The rules of the Bullseye sport allow considerable latitude in equipment and technique. And there are certain items and practices that improve one’s ability to hit the center of the target.
These include for most shooters but not all
- Red dot,
- Good stance,
- Focus (of attention as well as eye) on the dot (or front sight),
- and so forth.
But there are exceptions, and good ones, to each of these generalizations.
- A great many shooters “way back” before there were red dots were, as a rule, shooting better than many of us today with (or without) a red dot.
- I know a couple of High Masters that, when they assume their shooting stance, look so awkward and uncomfortable I can’t imagine how they do that for a full 2700, but they do – -and they do it quite well.
- Brian Zins, the most winning Bullseye shooter in history, says he focuses not on the front sight, not on the dot, but contrary to a great many others, he says he focuses on the target.
With those exceptions in mind, here’s the real point: There are some items and practices that, while helpful, may prove to be temporary “stopping off” points along the path. They are useful for a while but, ultimately, they prove to have their own limits — they’ll only take you so far. Eventually, they become counterproductive and must be discarded lest you become stuck on a plateau.
I’ll use some of my experience as an example.
I still consider myself a beginner. In the few years I’ve been trying to hit the X, I’ve used and then discarded some things. For example, when my wobble was basically the entire scoring area (5 ring), the practice of consciously squeezing the trigger as the sights neared the center of the target did — and here’s the key word — temporarily result in an improved score.
For a frustrated Marksman, that’s a powerful incentive and, for a while, it works. But that same Markman will also learn, as did I, that as his wobble decreases with practice and time, when he then “jerks” the shot as the sights near the center of the target, the Marksman will discover the resultant jerking motion overpowers his ever-reducing wobble. So, as the Marksman’s skill increases, jerking the shot must eventually be abandoned.
It works for a little while but then becomes counterproductive.
Now, contrast that with the technique known by the experts as “steering with the trigger.”
Specifically, Masters and High Masters sometimes talk about their ability to fine tune their aim into the deep center of the black by the use of their trigger finger. That is, in the last few fractions of a second before the hammer breaks from the sear and fires the shot, the growing pressure on the trigger is also used to guide the sights into the very center of the target. The combination of steering and increasing pressure is, while admittedly different from what the Marksman does, nonetheless similar in effect: The shot breaks when the sights bear on the center of the target.
I should add that one of these is conscious while the other is automatic. And that is the critical difference.
Regardless, here we have an example of where two similar techniques — breaking the shot as the sight picture reaches perfection — where both the beginner and the expert benefit.
But note that in the middle ranks, perhaps through SharpShooter and well into Expert classes, we try to avoid any connection between where the sights bear and when the shot breaks. In the middle ranks, we learn to align the sights on the aiming area and to build pressure on the trigger until the shot breaks without disturbing the sights.
In these skill levels, the goal is the “surprise break”.
As we progress, therefore, we find that what helps our shooting and what is detrimental to it, change.
“Change” is the operative word.
What gives us a better score today may, in the coming weeks and months, prove to be a limiting factor in achieving even better scores.
So, while there may be some near-ideals we learn for stance, trigger control, eye focus and so forth, it is also true that not only are these skills time-consuming to learn, but also that, in some cases, we’re just not ready to apply them.
And it is also worth noting that only the top echelon in the sport have developed the abilities to do these things all at the same time and that, even for them, they may have found techniques that work just as well for them.
Each of us must, therefore, be constantly learning, integrating, re-examining, discarding and trying something different.
It therefore behooves us non-High Masters to listen, watch, read and experiment, but never to assume that every technique will apply to us now. Some may work for us but only after years of effort, years where we essentially ignore that good advice. We may not be able to execute on that good advice until our skill reaches a certain level.
It’s about finding the right combination that works where you are now.
So, yes, you should look for the ideals and try to work them into your shot plan but also be realistic and know that “putting it all together” takes time, a lot of time.
We may have to file away some techniques we are shown. For us, they may be “later.”
In the meantime, we need to push a lot of lead downrange, and do that thoughtfully, studiously and repeatedly.
It will come, but the square of Earth on which I place my left foot today is not the same square I will put it on a year from now.
Times change, and so do we.
Go with the flow, but don’t be afraid to push against the edges of the channel.
That’s where you’ll find the breakthroughs.