United States Practical Shooting Association Champion Casey Reed spends each day seeking perfection at work, and in competition.
STORY BY CRAIG HODGKINS • PHOTOS BY FEDERAL PREMIUM
You don’t need to talk with Casey Reed for very long before you start thinking you could use a bit more discipline in your own life.
Reed, who celebrated his 25th birthday in August, is a rising star in the competitive shooting world and a very focused young man. He participates in the United States Practical Shooting Association’s Production Division, and has already earned several awards, including the 2014 Minnesota State Championship, two consecutive USPSA Area 3 Championships, and Top Ten ﬁnishes at the 2015 and 2016 USPSA nationals.
Not bad for someone who ﬁrst tried his steady hand at the sport a mere four years ago.
But in addition to his competitive shooting prowess, Reed also has a day job, a brand new one, in fact. Recently, his managers at Federal Premium Ammunition oﬀered him the post of supply quality engineer, where he now works with vendors who provide Federal with everything from raw materials to ﬁnished goods. Prior to the promotion, he served as a product development engineer, where he helped design and test everything from shotshells to training ammunition for law enforcement and military personnel. One recent product he helped develop and test was American Eagle’s Syntech ammunition.
Although his career choice would come as no surprise to those who knew him as a young man, his participation as a competitive pistol shooter might.
REED SPENT HIS YOUTH hunting upland birds and whitetails near his home in Big Lake, Minn., which is northwest of the Twin Cities. And although he knew his way around riﬂes and shotguns, he rarely shot or even held a handgun.
“My dad had an old 9mm,” he told me, “but my ﬁrst gun was a Benelli M1 Super 90. [Before working for Federal], I’d shot a semiauto pistol maybe two or three times in my life.”
His father was an engineer, and there was no doubt that the son would eventually follow in his footsteps.
“I was always good at math and science,” Reed said, “And all through school my teachers told me that I should be an engineer.”
Soon, he headed oﬀ to study mechanical engineering at nearby St. Cloud State University. In just his second year there, the 19-year-old landed an internship at Federal, and for the next three years he worked as an assistant in the engineering department. After graduation, the company oﬀered him a full-time position.
“I liked the industry before I got the internship,” he said, “but I never really thought I’d be working in it.”
It was during his internship that he ﬁrst began to shoot pistols as part of his ballistic testing responsibilities, and those same tasks carried on when he began his full-time job.
A competitive perfectionist by nature, Reed took up his recently adopted sport following some encouragement from a coworker.
“Fellow engineer Matt Wolﬀ invited me to a local club match in 2012,” he recalled, “I became addicted. In fact, I signed up for a competition the very next weekend.”
REED WASTED NO TIME adjusting his already-packed schedule to the methodical lifestyle required of a competitive shooter. He currently logs up to 20 hours every week practicing, and then applies his analytical skills to his personal performance.
“I’ve always been a competitive person,” he said. “As an engineer, I’m very detail oriented. I analyze my shooting and how to train more eﬃciently.”
Unlike some competitors who follow the same exact regimen day in and day out, Reed is constantly adjusting how he trains.
“I’m always looking to see how I can become better and more consistent,” he said, “Most people can watch the Top Ten [shooters] and not be able to tell the diﬀerence, but to me it’s all about ﬁne-tuning. It’s about the details.”
Like a growing number of competitors, Reed frequently uses a “head-cam” to help him analyze his performance. After each match, he breaks down his “game ﬁlm” in slow motion like a veteran football coach, hoping to spot a ﬂaw he can improve upon to knock an additional few seconds oﬀ of his time.
Following these video sessions, Reed restructures his practice regimen to address what he feels are needed improvements, and develops or adopts new drills accordingly. One thing he doesn’t change are the “thousands upon thousands of dry ﬁres” he performs methodically, or his time in the gym working on strength and cardio.
“The sport is most like soccer or football because it requires lots of explosiveness,” he said. “You need to push oﬀ a good deal and move quickly from spot to spot, so it helps to be in good shape. The sport is leaning more and more to the younger and more athletic shooters.”
Although USPSA competitions are oﬀered year-round, Reed considers his personal season to last from April through September. Each year, he competes in eight to 10 major matches and 20 to 30 local and regional contests, and his schedule is especially busy in the summer. This past August, for example, he competed in majors on four consecutive weekends.
At his most recent event, the IPSC Nationals in Frostproof, Fla., Reed’s physical training was put to the test almost as much as his shooting skill.
“Running 11 stages in 80 percent humidity,” he said, “really beats you down.”
IT’S A LARGE COMMITMENT that brings a high degree of pride and satisfaction, but very little money. Unlike the higher visibility sports, the matches are all business with little fanfare, and that’s probably because they tend to draw as many competitors as fans.
“It’s not a good spectator sport,” Reed admits, “because it’s hard to see and watch. Most people just wait to watch the head cam ﬁrst-person videos [on YouTube].”
Much like a competitor at a NASCAR or PGA event, Reed ﬁnds himself participating with – and against – many of the same shooters at every USPSA major. But according to Reed, that’s a positive thing.
“It’s a very close-knit and helpful group,” he said. “In competitions, the top guys are all on one squad and shoot together. We help each other with stage planning, and most everyone is very friendly. Guys ask each other advice and questions, like how to practice or train. There are no big egos. Everyone is humble.”
Although Reed’s ultimate goal remains winning a national championship, it’s obvious he derives a great deal of satisfaction from the process of continuous improvement his disciplined training regimen brings, and from the camaraderie among competitors who share the same passion for a sport.
“It’s a really fun sport, full of action,” he said. “The top guys are putting in a ton of time, money and eﬀort. But no one is in it for the money. We all just love to shoot.” AmSJ