Ep. 06: How Are You Going to Intimidate Me With WordsIn this episode, we talk with Mark Horsley, who has recently returned from Australia, where he and his shooting partner won silver in their division at the world PPC championships. Mark is a Staff Sergeant with a local police agency who was responsible for creating and implementing their revolver to semi-auto transition program and returned to his training role to assist in the development of a multi-million dollar range training facility. We also discuss what it takes to compete at the world PPC championships, his time training with the FBI at Quantico Virginia, and how he overcame a horrific accident.
Travis Bader: [00:00:00] I’m Travis Bader and this is The Silvercore Podcast. Join me as I discuss matters related to hunting, fishing, and outdoor pursuits with the people in businesses that comprise the community. If you’re a new to Silvercore, be sure to check out our website, www.Silvercore.ca where you can learn more about courses, services, and products that we offer. As well as how you can join The Silvercore Club, which includes 10 million in North America wide liability insurance to ensure you are properly covered during your outdoor adventures.
[00:00:45] Today I get the pleasure of sitting down with Mark Horsley, who’s a 34 year veteran of the local law enforcement agency. He spent 10 of those years in a training capacity and helping set up the training programs for this agency. He’s an avid competitor in PPC and he just came back from Australia for the a 1500 world championships where he and his partner plays quite well. Welcome, Mark.
Mark Horsley: [00:01:09] Thanks Travis.
Travis Bader: [00:01:10] So, I specifically called it PPC because I’m not 100% sure what PPC stands for. A Google search will show me several different definitions. Can you tell me a little bit about PPC as well as what brought you to Australia to compete.
Mark Horsley: [00:01:28] PPC is a police training base competition, it stands for Police Pistol Competition. Some areas we’ll call it Police Pistol Combat, especially in the old days when they weren’t as concerned about political correctness. Internationally, it’s called Precision Pistol Competition and that’s to acknowledge that it’s open to military and civilian competitors internationally as well.
[00:01:52] In Canada, it’s open to civilian police and military. In the United States, it’s only for police, so that’s the differences. It’s all the same rules, same courses of fire, and their courses of fire that are challenging, the distances at maximum are 50 metres. The closest distance, depending on the competition, would be three meters, but the standard distances are 7, 15, 25 and 50.
[00:02:19] They’re challenging courses of fire, it’s an accuracy based sport. Timeframes are more generous than they are for IPSC or more speed based sports. The score zone is an oval that’s three inches high by two inches wide, that’s the maximum score zone and it radiates out from the centre of the target, which is essentially a torso of a human being. In Canada and the United States, the torso has a head on it. Internationally, it has an upside down triangle.
Travis Bader: [00:02:50] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:02:50] And in Canada, we’re probably gravitating towards that target because some ranges don’t want human silhouettes.
Travis Bader: [00:02:58] Oh, I can see that. So the big difference, I guess between IPSC and PPC is that the PPC really had its founding in the police pistol competitions?
Mark Horsley: [00:03:08] Yes, very much so. It was where police training evolved from bullseye style shooting into PPC style shooting. And then there’s a lot of offshoot disciplines, you know, all of which have merit, all of which have a place in competitive shooting. So people that will do well in a police pistol competition will tend to also do well in action pistol, steel, IPSC and vice versa. So if you can shoot, you can compete in the different disciplines.
Travis Bader: [00:03:37] So you just came back from Australia and I figured that’s a good place to start and we can work our way backwards from there, but that sounds like a pretty cool trip. Can you tell me about what got you over to Australia?
Mark Horsley: [00:03:49] So I’ve got to blame or credit Roly Miles. Roly is the number one shooter in Canada, he’s from a place called Dryden Ontario, where they have nothing to do but shoot and swat mosquitoes, and they got about nine months of winter. Roly was the world champion in 2017, number one ranked a shooter in the world.
[00:04:10] A couple of years ago, he came to me and asked me not to come out of retirement because I wasn’t really retired, but my best scores were shot in the 90’s when I was in my thirties and I was sort of just dabbling, it was more social than anything. I didn’t train, I went and shot two or three matches a year.
[00:04:28] And he asked me if I would consider upping my game, paying attention to all the details that I hadn’t paid attention to in the past, with the idea of mind of being selected to represent Canada in 2019. It was a little daunting. I was at a point in life where I had the time to do this, with family demands and that kind of thing. My volunteer coaching had basically ended as a basketball soccer coach.
[00:04:52] So I thought I’d give it a go, and it meant attention to every detail, ramping it up, and it required that I obtain a ranking in the top two in Canada to represent Canada there. And I was able to do that. Even when I got offered the opportunity to represent Canada, I was reluctant because I just plain didn’t feel I was good enough.
Travis Bader: [00:05:12] Really?
Mark Horsley: [00:05:13] To go to a world championship.
Travis Bader: [00:05:14] Even though you’re ranked number two in Canada?
Mark Horsley: [00:05:16] Well number two in Canada, but I was ranked 55th in the world in revolver and 156th in pistol and I wasn’t real keen on going down there and get my butt kicked. And my wife encouraged me, she said, you know, I’m 59 years old, she says, you’ll regret it when you’re 90 if you don’t go. So I basically had to jump in with both feet to this about 10 months out, and then commit myself very much to the preparation and the training for this.
Travis Bader: [00:05:44] So what did the prep look like?
