Mark Smith of JBS Training Group – Range Mindset & Training the Individual

Mark Smith of JBS Training Group is someone we recently worked with on an individual basis to improve aspects of our shooting. Seeing a question I posted online, he private messaged to see if he could call me, even though I was literally a “random guy” on the internet. Mark called and proceeded to help me troubleshoot an issue I was having with an optic for almost an hour…zero strings attached.

Mark’s friendly, down-to-earth approach is welcome in an industry that can sometimes be intimidating to newcomers. This style is also winning him a lot of attention lately, so to learn a bit more, we recently sat down with him for a pair of interviews…the first of which follows below. Here we discuss his background, unique approach to individualized training, and why being just a ‘normal guy’ is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

Q: Mark, let’s start at the beginning, was was your first involvement with the AR platform?

Mark Smith – JBS Training Group – I got into guns early on in my life through hunting, as most people do. My father-in-law is a retired gunsmith, and so when I married my wife, he broadened my interests until one thing led to another. I ended up on a forum and realized that everyone was into the AR-15, and I was inquisitive about why that was.

I began to gather parts from here and there and put them together. Frankly, I had no clue what I was doing…I just read through online forums and tried to do the best I could with the information I had and the mechanical knowledge I already possessed.  

“I’ve always been confused why there weren’t more people in this industry who were just “normal guys” that just offered information and training on shooting, with no strings attached.”

Mark Smith – JBS Training Group

Q: How did your introduction to firearms training start?

Mark Smith – JBS Training Group – I don’t like to do anything that I don’t aim to become proficient at. I don’t like to dabble with things. I’m either going to do it well, or I am not going to do it. I found myself getting addicted to the performance side of shooting very early on…and I started asking myself, “how good, how fast, how accurate could I really be?” I then started to seek out how to get there.

When I went to my first actual training class, I realized just how much I actually did not know. That lit a fire under me to progress and get better. It eventually got to the point where I was better than everyone around me. I was better than anyone who lived around me, any of my friends…and those friends began to question how I did certain things. They’d ask me to show them things. One thing led to another until I asked that a few of them come out with me together so I could teach them. I would simply take groups of friends out and show them things.

Soon, I started to get interest from people that I didn’t know via word-of-mouth in my community. It got to the point where I’d say, “well, 10 of you can come out, but I’m going to have to charge you $40 or so, because it’s going to take all day.” That continued to grow until I was either going to have to start charging more money or I was going to have to quit my day job. I had too many people inquiring for assistance.

Late last year, I decided to legitimize what I was doing, make a website, and do it as a hobby/career…I still have a day job that keeps me busy, but this is something that I really have a passion for. It’s quite addicting to teach someone something in person and see them finally realize what it is you’re explaining. It’s an excellent feeling, and it’s one that really drives me.

The company I started is called JBS Training Group, and the website is JBSTraininggroup.com. We’re still relatively small, and not super well known. Still, we definitely try to do a class every few months, mostly locally, but I’ll go anywhere. If someone can find me a range, I’ll go there, and we can do whatever we need.

Q: I’ve found the videos you do to be beneficial. Can you talk about those and what inspires you to put those out?

Mark Smith – JBS Training Group – What I try to do is take the things that I really like about the shooting industry and then make them my own. One of the things that I really like is when a person who really knows what they are talking about makes a really neat video. Early on, when I started making videos, they were very technical in nature and very deep as it pertains to the shooting process. I feel like many people would start watching, get to a certain point and then tune out because they no longer knew what I was talking about. It wasn’t as interesting as something that might apply to a broader audience.

Lately, I’ve started to make videos on more basic things. I forgot how much I didn’t know. I’ve tried to go back and make videos on the sorts of things that I learned very early on, or the simple things that I’ve learned recently. Anything that is simple in nature and can be applied broadly has definitely been more successful for me…

Q: This exposure is leading to some new opportunities, correct?

Mark Smith – JBS Training Group – Recently, I’ve been approached by some companies to test their products, and tell them what I think. There’s also been a couple of people who’s opinions I really respect that have approached me and asked to work together with no strings attached. Their reasoning is that they think it’s refreshing to hear someone speak about shooting, the shooting process, gear…but with no tactical background or anything involved. 

Frankly, my style of shooting has nothing to do with tactics or gunfighting. I’ve always been confused about why there weren’t more people in this industry who were just “normal guys” that just offered information and training on shooting. There are many people in this community that are B-type personality people who just want to learn how to shoot better for no other reason but to enjoy it. They don’t necessarily get interested in a class where they will shoot through windshields, etc. They just want to get better at shooting. I think that resonates with a lot of people that I am just a normal guy. You can take me at face value.

I also think what resonates with people is that I understand that my way is not necessarily THE way. My way is just that…my way. Just because you don’t do it my way does not make you wrong. It just makes you an individual. I think that’s really refreshing to hear, and hopefully it will attract people to what JBS Training Group offers.

Just because your gun is not set up like my gun or just because you don’t get into a position or reload as I do, does not mean that you’re doing it wrong, and it doesn’t mean that you’re stupid. I think it’s a refreshing thing…too many people are told, “if you don’t look like THIS, you are wrong.” I don’t believe that because I don’t look like many of the people who say that stuff – and I do just fine (laughs).

Q: Can you talk about some of the companies you’ve been approached by and are affiliated with?

Mark Smith – JBS Training Group – I’ve currently got some stuff I plan on doing with Primary & Secondary. VLTOR has been really awesome to me and has reached out about testing some stuff. Nick Wantland from there has been awesome. Jim Hodge reached out to me and that was surreal…just that someone with such prestige in this community would take notice of someone so small like me. So, Hodge Defense takes care of me…Badger Ordnance and Leupold take care of me. I’ve been very fortunate. 

