A real shooter on T.V.

I heard about this segment of Miami Vice years ago from Guy Neill who is a local (Clarkston, WA) USPSA shooter and for several years wrote a IPSC history column in Front Sight magazine. Other than watching Enterprise, Star Gate, and 24 (never again) on DVD with James I can’t remember the last time I watched T.V. So I assumed I would never get to see this video. I’m exceedingly pleased to have stumbled across this.

I have background material from Guy on this video. I hope I get this straight. I’ll be sending Guy an email and asking for corrections so don’t be surprised if there are some tweaks in the next day or so.

The shooter was an IPSC Grandmaster (see the classification system here) and was a consultant on the show. Here he got a bit part as an assassin. For the pistol shooting at the end the director told him, “Don’t worry about making it look fast. We’ll take care of that when we edit it.” Apparently the director had never seen a real shooter draw and shoot. Needless to say they didn’t need to do any editing to make it look faster. Another thing Guy said was that the script didn’t say what to do with the gun afterward and he didn’t realize it until the shooting was over. So what happens is the shooter double taps the other guy looks down, realizes he has a “stove pipe” failure, clears the gun and puts it on the chest of the victim as he walks away. The crew was so slack jawed over the display of speed they just kept filming even though that wasn’t part of the scene.

Update: Rather than edit, which would be minor, I’m just including Guy’s response verbatim:

Joe, it looks like your memory is working well.
The actor is Jim Zubienna.   He was a past member of the US Team to the IPSC World shoot, as I recall.  He shot the Bianchi Cup and Steel Challenge matches as well.  I don’t think we actually had a Grand Master rating at that time, but Jim likely would have qualified.
He told me later, after the airing of the program, that the director knew nothing of his shooting background, and that he was to go through the motions of the draw and shoot, and that the scene would be edited for speed.  After seeing Jim draw and shoot, the director asked him how he did that!
The smokestack jam was not in the script.  Jim cleared it on instinct and then placed the gun on the “body” as an adlib, but one that was left in.
If you note Jim’s hands up position upon his surrender in the film clip, it is very similar to the position he used in competition.  A theory among many of the shoooters then was that you would have one hand out in front, approximately where the front sight would be to allow the eyes to be focused at that distance.  Thus, when the gun came up, the eyes were ready.
I do not recall at this time if Jim used a cross draw holster in competition, but cross draws were popular with several of the California shooters, so I think it likely.  This means the draw from under his shirt was very close to his draw in competition from a cross draw as well, further allowing very good speed on the draw.
Jim’s wife at that time, Linda, was also a shooter.  I don’t believe either is active at this time.
I missed seeing Jim a few years ago at the Steel Challenge.  He came by the stage I was working while I was gone to lunch.
Being the “bad guy” in the program, Jim was killed by the “good guys” at the end.  Jim also had a small part in another Michael Mann production “Band of the Hand”.

Update 2: Check out this web page on the same scene! There are forum discussions about this scene:

I suspect Guy may have misspelled Jim’s last name. It probably is “Zubiena”. And there is a question as to whether there was a stovepipe malfunction.

This is probably my single most popular post ever. The bump on Tuesday, below, is all because of this.


3 thoughts on “A real shooter on T.V.

  1. Nice blog entry, Joe… except that I believe that Jim spells his family name with only one “n.”

    I have my own page on this event at http://www.thegunzone.com/software/zubiena.html, but you and Guy (an old chum of mine as well) have got me looking for a piece that I believe was authored by Jon Winokur in Combat Handguns 20 years ago. I think Zubiena told him about that racking motion at the end of the Mozambique, and it had nothing to do with a malfunction clearance.

    The one think I do recall from that article was Zubiena’s declaration that the toughest part of doing that scene was realistically faking the recoil with blanks.

    Here’s a photo of Jim in his earlier days as an actor in the 1972 Chicago production of Godspell… notice who two of his co-stars are: http://www.geocities.com/sloanpeters/chicago1.htm.

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