When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one… to attempt to interview another one, who is every bit as nutty as the first one, one looks for Team Sig’s Max Michel.
So we did. We caught up with Max at SHOT Show and dragged him away from the screaming fans and corporate endorsement dealmakers long enough to squeeze in a serious investigative report. Remember folks, you heard it here first…
My Gun Culture: So Max, I understand you’re Captain of Team Sig. How is your relationship with all the other Team Sig members?
Max Michel: I treated them pretty fairly. But I had to fire them all, you know?
MGC: So, right now, it’s just you on Team Sig???
Max: Yeah, exactly! I had about 5 other guys and they just started cramping my style and cutting into my budget. And I thought, “I just can’t have that” so I had to release them.
MGC: Well if you’re into world domination, you gotta take out the internal competition. Just ask Dr. Evil or maybe Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Max: That’s the first thing to do!
MGC: You’re also the Manager of Shooting Activities. What’s in the scope of that role for you?
Max: I think what’s interesting about Sig Sauer is that’s it’s a very well-known company. Most everybody knows of Sig – you don’t have to be a gun person. Sig Sauer has always had that military and law enforcement reputation – you know, “to hell and back reliability.” They brought me in about four years ago to help bring them into the competitive market. So, to the traditional Sig values of reliability, I bring about 20 years of practical competitive shooting experience. I help to coordinate our position in competitive and recreational shooting. For example, I look at things like where we want to compete, what we want to sponsor, what do we want to support and emphasize for the year, and that sort of thing. In short, I help bridge the gap between the company and the competitive shooting world.
MGC: Does this liaison role of yours also extend into Sig’s product development strategy?
Max: Most definitely. I’m really excited about that part! The product and marketing teams come to me for input, and I love that. I love those conversations. In fact, I just enjoy talking!
MGC: Well I can already tell this interview is going to take about three days…
Max: I have a flight on Friday, so as long as I make that, we’re good!
MGC: Is there a specific Sig gun that you personally point to and say “I’m especially proud of that one because I had a lot of input”?
Max: Absolutely. That would be the 1911 Max. I’ve been screaming to get a gun for a long time that is built from the ground up as a competitive model. The product team was really receptive to my ideas. In fact, I pushed for a lot of aftermarket parts on that model and the product guys were completely open to that. Now I’m pushing for a new 1911 Max. But I can’t talk about that just yet…
MGC: Tease! The original 1911 Max is available now right? Can you tell us a little about it?
Max: We launched it at SHOT Show 2012 and we took it slow as there are aftermarket parts and we needed to make sure the whole package met Sig’s quality and reliability standards. It’s a target 1911 gun that has been enhanced with competitive parts. Like Hogue G10 chain link grips, a custom mag well that’s an extension of the grip, adjustable rear sight with a fiber optic front sight, front and rear cocking serrations, wide safeties, a flat trigger, the Doug Koenig speed hammer and matching sear, and extended firing pin.
MGC: So with the Koenig custom hammer, do you have any concerns that it’s really a subversive plot by Smith & Wesson to sabotage the Sig 1911 Max? Maybe it’s specially designed to self-destruct like those old Mission Impossible tape recorders…
Max: I’m worried that I’m going to lose my job when someone realizes I put in my competitors part! Just to be clear, the hammer is a Doug Koening part and not a Smith & Wesson part. Maybe this will encourage Sig to make some Max Michel parts!
MGC: So you’ve won everything there is to win about infinity-eleven times. Last I looked it was about 100 championship titles. What gives? You and Lance Armstrong are doing what on the weekends?
Max: No comment… Actually it’s just a passion of mine. I love it. I’ve been doing this since I was 8 years old. It’s not work for me, it’s fun and not a job. When I was 13 I had a goal and purpose to have the type of job that I have today. I wanted to be the next Rob Leatham! But you know, that guy just won’t retire!
MGC: We interviewed Rob several months ago, and he said the only reason he’s staying in the sport is to crush and humiliate you! Let’s talk about your show Hot Shots. You know, the one with you and Charlie Sheen. It’s about Navy Seals or something right?
Max: Yeah right! Me and Charlie Sheen… Hot Shots is a show that illustrates the real life drama of what it’s like to be a pro shooter. People get to see the real deal and all the things behind the scenes. The practice, the work, competition and family life balance. I like how the show is done because the producers just tell me to be Max. There are plenty of times when I’m not happy on camera, but that can be reality. When you’re not winning, you’re not happy. I like the realism.
MGC: Are you planning on getting into the Three Gun circuit? Now Sig has ⅔ of the bases covered with pistols and rifles right?
Max: It’s coming and I’m looking forward to it.
MGC: Everybody and their brother wants to sponsor you and obviously that’s because of your good looks.
Max: And my bald head of course…
MGC: I told you I wasn’t going to ask you about any secret future plans, but I was lying. I’m hearing that you have a sponsorship deal in the works with Snuggies. Care to comment?
Max: I hope so! I’ve got three kids now and I have to prepare for everybody.
MGC: How much time do you spend on the road doing competitions?
Max: I typically spend about nine to ten months on the road, so it’s a pretty heavy schedule. Of course I’m stopping by home, but I never really unpack. It’s a pretty grueling schedule, but I enjoy doing it and hope I can keep doing it for ten or fifteen more years.
MGC: Do you have an idea of how many rounds per year you shoot in practice? What does it take to keep the edge in a sport that can be won or lost by hundredths of seconds?
Max: A lot of people don’t believe it, but there was a time when I was in the Army when I was shooting 5,000 rounds a week for ten months out of the year. These days I just don’t have that much time. I shoot maybe 40,000 to 60,000 rounds a year now. The trick is finding time to practice while you develop other ways to add value to the company that sponsors you. You can’t just focus on winning matches. You have to be a representative of the company and bring value in other ways too.
MGC: You do a lot of training. If you had to pick one basic tip for new shooters, where would you steer someone first?
Max: Safety is always first of course. Before any tips, you need instruction on how to safely handle the gun – loading and unloading, storing and general handling. Once that’s covered, I tell people the biggest things to focus on are stance and grip. You’ll be surprised how quickly and accurately you can shoot with proper grip and stance. It’s funny, but I tell people in my classes to expect to be bored the first few hours because I go back to the basics. If you ask other shooters like Rob Leatham, they’re working on those basic fundamentals too. There’s no such thing as advanced shooting, there’s only advanced application of basic fundamentals.
MGC: What are some of the new guns from Sig this year?
Max: We’ve got a lot of new introductions. For example, the P227, which is a double stack .45. It comes in a number of configurations, so you can get options like a threaded barrel. We had quite a challenge designing the 227 so that it’s not too big in your hand, but it worked out really well. You can hardly tell the difference in your hand between a 226 and a 227, but the 227 has 10 rounds of .45 ACP. We also have the P226 SAO which is really nice. I love Sig’s implementation of single action in this gun.
MGC: Before we wrap up, can you tell our readers a little bit about about the Max Michel Training Academy.
Max: It’s aimed at all types of shooters – recreational, competitive, self defense, and law enforcement or military. Basically I teach anyone who wants to get better with a handgun or a rifle. I do maybe a half dozen courses a year at my home range and contract some remote locations throughout the year. For some of the tactical training, I partner with the VATA Training Group and they do an excellent job. The fun thing is that we train anyone – from a raw beginner who has never drawn a gun to military and law enforcement professionals. I love it!
We’d like to thank Max and Team Sig for being such great sports, sharing some knowledge and continuing to make fantastic guns! Check out some training opportunities at the Max Michel Training Academy, and you can always keep up with Max and his plans for world domination at MaxMichel.com.
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