Saturday, April 22, 2023

Practice Update -- The Same Thing, The Correct Way, Every Time

This is an update to a post I published in 2018 that reflects some of the techniques and lessons I have learned in the last few years. The journey continues. 

The Same Thing, The Correct Way, Every Time. My students tell me that my mantra is often the one thing that really sticks in their mind. I tend to repeat it over and over during the course of a class. To shoot well you must do the same thing, the correct way, every time.

So what does that mean? Particularly for beginners, you must have an acceptable foundation upon which to build your shooting stance.  The next time you are at the range, take a moment and look at how most untrained pistol shooters are standing — you will see every variation imaginable; most are not optimal.

The correct shooting stance is an aggressive stance with feet approximately shoulder width apart, while your knees are flexed (bent). If you're doing it correctly, you'll feel tension in your calf muscles. One foot may be in front of the other as in a slight karate-style front stance. A stance that's too wide will inhibit your ability to swing to shoot multiple targets and your ability to move.

A common problem I often see is beginners literally standing with their heels in a line perpendicular to the waist. While this gives the illusion of a stable stance, there is no lateral stability. A too-narrow stance can cause you to lose your balance as the pistol recoils.

Bend your upper body slightly forward with shoulders slightly in front of the waist, ears in front of shoulders. Your spine should be relatively straight. This posture puts the majority of the body weight slightly forward and uses the body's mechanics to help control recoil.

Grip the gun as high on the frame as possible with the shooting hand indexing against the beavertail and making full contact with the rear of the frame. If your hand size permits, extend both thumbs toward the target along the slide or frame while exerting inward pressure with the palms of both hands.

The shooting hand squeezes the gun from front to rear; the support hand squeezes the shooting hand from side to side. This creates a clam-shell effect that generates four-way, equal pressure on the pistol. Having the proper pressure balance on every side allows the gun to track more consistently in recoil and then return to the target quickly and consistently. 
Use 100% of your grip strength. Some instructors advise using 60-40 or some other percentage--I do not.  If you are using 100% of your grip strength (what ever that might be), by definition you cannot increase your grip pressure when you press the trigger. This helps prevent you from moving the pistol out of alignment when you press the trigger.

Aim--Align in the Middle. Ensure you have a proper sight alignment and sight picture.  Sight alignment and sight picture are often confused, but they are not the same. Alignment refers to the relationship between the front and rear sight; the sight picture is the relationship between the aligned sights and the target — what you see the instant the pistol fires.

Alignment is correct when the top of the front sight is the same height as the top of the rear sight blade, and there is an equal amount of light showing on either side of the front sight. With optical sights, alignment consists of seeing the dot in the window — regardless of where it appears.
You must focus on the front sight (or dot, etc.) to fire an accurate shot. The human eye's physical characteristics preclude simultaneously focusing on objects at multiple distances. Focus on the front sight, not the rear sight and not the target. If you are using a dot, focus on the target and super impose the dot on the spot on the target where you want the bullet to hit.
Finally, you must simultaneously do all the above while pressing the trigger to the rear.  You can have the perfect sight alignment and picture, but if you move the pistol out of alignment when you press the trigger it does not matter how you press the trigger. The shot will not hit where you want it to.

I did not do this as I was shooting the lower target in the picture 5x5 drill picture. My friend Steve and I were shooting the standard version of Gila Hayes' 5x5 drill (not the IDPA version). I was using my P320 with an RMR. I had a great group going until I moved the pistol as I pressed the trigger on the last two shots. I failed to grip the pistol and THEN press the press the trigger correctly two times.

The group on the upper target was the same pistol with the RMR turned off and using the iron sights. A bit of a drift to the lower left (I’m right handed) indicating that I did not have a perfect 100% grip every time on this run either.

The Same Thing, The Correct Way, Every Time.  Back to the range for more deliberate practice!

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