I wrote this in February or March, prior to going on break. The really good parts I just added to it right now.
This article will pertain to target shooting, where you have the luxury of making your shot on your time.
I’m getting to the point in my standing position where I’m almost happy with my level of precision. Scary. I’m sure the last MOA will be the toughest to shave off.
I think that if a relatively decent shooter were to look through my sight picture in the standing position and experience what my hold looks like, he would not believe that my average extreme spread for a 10 shot standing group is in the 5.5 to 7 minute range. The limit of my hold is much larger than that.
The reason that I can group much better than my hold is that there is a moment where the hold steadies up, where all systems are go, and all that needs to be done is to press the trigger before the moment is gone. After I spent a lot of time in the standing position, I realized that the skill of timing the shot release was allowing me to get easier results in other positions as well. Any position that is not perfectly steady will show smaller groups if the shooter is able to time the release of the shot.
The ability to effectively time the shot depends on a few things. The shooter must be able to control the trigger sufficiently well to allow for a very narrow window of time- probably a half second or less. The shooter must be aware of his cycle of movement. The shooter must have the patience and discipline to accept only the right moment and not one that is only ‘close’. The sights resting briefly on the target is not the same thing as the sights crossing over it. The shooter must also have a level of attention and readiness to fire that is always at the ready to recognize the right moment and seize it immediately.
Knowing Your Rhythm
The only way to get a feel for your personal cycle of movement is to do a lot of firing. I do a lot of dry firing but in my case I needed live fire to really learn to take advantage of my cycle of movement. I think for me it had to do with making live fire standing practice a routine thing so it didn’t feel so much like a test. Dry fire probably set the skill, but it didn’t transfer directly to live fire without some work.
My own cycle of movement begins with a rather wide arc. I usually take one breath after bringing the rifle up. A second after I reach my natural respiratory pause, things usually begin to settle. I don’t see figure eights, just sort of a happy meandering sort of movement. If my position is properly balanced I will feel a sense of steady calmness about my position. If my center of gravity is outside of my feet I will feel a sense of slight panic and urgency to quickly get the shot off. If everything is as it should be I will only have a moment before things begin to break down. For the most part I only get one optimum cycle each time I bring the rifle up, although sometimes I get two good shots before lowering it.
Knowing Your Hold
One of the things that has seemed to help my development in the standing position is using an appropriate sized target, or in my case an appropriate distance from my target. Using a huge target is obviously a waste of time unless you just need an ego boost. Using a target that is too small imparts a feeling of futility that results in reckless decision making when it comes to breaking a shot. If there is already very little hope of hitting the target, the shooter is more likely to just to say, “Screw it,” and let a shot fly.
Using a target that is difficult, but potentially hittable 90% to 100% of time with a little luck or perseverance will allow for the shooter to relax and practice good decision making. When I was working standing hard last December, I realized that my confidence was lacking at the 50 yard line with my 4” target. It was on the day that I moved forward to 35 yards that my groups went from 10.590 MOA extreme spread to 6.775 MOA extreme spread. Since then I haven’t gone back above 7.5 MOA in my ‘practical’ standing position, which is my normal one, and lately have been regularly between 5.5 and 6.5 MOA.
With that difficult to hit, but attainable target size, the shooter will be forced to pay attention to his movement cycle and make good decisions. There are times when I’ll see what looks like the real window for firing, but I can tell if I’m really on top of things that it’s going to be too transitory to break a quality shot. Great shots usually don’t come about when the muzzle is moving away from the target. Only with experience will you know the difference.
Seize the Moment
You should have the feeling of a predator ready to pounce, but only when the time is right. If you work enough on your hold, such as with holding exercises, you may become too accustomed to watching your sight without the intention to do anything about it when it is on target. Sometimes the right time is only long enough to recognize it and fire and not one bit longer. That’s not the time to be watching passively at your sight while your attention is on your balance or your breath.
When the sight is up, and you’re about the business of firing, your trigger finger should just be waiting for work like that homeless guy who uses newspaper to clean your windshield while you’re stopped at the intersection of Sunset and San Vincente. You don’t really want him touching your car, but you have to admire his work ethic. The sight resting on the target is like a Mercedes stuck at a fresh red light (it’s your cue that it’s GO TIME). The trigger under your finger with the slack taken up is like the LA Times Opinion section in your hand, ready to wipe down that windshield, except unlike the LA Times hopefully it doesn’t completely suck. Get after that windshield! There might be a dollar in your immediate future, and a 40 of Mickey’s in your hand very soon!
That was so impressive I think I just have to leave it right there. This isn’t the time for me to thank your for reading. You should be thanking me now, shouldn’t you?