Mark Horsley: [00:05:45] Well, hit the gym hard, working out to be physically fit, lots of cardio, lots of strength work. The stronger you are, the easier it is to hold your positions and there’s a real stamina factor because it was eight days of shooting, four days of competition, four days of preparation. So it’s quite arduous in that regard. And then it was attention to every detail in the firearms, preparing them properly, making sure that, you know, everything was properly tuned and properly manufactured. And then tuning the ammunition to the guns and then all the on and off range training particular to making sure that the fundamentals were in place.
Travis Bader: [00:06:28] So were you loading all of your own ammunition? Or were you using factory ammo for this?
Mark Horsley: [00:06:32] Some of both. But the factory ammo had to work in my guns, so there was lots of input with the ammunition engineer. I don’t do any of my own loading, I have an expert who does that. His name is Gord Tromblay, he’s a local shooting enthusiast with vast experience and he fined tuned ammo for my guns that I shot in both team events when I was in Australia and my individual events as well.
Travis Bader: [00:06:57] Was that difficult to get ammo from Canada over to Australia? Because I know they’ve got some interesting laws as well.
Mark Horsley: [00:07:03] Okay, how long have you got? Cause the hardest part about this whole trip had nothing to do with preparing for shooting, it was getting the permitting and authorization. We were at the point where we were near the drop dead date, where it looked like I wasn’t going to get permits and we weren’t going to be able to go.
[00:07:21] Ultimately, we got the permits. You’re limited on an air carrier as to how much ammo you can take, I took what I was allowed to take. We had to ship ammo from our sponsors down there, which we got. And then Roly went ahead of us and had components arranged and he loaded a lot of our ammo as well.
Travis Bader: [00:07:41] Oh thank god for that.
Mark Horsley: [00:07:42] We went through massive amounts of ammo and one of our strongest competitors is the Swedish team. Their ammo got stuck in transit, and here’s the nature of the sport, the number one ranked pistol shooter in the world’s from Sweden, Roly broke apart in his gun and the Swedish competitor gave him the parts needed. The Swedes had not enough ammo to compete, we gave them 3000 rounds of our ammo so they could compete.
[00:08:09] And bottom line is you don’t want a victory because someone else had misfortune, you want to do your best and if they beat ya, it’s a handshake and a congratulations. And if you win, you know, you earned it.
Travis Bader: [00:08:21] That’s fantastic. So you land in Australia, have you been there before?
Mark Horsley: [00:08:26] Never been there before.
Travis Bader: [00:08:27] So you’re getting your bearings and your.
Mark Horsley: [00:08:29] 16 hour flight yeah. And I talked to a couple Ozzies before we went, they said, sleep the last six, or sorry, the last eight hours of the flight. And that’s what I did, like I’m a guy that, I’m an old guy. I sit in my lazy boy chair, I fall asleep in front of the TV, and then I go to bed about nine o’clock but I stayed awake until the last eight hours and I slept seven of the last eight hours. So I actually hit the ground feeling pretty good and arrived on a Friday. We started training on the Saturday at the range, facility was phenomenal.
Travis Bader: [00:09:01] So then you train for how long before you competed?
Mark Horsley: [00:09:03] We had four days. We had snow, bright sunshine, winds up to 80 kilometres an hour and the Germans and Austrians showed up, they did a sight in, but they said it wasn’t worth training. And we train through that and I think that was a key factor when we got to the team competition because it was gusty winds and conditions that you know, we were well prepared for.
Travis Bader: [00:09:28] I gotta wonder that mentality. Wonder about that mentality, it’s not worth training.
Mark Horsley: [00:09:34] Well, they felt that the conditions during the four days of training would be different during the competition. My feeling on training is that even though that’s likely to happen, the experience you get from shooting in the wind, shooting in the rain or whatever the conditions are, are going to benefit you at some point.
[00:09:53] We were there for the shooting competition when the competition ended, then my wife and I had a three week tour period, where our guns were stored and we did that but that’s what we were there for, was to shoot. So there was nothing gonna stop us.
Travis Bader: [00:10:08] So I’ve actually had a few people on here talking about the mental preparation as well and they bring up Lanny Bassham, the Olympic shooter, who’s written a book called with winning in mind and a bunch of others actually. I’ve started looking into that a bit, and I think it was a Linda Cunningham, Linda Miller and Keith Cunningham, I believe were the two Canadians, they’ve got a company called MilCun back East. Was there a mental preparation portion to this as well?
Mark Horsley: [00:10:34] 100% this is a very cognitive sport. It’s very mental focus, keep your mind clear. A lot of details to remember, and I can talk a little bit as we went into the results of how I, you know, controlled that. But it’s a definitely a strong mind sport. And you know, a good analogy sports wise would be to golf.
[00:10:59] Where although you’re competing against other people, you’re really competing against yourself, your own doubts, the thoughts that might creep into your head that don’t belong there at that time. That’s the absolute, biggest part of the sport yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:11:12] You know from a training perspective, that has always intrigued me because everybody wants to learn what they call that 90% the, or sorry, the 10%. People will say, oh it’s 90% mental, 10% doing, or whatever percentage they want to ascribe to it. But any school you go to, any training that people do, typically revolves around that 10% doing. Because that 90%, which I feel is huge, is not as glitzy or glamorous for people to concentrate on.
Mark Horsley: [00:11:41] In all sports you’ve got the, what we call enter-train-ment aspect, and it’s absolutely horrific in the shooting sports. Where nobody wants to, like Steve Nash in the NBA, go to the court and do the a hundred shots before practice and a hundred shots after practice. They want a dive and jump and it’s all cool, but there has to be a balance.
