Really you got to have a good head on your shoulders to be able to absorb everything that’s going on around you… and to bring your skills up to the utmost…I call it getting in my bubble. Nothing but pure, absolute, utter concentration on the job you’re doing at the time, which is what I did when I was sniping. I learned when I was competing.
Pay attention to detail; details being what you have to do to produce that one, well-aimed shot… Do it as much as you can, and put all your mind and body into it, into your training. Don’t just go out to be training. Be quality training- quality, quality, quality.
Pay attention to detail. Pay attention to detail. Train, train, train, train. You have to make each and every shot the best one there is… You are not area shooting. You are pin-point precision, surgical shooting. You have to be very good. One spot you’re gonna hit, and that’s all.
-GySgt Carlos Norman Hathcock II
I probably don’t need to add anything, but I wouldn’t feel like I did my job unless I added my own explanation. The more I experience as a rifle shooter, the more I understand that it’s a game of concentration. The target turns out to simply be a gauge of how well you can focus the power of your mind to perform a task to perfection without allowing distraction, uncertainty, ignorance, forgetfulness, overconfidence, sloppiness, pain, hunger, thirst, or any other number of detractions interfere with what you are doing.
On one hand, shooting is a process of learning how to do a number of things well. Getting a steady position, compensating for trajectory, reading and doping the wind, breathing, and pressing the trigger come to mind in this category. These are the skills you are trying to bring to bear.
On the other hand, shooting is a process of exclusion. You need to be able to put anything that’s unnecessary out of your mind. It needs to be completely out of your experience. There’s a saying I’ve read that comes to mind. I tried to find it so I could credit the author, but I couldn’t. I’ll try to the best of my memory to reproduce it: “At the range, you don’t feel hungry, thirsty, hot, cold, or tired. The minute you prepare to fire, your total concentration is on the job you’re doing.”
At a certain level, the target is more than an indicator of skill; the target is a mirror that reflects your character. It has no choice but to give you a brutally honest assessment of your skill, your lack of skill, and more importantly your ability to concentrate on what you’re doing. You can ignore what your target is telling you, but do so at your peril.
So how do we get better at this game of concentration? I suggest that when you’re shooting, be aware of thoughts or feelings that detract from your ability to shoot well. If you detect any while you’re in the process of shooting, cease feeding them with your energy and focus on your task. If you note them afterwards, make a note of it in your data book or journal. Then resolve to notice it earlier next time and to solve that problem before it has a chance to show on your target.
Anyone who has studied public speaking will know that one strategy that is recommended to get over one’s fear of speaking in public is to focus on the content, rather than all of the things that make it scary. If you have passion about the content, it will channel your focus and energy away from the fear, especially once you get started.
Fear is a normal and natural impulse. Catering to, or indulging in fear is purely selfish when it detracts from your ability to complete a task. Fear, as well as all the other distractions you may encounter, are simply things that need to be managed. Then you keep working. This is what I tell Mrs. Rifleslinger when she is afraid to get up on the 40′ ladder and finish painting the house, and could you grab me another beer on your way back out?
I’m using fear as an example for any thought or emotion that distracts you from completing the task at hand to the best of your ability. The method for overcoming them could be similar, or not.
If you’ve been shooting long enough, you’ve probably had the experience of being “in the zone”. It’s a state of being in which you’re not too calm (bored or tired) and not too excited. It’s exactly the opposite of feeling “off” or like you’re in over your head.
Different activities have different “zones” of optimum performance for each person. You need to learn how to replicate your zone, so that you’re perfectly dialed in, can pay attention to each detail that matters, and exclude the things that are extraneous or that detract from your performance. You can use a word, a phrase, positive imagery, some routine that primes the pump. Just find something that works. If you ever have to take an important shot, I hope that Carlos will be proud up in Heaven.