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Others Remember

Others share their recollections of a Friend and Mentor

I remember, night on to 35 years ago, this young musician -- a drummer, no less -- coming into my shop because someone had told him I was a competitive pistol shooter, and he wanted to know all about it. Well, we talked and talked and talked (and if you knew Michael, you know what I mean). Finally, just so I could get some work done, I suggested that if he wanted to learn about shooting he could stop by my house on Sunday, and go with me out to the range to practice.

At 6:00 a.m., there he was, banging on my door and waking up all the kids and my wife Charlotte. So I loaded Mike, my spare Andy Anderson fast-draw rig, my back-up .45, and an ammo-can full of reloads into my Corvair van, and off we went to Wes Thompson's range out in Sand Canyon.

I set up a League target at 10 yards, showed him the modified Weaver stance that I used, and said, "OK, now try it."

He jerked off three fast rounds, and then turned around with this ghastly look on his face and said, "What happened?"

"Three misses," I said.

Then I explained about sight picture, and trigger squeeze and control. The next four shots -- you could've covered them with a quarter!

He was hooked. From then on, he spent almost all his spare time at my place. We cast bullets and loaded .45s as fast as we could pull the handles on my Star Presses. I swear he almost wore out my carbide reloading dies. Every weekend we went to the range to practice -- and during the week, too, in the summer when we had enough light after work.

Mike was dedicated to what he was doing and determined to master this sport, and that's what he did. I remember one time when he and I each fired more than 5,000 rounds, practicing for a club match, the Night Shoot. So now you know, guys, what it takes to become as good and as knowledgeable as Mike. (By the way, that first Night Shoot is when and where the Harries Flashlight Technique was born.)

I took him to his first gun show at the Great Western fairgrounds. While he helped me at my display table he found out that he could talk to dozens of guys about shooting so, for the next 25 years or more, we went to all the gun shows together and set up one big group of tables. A lot of people learned from him by just listening to him there, and went off to become good shooters because of Mike's encouragement. He always was helpful to anyone who really wanted to be helped.

Mike was much more than a shooting buddy to me -- he was more like one of my brothers. Why, I could tell the biggest whopper, and he would swear it was true. And anytime or anyplace that I needed his help, he would be there. That last is the truest test of friendship.

So whether I only make it through next month, or make it all the way to 100, I will always remember my pal, my buddy, my brother Michael, and I will bemoan his loss.

- Chuck Ries

I'm going to see if my American Handgunner editor, Cameron Hopkins, will print an article or obituary about Mike. Besides that, here is my 2¢:

When I showed up at Wes Thompson's Juniper Tree Range, one January weekend in 1977, at the tender age of 15, a match official put me in Michael's hands with instructions something like, "Make sure this kid doesn't shoot himself -- or anyone else." I recognized Mike from his picture in a Guns & Ammo article on the IPSC Columbia Conference, so I was thrilled to take any advice he had to offer.

Over the years, Michael was a great influence on me, first as a shooting coach in the SWPL, and then as mentor in the combat application of firearms after we were forced out of the League. I have so many fond memories of him that I don't know where to begin: a van ride to the 1979 IPSC nationals, countless SCTC events, all the SOF Matches, a couple of trips to Camp Pendleton -- he and Joyce even came to my wedding in 1986.

In the early 1990s, I hired him to help me teach a low-light shooting class at SOF. For the first time as an adult, I witnessed his great talent as an instructor in a classroom setting. Finally feeling almost like an equal, I asked him why he wasn't more financially successful at it, and he told me something that has been of great help in my own career as a professional firearms trainer: "The one thing I've always regretted," he said, "is that I never did enough shameless self-promotion."

There will never be another person like Michael. I know every one of us realizes this, and is thankful to have had the opportunity to be his friend.

- Andy Stanford

One of the best-spent days of my life was November 11, 2000, although I didn't know it until two weeks later.

