Monday, March 28, 2016

Shooting With "Older Eyes"

It’s happening to all of us. We are getting older. I don’t usually go into any detail about myself but suffice it to say I’m over 40. After that age, the flexibility in our lenses in our eyes starts to deteriorate, that’s why bi-focals are so common for older people. The problem is, you really can’t lift your head to look through the bottom of your glasses to focus on the front sights.
In order to solve the problem of aging eyes for the defensive or combat handgun shooter, we have to be clear on what our goals are. For defensive purposes, combat accuracy is what is required. To paraphrase the definition of noted firearms instructor and author Rob Pincus, “combat accuracy” is any shot that significantly diminishes the target’s ability to continue to present a lethal threat.
Given the distance at which most gunfights or lethal force confrontations occur (less than ten feet), we are, in most instances, talking about dead on hits in the attacker’s high center of mass because this is the biggest target on the human body. Also, hits in this zone are likely to cause massive trauma and shock unless the attacker is wearing a ballistic vest.
High center of mass hits are better placed such that they are not all in the same hole. This is because multiple entry points are likely to cause greater damage to the attacker whom we are aiming to shut down so that he stops attacking us. What if a head shot is needed?
The head, a small, moving target when compared to a much bigger torso, is a very difficult target to hit under extreme stress with a handgun, good eyes or not. Moreover, the part of the head most likely to produce an instant central nervous system shut down when hit is an even more difficult target.
Given the above, a logical conclusion is that if we want to get “good” at defensive handgun shooting, we need to be practicing at the range to shoot with combat accuracy as defined above. This leaves us with the question of how clearly do we need to see our front sight, and how much precision do we need in our sight alignment and sight picture to get combat accurate hits under the conditions in which they are most likely to be required? The answers are: not very clearly, and not a great degree of precision.
The bad news is that those of us who have old eyes will not be able to see a crystal clear front sight unless we take the time to lift our head up and look through the bottoms of our bifocals. However, the good news is that, for combat accurate handgun shooting in most circumstances, we do not need to see a crystal clear front sight, nor do we need ultra precise sight alignment.
Therefore, we don’t need to tilt our heads backward and upward to shoot accurately. What follows are some tentative conclusions about practicing defensive handgun shooting for those of us with old eyes.
At close distances under seven yards, you can use the silhouette of your handgun to aim.
Shooting skills are perishable. They deteriorate if not practiced. Therefore, you must practice on a regular basis. Although dry practice drills are useful, there is no substitute for live fire. You can run dry practice drills to practice presenting your handgun, getting your gun on target, exercising your trigger press and reset, and performing emergency reloads, tactical reloads, and malfunction clearances.
However, dry practice does not give you the experience of controlling your trigger and your firearm under recoil. Therefore, if you want to improve and maintain your shooting skills, you do need to go to the range regularly for dedicated practice, just as you need to go to the gym regularly to stay in shape. If you cannot devote some time on a regular basis to shooting practice, your shooting skills and performance under the stress of a deadly force encounter will suffer. When you practice, you need to focus fully on what you are doing. This is both a safety issue as well as a skills maintenance and development issue. When you are shooting, you should be totally focused on achieving the balance of speed and precision that is appropriate for the type of shooting you are doing.
For example, for close in point shooting, you would aim for greater speed and less precision. For longer range, sighted shooting, you will need to slow down to achieve the precision required. A “flash sight picture” means you press the trigger as soon as you superimpose the front site on the target.
At distances of seven yards and in, your sight picture is surrounded by the outline of a man-sized target. Therefore, you can use the silhouette of your handgun to aim. You do not need a precise sight picture. At farther distances, your sight alignment and sight picture is bigger than the target and completely covers that target. Therefore, you need precise sight alignment to get a good hit. The good news is that at greater distances, you’re likely to have more time to take the shot. A precise sight picture is required for distance shooting.
Your handgun should fit your hands. This means that your trigger finger needs to have good contact with the trigger without distorting your grip. You need to be able to work the trigger smoothly, and the handgun needs to point for you.
A good test of how well the handgun points for you is the following: (1) Face a target with a triple-checked, cleared, and unloaded handgun. (2) Bring the handgun to a ready position. (3) Identify where you want to hit your target if you were to really fire. (4) Extend the gun to intersect your line of sight to your point of aim. (5) Look through your front sight at your target. (6) At full extension, the handgun should be pointing at your aim point and your sights should be roughly aligned, front sight on your point of aim.
You should repeat the test with your eyes closed and roughly attain the same result.
Shooting with and without your glasses. You’ll never know when that moment of truth will arrive. You may be in bed at home and not wearing your glasses, or you may be out and about wearing your progressive bifocals. Therefore, it makes sense to practice shooting with and without your glasses. When you shoot without your glasses on, make sure to wear protective eyewear.
Shooting without your corrective lenses is a good exercise for those of us who are near sighted. Look through your front sight at your target. You should see a crystal clear front sight. The rear sight and the target will be blurry. This is because the human eye can only focus at one distance at a time. Once you are certain of your target and you’ve made the decision to shoot it, press the trigger.
Peeking over your glasses. For distance shooting, a trick that I’ve found effective is to peek over your glasses. Again, if you are near sighted, you will see a crystal clear front sight and a blurry rear sight and target. However, one thing you should avoid doing, because it will throw your shots off, is to peek over your front sight after you press the trigger.
Laser Sights. Laser sights such as those manufactured by LaserMax and Crimson Trace are especially useful for those of us who cannot see our sights at all. They are especially useful when you are shooting from awkward shooting positions where you cannot body index, and also in low light conditions.
The bottom line is that those of us who must wear bifocal or progressive glasses to correct our old eyes will never see the serrations on our front sight when we are shooting defensively. For competitive shooting, this puts us at a disadvantage. However, for defensive shooting, this is not a practical problem.

Semper Paratus
Check 6