The Watched Pot Never Boils

Something interesting has been happening the past few weeks.

As anyone who visits this blog on a regular basis may have noticed, I haven’t been writing much. Initially this was due to “the bug” that was making its way through seemingly everyone in my extended family. The grandbaby had it, her parents, we got it, the grandaughter and her family then had it, then my wife developed a pneumonia ’cause she wasn’t quite over it after all … And through all that, I wasn’t doing much shooting, just a lot of reloading and dreaming.

This past Saturday, we shot an L Match. For those who haven’t done one, it’s basically a two gun event, a 900 (90 shots) with a 22 and another 900 (90 shots) with a centerfire. But the rings on the target are decidedly bigger and so everyone has a good chance of getting a much higher numerical score.

The best shooters are intensely focused on putting every shot into the X ring. That’s where the overall winner will be decided.

I’m not in that category, of course. Instead, I just focused on doing the best I could.

But I *did* do something a little different. What I did was to pour almost all my attention into keeping my self intensely interested in what the dot was doing.

That’s gotta be the hardest way to say, “Watch the dot” but those three words belie what I was doing. They just don’t capture it. So please let me say it again:

I concentrated on staying with the dot as it waggled around in the scope. I followed it (with my attention) as it went over there, and then over here. I tracked it as it went up, then down. I just stayed with it whereever it went and, somewhere in all that, “BANG!” The shot went.

That’s the first part of the story.

Here’s the second part.

Move the trigger straight back, perfectly smooth.

Last Saturday, I was able to (sometimes) do both of those things simultaneously, and without having to consciously think about them while “doing” the shot.

And my scores (in the larger L Match targets) were decidedly closer to center and with fewer jerks.

Other shooters, upon hearing my description of how this all felt, have said, “You were in the zone, Ed.”

And I must say, it was a grand experience. The shots went with no concious effort but rather a recognition, an instant after the fact, that everything was in the right place. And it punched an X or a good solid 10.

But I do have to temper my excitement — the rings in the L Match targets are definately bigger than what I’m accustomed to shooting so my shots would certainly seem better for that reason alone.

But in Timed Fire, something really wonderful happened so I know what I experienced on Saturday is not just because of the size of the target rings.

In fact, what happened was that I totally blew the first string. My first five shots on that Timed Fire target were strung out from “no score jerk land” (low and left) in a line into about the 8 ring. I jerked every shot. Gak!

As I reloaded the magazine, I quietly said to myself (hey, with the hearing protection, no one can hear what I’m saying, right?), “Move the trigger straight back, smooothly, float the harp in the middle of the channel up and down and left and right, remember how that feels when it just smoothly goes straight back.”

I raised the gun and when the target turned for the second string, everything came into place and each of the five shots went right through the X ring. Damn! All five in a row were Xs!! Wow!!!

 

Precision pistol shooting is a bunch of basic skills. Each of them must be understood, practiced with great attention to detail, errors noticed and corrected time and time again, and then practiced in context while the next basic skill is similarly perfected. Each skill warps all the previous ones and the learner has to go back and go over them again and again.

But when it comes time to “shoot the X”, all of that has to be flushed out of the head. All of the skills have to be there, but not in the head.

Last Saturday, I watched the dot, I mean *really* watch the dot, and I moved the trigger smoothly and straight back, all at the same time and for what feels like it must have been the very first time together, and shot the heck out of the center of the target.

Practice, practice, practice, yes. But when it’s time to shoot, fill up the pot, turn up the heat, but then walk away and let the pot cook.

It will boil, but only if you get it ready and then just let it cook.

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