tHE PERFECT PISTOL SHOT
One of the criticisms against marksmanship regards the time it takes to apply the fundamentals. The always delightful and rambunctious killed-or-be-killed, camouflage pants wearing crowd can't be bothered with the impractical time demands required for good marksmanship. Shooting a handgun accurately is like driving a car: There's only one way to do it. It amuses me when I'm told my marksmanship book is "good for beginners." I assume that means it's good basic information but perhaps is insufficient for more advanced shooters. The truth is--that's it, there's no more to it. The United States Marine Corps spends two weeks every year training every Marine on the fundamentals of marksmanship, in addition to other weapons and combat training. Every year. Marksmanship isn't for beginners, its for shooters. The difference is in the application not the material.
There are additional skills relating to marksmanship but no replacement for marksmanship. Defensive shooters will need a lot more including point-shooting but they will still have to master fundamentals of marksmanship. Consider driving a car, as an example. Driver's education does not make Formula One drivers but there's no secret race car training that replaces braking, passing, and turning. The race car driver simply knows the fundamentals much better; he doesn't abandon them for something else. Every driver turns the wheel, some drivers know how to transfer the weight of a car at speed but that's only a better application of fundamental steering technique. You get the idea.
Recently, a former special forces member wrote something on shooting and received criticism because the text was too basic; as if the readers thought a secret, better way of shooting existed. Maybe somewhere in an underground lair in Eastern Europe the world's best minds are learning how to shoot with their feet and aim with their noses, but I doubt it.
Sighting is easy to understand but requires fanaticism to master. You can sight like a pro but you can't sight like a pro if you believe that you've heard it all before and are too sophisticated to spend time mastering the fundamentals.
To sight quickly, sight properly often:
1. Focus on the front sight with absolute dedication. Your used handgun has a unique front sight tip due to use. Every time you fire a sighted round you should see every scratch, dent, ding, and discoloration on your front sight tip. If not, you're not properly sighting. The front sight tip must be crystal clear which means the target and rear sight will be blurred. The human eye can only focus to one depth at a time. Crystal clear.
2. Place the front sight tip in perfect alignment with the top plane formed by the upright wings of your rear sight. The rear sight will be blurred but retain its shape. Place the front sight tip on your blurred aiming point. Select an aiming point no larger than your front sight appears. Having your front sight floating on a black bullseye will never get you one ragged hole.
3. Subordinate the entire shooting process to sighting. Don't press the trigger in a manner that moves the sights. If the front sight tip moves off target, release the trigger and correct any error.
4. Speed comes through training or defensive compromise. Training requires 100 dry fires (minimum) for every live round. Be deliberate and smooth. Don't break techniques down into multiple movements. Trigger press must never be staged, it's a movement not a position. Train deliberately and increase speed gradually. Making proper sighting second nature will make it quicker. Proper defensive compromise comes by adopting a hasty-fire technique:
Place the crystal clear front sight tip between the two walls of the blurred rear sight wings and on your aiming point. Don't worry about the elevation, just keep the front sight tip between the walls of the rear sight. The result will be centered shots in a vertical rectangular pattern. If the front sight is not crystal clear you'll be doing the usual crouch-grimace-jerk which has become the standard in defensive shooter training. On the other hand, master the front sight tip and your 15 yard rapid-fire shots will be blindingly fast and within a group you can cover with the bottom of a shoebox. That's the practical value of the fundamentals of marksmanship.
If you want to sight quickly, sight properly often. Learn, train, self-evaluate. There's no get-rich-quick type scheme that can get your shots on target. Mastery requires effort.
In The Perfect Pistol Shot, we discuss the entire Bullseye Clock, which is an imaginary target with a clock face superimposed on it. Any bullet strike that does not hit at the center (the base of the clock hands) is a miss. Here are three very common errors:
These examples are for right handers. Southpaws simply reverse the sides of the clock (3 becomes 9, etc.).
7:00 - 8:00 Over-grip. The most common error in shooting sends shots low and toward the support side. Lighten your grip.
12:00 and 6:00 Leaning Backward. Extreme and erratic highs and lows come from the imbalance of leaning the shoulder carriage rearward of the hips. Put the shoulders slightly forward of the hips and this error instantly disappears.
3:00 - 4:00 Twisting the torso. When the legs are bladed but the torso is twisted directly onto the target this error will occur due to the body's constant attempt to return to a neutral muscular influence. While the shooter can force this position, rapid fire will most often uncover the error. Normal slow fire can be a problem because the torso will move toward the strong side when the shooter is even slightly distracted. The answer is a either a proper bladed stance or a proper natural stance (as described in the book and this blog). Learn your Natural Point of Aim.
The new book is moving forward on schedule and we should see a release before summer. Thanks to those who have signed up for advance notice at practicsusa.com. I appreciate the interest.
Albert League is a former Marine Corps and law enforcement firearm instructor who consults on a variety of security topics. He is the founder of the Practics firearms defense system and author of the Practics book series.(www.practicsusa.com)