tHE PERFECT PISTOL SHOT
Like Dracula, an abandoned training gimmick keeps returning to life to suck marksmanship out of gullible shooters. The new/old next-best-thing is to place a coin on the top of the slide during dry-fire. Supposedly, this will assist you with a smooth trigger press. Let's examine this tired and inane practice.
What is the purpose of a smooth, non-disruptive trigger press? To assist the shooter with maintaining proper sight picture and sight alignment immediately before and during firing. What then is the purpose of sight picture? Sight picture is the selection of a target, a destination for the bullet. Sight alignment is the means by which the shooter physically directs the strike of the round, makes the bullet hit the pre-determined mark. So, it can be said with finality that trigger press can be measured by whether proper sighting is maintained throughout the firing sequence. In other words, if when the hammer strikes in dry-fire (or live-fire) your front sight is not where it should be you have a problem. However, if you maintained perfect sighting during the exercise your front sight will reflect that too. What would a coin on the slide tell you? It would tell you that you can balance coins but have no direct correlation to whether you could sight and correct as needed. The coin, then, is a false measure because that drill, even if done successfully is no indication of your ability to shoot accurately. Balancing the coin may require subtle movement or control contrary to that needed for perfect sighting. Sighting is THE priority in marksmanship. Anything which diverts your efforts from sighting is counterproductive. Grip has to be mastered but the reason for that need is to enable perfect sighting. Sighting is movement, that is the body never stops moving from circulation, nerves, respiration, and muscular tension. The body is in movement so sighting must be a constant effort until the round is fired. Your focus cannot be sight first, coin second. The marksman sights and doesn't stop sighting until the hammer has dropped. How should we dry-fire, then? By properly sighting on an aiming point which appears no larger than the front sight tip and then manipulating the weapon so that the hammer fall does not disturb the sights. You know, traditional, time-tested dry-fire.
There is a systematic method for improving your shooting, the study of the fundamentals of marksmanship. You can easily do it. No gimmick, no lazy man's shortcut, no half-witted bait-and-switch can give you that knowledge or earn you that skill. Find an experienced and successful instructor whose students have demonstrable improvement during his training. Get a copy of The Perfect Pistol Shot. Study. Master. You can be an excellent shot, friend. It takes just a little effort and some organization. You can do it.
Most shots go low and to the inside due to over-gripping the handgun. Most right-handers shoot low, left, and most left-handers shoot low and right. Some shooters defy statistics and shoot straight across to the strong side, meaning a R/H will throw shots to 3 o'clock and a L/H will strike at 9 o'clock. If you have read The Perfect Pistol Shot (you are an intelligent and discerning reader) you know that errors can overlap and even reverse bullet placement. The fundamentals are after all, the fundamentals and need to be sorted out like a puzzle. Having said that, there is a an error that will pitch rounds straight to the strong side. It tends to come from recoil sensitivity:
1. Shooting arm elbow is fully locked.
2. Over-grip will almost always go hand-in-hand with a locked arm and contribute to this error but the absence of over-grip will not necessarily prevent this error.
This error is an action and immediately prior to and during discharge the following will occur:
The shooting arm is thrust into a hyper-extended position causing the shooting wrist to break outward toward the strong side.
Again, readers of the great and magnificent tome, The Perfect Pistol Shot, know (or ought to know) that sighting will correct even this error because the shooter will know the front sight has moved to the strong side during firing.
The prevention of this strong-side error is simple: keep a natural break in your shooting arm. No need to exaggerate it, just a naturally extended arm, not locked. You cannot force the wrist outward inadvertently without a locked arm. That's it.
The new book, Practics Holistic Handgun is coming. Readers who would like to take advantage of early pricing can do so by leaving an email address on the notification page at www.practicsusa.com Prior to the release date an email will sent with page count, price, release date, and some other information. The new book is for experienced gun owners who would like an entire training program for defensive handgun. The Practics web site has a short sample and information on the Practics system.
In a recent entry, I mentioned that my excellent publisher retailed The Perfect Pistol Shot for 12.00. It's now been raised to 13.00, though Amazon has not yet raised their discounted price.
Book prices fluctuate on amazon.com. I like to think of it as a stock exchange where nobody gets rich. As of the morning of 7/14/2015, The Perfect Pistol Shot is temporarily priced as follows:
If you've been considering the book (thank you) this may be a good opportunity. The publisher retails the book for 12.00.
