Moving that trigger without moving the sights … Brother, that’s hard to do. Dry-fire helps but live-fire demands all the elements at the same time. If one element — locked elbow, for example — is missing, you know it.
So I spent a couple of hours doing solo practice at the range. Because I wanted most of my attention on trigger control, I created a sustained fire practice exercise. (Click on the picture for a bigger image.)
Again, the goal is lots and lots of trigger in the context of my normal shot plan for sustained fire.
To avoid the distraction of the target, I fired through an old cardboard backer at 50 yards. I did not use a target, nor a target backside. Instead, I looked through the old target frames at the range and chose one that already had dozens and dozens of holes.
My goal was to have my attention, all of my attention, on what was happening “right here”. The only thing the shot-up cardboard backer would be for was to let me know when I was coming into the neighborhood of the aiming area. That was the only thing “down there” I wanted. The rest of the time, I wanted my attention “here” not “there”.
- With no target and no black circle to distract me, it was easier to ignore the wobble and just shoot through it.
- And with lots and lots of holes already “there,” I wasn’t distracted by thoughts of where any particular shot went. Instead, I would have to rely on my sense of dot motion to tell me “Good” or “Nope, let’s try that again.”
After all, “here” where I am standing is where the shot happens.
“Here” is where the good shots — and the bad shots — take place.
“Here” is where and when I make the shot.
Down there at the target doesn’t matter.
Down there is long after and far away from where the shot is made.
The target is superfluous.
It is a convenience to count score but nothing more.
It is a distraction.
It doesn’t matter.
In this practice, I wanted all my attention on what was happening right where I was standing. So I intentionally put myself in a situation where I had to know whether it was a good shot or not based solely on what was happening “here”.
And if I couldn’t tell, then I would know I wasn’t paying attention.
“Do it again and let’s pay attention this time.”
Paying attention like this, I found a couple of repeated errors.
- Toward the end of each five-shot string and especially toward the end of the 90 minute practice, it became increasingly difficult to keep my elbow locked. As I tired, I started bending the elbow and, each time that happened, the released shot went in the midst of some big-time motion. There were big lurches, huge jerks and those bizarre cork-screw shots when that happened. I didn’t notice my elbow wasn’t locked but rather, there was a lurch, a jerk, a corkscrew. And that would be when I would notice, “Hey, my elbow isn’t locked!” Eureka! I would then say aloud, “Okay, you’re elbow needs to be locked. Let’s do that again with the elbow locked this time.” (Thanks, coach!)
- Loss of mental focus took me away from the dot most often for the second shot of a five shot string. With the first shot, my head was almost always “into” the dot but as I ran the litany of steps — saying them aloud to reinforce the memorization (I had the firing line to myself so there was no one to alarm by talking to myself while shooting!) — I often found that even though I was saying, “hold [the trigger back] and re-acquire the dot and aiming area,” I wasn’t actually pouring myself back into the dot. I could say to myself, “You’re not in the dot. Let’s abort and start over — get into that dot this time!” (Right, coach.)
- I would occasionally jumble the sequence of steps in my shot plan. For example, sometimes my finger would release the trigger after a shot rather than holding the trigger down for the follow-through consisting of re-acquisition of dot and aiming area and then followed by the trigger reset. Saying the steps aloud (correctly) alerted me to when my speaking brain versus my acting body were out of sync. At that point, the “coach” side of my brain could give direction. “Okay, let’s try that again. Remember the sequence. Hold that trigger down after the shot while you reacquire the dot and aiming area. That way you can then let it out and feel the reset.”
This kind of focused practice is where perfection is grown.
When I follow the shot plan and execute each of the steps perfectly, I know I will shoot a ten or an X. I’ve seen myself do it many times. I can nail that ten ring again and again if I just “shoot the plan”.
But doing it perfectly time after time, that’s hard.
Vince Lombardi said,
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”