[00:12:07] And so, you know, be wary of the instructor that names drills after themselves, and has something new to do. There’s not a lot new in shooting except ballistics and some technological things in the last hundred years. There’s not a lot, like what made a good shooter a hundred years ago makes a good shooter today.
Travis Bader: [00:12:29] Right.
Mark Horsley: [00:12:29] And you know, I can talk a little bit about that. There’s a Swedish shooter, he’s a rocket engineer with SOB. So he’s a civilian and he’s one of the top 10 in the world. He went and visited John Pride, who was one of the top shooters from the 70s, lives in the Los Angeles area and paid him the biggest compliment.
[00:12:50] He says, we can beat his scores, but his scores were done with such rudimentary technology compared to what we have now, we’re actually not on his level, and I’m paraphrasing.
Travis Bader: [00:13:00] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:13:00] But that’s what he was basically saying and it’s very respectful. So at the end of the day, it might not be glamorous, but whether you’re winning at basketball or you’re winning at soccer, you’re winning in shooting, it’s about fundamentals, it’s about focus. It’s about doing the right things at the right times, and very little of it has to do with whether you twist your gun like Mel Gibson.
[00:13:24] Or you do the TV stuff and the flashy stuff. Very little of it is in that area and I don’t care what shooting discipline it is. I’m a long range rifle shooter, I shoot steel, I shoot other disciplines, this year my focus was on the police pistol combat because of the Australian championships.
Travis Bader: [00:13:40] So how many days did the championship and how many competitors can you walk me through that a little bit?
Mark Horsley: [00:13:45] I can’t remember the exact number of competitors, there were 10 nations represented. PPC is a massive sport in Northern Europe, Germany, huge in Australia where they have a national team, and then each state has a junior development team. They have multimillion dollar ranges. I mean, it’s very huge sport in these countries. The competition itself was shot over an eight day period. So the Australian shot their scores over eight days.
Travis Bader: [00:14:16] Wow.
Mark Horsley: [00:14:16] The internationals over the final four days.
Travis Bader: [00:14:19] Okay.
Mark Horsley: [00:14:19] And the reason for that is because they needed some of the Australians to do line officer and other duties during it, so they were able to shoot their competition early. So we trained for four days and we competed for four days following that.
Travis Bader: [00:14:32] And what do the competitions look like?
Mark Horsley: [00:14:35] So the championship courses of fire are 150 rounds. Maximum score is 10 for each shot fire, so they’re scored out of 1500 points and then there’s a number of side matches, they’re either 48 rounds, scoring out of 480 or 60 rounds, scoring out of 600. The team events and there were four team events that,
[00:15:00] I competed in all of them. I competed in all the individual events as well. Each shooter shoots a 60 round course of fire and it’s scored out of 1200. The scores are combined. So in the way they do it, they, it’s televised. There’s two targets for each shooter, they’re 30 shots on each target.
[00:15:17] And what they do is you’re lined up, left or right on the range, highest rank teams on the left, lowest ranked on the right. And after 30 rounds, the targets are scored and they post your scores for TV and for the spectators as you go through. So you get interim results at 30, 60, 90, and then the final at 120 rounds.
Travis Bader: [00:15:38] Do they start moving competitor’s position on the range?
Mark Horsley: [00:15:41] No you stay in the same position throughout. You’re allowed in the team events to call and coach, you’re allowed binoculars. Roly and I don’t talk to each other while we’re shooting, it’s a distraction, but there’s a couple of words in between, while targets are being changed and that kind of thing.
Travis Bader: [00:15:59] And those words are typically, Hey, you’re doing a good job?
Mark Horsley: [00:16:02] Well, a big part of it is keeping your fellow competitor, your teammate, calm. But also to give, you know, some good valid input. I used to coach a basketball with a guy and he was fantastic, but we’d coach like our great for girls team and he’d say, I got 75 things you need to do in the second half. My rule to him was you get one thing.
[00:16:22] And generally my rule to Roly is I’ll say one point, but you got to keep it quite small because you can’t have your teammates head spinning with, you know, all kinds of technical things. So I mean, by that point, we’ve done a lot of training. We know what we’re doing. You may have a lighting, like light can draw your bullets one direction or another, and a little bit of feedback.
[00:16:44] Sometimes under the stress of competition, someone might, for example, overgrip on one side of their shooting and bring shots to an area they don’t want to. And those would be the kind of points you’d make. Another horrible, horrible thing to do is, and I did this at the Washington state championships cause I had a absolute 100%, clean target and I fired my final shot and I quit and came off the barricade and pulled that shot, you know, from the tendering into the nine.
[00:17:15] And it was like I just needed to stay in the game a little longer. That’s a classic error that you’d make. So if you do that, you want your teammate to know right. You know?
Travis Bader: [00:17:26] So do you look at your scores as you’re going through? I mean, if they’re put up for the public, they’re televised. It’s kind of hard not to, but everyones got a different theory on it.
Mark Horsley: [00:17:34] Okay. So we did all the individual events for three days. You know, win, lose or draw there. Mixed results, challenges to overcome, problems. Got down to the the team event, which was a shot on the final day of competition and my way of dealing with it is, I don’t look at all. I don’t look at scores. I look at, I stay focused. I, it could be just Roly and I on the range, no one else was there.
Travis Bader: [00:18:02] You’re in your bubble.
