Day 4 of 4, 45 Caliber and Leg Match

Before

Little things:

  • John occasionally brings sweets — donuts, cupcakes, etc. — but won’t touch them himself until the match is over;
  • Younger shooters (that’s younger than 50 or so) are more passionate in their frustration and can become borderline reckless if their handguns jam more than once — keep an eye on them;
  • Renold usually has a tune going in his head as do I and, passing close to each other on the way out to the targets or back, we hum aloud to compare notes, but adopting his tune doesn’t help me shoot as well as he does;
  • Most of the High Masters have a lot of upper-body strength, often from childhood, but there are significant exceptions so it’s not a requirement for that level of performance, just a help;
  • Couldn’t see a double on someone’s otherwise excellent target one day, scored it as a miss, didn’t change my story when the shooter pointed out a slightly elongated hole, he challenged it (for a buck), the jury agreed with him, then I re-scored it but possibly gave him too much thereby apparently compounding my faults — like a shot in the five ring, “it happens,” and all you can do is move on;
  • The conscious mind can only think one thought at a time but Bullseye requires a skilled coordination of observations and actions — it can be a long road for those who insist on “figuring it out” because that path forces no more than one step at a time;
  • I feel an odd tension around Bill — we’re too much alike, perhaps, even though we appear to be quite different;
  • Bob will move up and out of Sharpshooter land after today — good, because he’s shooting Master-level scores which sure knocked me out of the run for one of those new pistols, the prizes for this competition;
  • I’ll need 90+alibi rounds of wad for the 45 competition today, plus 30+alibi of ball for Service Pistol team and another 30+alibi of ball for the Leg Match;
  • I lightly cleaned the wad gun last night so it’s ready; and
  • Yes, my shoulder and grip are both tired but no more so than yesterday or the day before — I’m ready.

Let today’s matches begin!

After

I won’t have the complete scores for a day or two but, at this point, I know how I did, and it was “extremely well” on this last day.

Here are my scores across all four days of this annual event:

Service Pistol 681-9 75.7%
22 Caliber 823-15 91.4%
Center Fire 773-12 85.8%
45 Caliber 811-17 90.1%
2700 Aggregate 2407-44 89.1%
3600 Aggregate 3088-53 85.7%
22 Team unk. unk.
CF Team 264-2 88.0%
45 Team 275-8 91.7%
Service Pistol Team 220-1 73.3%
EIC Leg Match 252-4 84.0%
Everything 4099-68 * 85.4% *

* will increase slightly with 22 Team score

After four days of shooting a 900 plus one or two NMCs in each day, my technique has settled down considerably.

Significantly, in both of those final NMCs, I think my performance was just about the same but for the Leg Match, I had changed to some ammunition given to me many, many months ago by John Zurek. This change seems to show the gift ammunition flying substantially better than what I had used just moments before.

About this gift ammo John Zurek had said, “Save this for a Leg Match. It’s really good stuff.”

And I’ve had it sitting in the supply cabinet for, what, maybe a year now? A while back, I tested a scant 10 rounds in the Ransom Rest and they printed within a 1.5″ circle at 50 yards. Oh yeah, that’s good stuff!

So today, I used another 30 of those rounds for the Leg Match.

As I released each shot, I called it and then looked in the scope. The truth of John’s words looked back at me because practically every shot was on call. And while it’s true I still messed up a couple of them, when the Leg Match was done I had a very respectable score.

With that, I also learned that the ball ammunition I had been using in the Service Pistol matches, both individual and team competitions, simply did not get along with my ball gun. At least some of the blame for the dismal Service Pistol scores goes to the ammunition / gun mix. They just don’t get along.

I have ten rounds of the “good stuff” left and I’ll have to figure out what to do with them. Certainly I’ll be measuring them with calipers every possible way I can think of. And ultimately, they’ll probably get fired from the Ransom Rest again but this time with a chrony in front and then a virgin target way out at 50 yards. Whatever I get from all that will be both my starting point and my goal in developing a ball load.

Yes, there’s a lot to be done.

But looking back at the last four days, it’s been absolutely wonderful.

