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.