Feel the Wiggle

For what it may be worth, I learned something unexpected in dry-fire. Whether or not I need to keep that lesson or if it was just a stepping stone along the way, I don’t know.

Regardless, here it is.

In dry-fire, I noticed there is a small amount of lateral play in the triggers on my 1911s. And in trying 1911s that belong to others, I also noticed it in theirs as well. I presume it is present in all 1911s, to greater or lesser degree it is true, but it seems to always be there.

I’m only talking a fraction of a millimeter but to the sensitive finger-tip, it’s very definately there. I can feel it.

Part of my trigger preparation now is to “feel” for that left-to-right movement and to position the trigger in the middle of it.

What I think is happening is that, inside the gun’s frame, the harp of the trigger is “floating” — it is not touching the frame or magazine on either side. Instead, the trigger is, if you will, “standing” on the sear. There is no other contact inside the frame.

The release I subsequently get is far more likely to be straighter back than if I just feel for where the trigger and finger come into contact. Don’t misunderstand. I still have to get trigger and finger in the exact same contact but I then also do the lateral wobble to feel the movement and finally place the trigger right in the middle of that space. The trigger feels like it is balanced on a point deep inside the gun.

I mentioned this to John Zurek but he looked at me like I was nuts. (Well, maybe I am.) John might have said something like, “You’re gettin’ way too analytical, Ed.”

Well, there is certainly some truth to that. It is an occupational hazard, and my wife would certainly say it annoys her to no end sometimes.

Yeah, I’m an analytical kind of guy. Guilty as charged.

But whether it is too analytical or not, I don’t care because, frankly, it works!

I am suddenly (well, not so suddenly — it’s been a looong time coming) getting some really nice releases and a much improved “score” on calling those shots. The holes in the target are right where I saw them, dead on and my Slow Fire is up 10+ points.

Unfortunately, Timed and Rapid Fire, especially Rapid, start good but then I fall into old habits. The first shot or two are straight back and hit the target very nicely, but then the rhythm-monster takes over inside my head and my whole body spasms to yank the shots off “in tempo”. I’m also a musician and, boy, can I keep a steady beat. But in Rapid Fire, I don’t consistently follow through, don’t get the sights back on the target, but the “beat” is there and the gun fires precisely on the beat, forget the target thank you very much.

And most noticeably, there’s always this same circular motion that starts as the gun comes down out of recoil and enters the black. At that point, something takes over and the gun takes off to the right, moves out of the black, neatly circles down and completely around the black, and the shot goes when the aim point reaches jerk land sometimes with an extra jerk in there just to show me who’s really in control here.

“Oh no, it’s the jerk,” I could almost scream.

The monster is in control and, oh yeah, the holes are gonna be down and left.

“Ragged Fire” is going to take time.

But getting that trigger under control in Slow Fire, in finding a mantra that enables me to move that trigger straight back, well, it’s a major revelation!

Is this something good shooters have to think of? Almost certainly not. Most shooters, I’m just about convinced, learn by watching and doing. As infants, we learn how to learn by observation. Let a child see a step-stool in use and they’ll soon be climbing the furniture and onto the counter. Most things in life we learn by watching and most of the things I’ve learned about shooting, I’ve learned by watching others.

Is this something good shooters have to do but aren’t necessarily aware that they’re doing it? Again, the answer is probably no. What is essential seems to be moving the trigger straight back. If you can do that with the harp pressed up against the inside of the frame, that’s fine. What matters is the hole in the target.

But is this something I needed to discover so I could find a way (not necessarily the only way) of getting a clean release?

To that, my answer is an emphatic, “Yes!”

It was the step that moved me through a tough road block.

For the next several weeks (and years?) I’ll be in the process of cementing that lesson into place in head and body. Repetition is the way that’s done. I’ll write it up for my Shot Plan and tape it into my gun box. I’ll read it often and mentally say the steps to myself many, many times.

  • “Okay, raise the gun so the sights are just above the bull.
  • “Find the dot. See the dot. Focus on the dot.
  • “Now, place the finger carefully on the trigger right there on the pad of my finger, and right there on the trigger.
  • “Put on a slight pressure so you feel the contact with the trigger more on the lower part of the finger rather than the upper.
  • “Next, gently move the trigger left and right. Do you feel the free space? Move it again if you don’t. You’ve got to find it. [Put the gun down and start over if you can’t find the free space.]
  • “Okay, position the trigger right in the middle of the space and add a tiny bit of pressure to keep it there.
  • “Come down into the bull and into the aim point.
  • “Let the wobble happen — it will diminish and when it does, my unconscious mind will move the trigger straight back through that free space and the shot will go straight to the target.
  • “Okay, stay on the dot, … the dot … the dot … ohmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… Bang!”

With repetition, that straight back movement will eventually dominate what’s happening in Timed and Rapid Fire. It will come.

Ultimately, the evil “jerk” will be banished.

His days are numbered.

Hooray!

3 thoughts on “Feel the Wiggle

  1. Yo Ed
    You mention rhythm. So have I at times. Note that my rhythm applies to the complete recoil management aspect. Rhythmic bang-recoil-recovery-realign-back to bang. Triggering is initiated and completed somewhere within that in my RF. Is is not just a metronome bangX5. Rhythmic control might say it better.

  2. Hmmm, thanks Jack.
    Maybe what I’m experiencing in Rapid Fire is the skipping of the recovery steps. For example, although I can see the dot, I don’t really feel like I’m “on the dot” anytime after the first shot. Nor do I feel like I’ve really acquired the target again.
    These intermediate steps *do* happen in Timed Fire *most* of the time but I have to force myself to slow down before they will fall into place.
    “Cherokee” is a jazz standard typically played at break-neck tempo. If you see the players glance at each other, you know they are right on the edge of losing it.
    In Rapid Fire, part of me is in panic mode and afraid I won’t get all the shots off. The trigger control I’m starting to achieve in Slow Fire, and sometimes in Timed Fire, just needs to get worked into my subconscious. Rapid Fire will then work and “rhythm” will also *then* be the right term.
    I like your phrase “rhythmic control”, Jack. I need to consciously slow my (now) automatic recovery. A little bit of “control” in there is needed to fix what I’m doing in Rapid Fire.
    I’m shooting a 2700 tomorrow and putting a Post-It in my gun box to remind me.
    Thanks!

  3. Hi Ed!

    Just read your posting and I might have a little insight for “ragged fire.” A few times last year my gallery team captain, Jeff, organized a few team members for time fire drills. We started with a one shot drill, and then proceed to two shot drills, and so on until we got to a full string of five. When we got to the first full five shot string, Mr. Smarty Pants only ran the clock for ten seconds without telling anyone!

    The general consensus was, not a soul felt rushed. Not only were all the shots for seven shooters released but most were well executed and scoring was unusually high for the line as a whole. I think even well seasoned shooters still get caught up in the perception of limited time and unintentionally rush this type of fire. Let’s face it, when we rush anything, a sliver of panic rolls right in and good execution is swept aside. For most of us (especially those that try to scope their string of shots) there’s naturally a lot of time remaining in time fire. I believe that most shooters shoot time fire strings well within ten seconds and don’t even know it.

    Getting the first shot right off the bat as the targets turns leaves more than ample time for the remaining four. Although it does require a shooter to take up a lot of the trigger’s weight when the target is still at it’s’ edge.

    Be well my friend,

    Tony

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