tHE PERFECT PISTOL SHOT
Sighting controls the other three fundamentals, it usurps them in importance, but the most difficult fundamental for students to master is grip/trigger (hands). Trigger control requires knowledge combined with the experience of "feel." Fortunately, that experience is easily acquired but most students have difficulty recognizing trigger press flaws. Over the years, I watched a wide variety of shooters attempt trigger control and found a very small minority actually control the trigger through the entire length of the press. Meaning, if the trigger must travel x-distance in order to release the hammer, then most shooters will only control the trigger press for 40% of x-distance. Watch the next time you go to the range. An average shooter will gently press the trigger while sighting until the hammers gets near the halfway point, then the movement is so fast that it cannot be observed. The reasons for this phenomenon are: 1) the shooter has no experience feeling how far back the trigger may go under control, and, 2) the shooter believes that a quick yank, with everything in place will end the misery and get the round on target. Obviously, the target confirms that partial trigger control doesn't work. Shooters become frustrated and say things like, "I AM watching the front sight" and "My trigger control is good but my gun keeps shooting low and inside." None of that is true but until shooters experience full length, slow trigger movements while controlling the sights, nothing will improve.
If you have read The Perfect Pistol Shot you know that all marksmanship is about perfect sighting, including the following trigger press exercise. While this drill will improve your trigger press, it only works if the student is executing perfect sighting while conducting this training. Why? Because the experience which you need is to feel perfect trigger press while sighting. In other words, feel trigger press as a secondary action subordinated to the sights. Good trigger control without perfect sighting translates into a miss.
Our trigger press drill is simplicity itself.
This drill can be done dry fire or live fire. A training partner/observer is necessary. First, make a target featuring an aiming cross with the intersecting point appearing no larger than your front sight tip during sighting (our standard target). Then, while keeping perfect sight alignment and sight picture, focusing on the front sight tip to the point of fanaticism, press the trigger without disturbing the sights. Here's the trick--do not fire the weapon. Press the trigger as far back as you can WITHOUT firing the handgun. Your partner will watch your press and tell you how far back the hammer has gone based on percentage of available travel: "Forty percent," "Seventy percent," etc. Handguns with internal hammers will require watching the trigger and the observer will need to be more vigilant. Keep adding gradual pressure urging the trigger rearward as far as you can without causing the hammer to drop. You may stop your press at 95 percent and release the trigger. Obviously, we want 99.99 percent but we have to be fair and reasonable with our observers. You will get a few butterflies in your gut waiting to hear the shot or hear the click of the hammer-fall at about the halfway point when you first begin this training. That's because you won't believe you're only halfway. If you're a typical shooter you've never been halfway on a controlled trigger press. Remember this drill is pointless if you're not achieving perfect sighting at the same time. The instructor's secret concerning this drill (since you'll be self-educating) is that the hammer will inadvertently be dropped as the observer urges more trigger press. When I conduct this training my intent is to deceive the student with one perfect trigger press resulting in a perfect shot. When self-coaching, the student must keep pressing toward that 95% in order to get the feel of perfect pistol shots. In other words, the gun fires without the shooter preparing for it and yanking the trigger..
The new book Practics Holistic Handgun is coming despite a tortuously slow process. The book is large but it does provide a training plan for the sole defender that is comprehensive and practical. Practics is an entire system of armed defense and this book is the first public offering of that system. Because of the size of the book and in order not to reprint previous material, the book assumes that readers are already masters of their own handguns' operational procedures and are proficient marksmen. My first book, The Perfect Pistol Shot, is often referred to by well meaning readers as "great for beginners." While I appreciate that praise it is not quite accurate. Perfect was based on a class that I gave to Marines, patrol officers and detectives, federal guards, and SWAT members. It is fundamental but not for beginners because it assumes the reader is competent in both safety and mechanical operation. Practics assumes the reader is already a marksman which may mean both the readers and I are in for some disappointment. If you're considering one of my books, I'd recommend the much less expensive The Perfect Pistol Shot, as Practics assumes you already have that knowledge and skill. In fact, the long range shooting chapter in Practics will be unusable for students without marksmanship training. After the first book was published by Paladin Press in 20111, readers expressed an interest in training and specifically, in defensive training. Practics is an answer to those requests. I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude for the success of my book based on the generous support of readers who recommended it to others. Along those lines, some blog readers wonder why there are no comments posted with my two blogs (perfectpistolshot.com and practicsusa.com). The reason is that I receive almost all comments by email and answer those questions directly to the best of my ability while a small percentage of other comments tend to be marketing links to hook my readers. Nonetheless, general comments will be posted here in the future. Don't forget to sign up for advanced book info at practicsusa.com
Let's try a drill. Hold your thumb out in front of you and focus your vision on it. Alternate shutting your eyes. As you swap eyes you will perceive a movement in perspective. In other words, it looks like your thumb has shifted left or right. The reason for that is your eyes are intended to work together, triangulating vision between the three points of left eye, right eye. and object of focus. So when one eye is closed perception is skewed. A shooter could compensate for that error by adjusting sights but if that shooter were to fire with both eyes open the shots would be off the mark even if everything else were properly executed. The problems with keeping one eye closed:
1. Spontaneous defensive shooting is likely to include both eyes for which the shooter is untrained.
2. Closing one eye is a matter of degrees in relation to squinting with the open eye. When the muscles around the shooting eye are flexed differently each session (if not each shot) the results will naturally vary.
3. One eye closed means one half of your world is blind and you are taking a risk that nothing will pass in front of your weapon from the blind side or present a threat without your knowledge. That's why boxers get vision tests.
4. Most importantly, above all else, a one-eyed shooter, even after adjusting the sights, is still making sight alignment and sight picture decisions based on one visual survey rather than two. The shooting eye has no verification.
People with vision in one eye can shoot well but they must work all the harder and they have the advantage of not having to close an eyelid and contract facial muscles which may influence the shooting eye. If you have two eyes, use them.
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)