  • I shot some really good targets in a major competition with 60+ shooters.
  • I renewed acquaintances with shooters from California and Colorado, and made new friends with others from as far away as New York state.
  • From the preliminary numbers, it would appear I placed very well within the Sharpshooter ranks — I think I came in second in that (my) classification.
  • I had quite a few very good trigger releases and have a very good idea what that should feel like, and a very good idea of how to make it happen more often than not. In other words, my “shot plan” has received some careful honing and is working substantially better than before.
  • I learned that I need to develop, not buy, a ball load that flies well from my ball gun. (The “White Box” ammunition John Zurek gave me as a gift is over twenty years old and is no longer being made. I have only those ten precious rounds left from which to begin my efforts.)
  • I had a really fantastic time!

Here are today’s pictures. (Click for bigger versions.)





John Zurek Visits Don Plante’s Tailgate Store




Corps Camraderie




Marines




Fresh Target




Jeannie Verifies Her Score




Jams Didn’t Fluster This Marine




On To The Next Target




Meeting of the Minds




Enjoying the Day




Move ‘Em In




Renold Schilke
Scores a Target




Parent Spectators




Spouse Spectators




Ron Scores a Target




Quick Repair




View from the Tower




On Break

Day 3 of 4, Center Fire

Before

Today and tomorrow are the days in which my concentration — and repetition — need to be at their best. I will do the same things as yesterday but with a more challenging gun.

Today we shoot the individual Center Fire matches in the morning, and then the team Center Fire and team 45 matches after lunch.

Many shooters use the same gun for Center Fire and 45 for economic reasons. I’m no exception. My wad gun started life as a Springfield Armory Mil-Spec but has then been “matured” with a carefully fitted Kart competition barrel, trigger job, slide to rail adjustments and a red dot sight. The resulting race horse shoots extremely well when fed and handled correctly and, especially for the latter, that’s today’s challenge.

My ball gun will go along for the ride today for two reasons. First, it’s my backup in case the wadder becomes disabled in some way. Secondly, the trigger has to be weighed and, if it passes, the gun tagged before the EIC Leg Match tomorrow. The Marine gunsmith who makes that determination is available today (and tomorrow).

Yesterday in the 22 matches I succeeded in finding the precise finger placement that resulted in neither a left nor right “flick” of the barrel when the hammer was released from the sear. Simultaneously, I had many successes in maintaining a solid but unbiasing and unchanging grip so that, again, as the hammer was released from the sear, my grip was still pressing squarely with no rotating pressure that would have “flicked” the barrel left or right, nor up and down for that matter.

In addition, well after I had assumed my 90 degree stance and brought the pistol up and then settled down into the aiming area and took up the slack on the trigger, I then focused my attention on the dot, started the trigger and then patiently “watched” the wobble and, when it lessened as it always does and the dot was deep in the aiming area, the shot broke and I mentally noted the dot’s “o’clock” position on the target but immediately returned the dot to the center of the aiming area and held for several more seconds. I then lowered the gun and verified through the spotting scope the new hole in the target where I had placed the shot. And on the few occasions where it was not where I’d called it, I analyzed what I had done wrong — finger too deep into the trigger pushing the hole left, rushed the shot to “get it over with” rather than simply observing the process as it developed before my eye, etc. — and re-rehearsed my shot plan so I’d return to it on the next shot.

Today and tomorrow, I simply have to do that again, and again, and again.

The shorter barrel of the wad gun (5 inch) as compared to my 22 (S&W Model 41 with the 7 inch barrel) means that those “flicks” will be all the more sensitive to my attentions today.

I will, therefore, need to be most diligent in my concentrations.

Today’s mantra, since my body follows this shot process almost completely without conscious guidance, will simply be

Ohhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… [Bang!]

After

I was wrong.

The number one lesson in Bullseye is pressuring or moving your trigger finger straight to the rear … and not changing your grip pressure while doing so.

I broke that rule big time today and paid the price.

My Slow Fire scores were 80-0 (started good, went downhill), then 64-0 (hideous) and 67-0 with that three point rise due to finally, on the last shot, figuring out how to move only my trigger finger to break the shot.

