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John "Shrek" McPhee

John McPhee – the “Sheriff of Baghdad”

How do you choose?  There is a slew of training for shooters on the internet, all with sensational promises.  The credentials sound lofty.  The photos promise an action movie.  But, like choosing a lawyer or a doctor on the internet: How can you tell if he's a gift or a quack?

I signed up with John McPhee for two reasons.  One, a friend and Shrek alum pushed me.  Two, a couple of reviews on his website convinced me.  Good reviews make or break the sale for me.  More than one sensible and specific review on Amazon convinced to pull the trigger on "Buy Now," pun intended. 

I am going to attempt the same here. As a sidenote, any reviews on this blog are purely my own views.  I do not receive any kickback or incentives to write these reviews.  I just enjoy spreading useful knowledge.

The Odds Did Not Appear to Be in My Favor

This was a one-day pistol class at an outdoor range in Chino, California.  I had no idea what to expect.  I did hope for insight on why my shots didn’t land where I aimed half the time.  Okay, more than half the time.

I was nervous, too.  The range was unfamiliar and sprawling and as I trudged towards the group at the far end, I realized I didn’t even know what McPhee looked like.  As I got even closer, I also realized I was the only female in that class of 6. 

Now, being the lone female was a familiar scenario in my previous line of work.  But there I could usually hold my own and make my gender a non-issue.  Here, I had nothing to bring to the table and was actually worried I would be at some physical disadvantage.  I felt like a new kid at a school where everyone spoke a foreign language.  Most of the guys turned out to be SWAT and gang cops with about 15 years experience apiece.  Yikes. And here I was, trying to figure out how you put on my holster. 

 Me,the Lone Ranger.  Standing in a poetic sea of empty casings.  I finally figured out how to put on my holster.  Holster by TRex Arms.  Belt by Ares Gear, Inc.   Jeans by Griffon Industries & resewn by my tailor because they were men's range jeans.  

Me,the Lone Ranger.  Standing in a poetic sea of empty casings.  I finally figured out how to put on my holster.

Holster by TRex Arms.  Belt by Ares Gear, Inc.  
Jeans by Griffon Industries & resewn by my tailor because they were men's range jeans.  


All this became moot.


15 Minutes of Fame

 McPhee himself immediately set the tone of the class.  It was informal, but he commanded your attention every minute of those 7 hours without raising his voice or changing his tone.    He impressed and reinforced upon you his direction using every medium possible: visual, auditory and tactile. 

He took several videos of you shooting various drills, projected it on a large screen TV, and broke down your movements.  It's raw and candid and uncomfortable to watch yourself on video like that, especially in front of the other students but there’s no more vivid way to see you.  You thought you were standing and gripping a certain way, but the camera tells you otherwise. 

McPhee’s analysis makes this method his trademark.  Using colored arrows and strokes like an ESPN replay, he showed you the corrections and punctuated his explanation frequently with “so what” – why and how this would all transform your shooting. 

He also explained your mental transformation as you start firing.  For me, that was key. I suspect for almost all women, this is going to be a transfigurative teaching point.  In fact, McPhee stated to us that his female students tended to outshoot the males by the end of the class.  He attributed this to our intuitive wiring- our tendency to listen more carefully than men. 

And, he stated, shooting is not about strength.  It’s about skill.  Well, phew for me.


His drills built upon each other in succession to reinforce what “right” felt like.   Pretty soon, we were able to read our target holes like tea leaves and tweak the issues immediately.  

He drilled us on speed.  

Then speed + accuracy.  

Then speed + accuracy + multiple targets, uninterrupted through four magazines straight.

It was absolutely exhilarating. 

During the breaks, I hurriedly reloaded all my magazines and then ran back out to the targets to practice the movements and dry fire.  Lunch was me shoveling food in my mouth so I could run back out to the targets and practice again.  I was seeing the immediate improvements throughout the day and I was ecstatic. 

Who cared that I was the only girl?  Who cared that I didn’t know anyone?  The students all quickly bonded anyway. The more seasoned guys were humbled at what McPhee showed them. Me?  I couldn’t get enough.  I had nowhere to go but up.


The WebMD Trap

The experience with McPhee reminded me of something.  Ever look on WebMD to diagnose yourself?  That’s because you take your symptoms out of context and try to fit them into a box.  I had read articles, watched YouTube videos, and screenshot-captured all kinds of pictorals on how to improve your shooting, and lo and behold none of them seemed to help.   I later dumped my Pinterest pins on trigger squeezing after hearing him scoff at the perpetuated “trigger jerk myth.” 

McPhee was like a personal physician.  He profiled your first shoot. He showed you how to spear your bad habits and – more importantly – what you’re actually capable of.  I had walked in just hoping he could help improve my aim.  I had no idea I could shoot multiple targets in the head within seconds from the holster. 

McPhee Alumni

If you ever experienced the thrill of competition, you know the love of the grind that leads up to it.  Until that last drill of the day, McPhee was coaching, driving, and encouraging you to perform better. His fixes were all so simple and so sensible.  Like someone showing you how to tie your shoes with two hands instead of one. 

Habits and proclivities are hard to break but he lit a fire in me to break those habits and armed me with the knowledge to succeed.  I was now looking forward to the range with fervor to turn that ship around. I could now practice with intention.  My molehill expectations turned into a mountain.

How about you?  Is there an instructor out there you think more of us should seek out?  Let us know!

For more details on McPhee, visit the Training section on this site. 


 This is what the "Sheriff of Baghdad" looks like in case you need to find him on a range.

This is what the "Sheriff of Baghdad" looks like in case you need to find him on a range.



A Woman and Her Gun

A Woman and Her Gun