On November 11th, still recovering from heart surgery in March, I showed up at the Desert Marksmen Range, ready to shoot in a Tactical Rifle exercise as I had so many times before. Of course, it had been several years since I had been to the range for a formal event; long enough that I couldn't say just how many years it had been. Some things had changed, but nothing important; just new shooting benches and some storage facilities that hadn't been there before. The road was the same, the parking was still in the same place, and the range was still there, in that timeless California High Desert where any changes are small compared to the sameness of the landscape.

Because it had been so long, the other participants present when I arrived were strangers to me, and I to them. With the usual range courtesy, they acknowledged my presence and went on about their business. Most of my shooting buddies had moved or become involved with work, as had I, so they weren't there. In fact, only one of the other shooters recognized me, at first as vaguely familiar. "Haven't we met?" he asked, and when I stated my name he remembered having shot with me before.

Maybe 15 minutes later, Michael Harries arrived. Suddenly I was "home."

I first met Michael in 1983, when I showed up at DM for a full-surprise tactical event. A year or so later, I started lessons with him; and I then became a regular participant in SCTC until I moved my family to Illinois in 1992. After that, I continued to shoot sporadically with the group until 1997 or so. After years of shooting together twice a month, and going to gun shows where we shared tables twice a year, I considered Michael a good friend as well as my teacher. One of the highest compliments I have ever been paid was that Michael found the surprise shooting events I put on interesting enough to tell stories about.

Michael was a master instructor, accommodating the individual student's needs and focussing his entire attention on making the student a better shooter. I remember realizing that as much as teaching tactical skills, Michael was teaching me strategic thinking about tactical problems.

Michael had called me a week before, and over lunch he had encouraged me to come to the range for the November rifle exercise. As a match director that day, he hadn't changed a bit; still affably tyrannical, focused, and devious -- and, as always, determined that the participants would learn. We shot the technical problems Michael set before us, and he religiously recorded the data, both for the match report and his voluminous archives. I chatted briefly with Michael between stages, and joined him and some others for an after-match meal, before leaving to return to Illinois. It was like old times; it was "home."

Two weeks later, I found out that "home" will never be there again. And I mourn.

I remain thankful for two things. First, that I had an opportunity to be taught by Michael Harries and to be his friend. Second, that I dragged myself out of bed on November 11, 2000, for one last day at "home" with Michael Harries.

It was one of the best-spent days of my life.

- Terence Krell

My wife and I met Michael last year when I attended one of his three-day combat pistol classes in Wyoming. Michael was an outstanding teacher and he had a great knack for coming up with truly practical and common-sense-based shooting techniques.

While my own shooting skills are really not much better than that of "enthusiastic amateur," at the end of that class I experienced a sense of competency and an improvement of skill that was quite remarkable, and I have only Michael to thank for this.

Michael and I communicated frequently over the past year, and I was the lucky recipient of a few of his very lengthy and content-rich letters on a variety of shooting and tactical subjects. I'll always appreciate the time he spent to write these letters to me, and the care and thought he put into every response.

It's my hope that the participants in the SCTC program will share his techniques with a larger number of citizens, keeping Michael's ideas and training techniques alive for many years to come.

I, for one, will never forget my brief time knowing Michael, and I'll try very hard to retain the skills he taught to me. I'm sure this is a sentiment that will be echoed by every one of the students who had the great fortune to have been taught by Michael over the years.

If our world were more well-adjusted and moral than the one we live in today, warrior-teachers like Michael would occupy a position of far greater honor, respect, and reward in the eyes of more men than just those of our small group.

Now that God has called Michael home, I hope that He will make a special place for this mirthful soul, who taught mortal men the skills required for the purposeful defense of their families, their lives, and their homes here on this troubled Earth.

- Eric Gagnon

Michael Harries in my garage, working J's reloader, shooting the breeze, laughing, offering up great stories and shooting tips and just being Michael.  He was a pleasure to be around.

- Ginger Marin


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