Confidence, Part 2: The Other Half

Knowing the Objective

In the last article, I introduced the importance of confidence to the rifle shooter, which I defined as follows:

Confidence: A reasonable belief, based on prior measured performance, that there is a likelihood of successfully accomplishing a given task, where the performer has knowledge of the necessary requirements for that task.

I thought it was similar in principle to a quote by Sun Tzu that I have read many times:

“One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements.  One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes be victorious, sometimes meet with defeat.  One who knows neither the enemy nor himself will invariably be defeated in every engagement.”

In modern terms, and with respect to shooting, to “know oneself” is to have a handle on one’s measured performance (preferably with reference to a standard).  What does it mean to “know the enemy”?  The ‘enemy’ in this context is the objective, whether it actually is an enemy, or is a target dimension, distance, and environmental data, or perhaps a known course of fire.

Going into a task blind is like rolling the dice.  No matter how good a shooter is, without knowledge of the problem he is going to solve, he cannot have real confidence.  Feeling confident in such a situation is foolhardy, which I would define as overconfidence.  The only acceptable way to proceed in such a situation is to accept that you don’t know what the outcome will be and do your best, which I would define as uncertainty.

Example: The AQT

I started shooting the Appleseed AQT in 2009.  Of course I showed up with some pretty green rifle skills not knowing how I might do.  I was optimistic not only for a ‘rifleman’ score of 210, but secretly hoping that I might even score a perfect 250.  I ended up with I the high 220s or low 230s.  Between events over the next few years I would do something to get better, and show up hoping to shoot a 250.  It wasn’t until October 2014 that I figured out that I should do something about knowing my objective.

I realize that at any point I could have just pulled out an AQT target and shot it.  The idea of practicing on the AQT just doesn’t appeal to me for some reason.  I understand that specificity in training is theoretically ideal, but the AQT is more of a guilty pleasure, like pizza.  I don’t want it to color my training in such a specific way, and I need my primary diet to consist of meat.  I also think I can get the data I need in ways that will make it more generally applicable to my shooting.

Instead of using my past scores as a barometer of how well prepared I am (was) to shoot a 250, I did some figuring a while back.  I measured the largest radius that would fit inside the 5 ‘ring’ on each stage of the target.  I still think in terms of extreme spread, so I also converted the number to a diameter. The scoring areas are not circular, so I do still have some extra margin for error.  When I cannot be precise I like to be conservative, so I’ll have some extra wiggle room on “the day”.  I converted the measurements to minutes of angle at the correct distance, 25 meters (approximately 27.34 yards).  This allows me to shoot at any distance and relate it to this particular standard.  I even have a section on my spreadsheet that tells me at what distance my ‘standard’ target is equivalent to the size of the 5 ring and the ‘V’ ring for each stage.  This is especially nice because I can be working on pretty much anything and still relate it back to that specific goal.

Whereas I used to ‘hope’ that I might show up and shoot a 250, when I am able to keep my shots within a certain radius with an acceptable amount of deviation (point of aim to point of impact) in each shooting position and time limitation, I will have confidence that I will shoot a 250.  I realize it’s not a guarantee, but it’s a reasonable belief based on prior measured performance, where I have good knowledge of the task at hand.


5 thoughts on “Confidence, Part 2: The Other Half

  1. It’s a good yardstick. That seems to be what you were missing in your earlier thought processes.

    The ‘Know Yourself” bit can be distilled down to having precise knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses in each area of the fundamentals (getting a good position, proper sling use, proper NPOA use, aiming, breathing, trigger control, and follow through), precise knowledge of your accuracy in MOA from every position, and a fair idea of how well you perform these under the stress of time or competitive pressures.

    Throw in some Mark 1 Mod zero eyeball range guessing and wind guessing, ballistic knowledge (exterior and terminal), and target anatomy, and you have a fairly complete package of skills on which you can keep score on yourself.

    In fact, there’s an idea: use your graphic skills to format and print out a report card listing all the above, kinda like the bullseye data/score book sheet for bullseye, but with the skill sets broken down in a list with little boxes to give yourself a letter/number % grade on each with a blank comment line to note problems/solutions. Every trip to the range would take up a page (printed on one side, blank on the back for extra note-writing. A 3-ring binder of that would make a great “shooting diary”, no? Maybe even something to put up for sale with your slings?

    • I’ve thought a bit about standards of pedagogy and of performance. My own learning experience has been quite random and inductive. It’s also been hard to objectively gauge my performance levels. Sure, there’s the AQT, but 210 seems like such a low performance standard to cap off the levels, and what exactly does it measure? It’s a pretty blunt diagnostic tool.

      I think the general shooting world is lacking a more universal shooting method and set of standards.

  2. Not sure how many AQTs I’ve looked at over the years. Lots. And I’ve never measured the 5 nor V zone. I have a guess but don’t know for sure. You going to share how many MOA it is for each stage or are you going to make me walk out to the garage on a dark, -5 night? 🙂

    • You gonna make me click and double click to find the folder that the spreadsheet is in? OK.

      These measurements are for the 25 meter AQT. The full size target at known distance has slightly different dimensions.

      Stage 1:
      5 ring: 6.99 MOA
      V ring: 4.37 MOA

      Stage 2:
      5 ring: 3.49 MOA
      V ring: 2.18 MOA

      Stage 3:
      5 ring: 2.18 MOA
      V ring: 1.31 MOA

      Stage 4:
      5 ring: 1.75 MOA
      V ring: 1.09 MOA

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