Mark Horsley: [00:18:03] I’m in my own world, I don’t look at scores, I don’t look at my competitors. We shot between Sweden and England in one event. I don’t look at their targets, shake hands at the beginning, shake hands at the end and in between, they’re not in my world, I’m in my own world.
Travis Bader: [00:18:22] Wow.
Mark Horsley: [00:18:22] And that’s my way of dealing with it. You know, I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong, but I can remember just my thoughts to myself were, I’m never going to be here again, I’ve never been here before. This is the day to leave it on the field and win, lose or draw, I’m giving it my all. And so we went into the revolver event with the Roly ranked number two in the world.
[00:18:48] He had a number one ranking until the week before and the a Swedish competitor overtook them for that ranking. I was ranked 55th in the world, so we were quite a ways right on the range as far as down the pecking order.
[00:19:04] Roly shot first, bright sunshine, shooting from a shaded position, high winds, he shot a 593, which under the conditions, everybody’s shooting at the same time was a good score. Far below what he would shoot in ideal conditions. But again, we’re shooting in the windy conditions.
Travis Bader: [00:19:23] Right.
Mark Horsley: [00:19:24] And he shot first I went up next, I shot a 594. He said to me, you beat my score, which is the first time I’ve ever done it.
Travis Bader: [00:19:33] Wow.
Mark Horsley: [00:19:33] And I said, it doesn’t matter, it’s not about that right. It’s not, it wasn’t anything about, now if we’re in an individual event, there’s some smack talk, there’s a little bit of competitive, but as teammates, I could care less. I just wanted to make sure I was carrying my weight. And so we ended up beating the Australian team by one point. They had just set the world record and the head of pistol Australia was pretty pissed with us. I don’t know, can I say that?
Travis Bader: [00:20:01] Oh you sure can.
Mark Horsley: [00:20:02] Second take. Who’s upset with us. They had a TV interview, a feature all set up to go with the Australians, they were total gentlemen. This guy, the head of pistol Australia, he just lost it and I was very disappointed. And you gotta understand their funding comes from their government and their funding’s based on medals.
Travis Bader: [00:20:24] Okay.
Mark Horsley: [00:20:25] So it’s in every single sport. They’re very, very organized, very highly competitive.
Travis Bader: [00:20:30] No kidding.
Mark Horsley: [00:20:30] And so this was really important. And we were kind of riding high on that result and then we shot the pistol team. We were ranked even lower, roly was ranked a number 10 in the world, I was ranked 156 so we were a long way right on the range. I think that there was the English team beside us and they weren’t at the calibre of other teams.
Travis Bader: [00:20:55] Okay. Fair enough.
Mark Horsley: [00:20:56] And we were down there keeping them company. So in the final, we changed order, I shot first and I was the only competitor in the final with a stock pistol with no modifications, not a custom gun. It was a CZ Shadow 2 that I bought at Reliable sporting goods here in Vancouver.
Travis Bader: [00:21:15] Great store.
Mark Horsley: [00:21:16] They were, it was very notable, like a lot of people talked about that because the CZ has a 4.7 inch barrel, you’re allowed six, you’re allowed adjustable sights, you’re allowed all kinds of modifications to these guns. And you know, typically they would be like four to 10 times the value of the gun that I had. Anyway, I shot, put up my score, and then Roly shot an absolutely phenomenal score in the conditions, he did a 595.
Travis Bader: [00:21:45] Nice.
Mark Horsley: [00:21:45] And we lost the gold medal by a point, won the silver medal, very proudly. And one of the big things for me was we went into this knowing that we, on a good day with a tailwind, on the downhill slope, we could maybe make the top five in revolver. But we knew we weren’t even close in pistol. And it just goes to show you shouldn’t sell yourself short. You know, they don’t hand out the metals until the game’s done.
Travis Bader: [00:22:12] Yes.
Mark Horsley: [00:22:12] And while I was in Australia, hiding it from my wife, I was researching a custom pistol to buy. I actually bought it while I was in Australia, had it delivered, and I now am the proud owner of a new custom pistol.
Travis Bader: [00:22:28] Oh good for you.
Mark Horsley: [00:22:29] So I plan on going back and you know, no one cares that you disadvantage yourself, it’s simply an asterix or a point of conversation over beers.
Travis Bader: [00:22:39] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:22:39] But at the end of the day, you know, if you’re gonna play with the big boys, you should have the gear.
Travis Bader: [00:22:45] I agree. Well bone stock CZ, silver medal in pistol. Revolvers, how’d you do there?
Mark Horsley: [00:22:52] So my revolver is a custom gun, built by Roly and yeah, it’s 100% competitive against, you know those and in the individual events, you know, through the week. You know, I had some good showings, I had a fourth, I had a sixth, and then right out of nowhere, I pop a really good score in the open event.
[00:23:15] It allows optics, my gun doesn’t have optics, I shot a iron sight gun in that and I ended up silver medal they’re, losing by an x. That event and it just tells me that at 59, I got room to grow, I can improve.
Travis Bader: [00:23:33] Good for you.
Mark Horsley: [00:23:34] I’m actually thinking real hard about trying to make the team in 2021.
Travis Bader: [00:23:38] Good for you.
Mark Horsley: [00:23:39] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:23:39] Well, I remember hearing another story at one point about you shooting with a bone stock gun, I think it was a Beretta and it was when you were getting a master instructor designation down with the FBI. Am I recalling that correctly?
