Working the Problem

After the last range session I got to the work of improving my issues. The reduced time that I’m allowing myself to load and fire the rifle is the main thing right now that is decreasing my precision, and therefore reducing my hit probability on my theoretical 4” target. Something else that didn’t help was that not keeping up on my shooting over the summer set me back a bit.

I divided the work into two categories, shooting and gun handling. My gun handling cost me time, which not only put me over my self-imposed time limits, but also increased the pressure on executing basic firing tasks. In terms of time, it’s primarily an gun handling issue. The process of firing a shot can be compressed, but only inasmuch as can be done without compromising the ability to hit the target, whereas everything leading up to that shot can be streamlined. Like so many aspects of shooting, improvement often comes with the removal of the extraneous rather than the addition of some enhancement.

Something else that I needed to work on was re-working my order of operations in gun handling, due to things I have learned or realized. One of the things that was recently re-emphasized to me via John Simpson is how drastic a target indicator that the scope objective lens can be. That changed the sequence of gun handling and gave me something to re-tune. The minor glitch that occurs after re-sequencing the preparation to fire a shot will go away with some repetition. Purposeful repetition also has a way of trimming the extraneous movements.

The first thing I practiced was getting my index in various positions, supported and unsupported, without hurrying. It was similar to practicing slow and smooth dry draws. I just wanted to get up, get down, index and repeat. A major issue at the range had been not immediately being able to settle down into my index. That leaves a choice of taking extra time to fuss the natural point of aim, or trying to muscle it, which just won’t turn out well.  Repetition helps burn in the feeling. It wasn’t that difficult to get a feel for the positions with a small amount of time and attention.

The next step was to begin compressing the allotted time. I had considered using a shot timer to practice with, but my watch has a timer that seems to be more convenient, since I already use it for wind sprints and kettlebell. I set the timer for 15 seconds and practiced getting my position set and executing solid fundamentals to fire one dry shot. A compressed window is something that is not too hard to get used to.

The practice of repeatedly going from a carry state, magnification set to low power, scope caps closed, etc., etc., to “firing” a dry shot in a short period of time is an effective way to work through some of the glitches.

It’s easy to let the habitual use of what is comfortable and familiar induce a rut without even realizing it. I tend to practice offhand frequently because it doesn’t involve a lot of physical movement, but I also tend to keep my offhand dry fire brief because my rifle is heavy. There are other positions, such as rice paddy prone, kneeling and the mid-level supported position, that have been habitual for me lately. To ensure that I’m keeping a well balanced regimen I decided to make use of my chart to assist me in a random selection of position.


The thing about the chart is that it’s oriented in terms of the height required to suit a particular terrain instead of specific positions, the exception being the two versions of supported prone. So kneeling versus squatting, in this case, comes out to personal preference.

The other side of the coin in addressing my last range visits is not letting the sense of urgency rush me into missing. This is where Pete’s “smooth, unflustered, quick, clear, and emotionless” state of mind comes into play (Lessler, 40). There’s really no trick to executing the fundamentals of firing a shot. To use the driving analogy again, if the light’s red you do not go. If the light’s green, apply pressure to the accelerator while letting the clutch pedal out. It shouldn’t require any thought. If the light is green, I go, and the mechanics take care of themselves. There’s no worrying about when the light might change, or inching forward, because I’m nervous about time. Obviously I don’t run the light. If I see the sight picture that I need to see to fire in order to hit the target, I fire. Until that happens, I don’t fire. Thinking of trigger actuation in that context has actually been very helpful for my shooting.

Getting to the point to where I see what I need to see to get the hit is the part that requires practice. What I need to work through is where practice leaves off and where performance begins. Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “Working the Problem

  1. Due to the ammo shortage and the use of my 50 yard range in the backyard 90% of my shooting is a pellet rifle these days. Since reading your commentary I can see that this has one advantage; I am forced to pump up the rifle and then get back in position for every shot. I have learned to find natural point of aim quickly. The bad thing is that I get to a real range and shoot an M1 Garand and I flinch like a girl. (Not like your daughter who is surely flinchless.) We all have a set of problems to work. I really like your approach to shooting. A guy I respect wrote a book called Sport Bikes in the Real World or something like that. The book was all about real world high performance motorcycle riding as opposed to turning perfect laps on a racetrack. I’m still not sure if your expectations are realistic or not, but the goal is worthy.

    • A little padding on the shoulder goes a long way to taming the M1. Keeps the steel buttplate off your collarbone. Other than that it’s more a push than a smack. Dry fire with it a lot as well, you’ll program your subconscious to expect nothing at the trigger press. And don’t forget the old surprise break on the trigger.

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