Cops have habits. Some good, some bad. It was not uncommon to find patrol car shotguns, which were mounted barrel upward, being used as ash trays. That's cops. On the other hand, peace officers develop some worthwhile habits, too:
Reload your weapon everyday. Never trust that there is already a round in the chamber.
Circulate your magazines. Rounds can shift inside magazines. Check your mags and don't keep them all loaded all the time. Magazines wear out and constant pressure means a shortened magazine life span.
When carrying a holstered pistol periodically check to ensure your magazine is fully seated by pressing against the butt of the magazine. CCW holders will have to be discreet here. Watch cops when they're standing around, they'll keep touching the butts of their guns. The reason being that you can bump against something and inadvertently depress your magazine release button. Which means you'll draw your weapon and get only one shot and maybe even drop your magazine.
Tap your magazines prior to loading. Before loading a magazine whack it in your hand, primer side down, to seat the rounds to the backside of the mag. This can assist in avoiding a feeding malfunction.
Check your holster snaps. If you can snap it, it can be become unsnapped without you knowing.
When trouble is near have the gun in hand but keep it to yourself. Most of the night time car stops I conducted in California were done with my gun in my hand and held beside my leg, out of view. No motorist ever seemed to notice and sometimes neither did other officers. You don't have to wave the thing around but you can't win a quick draw contest if its not already in your hand. By the time your eye tells your brain and your brain tells your hand, you are already too far behind to catch up.
The new book Practics Holistic Handgun is nearing its release. Interested readers can sign up for notification of the release date, pricing, and page count by leaving an email address at ww.practicsusa.com. The Perfect Pistol Shot hit #1 shooting book in Kindle last month. That's not bad for a book that is in its third year. Thank you.
My last book was my first and it was published by a very good but niche publisher at a time when publisher advertising was reserved for authors with household names. Fortunately for me there were gun blogs. Readers who liked my book blogged about it. Consequently, The Perfect Pistol Shot has done pretty well. I appreciate it. From time to time, some reader who is new to shooting will ask other blog readers for an opinion about something they read in my book. Invariably, the subject always concerns grip. I advocate a light grip. The current trend is toward a heavy grip. I notice when bloggers identify themselves as "newbies" on a shooting site, everybody else instantly becomes an expert, resulting in me being called an idiot. Not just "idiot" but always idiot in bold caps--IDIOT! I'm serious, its the same every time, never moron or dolt--always idiot. That I am an idiot is easily provable but the writers don't know me. What they do know is how to parrot other misinformed shooters who have upended marksmanship orthodoxy over the last thirty years by looking at magazine pictures rather than studying marksmanship.
Here's a few of the complaints against a light grip:
Lessens recoil management: Partner, if you think your hands manage recoil you are fundamentally mistaken about the mechanics of shooting. The weight of the shoulders (when forward of the hips) combined with the weight of the arms flattens recoil. The arms must have a natural break (not hyper-extended) to prevent heavier recoil from getting past the elbow, thus avoiding the Starsky and Hutch phenomenon. There's no argument here. Go to any military bullseye match and watch a 110 pound woman shoot a .45 single handed with a light grip during rapid fire and near the mechanical accuracy of her handgun. She doesn't drop the gun, lads. You don't have to be afraid of the handgun, it won't beat you to death. The shooter outweighs the handgun, so the handgun moves to displace recoil. An explosion, causes equal force to be equally dispersed, the same force that moves the bullet out of the barrel pushes back against the shooter. If an officer gets shot in the vest and the vest resists penetration, the officer isn't moved by the force of impact. Meaning, if the bullet-end can't force a human to move backward neither can the grip-end. Very little of the shooter need move under service load recoil. Muzzle flip, the rising of the muzzle, will occur depending on load, barrel length, and firearm weight but the rise with service loads is extraordinarily slight when the shoulder carriage is forward of the hips. Too many shooters cause their own muzzle rise through bad posture.
Gun will fall out of your hands: Similar to the recoil argument this fear is based on ignorance of the science of shooting. Listen to me, all that is required to keep a service handgun from flying away is the web of your shooting hand and the trigger finger. Why? I already told you--recoil pushes straight back. That means the web of your shooting hand does all the work anyway, not your pinkie finger. The reason we use all our fingers when we shoot is to keep the handgun in the exact same position between shots not to prevent dropping it. Now some intelligent, knowledgeable, and thoughtful blogger may ask, "What about my .460 Weatherby Magnum Super Lite Titanium Revolver with 1" barrel and no grips?" In that case, you win. Grip with your hands and feet if you want but service loads, including full house .357 magnums and many .44magnum loads (depending on the shooter) don't require the whole hand to retain the gun. I used to demonstrate this with a full load .357 magnum to every law enforcement class I taught to dispel the over-grip superstition.
