2020 Year End Review & The State of Modern Day Sniper
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written a blog post. I apologize. It’s cliche as hell right now, I get it, but 2020 was no joke man! We were set to go full throttle into a year of adventures and follow new paths in the digital training space but Murphy decided to visit the collective world and put a halt to all of our lives. Hey, s#*t happens…
We lost a bunch of in-person classes due to quarantine and travel restrictions, and we lost momentum on a really rad media project that I’ve been cultivating for years that was supposed to go late summer of 2020. I remember feeling sick to my stomach having to cancel classes and send out those emails and refunds. This was about to get real… With no certainty on when we could reschedule in-person courses and with such economic turmoil in the air we made a decision to pivot to the digital space spooner than we expected to. We had plans to execute our online training program in 2020, but we knew it would be a while before we learned the technology well enough to release a course. Yeah well, Mr. Murphy steepened up that curve right quick.
My kick-ass wife is a legit businesswoman. She knows her stuff and is relentless in her pursuit of perfection of the brand and the product that the customer opens up. When she’s not crushing it building Modern Day Sniper, she also studies personal wellness and mindfulness. Always coming forth from her mouth is “don’t get caught up in the glow”, meaning always be aware of everything in your space and environment, don’t buy into the temporary illusion. That’s one of our similarities; we both know from our very different past lives that complacency comes from comfort and that comfort can get yanked away at any time, without reason. When everything went to hell in March it was a lot easier than it could have been. It’s been a blast to work with my partner and best friend. To say we’ve learned a lot is a drastic understatement. Kassandra is the person you talk to on the other end of the info email address, and she’s the designer behind the brand.
When a sniper and a yogi meet…you can’t make this stuff up!
When we dove into the online training I knew I wanted it to be something completely different than anything out there. There’s several trainers providing this, but I wanted ours to follow a systematic approach. A specific system that I’ve refined over the years with the sole purpose of creating fundamentally sound riflemen. For us and our students; it works and their results show its success. I didn’t want to just provide people with access to randomized videos; that’s what YouTube is for. YouTube is a dangerous place for firearms bloggers and content creators. I won’t ever take a chance with getting shut down, censored or banned on a platform like that knowing how much effort it takes to get it started. YouTube is one of the reasons we decided to go this route with online training as well; it’s a horrible place to find sequential content. We found the technology to do it and the Modern Day Sniper Online Schoolhouse was birthed.
Truth be told, I know jack and squat about filming anything. I’m working at it, but it’s a skill that definitely comes with a healthy dose of talent. My buddy Luke is a great photographer, but he’s got his own business to run and this was gonna be a full-time thing. I knew there wasn’t any way I could learn videography AND editing skills in enough time to produce the quality of the content I wanted for the Schoolhouse. We needed some help, so Kass threw a net in the water and started sorting. Who we found ended up being a van-lifer and aspiring National Geographic photographer cruising through New Mexico by the name of Brian Bear Butler. The way Brian responded to our inquiry was what set him apart from the rest. Pay attention kids; initiative matters. He circumvented the hiring platform and went to us directly through the Modern Day Sniper website after consuming everything on it. He was eager to start, and we agreed on the arrival of March 1 to start. He lived in our camp trailer for 3 months, ended up being a great friend and ultimately became a member of our family. We’ve done some pretty rad adventures since. Expect to see more from Brian in the future, and check him out on Instagram @wheres.the.bear and @travelwestproductions.
When we released our first course, Circle of Components the results were literally shocking. I spent a lot of humble time reflecting on the impact and how to maintain that momentum. Seriously, you guys are incredible. We wouldn’t be where we are today without all of your support, so thank you so much for everything. It was, and remains, beyond humbling. We immediately began capture of our next installment, Fundamentals of Marksmanship. One thing I was immediately made aware of; this stuff takes a TON of time to produce! Regardless, we had a lot of fun while everything else around us was being portrayed as gloom and doom. Onward…
Things started to open up a bit by May and June and we decided to reschedule some in-person courses for the summer and into the fall. That was a great feeling; I was anxious to get back in front of students again and away from a damned camera. This brings us to mid-summer when we decided to take a big step and bring on Mr. Phillip Velayo as a full-time member of Modern Day Sniper. I’ve always wanted to work with Phil. I knew this after I met him while he was receiving his Scout/Sniper Instructor of the Year Award at SHOT show one year. I followed him and I immediately resonated with his style. Another sniper instructor, and a marksmanship instructor no less. Phil’s approach to the fundamentals is the same as my own in many ways, and his performance in the competition circle solidifies the approach. He definitely loves competition more than I do, but we’re largely on the same page when it comes to teaching and mentoring students. He cares about the student’s experience and the final Alchemized product being the shooter as a whole. Not just highlighting a physical product. The timing was right, so we made it happen. I couldn’t be more happy to have Phil with us.