But, well, the good news is that I did eventually figure it out. Every target from there on, the Timed and Rapid Fire targets in the NMC and their own matches, were all in the 90s including a 97-3 in Rapid Fire.

So, by the time the Center Fire segment was over, I was ready to shoot Slow Fire — Oops, too late!

I finished with 773-12, well shy of the 810 mark that would bump me up into Expert category I’ve been eyeing on the horizon. And it is unlikely I’ll recover enough points tomorrow to bring my average up to that level for the 2700.

And to be honest, with the “oops” that butchered most of this morning’s Slow Fire targets, it seems clear this Sharpshooter still has a lot to learn.

But it wasn’t too late for some measure of redemption because after lunch we shot team Center Fire and team 45 NMCs. With the trigger issue figured out, I was ready and since my scores could make or break those of the team, the pressure was on.

In the Center Fire team, one round of my ammo wasn’t up to snuff; it was the fifth round in the first string and it failed to fire, probably with a high primer — I’ve been getting one of those about every 200 rounds. In the alibi, I only partially regained my concentration and ended up trading my initial three tens and an X for four eights. That brought my score down eight points on that target!

But regardless of that, I was pleased because the Slow Fire targets in both team competitions placed me in good stead with my teammates. I had done my part fine.

Toward the team total in Center Fire, I contributed 264-2.

And for the team in 45, I added a couple to those lost eight and ended with 275-8.

As before, here are some pictures from today. (Click them for larger images.)





Squadding Chart




Another Day




Lots of Stuff




Tony “Stat Man” Silva




John Zurek, Jim Henderson, Adam Sokolowski

(Left to Right)




Art Pimentel Watches an Alibi

(I shot with Art at the Sunnyvale Club)




Chock Full O’ Marines

Relative Importances

To my article, “Be A Straight Shooter“, an anonymous reader objected:

“Is it my understanding that a Sharpshooter is suggesting that everyone else is standing wrong?”

That comment admittedly raised my hackles, initially because the author chose to remain anonymous, but after I had slept on it I had to admit it bothered me because it raised two very good questions I’ve asked myself:

  1. Who am I, a Sharpshooter who admittedly has trouble shooting the 1911 up to this very same ranking, to tell others what they should or should not do; and
  2. If most good (Expert, Master and High Master ranked) Bullseye shooters claim to use the 45 degree stance, doesn’t that disprove the recommendation that a 90 degree stance (or “almost 90″ as I’ve described) is superior?

Let me be completely honest in answering the first objection: The anonymous commenter is right. I really don’t know.

This blog is about my efforts to become a better shooter which is not the same as providing expert advice on how to be that better shooter. Where a posting seems to be doing the latter, I need to make it clear such is not the case. I have, therefore, annotated the article in question accordingly (see link above).

But for the second question, as to why the reported stance is not more commonly used or perceived as such, the answer is more involved and serves as the topic of this article.


Some things are more important than others.

At the lower skill levels, the mechanical skills of simply releasing a clean shot may dominate a shooter’s attention and efforts. Many expert shooters have written that there is no proper stance, grip, or right way of shooting. What works for one shooter may not work for another. Each individual has to experiment and find out what works for him or her.

Indeed, beginning shooters may find it hard to simply put ten holes in the target. They may be doing so many things wrong that it is difficult to know which to fix first. And they may also discover that many recommended corrections actually show little or no improvement at the target because the effect is so subtle as to be completely overshadowed by other problems.

This is not to say that learning correct technique isn’t important. On the contrary, developing good technique and instilling it into automatic behaviour is essential. But only after the basics are “down pat” can the shooter move on to the higher levels of the game where attitude dominates the shooter’s consciousness and thereby contributes those final winning points.

To the beginner, technique is all important. Learning the best way of holding the gun, of standing, of aligning the sights on the target and releasing the shot, these skills take most of his or her time and attention. Attitude, “with winning in mind” as Lanny Bassham terms it, unfortunately contributes little to the beginner’s scores. The beginner needs proper mechanical technique first.

Over time, the beginner will improve. Skills will become automatic. And the developing shooter will focus his or her attention on skills that have not yet become automatic that need to be fine-tuned before being “put to bed” in the unconscious skill set.