Accuracy requires the gun to be locked into the hand: This one seems to be the bane of my instructing career. Male students love over-grip as if it were unpatriotic to do otherwise. When the arm is extended and the fist is gripped tightly the hand torques downward and inside. This is the most common fault in shooting and since most of you are right handed, most of you shoot LOW AND LEFT. Right? On the Sig Sauer blog the bloggers had convinced themselves that a particular Sig had a low/left mechanical fault. Seriously. Look at your sights. They require you to make adjustments within hundredths of an inch. How do you do that when shaking? Don't hold a 3 pound gun as if it weighed 10 pounds. Lifting the thumbs reduces your ability to torque the weapon. So lift your thumbs if you shoot low and inside and for evermore lighten your grip. Lifting thumbs means lifted away and held loose not straining forward which torques, again. (Lifted thumbs is also the immediate cure for pushing the trigger but that's another matter.)
So what is a good grip? A good grip is one in which the trigger finger is placed based on shooter/handgun fit to bring the trigger straight to the rear while keeping the barrel inline with the bones of the forearm all the way to the elbow with only the hand pressure needed to carry the weight of the handgun. If it weighs 40 ounces use 40 ounces of pressure not 12 pounds. Pressure is energy and excess energy is movement and we want to reduce movement. The lighter object displaces extra energy meaning the handgun will shake-off any extra pressure. If a man pushes hard against a skyscraper the man will tremble. If he squeezes his gun tightly, the gun will tremble. You know all this. Think.
None of this stuff, that is the time honored fundamentals of marksmanship are of my own invention. I learned them in the United States Marine Corps. That slap-happy crowd had been preserving them (the U.S Army and U.S. Navy all but abandoned marksmanship) for two hundred years. Jeff Cooper, Elmer Keith, Ed McGivern accepted these principles. So why don't we teach them today? Because its hard to teach marksmanship or at least it takes knowledge and commitment from both student and instructor. Which means all these 5 yard-Crouch-Grimace-and Jerk schools would be out of business when their graduates failed to meet objective competency standards. Many experienced shooters cannot shoot at 25 yards and those that do are happy with groups that would barely fit inside a hat box. Go to the local range and watch. Still, they love the Rambo poses. This is the current state of American shooter competency. Now everybody is an expert, except for me. I'm still just an IDIOT hoping to make moron.
We miss because we don't properly sight. Sighting is everything in marksmanship. You may talk about grip and stance until your lips fall off but you will not shoot any better if sighting is not your marksmanship priority. Proper sighting controls grip, stance, breathing, and even the effect of wind on the body because fanatical sighting allows the shooter to see errors before they occur. Good grip can be practiced while wearing a blindfold which means it cannot be the primary source of accuracy. Proper grip is extraordinarily important. Bedrock stuff. Even so, grip is nowhere near as important as proper sighting skills. You may say, "we've heard all this before." And there's part of the training problem.
Most instructors mention sighting in some manner similar to this: Line up your front sight inside of your rear sight and place the front sight on your aiming point. Watch the front sight and squeeze the trigger. So what's wrong with that? I can explain with a parallel example if the reader will bear with me for a moment or two. If I were teaching someone to steer a car I might tell them to steer the car in the direction they wish to travel by rotating the steering wheel to align the front wheels with the intended direction of travel. That would be technically correct, or at least it would not be specifically wrong. It would, however, be so insufficient as to create driver incompetence. What the student driver needs to know is that manipulation of the steering wheel is only necessary when direction must be changed--you don't pester the wheel. Drivers also need to know that while we intend to follow turns in the roadway we must select actual lines of approach when altering the direction of travel because momentum and inertia may overpower the tracking of the car. In fact, steering a car is about shifting the weight of the vehicle much more than it is about "picking where I want go."
Marksmanship is a study. Sighting is the core skill needed for mastery. Fanaticism is required for accuracy. Fortunately, the average shooter can be a marksman but it requires a willingness to re-approach shooting as science rather than art. Think of what you're trying to accomplish. If you must align sights within hundredths of an inch to hit your mark, how can you possibly accomplish that with a casual glance? Friends, if you fire rounds and have to look at the target to know where your rounds struck, you are not properly sighting. We can't argue over this. Firearm manufacturers place precise sights on handguns for our use. If modern shooter training is to be believed, gun makers should have saved themselves the trouble and simply painted directional arrows on the top of slides and barrels. Think about it.
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)