Mark Horsley: [00:23:54] You got that story right. So 85, I joined the police department, never shot a handgun prior to that. I came into policing with a hunting background, you know, slow to adopt to handgun, but I can remember the day it clicked cause it’s different than rifle shooting, there’s some cross training value.
Travis Bader: [00:24:13] Right.
Mark Horsley: [00:24:13] 93 I became a police instructor and that’s when I started to compete and I did it to network with other instructors, learn from them, improve my craft. I don’t care what you do, you want to be instructed by you know, a ski instructor that knows more than the bunny hill snow plow right?
Travis Bader: [00:24:32] Right.
Mark Horsley: [00:24:32] You have to have a competency level. You don’t have to be a world champion to be a good instructor, but if you can’t hit the target at 50 metres, you got an issue right.
Travis Bader: [00:24:40] Sure yeah.
Mark Horsley: [00:24:41] Cause you should have those fundamentals. Anyway, I worked on my resume from 93, 98 I had a chance to take the FBI instructors course in Quantico, Virginia, and yes, I was carrying a bone stock Beretta 96D. It was really an intimidating experience for me. I applied, they turned me down, they said that the last three Canadians had failed.
[00:25:06] The format of the course is, it’s a two week course. Day one, you shoot a qualifier in all the different guns, pistol, revolver, shotgun, MP5, AR. And if you don’t meet the instructor standard, you’re sent home.
Travis Bader: [00:25:22] Okay.
Mark Horsley: [00:25:23] So you’ve wasted their time and your time gone all the way to Virginia, it’s humiliating.
Travis Bader: [00:25:27] Sure it is.
Mark Horsley: [00:25:28] So I said well, could you have another look at this and send somebody to pretest me? So they sent the FBI liaison officer from Ottawa to Vancouver to pretest me. I met him at the Bayshore hotel, we had breakfast, I had the van full, ready to go to the range for him to test me. And I said, well we should head to the range, get this done. He says no, we don’t have to. He says, I’ve looked into you’re competitive.
Travis Bader: [00:25:54] Really?
Mark Horsley: [00:25:54] Shooting. At that point I had 12 national records in Canada and some championships and stuff, and he was confident in me. So there I am off in the spring of 98 to a Virginia, it’s a spectacular place, the facilities are mind boggling. They’ve got an Olympic size swimming pool with a boxing gym on one side and AR’s for water training on the other side.
Travis Bader: [00:26:19] Oh I love it.
Mark Horsley: [00:26:20] Their cardio room is like the size of a double basketball court. Like they had everything. I mean, it was like I had died and gone to heaven. But I got there Sunday night, 41 candidates each were asked to give a thumbnail sketch. I was so intimidated. They went from one guy to another, and these guys were, I was a green Baret, I fought in 17 wars.
Travis Bader: [00:26:42] Right.
Mark Horsley: [00:26:42] I did this and that, and you know, I protected the president and the, you know.
Travis Bader: [00:26:45] Wow.
Mark Horsley: [00:26:45] The Pope and you know, and it was like, holy smokes. They got to me and I went, ah, hi. I’m Mark, I’m from a small police department in Canada and hope to pass tomorrow, and I hope to learn lots from you guys.
Travis Bader: [00:26:59] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:27:00] Well, I went out the next day and, you know, I passed everything. But a lot of my competitors or fellow classmates didn’t and I’m just trying to remember how many were sent home, I think it was 13 that didn’t pass. One of the hardest things we had to do was a bullseye course of fire.
Travis Bader: [00:27:22] Okay.
Mark Horsley: [00:27:23] With a service gun and service ammo. So that’s the one handed on a bullseye course, it’s a trigger control exercise. You gotta be able to do that as an instructor. And anyway, I went through the whole a week they had, so once you’ve established that you’ve got the skills. All the focus is on teaching, how to teach, and they give you an opportunity to shoot what they call the FBI possible. It’s a course of fire that’s called the possible because it’s not impossible, but it’s not probable.
Travis Bader: [00:27:54] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:27:55] So this is a move and shoot multiple target, shoot, no shoot scenario course of fire that you run through. You’ve probably seen some of it on television. So they said on one of the last days, I think two days before the course ended that you had a chance to try to qualify to shoot your possible.
[00:28:17] So you could only go to the possible if you had less than two misses on the course. So I did the qualifier and I was the only guy to actually qualify to shoot the possible. So they said.
Travis Bader: [00:28:30] Only guy out of everybody?
Mark Horsley: [00:28:31] Out of the class, yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:28:32] Wow.
Mark Horsley: [00:28:33] And so they said, so it’ll be noon hour on Friday and thinking high noon on Friday. I get down there and they’ve got, because the DA is hosted, drug enforcement administration, FBI, all their instructors, students, the whole places on a Marine reserve.
Travis Bader: [00:28:51] Okay.
Mark Horsley: [00:28:51] So they had a US Marines. All my classmates, like quite a few spectators, and I’m looking at this and I’m going, holy smokes a little bit of pressure here. But I think in to myself, okay, go into your own world, no one else is here and ignore everybody. Think fundamentals, make your decisions, you know, because there would be, you know, targets that would pop out that were a shoot or a don’t shoot and course the closest shots were seven, the farthest were 60 and so it was.
Travis Bader: [00:29:22] That’s a good distance.
Mark Horsley: [00:29:23] Quite a bit and the score zone was pretty small. And I shot my issue, Beretta with plastic grips and you know, stock Beretta pistol. And if you get the possible, it’s, you’ve cleaned the course, you haven’t shot anyone you didn’t shoot and you haven’t missed.