After-all, it was the Modern Day Sniper Podcast that set it all off!
One of our goals of 2020 was to hold a virtual summit, something that to our knowledge at the time hadn’t been done yet in our industry. In the information age, there’s content literally everywhere, at your fingertips. A person could dedicate endless hours to searching forums, Facebook groups, navigating egos and YouTube personalities and still be unsure of the validity of the information they’re consuming. There’s a lotta fluff out there amidst the snake-oil. We all know it, too. When it comes to growing this community, we need to constantly be searching to educate the uneducated, not just selling them a product or a bullshit bill of goods. Arming these new shooters with the right information to start their journey is our overarching goal so we decided to select 25 industry experts and interview them and give it to you for free. Our focus was to give a little bit of something for everyone. Out of the professionals, the competitors, the hunters and the enthusiasts, we wanted to present a holistic approach to this craft of precision shooting. It’s not all about shooting either. The educated know that shooting is only about 10% of what we do with rifles. The rest is problem solving and learning how the mind works so we can train it to our advantage. The soul fuels the mind, and the mind fuels the body. There’s simply no other way around the process. Mindfulness Behind the Rifle. We wanted a blend of perspectives and mindsets, focusing on 5 distinct areas; competition and training, tech and science, leadership and personal growth, sniping, and hunting. I think we crushed it dead center, and if you haven’t seen it yet you should. Visit the MDS Schoolhouse for all our online courses at mdsschoolhouse.com.
The year cruised by so incredibly fast, I was trying to keep up with everything going on. Phil and I went on a couple bear hunts here in WA that were unsuccessful in the harvest but were super successful for Phil as he learned how to be a mountain hunter. He ended up crushing it himself in Wyoming on his general deer hunt. Solo, backpack, public land mule deer success is always well deserved for a hunter. I was super proud of him because I distinctly remember that feeling of elation and gratitude for myself. Before I knew it, it was time to go chase mountain goats in the Grand Teton National Park with Iain Harrison and Brian Butler in tow, camera in-hand. That was an experience! I won’t steal the thunder from the blog post that’s coming (or the short film that Brian is working on) but I harvested my first mountain goat in Grand Teton National Park no less. 734 yards with the ONE Rifles 7mm RSAUM put the first notch in its stock. I was on cloud nine every day as I sat and glassed the sheer cliffs of the Paintbrush Canyon. I honestly didn’t care if I saw another goat the whole trip as long as I could be where I was.
With the year coming to a close I’ve been contemplating what 2021 is going to bring. Our nation is amidst some of the most significant uncertainty I’ve witnessed in my short time on this giant spinning rock. I’m not sure what it’s going to bring for us and our community. What I do know is that we as a community are resilient and we’ll adapt to the situation. The exterior effects matter not, it’s what we do as a collective that matters. Aside from whatever lunacy 2021 brings, we’ve got an incredible year planned for you guys!
We’ve got our monthly subscription service in the works, yoga for the rifleman coming, more media projects, signature events, and we’re back to teaching our Backcountry Hunter Course in Washington!
I just want to extend a personal thank you to all of those who’ve helped us be where we are. Our customers and our industry partners. This is a community, and ecosystem of sorts. All of which supports one another. I couldn’t be more happy to be building the community we are. It’s growing fast. In only a year we’ve surpassed 250K podcast downloads and have grown our viewership to more than 14K, all organically.
Your success is our success. We can’t wait to share it with you in 2021.Caylen W.