It is also during the development process that the shooter may discover they have learned some bad, or let’s call them “less than optimal” skills. The shooter may find that some techniques that were learned early and which seemed to help have now become detriments. What used to work is now an impediment.

When this happens, those “skills that don’t help now” must be unlearned and better ones found, practiced, and inserted in place of the old ones.

In several ways, this is where I am now. I’ve learned a few skills and have ingrained them into my unconsciousness and, when I shoot, I do them automatically.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the marriage of grip, stance and alignment, I now see I have not understood the experts. Worse, I now see the ill effects of some of those ingrained habits. I need to undo those and substitute better ones.

If I were to rank the various skills Bullseye shooters need, I would have to preface that by saying that my limited experience makes this a very risky activity. Nonetheless, I would also add that it would appear that the most important skills are those typically having the most subtle effects.

But many skills permeate every level of skill. For example the one that comes immediately to mind is best captured in the dictum to align the sights on the aiming area and then release the shot without disturbing the sights.

Skills that are somewhere in the middle would include fine tuning how each different gun best fits into the shooter’s hand, where exactly the finger should be placed on the trigger, and of course, the shooter’s stance and alignment to the target.

These three are at the center of my current efforts. Grip, placement of trigger finger and the totality of alignment from front sight to rear foot, are a single item. They must be assembled as a unit, not one at a time but in complete concert with each other.

In “Pistol Marksmanship Guide” by the United States Army Marksmanship Unit (Fredonia Books, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, page 3) it says, “When assuming the firing stance, the head must be held as level as possible, so that the shooter can see the target directly in line with arm and sights.” (Emphasis mine.)

And the only way to line up eye, arm and sights is as I’ve documented. Because the head is in the center of the body whereas the arm begins out at the shoulder, the eyes simply won’t line up with the arm and then with the sights in any stance other than 90 degrees.

But if things do line up, then I contend that the shooter is angling the wrist to make it so or tilting the head or gun. If the wrist is angled, recoil is no longer “aimed” straight up the arm. When fired, recoil will move the gun in a direction other than straight back. And if that movement occurs in the few milliseconds while the bullet is still in the barrel, then the shot will be deflected. And tilting or the head or gun have their own problems as described in my previous article that won’t be repeated here.

Some world-class experts agree with this 90 degree — or close thereto — recommendation.

At
http://www.targettalk.org/viewtopic.php?p=99246, Steve Swartz writes, “You want to be facing 75-90 degrees away from the sight line to the target”.

Steve is an accomplished, olympic-caliber pistol shooter, and has been a member of the U. S. National Pistol Team. His accomplishments are, in part, described at http://www.coba.unt.edu/news/view.php?/2006/05/03/dr-steve-swartz-advances-to-world-cup.

John Zurek, a High Master, placed third in this year’s ranking for the two shooters to represent the United States at the Beijing Olympics. John holds multiple range records at the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club. And needless to say, John often wins most of the 2700s he enters around the US.

And John shoots with a full 90 degree stance.

And an Olympic coach in the UK told me the 90 degree stance was preferred because everything is in alignment with the force of the shot. Using this stance, he said, there would be less tendency to “throw the shot off” by misaligned forces while the shot is still within but being accellerated out of the barrel, and that after the shot, recovery would be substantially quicker with the 90 degree stance.

This coach went on to say that I should hold my head straight, not leaning to either side, nor forward or back, because to do otherwise would affect my balance and stability. By keeping my head perfectly erect, my wobble would be less.

And again, in the “Pistol Marksmanship Guide”, see the photographs of shooters on pages 86, 92, 93, 99, 100, 103 and 104. These clearly show a stance much closer to 90 degrees (my “almost 90″) than to 45.

Finally, let me also note that people don’t always do what they think they are doing. Many shooters believe they are using a 45 degree stance but, in practice, they are actually using a much steeper angle, often close to the 75 degrees that Steve Swartz mentioned.

To test this claim, walk down the line at a Bullseye match and note the actual position of shooter’s feet. I believe you will notice that the majority of shooters are actually standing at a steeper angle than 45 degrees. It will be more like 60-75 degrees.