Q: As an instructor for JBS Training Group , how do you make sure you’re staying current and gaining the necessary knowledge?

Mark Smith – JBS Training Group – I refer to the brain as a machine, and I believe the machine can find the answers we seek if we will simply do our part and seek them. No one ever had to take instruction on how to take a sports car into a curve on a mountain hillside, but if you think about it, we’re applying the appropriate amount of break at the appropriate time, while turning the wheel the proper amount of degrees at the proper time while processing what’s ahead of us…and we’re doing all of that while talking on the phone and chewing bubblegum.  

That is significantly more difficult for the machine to process than shooting a gun. Yet, we’ve complicated it over the years. We’ve got so many people these days talking about what shooting should look like. The majority are saying the same thing. They’re just saying it very differently. 

I believe that shooting is very easy. I think that shooting well is very easy. But I think as human beings, especially in today’s age, we like to complicate a lot of things because we can’t hardly believe it can be so simple. That’s the gist of it. If you go out and shoot, and you have a bit of a knowledge base to begin with, you’ll grow leaps and bounds as a shooter based on how much time you put into it.

To directly answer your question though, yeah, I come up with a lot of my stuff just by thinking about it and putting it to work. My courses are designed around a scientific approach of what works well for the individual. If we shoot on a timer and we look at the data, and we look at the scoring on the target, we will quickly determine what is the most appropriate thing we should be focusing on…what technique applies to us based on what the science is telling us. It’s as easy as that.

Whenever there is something new like a new product or a new theory or a new way of thinking, I go to the range and put it to the test. If the results don’t show me that it’s worthwhile, I write it off as just another tool in the toolbox that may help someone else, but doesn’t necessarily help me. 

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All that’s wrong with rifle videos on the internet.

A post shared by Mark Smith (@jbs_traininggroup) on

Q: Are there common mistakes that you see when you’re conducting training courses?

Mark Smith – JBS Training Group – The most common mistake that people make is that they go to the range with the wrong mindset. They go to the range with the expectation of meeting the performance standard of someone else that they want to be like. They go to the range with an outcome in their head that they’ve visualized, and in their mind, they’ve created a scenario where either they will succeed, or they will fail at measuring up.

 I think that is totally the wrong approach. I talk a lot about how people are individuals different from one another. I believe it is imperative to approach shooting the same way we would approach working out. If tomorrow, I said, “James, tomorrow we are going to benchpress 405 pounds…and we went into the gym and attempted to do it, and we failed. Then we went back the next day and failed. And then we did it over and over and over again, until one day we get so frustrated that we don’t do it anymore. If we did that, you’d see how ridiculous it was and how we’d never get anywhere by doing it that way.

Unfortunately, this is how we approach shooting. We try to approach it as fast and hard as possible, and we don’t take any real steps to increase our performance in incremental levels to get the desired result we were seeking.

We should have started out with 100 pounds of weight…to use that analogy. We’d slowly increase the weight to improve our performance in incremental chunks to get to where we want to be. So, that’s one of the biggest things. Stop measuring yourself against other people. You are not those people.

Overcomplicating the Basics

The second thing is people really overcomplicate what it takes to shoot well. All that’s required to hit what you’re aiming at is to align the sights and pull the trigger without moving the sights. Everything else is supplemental. Those are the only two fundamentals in shooting. Everything else is a technique, and technique will vary shooter-to-shooter, so it would be asinine to assume that everyone’s stance and grip should be the same. That’s just not the case. Getting back to the other common mistake I mention, people think that if they don’t look like a particular person they admire that they’re wrong, and that’s just not true.

Q: So, we’ve covered some common mistakes…any advice on what to do?

Mark Smith – JBS Training Group – If you go the range and have trouble, don’t just say that you had a bad day. It’s crucial to precisely define what it was you had trouble with. We have to delve into what actually went wrong to focus on those specific things, one at a time, and work through them until they are no longer an issue. Break down what you are doing and really pay attention to what is going on when you’re practicing.

If you’re practicing for speed, forget about the accuracy right now and work on the speed. If you’re practicing for accuracy, forget about the speed and work on the accuracy. We have to isolate these different things that create the whole of what we want. There’s no possible way to get better at everything all at one time, going wide-open, hair-on-fire, every time we go to the range. Doing that is similar to going to that gym and trying to lift that 400-pound weight. 

Q: Anything else we have not covered in terms of your approach at JBS Training Group?

Mark Smith – JBS Training Group – I have a high humility level by nature. I’m just a guy… I’m not anyone special, but I do the best I can at whatever I do. I want people to realize that the things that I am saying, the videos I am making, and the stuff that I am teaching is not theory. It is not something that I believe is probably the truth. Every single thing that you ever hear me say comes from actually experiencing the event. I know that it works because it happened to me. I’m not hoping for the best by saying something I think might work…I don’t talk about it if I don’t have experience with it. I don’t open my mouth to speak just because I have been invited to. We should actually have something to say based on the truth that we have found along the way. 

Finally, I want to stress that it’s really important that you view yourself positively. You don’t have to be a JSOC operator to be able to adequately defend yourself, to be able to do well in competition, or be able to just go have fun and shoot well. 

For years, I chased this idea that if I didn’t look like someone else and have the gear he had, I would never “get there.” I found along the way that it wasn’t true. I think it’s imperative that people are OK with who they are. It’s OK to just want to get better at shooting. You don’t have to a reason. I don’t care why. If you want to get better at shooting, come see me at JBS Training Group. We’ll get better at shooting….and we can go back to our day jobs on Monday.

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