Travis Bader: [00:29:39] Right.
Mark Horsley: [00:29:40] So I completed it, got the possible, and then this most amazing thing happened. All these guys are coming up and shaking my hand, and they’re going, son, your country must be very proud of you. And I’m thinking, yeah no, this is Canada.
Travis Bader: [00:29:54] A lil different.
Mark Horsley: [00:29:55] You know, if you don’t have a good wrist shot or a slap shot in my country doesn’t care.
Travis Bader: [00:30:00] That’s right.
Mark Horsley: [00:30:01] But such an amazing experience. I went into, they have a pub there called the boardroom, and I went in and they had a piper, and about every 10 minutes someone would jump up on the table and announced that I’d shot the possible. To them it’s a really big deal.
Travis Bader: [00:30:15] Well no kid, I think to a lot of people, that’s a pretty big deal.
Mark Horsley: [00:30:18] So at the end of the course, the head instructor at the front was handing out the certificates and he said, we got this guy come down from a communist country, where they don’t even like guns and he ends up as the top overall shooter and he tore my certificate in half.
Travis Bader: [00:30:37] What?
Mark Horsley: [00:30:37] And threw it on the floor and stomped on, it was all a big show. They had another one ready for me. Anyway, I picked the one up off the floor, I taped it back together, framed it, and it’s the one that sits in my den.
Travis Bader: [00:30:48] Oh, that’s fantastic.
Mark Horsley: [00:30:50] It was a great experience. They were such a professional agency, such a pleasure and an honour to work with and their knowledge and their respect was, they never treated me like some guy, you know, from a small police department. They, it was, it was a wonderful experience.
Travis Bader: [00:31:07] That’s pretty cool.
Mark Horsley: [00:31:08] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:31:08] As an instructor for the police agency, how much from the FBI’s training did you borrow and repurpose, within the basketball training that you’ve provided as well? You lean on that too.
Mark Horsley: [00:31:20] Oh, hugely. So you know, I’ve taken the Canada coaching program for basketball and soccer. I’m a goalie coach for soccer, which is kind of a natural transition from basketball. So coaching is coaching for performance, and you apply the same principles, same techniques to shooting as you would to high jump, javelin throw, you know, any performance sport. And so it’s all the same.
[00:31:45] Initially these were kind of courses and credentials that I gained as I went through. But it definitely applied to my programs, my coaching. So I was a pistol instructor from 94 to 98. Then I went into investigation operations, other areas of policing, I was promoted, did a few different things. And then I was finishing up in an investigative assignment in 2005, and I was asked by the executive to come back in.
[00:32:16] They wanted somebody who could write business cases to replace body armour, upgrade all of our firearms, our armoury, and most importantly, our training. Best tools don’t matter if you don’t have the know how to use them. And the issue at that time was we had too many shots fired in police involved shootings and too few hits. So I did a study, I relied on my contacts at the FBI.
[00:32:43] Overall in North America, the average hit ratio, and that’s any hit on a human suspect’s body, is 17%. Now, obviously we can win fights faster with less risk to ourselves and the public and even the bad guy if we can win the fights faster. So I researched the agencies that had high hit ratios and I found two that had over 90% hit ratios and contacted them. They willingly shared their programs, their philosophy, their specific training with me, all their manuals, everything.
[00:33:20] I went and I trained with them, I brought that back to our police department, did an eight hour training session with every single member, implemented these techniques. You know, it’s all about measuring and performing, and if it’s working, you use it. If it doesn’t, you find something else and then my agency went five years, 20 shootings with a hundred percent hit ratio, which is unheard of. So our fights were done real quick.
Travis Bader: [00:33:47] Wow.
Mark Horsley: [00:33:47] And I want to put this into context, this is a situation where a police officer is forced to shoot a suspect to protect somebody. So they were all legitimate, valid, necessary shoots. And instead of having 13 rounds, or like some agencies currently have like over a hundred rounds for seven hits, we were winning these fights in, you know, one, two or three rounds.
[00:34:14] And that’s the important part. So it’s a very quantified, measured, scientific approach coaching theory used to do this and theory presented, tested, measured, so you know, to see how it works.
Travis Bader: [00:34:29] That all takes place within the training and what people can then take away. I know agencies will have an annual or sometimes semi-annual courses of fire. Quite often the brass will look at the course of fire as if the proof is in the pudding. I’ve seen high round course of fires, I’ve even seen single round course of fires that they have in the States. What are your thoughts on that?
Mark Horsley: [00:34:54] Okay. So during the course of this career, I qualified in 1996 as an expert for Supreme court in police training, ballistics, several other areas that are related. And yes, I know where you’re coming from. Some police administrators look at the place to measure is your qualification whether people are qualified or not. And of course the temptation is to make the qualification course so easy that no one could not qualify.
Travis Bader: [00:35:24] Right.
Mark Horsley: [00:35:25] There’s a real interesting thing when you look at that in it and a tremendous trend. My view is that you measure your actual use of force and that’s how you rank your program, your success, whether you’re doing something right or not. 100% hit ratio in a five year, 20 shooting thing is unheard of. But undoubtedly we would have misses the bigger the sample size got.