Let me recap this with three basic statements before ending this.

  1. What we say versus what we do are sometimes at odds.
  2. What is best is what works for you.
  3. And what works for you at one stage of development may not work at another.

Bullseye is a learning process. To grow you must change.

And to accomplish growth in a positive direction, you must identify areas causing problems or otherwise holding you back, and then figure out what changes are likely to, in the long run, improve your performance.

To that end, I have chosen to try and follow the advice of experts as exemplified in their actions as well as their words.

But in the area of grip, trigger and stance, I’ve previously been unable to bring all three together at the same time and in agreement with their recommendations.

And so I experimented and found, much to my surprise, that it is possible to achieve the recommended grip, and trigger, and stance all at the same time while simultaneously following all other recommended aspects. And to do so, one must use the 90 degree stance.





90 degree stance

To be blunt, if your body is built like that of most humans, the only way to get your hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, body and eye all into a single line is to stand with your body at 90 degrees from the firing line.

And that alignment is what the experts recommend, and it’s what the experts practice.

And finally, I understand why.

Now all I have to do is put it into practice.

Give me a couple of years. I’ll be working on it.

When Zins Speaks, …

Brian Zins has won the US national bullseye (Conventional Pistol) competition at Camp Perry Ohio more times than most of us have shot Xs in a single target. Understandably, when Brian speaks, bullseye shooters listen.

Not long ago, Brian wrote to the bullseye-l mailing list about his grip. He said,

From: Zins GySgt Brian H [mailto:brian.zins@usmc.mil] 
Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 12:19 PM 
To: bullsey...@lists.lava.net 
Subject: [Bullseye-L] RE High and right 

Jack, 
        All shots that not on call are in some form or fashion anticipation. 
I would have to say that your problem is probably stemming from a grip 
issue. I will try to explain this the best that I can without actually 
having a visual for you to follow. 
Look at your hand 
The crease between the fatty portion below your thumb and pinky finger just 
above your wrist. 
The backstrap of the grip needs to go right between those fatty areas in 
that crease. 
Our hands are actually designed perfectly for shooting. As long as we use 
the shape of our hand to our advantage. If you put the mainspring housing of 
the gun on the either of the fatty parts, the gun will move in recoil. With 
a .45 anyhow, not so much with a .22. 
This will also help the gun align to your eye better without having to move 
your wrist to obtain sight alignment. 

Brian 

 

Well, my 45 scores were dismal, repeatedly so. I had little to lose so I decided to try Brian’s grip.

After a little futzing around with the 1911 in my hand, I found something that seemed like what Brian was describing. Being a methodical (my wife uses a different, and four-letter, word) guy, I wrote down the details:

  1. Form the shooting hand as if you are about to shake hands with someone.
  2. Using the non-shooting hand, grasp the gun by the barrel (never put your hand in front of the muzzle!) and then press the gun into the shooting hand such that it contacts the web between thumb and forefinger first, and as high on the backstrap of the gun as possible.
  3. Still holding the gun with the non-shooting hand, wiggle the shooting hand to feel the “deepest” the bottom part of the backstrap can go in the grip — the “life-line” across the palm forms a V-shaped valley and the backstrap of the gun should “nest” into the center of that valley. The goal is to place the backstrap in an area where there is a minimum of “meat” between backstrap and bone. Rigidity and the absence (or minimum) of padding are the desired characteristics.
  4. Still pressing the gun in position, wrap the shooting hand around the gun and grasp it with the middle two fingers. In some hands, the middle two fingers grasp the gun very close to the second joint and, again, have a minimum of padding between bone and metal, and the fingers cross the front strap at about a 20 degree angle. The pads at the base of each finger (in the palm) are slightly in contact with the slab-side grip but exert little or no pressure.
  5. As you raise the gun to shoot and move onto the target, move the trigger finger into the trigger area as far as possible. For some, the trigger will be touching that finger just outside of the farthest joint but right next to the joint. As before, the goal is to have as little pad between trigger and bone as possible.

