Closed Box Shooting

As a relatively new shooter who is reading and thinking about this a lot, I think of the perfect shot process as something in a closed box that can be started and monitored but, left to its own, will continue on automatic and run to completion.

Monitoring of that process is (ideally) also largely automatic and getting the “Abort!” signal to function correctly is like all other elements in that it is something that has to be practiced enough so that it becomes automatic.

Assuming a shot has been fired and something (in the brain) indicates “that wasn’t right,” I then think of the conscious brain as analyzing the performance, trying to identify what wasn’t ideal, and then opening the closed box and taking out that part of the process for correction. The conscious mind puts that part of the process on the tool bench and using various tools, attempts to reshape it so that it works correctly.

Next, the repaired part of the process is put back in the box, the lid closed, and the process started and allowed to run. Conscious analysis then tries to figure out if the fix was correct and, if not, it tries again to effect a repair.

In order for this to work, the conscious brain has to know roughly how the process should work. After all, it has to initially hammer out and connect the pieces inside the box. The more reading and study it can do — and that’s where these discussions come in — the more likely it is that what the consciousness crafts will work well.

Secondly, I’ve been somewhat frustrated to be unable to find a “Here’s how to shoot an X everytime” book but now I see that everyone’s “box” is slightly different, that the raw materials each of us has to put in the box is different, and each person’s ability to analyze, modify and refit those parts is also going to vary.

There is some similarity from one shooter to the next, however, so this isn’t hopeless. We all hold similarly, NPA is a very useful component to put in your box early on and hearing from others what sorts of analysis are useful (self-monitoring, a coach, video tape, etc.) is great.

I have compared shooting to riding a bicycle in that much of what happens has to be automatic (but I said “subconscious” in a posting on that so maybe I need to rethink the use of that word).

The idea of the “process in the box” helps me understand what ties the rank beginner — who is tinkering with the pieces, often at random, and trying to produce a good shot and, over time, assembles some sort of process “in the box” that works the same way each time — to the expert — who detects a deficiency and takes a single piece out of the process and gives it a few strokes with the polishing stone before replacing it and trying again.

For the beginner, many of the pieces in his box are only roughly shaped; much of what interests the experts is too fine an adjustment for the beginner. But it can benefit the beginner to listen to the experts in a couple of ways. First, it helps build an appreciation for what a finely polished process is at the end of all this work. Second, listening to the experts suggests the general shape of what the beginner must craft. And third, as simple as it sounds to “Line up the sights on the portion of the target that is your aiming area and release the shot without disturbing that alignment”, we are all learning just how finely honed a process is required to do that over and over and over 270 times, and more.

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