Travis Bader: [00:35:49] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:35:50] So agencies that we took our training ideas from had higher volume, bigger departments, higher volume of shooting. So, but they still maintain a 90% hit ratio, they’re doing something right. And now what agencies tend to do now is go to a smaller sample size course of fire. So the smaller the sample size, the less significant it is in judging someone’s skill.
Travis Bader: [00:36:16] Right.
Mark Horsley: [00:36:16] And then they try to make the timeframes long and the distances close and the target bigger. Here’s an interesting phenomenon. We found that no matter how easy you make it, because of the psychological factors related to human performance, people will fail.
Travis Bader: [00:36:32] Interesting.
Mark Horsley: [00:36:33] If you made a one shot qualifier, three inches from the target, people would fail it.
Travis Bader: [00:36:39] Interesting.
Mark Horsley: [00:36:40] It’s astounding. So what you want is, a qualification that measures the skills that the person may need. Here’s the difficulty, a lot of police officers think they’re never going to need to be, to use their gun, they’re never going to be in a shooting. So let’s compare it to training a mixed martial artist. Mixed martial artists is genetically gifted, highly motivated, committed to training, they’ve got an opponent on a known date okay.
[00:37:10] A police officer not necessarily genetically gifted, not necessarily picked for their combative skillsets, maybe not motivated because they’re training for a fight that they hope will never happen. And a lot of them will gravitate towards jobs where it’s less likely to happen. And it’s an unknown opponent on an unknown date, if it ever happens. So it’s a hard sell, right?
Travis Bader: [00:37:35] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:37:35] So a lot of people go and they get very nervous about going to the range to qualify once a year. If.
Travis Bader: [00:37:42] Well the job’s on the line too, right?
Mark Horsley: [00:37:43] Well, not really. If you fail to qualify, the department’s going to give you training.
Travis Bader: [00:37:48] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:37:49] To get your skills up. There was a deputy chief once who told me that my biggest career mistake was not qualifying him. I said, well, hang on a second, what happened? You came to the range, you didn’t have the skills, you failed to meet the standard, which is in your policy. If you want to change that, you have the authority to do that. An executive can decide that it’s managed risk not to qualify. And then I said, what I did is I gave you the skills you needed through training and then you qualified.
[00:38:20] And it was funny because throughout a whole career, a certain segment of our staff would be more stressed out about failing to qualify where no one’s shooting back at them, and yet they’d feel comfortable deploying where somebody might shoot back at.
Travis Bader: [00:38:35] Interesting how that works.
Mark Horsley: [00:38:35] Doesn’t makes sense right?
Travis Bader: [00:38:36] No it doesn’t.
Mark Horsley: [00:38:37] Like I would rather, the best place to find out that you’re not ready to compete in the world championships is on the training range.
Travis Bader: [00:38:46] Yeah.
Mark Horsley: [00:38:46] And you go, I’m not ready. You know, and I’m either going to get ready or, you know, join the fire department, you know? So.
Travis Bader: [00:38:53] You know, that’s not a bad choice either.
Mark Horsley: [00:38:56] No, it’s not bad, I’m not knockin.
Travis Bader: [00:38:59] And that’s one thing that I’ve always quite admired about you, is you’re very pragmatic. Your sense of justice, your sense of right and wrong and your ability to stick to that. That’s something that is very, very strong within you. I equate, I don’t know if that’s a talking piece.
Mark Horsley: [00:39:20] It has a cost and it has a freedom. So think of how much faster your mind can work if it takes less steps. So I just look at what’s right and there’s a moral compass that tells us what’s right. And if you don’t spend all the time thinking, what are the political implications, what are you gonna, you know, it’s like a burden is lifted from you. And you know, 34 years of policing at every step, I’ve just done the right thing. If I haven’t, it was a mistake made with the best of intentions, and I just find a freedom to living that way. So I’ve had different people, imagine somebody trying to intimidate me in a court.
Travis Bader: [00:40:04] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:40:04] Okay. I mean, I’ve arrested the worst organized criminal gangsters, drug traffickers, I’ve done projects on them. How are you going to intimidate me with words? You know, how are you going to, how, you know. So to me it’s like, no, I’m going to do the right thing, I’m going to say the right thing. And you might not be what some people want to hear, too bad.
Travis Bader: [00:40:26] Well, I’ve personally witnessed that in you and that’s, like I say, something that you mentioned that there is a cost to it. It does carry a cost, but I think some would argue that the potential cost to not having that strict moral compass, it could be far greater.
Mark Horsley: [00:40:41] I think so. That’s my belief and you know, you come to, you know, drawing to the end of my policing career. You know, I’m content with that decision. I’m content, I’ve done the right thing and live the right way.
Travis Bader: [00:40:52] Well there’s one other thing I want to touch on because you’re talking about the MMA fighters and sure, these guys are genetically gifted and they’ve got the resources, the time for training, and people will turn around and say, sure, sure he went to Australia, he did very well over there, but I mean, he’s a police officer, he’s getting his rounds for free. He’s got all of these, people tend to create excuses for why perhaps somebody is doing well and they’re not. I don’t know if you want to talk about it.
Mark Horsley: [00:41:24] Sure.
Travis Bader: [00:41:24] But you overcame some pretty significant obstacles just recently that a lot of people wouldn’t overcome. You’re in a pretty serious motorcycle accident, not too long ago. Did you want to talk about that recovery?