When I do this, it feels very odd especially at first. But the sights line up more naturally than before and, when they don’t, I know I didn’t screw the gun into my hand correctly and I stop and do it all over. Eventually, the alignment is correct, the feel is right (odd!), and my whole hand feels “clamped” — Brian’s word in other postings — around the gun.

It ain’t goin’ nowhere!

Dry-firing, the results are promising but in my inexperienced hand, not perfect.

On one hammer fall, the front sight will bob down. (That would’ve been a six o’clock 6).

On the next, the front sight jumps right and up. (Two o’clock something — did I anticipate?)

Then, down and left. (Jerk!)

My hand hurts from the pressure I’ve been exerting on the slab-sided grip but cannot maintain. That’s not what jerked the trigger — I did that by trying to make the hammer fall when I “willed it” to get the shot over (and release the painful pressure!) — but the lessened pressure made the front sight jump way down and left, not a 9, an 8 or a 7. No, that one probably was a weak 5 or, worse than that, a “Maggie’s Drawers”, a miss.

Take the gun out of your hand, I say to myself. Let the blood circulate for a few seconds.

Okay, screw it into your grip and try again.

Click! There — it didn’t move! (Or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention?)

Again … Ah, a small jump that time, not a lot but it was there.

Come on, now, straight back. (I have to arch my trigger finger just a little to make that happen.)

Click. Yes, nothing moved.

By golly, this can work!

But again, my hand is aching.

After a few more dry-fire shots, that’s all I can do that day. It’s a strain gripping that hard.

“GTSOOI”, I wrote on a Post-It and stuck it inside my gun box. “Grip The S%!* Out Of It.”

As you may know, I travel a lot and occasionally shoot at different bullseye ranges when a local competition and my business assighments match up. But that’s the exception, not the rule. As a result, training and practice for me, much less formal competitions, are catch as catch can.

So it was barely a week after changing my grip that I had my first opportunity to try it on anything other than dry fire and, as ill-luck would have it, it was a formal competition.

And the results were dismal.

In a moment of less than stellar judgement, I shared my frustration with the list.

… I also found that when I didn’t do everything right, things got really, really bad in a hurry. the least little jerk seemed to take the round much farther away from “home” and, in more than one case, completely outside the scoring rings!

So now I’m “on the fence”.

Should I keep at the new grip which, when it works is very nice, or should I fall back to the old grip which is more forgiving?

I received a couple of mildly encouraging replies and then, to my surprise, a personal reply from Brian himself.

(Can I say we’re “buddies” now? Is one personal email sufficient?)

Brian wrote,

I would say stay with the new grip. The key is consistency and the grip may take a little getting used [to] but [in] the long run you will [be] much better off and more consistent. The reason things may seem to be more “out” when you make a mistake is probably because your hand is trying to do what it has done for so long and the combination of the two do not work. Give it time it will work for you.

All right, I thought. How long?

I decided to give myself three months, April, May and all of June.

Toward the end of April, I had shot a few times with the new grip technique, dry-fired a lot (50% of the days?), and more recently had noticed my hand feeling a bit less strained in the evenings.

I was quite sure that, accuracy aside, I was gaining a lot of grip strength. And one of the constants I had seen in other Bullseye shooters was that Master and High Master ratings often seem to go with upper-body strength.

Brian Zins is one tough-looking Marine. Woe be to he who doubts a Marine’s strength.

John Zurek swings hammer, pushes a saw and hauls lumber as a carpenter five days a week and sometimes on weekends building his own place.

Steve Reiter grew up on a farm. He’s no mouse-pusher.

They are all High Masters and they all have very good arm and shoulder strength.

Top bullseye shooters may be alike in other ways but, of this, I am convinced. If you want to shoot the 45 well, you need better than average, and possibly much better than average upper body strength.

In this day when mouse and keyboard dominate the skills used by many for 8+ hours a day, the 45 needs more, a lot more.

And I’ve also discovered that the Zins grip is utterly, maybe even “wildly”, intolerant of fat-fisted, limp-wristed, bendy-elbowed shooters.

Steel demands steel.

Power demands power.

If you want to shoot a powerful steel gun, you have to back it up with power and steel. If you don’t, the gun will run right over you and the shot will go the hell where it wants to go. You show the least little weakness and it’s gonna get ya.

