Q&A with Legendary Shooters Jerry and Kay Miculek

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Plenty of kids idolize pro athletes while shooting hoops or swinging bats. But when we were teenagers, my buddy and I would set up rows of cans in the field behind the house and see how fast we could shoot them with our 22 revolvers, timing one another with stopwatches. I can’t remember any of our times, but I do remember wondering over and again, “How the hell does Jerry Miculek do that?”

Miculek, of course, is regarded by many to be the greatest shooter, and particularly the greatest revolver shooter, of all time. He has multiple world records including 6 shots on target from a revolver, a reload, and 6 more in 2.99 seconds; and eight shots on four targets from one revolver in 1.06 seconds. Many of his feats were televised in the late 1990s and early 2000s on shows like American Shooter. If you’ve ever had the slightest interest in shooting a handgun, do yourself a favor and watch the video below, which is a recap of three of Miculek’s revolver records set in 1999.

Miculek’s wife, Kay Clark-Miculek, is also an accomplished competition handgun shooter with multiple gold medals in IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) Handgun competition. She’s been ranked as the Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Champion three times, and was the top woman in the Steel Challenge Speed Shooting Championship seven times. Kay’s father, Jim Clark, Sr., owned a custom gunsmithing shop and was a renowned Bullseye shooter and pistol smith.

Last June, I got to share a black bear camp with them in Alberta, and they sat down with me to talk about a variety of things, from bear guns to revolver shooting to polymer pistols vs. 1911s. Here’s what they had to say.

F&S: How did you each get into hunting and shooting?

Jerry and Kay relax a minute while waiting for their turn to shoot at a match. Mossberg

Kay: I was born into competitive shooting. My father was a gunsmith. I don’t have any real memory of not shooting. The sheriff’s department had a summer shooting program, and from the time I was 6 years old to junior high, every summer, that’s what we did. I was on the high-school rifle team and was more into rifle shooting, even though my father was more of a pistol smith. The year 1973 was the first they allowed girls to join ROTC, and I joined just so I could shoot. The competitive streak was there forever. But I did very little hunting when I was young. Back in the ’50s and ’60s, the girls stayed home while the brothers went hunting. When I got into college, I started hunting more.

Jerry: I grew up in South Louisiana, in St. James Parish. There were lots of swamps, and it was a good place to be. You could fish, catch frogs, and hunt ducks and deer. I always had a BB gun, slingshot, and bow and arrow. In 1968, Dad bought me a pump gun, and I started duck hunting.

Pro shooter Jerry Miculek fires a Mossberg 940 shotgun at a shooting event.
Both Jerry and Kay are also accomplished shotgun shooters. Mossberg

F&S: Jerry, do you remember the first time you shot a revolver?

Jerry: Yes, it was over in Texas. My uncle let me shoot his Model 28 Smith 357, shooting 38s out of it. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. Later, in high school, my buddy bought a revolver, and I got to shoot it a little bit. I was totally ignorant of any talent or style. I never had any education in shooting. But the rapid-fire part made things interesting to me. I wanted to shoot a revolver fast, against the pistol guys. There were guys competing with 5-inch 1911s, and I wanted to compete with revolvers.

F&S: What’s the No. 1 mistake people make when shooting a handgun?

Jerry: Trigger pull is more important than sight alignment. You can have the perfect sight picture but if you can’t trigger, it doesn’t mean much. You can wobble more than you think. The hard thing to believe is no matter how much you wobble, 50 percent of the time you’re still going to the center of the target. You have to be OK with missing.

Kay: Trigger pull. Also, focus on the front sight like there’s nothing else in the world. And the basics of grip and stance. I’m still amazed at how many people just don’t know how to hold the gun. And the stance is important so you can control recoil. For quick follow-up shots, the stance is everything.

F&S: We’re in Canada, where they don’t let us have or carry handguns. How does that make you feel when the woods are full of bears?

Jerry: I don’t like it; it’s so unnatural not to have one within reach. When those bears are down there rumbling and growling on the bait, I feel like chum.

F&S: If you could have a handgun for bear protection up here, what would it be?

Kay: I definitely would’ve brought a revolver. Probably a .460 or .500. You can depend on a revolver. Pull the trigger and if nothing happens, you can pull it again.

Pro shooter Jerry Miculek, holding a rifle, poses with a black bear he took in Canada.
Jerry poses with the bear he took in Alberta. Will Brantley

F&S: Are modern semi-auto pistols as reliable as double-action revolvers?

Jerry: I look at a double-action revolver being like a pump shotgun. You can tailor the ammunition for whatever you want. If you treat it right, it’ll last a long time with minimal maintenance. But the current generation of polymer pistols is so good and maintenance free, it’s hard to overlook.

It’s still true that revolvers are more reliable, but it doesn’t take a lot of dirt and debris to make them cranky. Any fine mechanism, if you put dirt in it, will be affected. I see guys riding on 4-wheelers with their guns on the rack, and I wonder why they would expose their equipment like that. Truth is, one is as good as the other if you treat it right. The versatility of a revolver is great, but a polymer gun will function better in extreme dirt.

F&S: Is the 1911 overrated?

Jerry: There are better designs. To me, a pistol has to work above all, with the least amount of maintenance. Having done a bunch of classes, you can watch the line, and the number of malfunctions with 1911s doesn’t lie. What makes it so lovable is the trigger. If you could put that trigger on a polymer gun, everyone would love it.

Kay: John Browning’s original design is like a bag of rocks. The 1911 was originally made to be disassembled, put in a barrel of diesel (for cleaning), and then reassembled. Back in the day, my father’s business was in making them more accurate. Anytime you tighten up the specs, there will be problems. I love 1911s. They put me through college. They’re a money maker. But if I was going out in the woods, it wouldn’t be my first choice.

Pro shooter Kay Miculek fires a shotgun on the shooting range.
Kay shoots a Mossberg 940 Pro at an event. Mossberg

F&S: Let’s talk about rifles. We’ve all three hunted with Mossberg Patriots this week, and they’re very accurate, but also very affordable. What’s made so many modern bolt-action hunting rifles so good for the money? 

Jerry: It’s partly due to modern machining technology, and also due to ammunition companies manufacturing with better tolerances. The accuracy potential of even the cheapest soft-nose bullet today is better than a premium bullet from the ’40s. They can control tolerances on a high production rate.

But back to the rifles, the trigger on the Mossberg is great right out of the box. Back in the ’60s, they just made guns and you got what you got. But customers are getting more educated, demanding better products, and companies are building the guns people want to buy.

Kay: Because of better manufacturing tolerances, the factories are now able to do what custom gunsmiths used to do, for a fraction of the price.

F&S: Any closing thoughts you’d like to share with F&S readers?

Jerry: Yes. We get so much in our life handed to us by other people. You work with soldiers any amount of time, and you realize that others are paying the bill. We have so much that it’s hard to comprehend, but I’m afraid of how much of it we’re willing to give up for a little comfort.

Kay: I wish more people could get out and enjoy a hunting camp like this.

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