Mark Horsley: [00:41:37] Sure. I can talk about that. My brother and I, my brother John and I were on a motorcycle trip, we had the pleasure of traveling, you know, through a lot of the Northwest part of North America on motorcycles, a hobby. And like my wife says, I never do anything partway, so part of the hobby included doing some competitive endurance rides. There’s an association called iron butt where you got to do a thousand miles in under 24 hours. So we did 1,072 miles to Las Vegas in 19 hours and five minutes.
Travis Bader: [00:42:14] Wow.
Mark Horsley: [00:42:15] Yeah. I’m an extreme liver I guess.
Travis Bader: [00:42:19] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:42:19] And anyway, I rode motorcycles for 40 years, never crashed and then on the day I was to arrive, homecoming through Washington state came around a bend, a deer was running at full speed, so I was going about a 110 kilometres an hour, and he’s going about 60 kilometres an hour. My brother was behind me, he said it looked like the deer was trying to jump between you and the windscreen. I knew we were going to collide because the bike had got down one gear and I was just trying to hold the line hope to hell I would be able to stay up.
[00:42:53] The hoof of the deer penetrated my body armour, penetrated my left elbow, I went off, landed on my head with a 200 pound deer on top of me. And then I did the most spectacular Cirque de Solei, 98 yard tumbling line. My brother rode sideways trying not to run me over, and he didn’t come to the body right away, he moved my bike off the road thinking for sure that I was dead.
[00:43:22] And so I looked up and saw my brother with this concerned look on his face and I didn’t want to cause him any concern so I started trying to make some jokes and, you know, about wanting to take a rest for a while and. Anyway, the first thing I did is I pulled my legs in towards my backside just to see if I was paralyzed. I was pretty badly hurt.
[00:43:46] I was blessed, there was a trauma surgeon three cars back, a nurse another couple of cars back, ambulance attendance. We were on a highway 20 in Washington state, mile 178. Anyway, two hours for transport, my wife got the call and I wanted to do my best to downplay the injuries and not worry my wife and my children and downplayed it to the point where they didn’t do a body scan and I walked out of the hospital.
[00:44:21] Week later I collapsed and was back into RCH with a brain swell, so I had a traumatic brain injury. You can fight off most anything, but that one will beat you. So I broke everything and we didn’t find out, as things went along when I had the knee surgery, I required afterwards they found out I had broken my tibia, I broke my ankle, I broke both thumbs, all the ribs on the right side.
[00:44:48] But by far, the hardest part was the traumatic brain injury. I can remember a coherent moment the neurologist said to me, if you do what we say, you might recover. If you don’t, you won’t and I just nodded, like the good player listening to the coach.
Travis Bader: [00:45:06] Yeah.
Mark Horsley: [00:45:06] You shut up and you listen and you go, the guy with nine years of university, he trumps the guy that barely got out of grade 12, so I’m going to do what I’m told. I was in isolation for four months and very tough, tough on my family, tough on friends. I wasn’t allowed to see anybody. 15 minutes a day for my kids and my wife and otherwise it was essentially a dark room, no stimulation, no anything. My wife is a retired now, but a rehabilitation nurse from GFstrong. I was blessed, I married well, I.
Travis Bader: [00:45:44] Everything just lined up here.
Mark Horsley: [00:45:45] To get that. And I did exactly what they told me to do. It was a very humbling experience. I was off work for a year and a half. The police department promoted into my position assuming I’d never come back at that point, I was pensionable. It was 14 months after the accident, I had a cognitive test and was found to be barely normal and was humiliating.
Travis Bader: [00:46:10] Sure.
Mark Horsley: [00:46:10] That was embarrassing. And then I went to work with a cognitive therapy and by the time I returned to work five months after that, I was in the 98th percentile. So yep, a brain tear, traumatic brain injury. My bosses were hugely supportive at the police department, they said, we want you back, but if you come back, you’ve gotta be able to do the job.
Travis Bader: [00:46:32] Of course, yes.
Mark Horsley: [00:46:33] I’m not a charity case.
Travis Bader: [00:46:34] Yep, that’s fair.
Mark Horsley: [00:46:35] So for me, I had to come back and do it. I was deployed without restrictions a year and a half later. So the big question from our HR was, how did a 52 year old man do that when you get other people who have a back spasm and they sit out the next 30 years of their career. And 100% it’s discipline, desire. I wanted my life back, not just policing, I want in every aspect of my life back. And I was willing to do the work to do it and listen to the experts and follow instructions and get the job done. It was very hard, hard, hard period of my life.
Travis Bader: [00:47:11] The universe unfolded as it should.
Mark Horsley: [00:47:12] Yeah. Yeah. It’s, I’m blessed. And after you’ve faced something like that and you know, there’s not that much else is going to rock you.
Travis Bader: [00:47:20] Well it’s extremely inspirational for anybody out there who figures that you’ve had all the breaks. Well, maybe some different types of breaks.
Mark Horsley: [00:47:30] Yeah. Well, the interesting thing is, like my access to the range is no more than anybody else’s. I’m a member of three ranges, Mission, Poco and Abbotsford. I have to, you know, work that training into my schedule. Police department doesn’t give me any ammo, I do have ammo sponsors based on our success and they’ve been fantastic. But, you know, if you win a world title, sometimes people will give you ammo. But there was an awful lot of shooting before you get to that point so.
Travis Bader: [00:48:03] Well, Mark, I’m very, very thankful for you being on the podcast and very thankful to be able to call you a friend. Thank you again for coming in and talking here. I’m sure we’ll have some more in the future.
Mark Horsley: [00:48:13] My pleasure. Thank you.
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