But if you show strength and resilience, it’ll do exactly what you want.

Rule the gun!

When I GTSOOI, focus on the front sight, pressure the trigger straight back and get a (nearly) surprise break, it’s going in the X ring or damn close to it.

And when the shot goes anywhere else — and when it goes bad, it sometimes goes really bad — I blew one of the basics:

  • Crush the oil out of the grips and make my arm rigid, hand, wrist and elbow;
  • Pour all my attention into the front sight for alignment and forget the wobble no matter how interesting it might be;
  • Add straight-back pressure to drive the trigger directly into the top of my nose; and
  • … bang!

When it works, it is magnificent!

And when it fails, oh brother, is it bad!

Sometimes I know which one of the basics I messed up. But other times the shot is almost completely off the target and I won’t have a clue what I did wrong.

Imagine a target with 4 Xs, 3 tens, a 9, an 8 and a top right-hand corner of the target, way way way outside the 5 ring.

“Hey,” I want to shout, “who’s shooting on my target?”

But I know better. I am. It’s me.

I’m coming up to the end of the first month of my three month trial. The good news is it’s working. I can see the improvement, I can feel it working, and I have seen enough really good shots to know that I can shoot a “tenex” (10 Xs in one 10 round target) with this grip. It will happen. I will shoot it, and it will unquestionably be with this grip.

I shot the center-fire and 45 stages of a 2700 this weekend. I told the other shooters I skipped the 22 portion because my grandaughter was competing in the state finals in soccer which was true. (They won in triple overtime!) But it is also true that I am completely focused right now on the 45. I don’t want any scores going to the NRA from any other gun.

I want my Outdoor Expert rating to be based on that gun, the hard gun, the real gun.

And its coming, its coming.

Patience and perfect practice. Dry-fire, dry-fire and dry-fire.

I’m writing this flying to Huntsville Alabama and my 1911 is in checked baggage, cleaned and lubed after the competition, it is ready for dry-fire every evening at the Comfort Inn.

GTSOOI, front sight, straight-back, … click.

GTSOOI, front sight, straight-back, … click.

GTSOOI, front sight, straight-back, … click.


ADDENDUM:

Today, Bruce Martindale summed up grip pressure very nicely. He wrote:

… my personal concept on grip pressure is that group size, as a function of grip pressure, is a U shaped curve and maybe it has a third axis for trigger sear weight.

Too loose grip gives bigger groups (trigger motion and recoil induced). Too tight also gives bigger groups (lack of trigger control). You can not grip tight and retain fine motor control of your finger. So what to do? “Just Right” tension that gives you trigger AND recoil control).

How much is that? Well you have to figure that out by training with “too much” and “too little” then “just right”. Call it the “3 bears” exercise.

Thanks, Bruce, that’s perfect!

Oh yeah, my wife knows me, all right. (See reference to “wife” herein.)

Someone Is Watching You!

Inspiration is a great motivator.

I’ve shot Bullseye at a lot of clubs around the US and, in every case, there were better shooters than myself on the line. I’ve been whipped, and I’ve been whipped a lot.

For beginners, Bullseye can be a humbling experience. But if you swallow your pride and pay attention, it’s a great way to improve your game.

And it may be surprising to find out that you learn not only by watching them, but rather by pulling yourself up because they are there and will be looking.

Pressure is a good thing. Accept it, forget it, and then shoot.

For example, when I’m standing between two great Bullseye shooters, I know that one of them is going to be scoring my target. When in that situation, you can bet your bottom dollar I will try my very best. I will focus every bit of knowledge, training and practice on shooting that shot. And when that shot is gone, I’ll do my best to forget it and start working on the next shot.

Oh, it’s also true that, from time to time I let my head get to me. I might think a negative thought such as, “What’s he going to think when he sees how bad I am?” And I doubt if you’ll be surprised to learn that when I start thinking that way, my shooting gets bad, then worse, then absolutely awful. Negative thoughts mess me up faster than bad ammo. With bad ammo I might get the occasional lucky shot where two errors offset each other and the hole ends up in the X ring. It happens. Sometimes you get lucky.

