Thursday, June 15, 2017

Perfect Practice: Good Habits

I spend a lot of time on shooting ranges. Lately I’ve noticed a new kind of shooter. They are relatively new shooters, but often they carry, and they practice more than the average. From what I’ve seen, the average concealed carrier practices once every 3 months. Of course that is on average. So they are not necessarily new shooters (less than 2 years) but practice more than average (about once a month). I’ve noticed also that they usually are a little experienced, but have very little training. Some of them have been shooting “their whole lives”. Sometimes that only means shooting 3 or 4 times a year. Or just a few during hunting season. Don’t get me wrong, that is some experience. Just being around guns and handling them puts you ahead of the average person who has never, or rarely, handled or shot a gun. Anyway, these have been my observations. For the first 10 to 12 years of my life I lived like the typical hunter. It wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 that I really developed a love for guns and shot them often (at least weekly.)
I have observed that there are certain things that my students did, and others I see almost every other day, that is cementing false muscle memory, or bad habits, into your brain. It’s not something you can’t change, but it takes a lot of work.
New and less experienced shooters have a tendency to squeeze the entire palm of their shooting hand. When shooting, whether using one hand or two, remember that your three-finger shooting grip must not move. Your trigger finger should operate independently. It seems awkward but it’s like learning to play a drum kit. Sometimes your hands have to operate independently of your feet.
If you practice by gripping three fingers tightly in a partial fist, or a three finger grip–the same three fingers on your shooting hand that grip the gun–and then slowly move your trigger finger straight and smoothly rearward, that will help. You might notice that your thumb will move too. Ideally, nothing but your trigger finger should move.
You can practice this technique with a racquetball in your three finger grip.
As any and every shooter must remember, sight alignment is critical, but don’t freeze your sights then slam or slap or jerk on the trigger–that’ll throw your round off every time.
Anticipating the shot or pushing the gun can be a problem too. I see it often and I even have the problem myself now and again. However, squeezing the entire palm of the shooting hand is sort of like someone who’s never milked a cow before trying to milk one because they think they think they have some idea of how the process works! Too often I see people milking their pistol grip, or squeezing it with all their might to “control” the gun. That’s not normal. You were born to be a shooter, not a dairy farmer.
When it comes to other factors affecting your accuracy, there’s a couple of other things to remember. It’s important not to blame the sights, which happens all too often. Fix your bad habits first. It’s not the gun!
I’ve had people swear up and down their problems lie in their “inferior” (fill in gun brand here.) I tell them it’s not and they think I’m crazy. I then ask to use their gun. It hit just fine and then I tell them their problem. Most of the time it’s not a difficult fix. Sometimes it’s more than one thing but correction is easily implemented. The problem will come with the false muscle memory. You have to sometimes retrain your muscles (your brain actually.)
Getting all the fundamentals of solid shooting is imperative. Considering your sights are lined up all the way through the break of the shot, and noting your trigger squeeze is smooth, constant and straight to the rear, reexamine your grip. Remember to allow your trigger finger to operate alone. Your grip should be tight, but the trigger finger is loose and caresses that trigger. Squeezing the whole palm can really throw off your shot.
Once in a while I will take a shooting class. Maybe once every 3 or 4 years or so. I will take a basics course. The instructors recognize some things about me that identify me as an instructor. They ask why I’m there. I tell them, to relearn what I may be missing so that I can shoot, and teach, fundamentals better. It’s also a good, humbling, experience.
Learn the basics and then practice them until they are part of you. Learn safety the same way. They say “Practice makes perfect.” I say “Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Semper Paratus
Check 6