcia broke down his sport into three phases: shooting, firearm manipulation, and transitions.
Because he could only get out to the range to practice shooting once a week, he spent every other day of the week dry firing, which involved practicing firearms manipulation (keeping guns loaded and running, fixing any malfunctions) and transitions (putting one gun down and picking another up) at home for 15 to 20 minutes. He focused on improving his efficiency, and by the time he got out to the range for live firing, he’d already practiced two of the three phases and could dedicate that time to shooting, while adding in the other two drills which were already well-practiced.
With his shooting competition, law enforcement, SWAT and instructing experience, Garcia brings an incredible wealth of experience and knowledge to Team Safariland, and we look forward to his contributions developing Safariland products.