But when your head goes, when you start talking down to yourself, the shots are gonna get wider and wilder.
If you can’t get your mind under control, it’s hopeless.

Bullseye is a head game: To shoot right, you’ve got to think right.

And Bullseye is a control game: If you don’t control your thoughts, they’ll mess you up.

I recently had the awesome privilege of shooting with only two shooters on the line, me and another shooter at an indoor range and he was one of, if not the very best Bullseye shooter in the world, John Zurek.

We fired two NMCs for the NRA Indoor postal, 22 and CF. John stood right next to me and fired a 599, one point short of perfection.

When the shooting was done and targets collected, we swapped. He scored my targets and I scored his and, yes, I really looked hard at that nine, hoping there was some way it would turn out to be a ten. But no, it was a nine. No question about it.

When I handed him the targets I said, “Sorry, John, but I have to score this target with one shot in the nine ring.” He looked and agreed. No hard feelings. It was a nine.

On my way home from the range, though, I realized I was looking at this wrong. It wasn’t important that he’d fired a nine. What he had accomplished instead was fifty-nine tens and Xs. Out of 60 shots fired in a half hour, he’d put 59 of them in the ten or the X ring. 59 tens!

Holy Cow!!

And you know what else? He puts his pants on the same way I do.

He’s got brown hair and so do I.

He stands at the firing line and pours everything he has into each shot. I’ve done that, albeit with less consistency, but I know I can do it too.

And he’s also a really nice guy, married, likes a good joke, sometimes shoots with a couple of day’s growth on his face. I do all of that, too.

Role models are good.

Remember: somebody will be looking.

Focus, do your best, punch a hole in the X.

Stiff Arm

Last Sunday night, after shooting the 50 foot targets for the NRA Postal where my unofficial score was 534-6 out of 600-40 (there is no X ring in the two 50 foot Slow Fire targets) with a 96-3 on one of the Rapid Fire targets — not too shabby for this Marksman — a couple of the shooters stuck around for an hour of air pistol.

John Zurek was shooting his “Cadillac” top of the line and then some air pistol which I could never afford so pardon me for not remembering make and model. Regardless, John asked if I would like to try it.

You bet!

“Grip it like your 22,” he said, handing it over.

He set it for dry fire to let me get the feel of the trigger and the pistol’s balance. The electronic trigger was light but required enough effort that I was sure I wouldn’t fire it by accident. And knowing he was watching, I carefully tried to do my very best form as I dry-fired a couple of shots.

I said, “Okay, I’m ready to shoot now.”

But John, who had been watching me, said, “Do a couple more dry.”

Not sure why but trusting his watchful expertise, I did. After two more shots he said that it might help to change how I raised the gun.

What I was doing was keeping my arm straight as it came up but not my wrist. I was holding my wrist close to the correct position but not dead on. Only when I settled on the target would I get my wrist into the correct, final position. It had always bothered me that, when I raised the gun, the rear sight would be on the correct spot on the target but not the front. I always had to do the final adjustment with my wrist to put the front sight (or dot) in the right place.

John said that looseness was probably costing me some points, and not only in Rapid Fire where quickly regaining alignment is critical. He said if I reinforced that “muscle memory” earlier, my hold would be steadier all the time I was on target and my groups would be tighter.

Aha! Smaller wobble.

He said I should get elbow and wrist both in the correct position and lock them there before coming up from the table such that when the sights come on the aiming area, everything would already be lined up.

Good trick, I thought. Before raising the gun, my eye is glued to the target and my head is in the correct position. So, how do I line up the sights with the gun down there without looking?

To get there, I worked it backwards. That is, I aimed the old way (once) and then locked elbow and wrist. Holding that lock, I then lowered the gun to the table and, before relaxing, looked and “felt” my arm and wrist to remember where they needed to be.

“That’s where I want everything to be,” I told myself. I practiced by relaxing and then regaining the position and lock and then verifying alignment after raising my arm. I did this several times, and worked it backwards when it didn’t come out correctly.

I’ll be practicing this for a while to get it working but, yeah, this is definately good.

(Some who can, also teach.)

Thanks, John!