Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Secret

My friends, you all know what I do for a living, right? OK, for those of you joining the program late, here it is: I am a tactical firearms instructor for a government agency in Washington, DC (but I work in the Virginia suburbs). I teach people how to fight with guns. More on that, here.

Today, I am going to tell you one of the fundamental secrets of the dark art of marksmanship. I will entrust to you what so many people should know, but can't figure out for themselves.

You see, shooting is, at it's core, a very simple thing to do. You needn't hold an advanced degree to be a proficient marksman; you don't need to be a techie; and you don't need to be a jock. Good marksmanship is irrespective of race, sexual orientation, gender, politics, religious creed or lack thereof.

Shooting is simple. Sure, all you have to do is make sure the particular weapon is properly loaded, and then point and shoot. Simple, right? You bet it's simple. As a matter of fact, there are only two physical acts involved in basic shooting, and they are: pressing the trigger, and seeing your sights properly.

That's it.

That's the secret.

Some of you are probably thinking: "There has to be more to it than that!" Some of you might think that I am intentionally oversimplifying. I assure you, I am not.

The thing about marksmanship, and I tell all of my students this, is that as an act, it is ninety percent mental. Properly manipulating the trigger and sights of a weapon in concert with one another, arriving at the zen-like nanosecond where all is perfectly aligned to produce the desired effect, which, in this case, is a bullet being fired from a gun, and hitting exactly what you were shooting at.

Like I said: Simple.

Where it becomes problematic is that many people cannot grasp that simplicity and cloud their minds with so much crap, it becomes nearly impossible for them to shoot well. When this happens, the poor shooter often has to come to see me. Often, the problem shooter thinks that if he or she could just throw some more bullets down range, they will eventually improve. The truth is that the only thing that this method will improve, is the financial bottom line of the ammunition manufacturer.

The key to being able to properly use the sights on a rifle or pistol is, to align your sights on the target, then throughout the manipulation of your trigger, you watch your sights, exclusively, so that they remain aligned until your shot is fired. If you disturb you sights by jerking the trigger, that bullet will not go where you wanted it to go... and folks, you can't afford that in a gunfight.

There is another key to successful marksmanship... one that might seem counter intuitive (how's that for a five dollar word?), and here it is: DON'T LOOK AT YOUR TARGET! You see, if you are looking at your target, you aren't watching your sights (see above)... you can't focus on two separate things at the same time.

So, you've learned the secret: Watch your sights, press the trigger smoothly so that your sights are not disturbed, and DON'T LOOK AT YOUR TARGET!

You'll hit what you are shooting at. Trust me, it's what I do.

Feel better?



Mamma said...

Interesting. It's a bit different and a bit the same as ball sports. In tennis and baseball, you need to watch the ball the entire way--until it hits your bat or racquet or glove. So the ball is like the site except that it IS the target.

Great explanation.

It all comes back to baseball for me doesn't it.

Gunfighter said...

Good take, Mamma!

What many people don't get is how zen-like many of these activities are... the timing of the swing, the turn of the hips, the snap of the wrists... all for the nano-instant where thee things meet to produce the desired effect.

A mini-moment in meditation, where all you strive for is pure clarity.

Call it hokey, but every shot is like that for me... whether I am shooting slow or at gunfight speed.

Baseball, gunfighting, it's almost the same thing!

Madame M. said...

Sounds so very easy...

... but I must ask: doesn't it also take a certain amount of strength in your body to make sure that you can keep 'er steady?

Lawyer Mama said...

OK, I've been told this before (by my hubby, ad naseum) but it's still hard for me to actually do. I have no problem keeping my eye on the baseball, but the sights? ARGH! I think it's that I'm always switching my vision to the target.

jessabean said...

I too have always had a problem with this. That's why I quit archery...I loved the sport, but I simply could not calm my mind down enough to focus and squeeze off a clean shot. I was not zen. I got trigger happy, and as you know, that does not make for good shooting. :)

Good thing about shooting--bullets or arrows--is that you can pick it up at any time of your life. You don't have to be young and muscular to be good at it.

Terri@SteelMagnolia said...

I'm going to have Mike teach me to use a firearm. I think I'm ready now.

Janet M Kincaid said...

Interesting post, GF. I hadn't thought about the fact that you should keep your eye on the sight and not on the target. Seems so counterintuitive, as you point out, and yet it makes sense. It's almost as if, by keeping your eye on the sight, you're guiding the bullet to its ultimate destination--the target. Whereas, if you "sight" the target, you're looking too far ahead.... Am I getting this?

soccer mom in denial said...

This really was fascinating. Thanks.

Desert Songbird said...

Ooooooohhhhh! So THAT'S why I missed his head - I was aiming for it!

Paige said...

Only time I've ever fired a gun was my ex-boyfriend's Glock. I fired it into a woodpile and the kick from it promptly knocked me on my rear end.

It was actually pretty cool, knock-over notwithstanding.

Of course, it's probably in my genes too. My grandmother was a championship skeet shooter.

Redneck Mommy said...

This is why I rock it when my hubs and I target practice on barbie heads filled with ketchup. (We are a strange pair...)

I can blow him out of the water when it comes to target practice and he hasn't learned my trick.

And I'm not telling!

Anali said...

I've never tried shooting, but the not looking at the target thing is very confusing to me. I find it very hard to comprehend unless I think about it like meditating. If you keep thinking about clearing your mind then you can't do it. Sort of like that?