“You have described only too well,” replied the Master, “where the difficulty lies…The right shot at the right moment does not come because you do not let go of yourself. You…brace yourself for failure. So long as that is so, you have no choice but to call forth something yourself that ought to happen independently of you, and so long as you call it forth your hand will not open in the right way–like the hand of a child.:
Eugen Herrigel, “Zen in the Art of Archery”
I’ve written a little on trigger control in the past, but something I re-read recently exposed something that I hadn’t experienced before or had forgotten about. I was reading “With Winning In Mind” by Lanny Bassham again. He has a section on subconscious trigger control. Something finally clicked for me after reading it.
What I had been doing before was a rather sequential redirection of my attention based on where I was in the process of firing a shot. There are different methods out there for the steps of firing a shot. I don’t think the particular method is important, just that all the bases are covered. What the methods seem to advocate is a serialized (one after the other) set of actions leading up to and through the firing of a shot. If one were to shoot “by the numbers” it could very well lead an obedient and willing pupil to follow them with one’s attention, one after the other. I think this was what I had been doing. When my sights were right I transitioned my attention to my trigger finger to make sure that the technique was perfect.
The problem with this approach, if Bassham is correct, is that the conscious mind can only really focus on one thing at a time. So when I transition my attention from my sight to my trigger, and trying to consciously control each step, I am probably leaving the quality of my sight picture behind when I move on to the trigger control step. What Bassham says is the solution to the limitations of the conscious mind’s inability to multitask is that the subconscious mind is capable of performing many tasks simultaneously. This is beyond the capabilities of a “by the numbers” type approach.
I also believe that putting one’s complete attention into controlling a task seldom results in as good an outcome as something that is allowed to happen, assuming proper training. If the attention is on the task, how can that task be adapted to what is unfolding under real time. The attention is on the ball, not on the hand that is preparing to catch it.
I can maintain a sight picture as I press the trigger. In fact, what I found out is that an acceptable sight picture can lead the trigger finger to press the trigger without really thinking about it. Of course, there is the will to fire and I am aware of what I’m doing, but there is no attempt at controlling the entire process. What there is a lot of is observation and awareness. That’s what all the dry fire was for, to get the technique to the point where it can just happen.
What was strange was that it just took the suggestion to operate the trigger subconsciously to allow it to start happening. Of course the framework for this had been building from the time commenter “RF” had posted on it some time ago on the blog. It might have even started earlier when I read “With Winning In Mind” for the first time, when shooting a 1911 was at the forefront of my mind. I have experienced subconscious trigger control before, but I don’t think I have ever been able to allow it to happen consistently with a only a simple decision to do so.
After reading this suggestion, it was just a matter of picking up my rifle, getting a proper sight picture, and letting the trigger press and the bolt work happen without trying to micro-manage the process. It happens a lot cleaner this way, in terms of time, steadiness, directing one’s attention, and the quality of the trigger break. The advantages are magnified as the situation becomes less predictable.
Thank you for reading.