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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lessons Learned and Re-learned

Courtesy of Warren Tactical

Writing this blog has forced me to look at my shooting techniques in black and white terms. One thing I am confronting is the lack of actual training I have gotten, and how my shooting has suffered as a result. It's one thing to read in a forum or see on TV how something should be done, and another thing altogether to realize I am not doing it that way.

For 18 plus years I was a self taught shooter. I taught myself a lot of things that I’ve found out not to be the best way. Notice I don’t say these techniques are “wrong,” because I managed to shoot decently. But, I know now I would have shot a lot better if I had done things the other way. That’s the reason for my post the other day about bullet orientation in my magazine pouch. If there’s really a better way I want to use it.

Today I’m writing about the biggest mistake I made, and how I fixed it. And boy, has it made a difference.

Drum roll.

Until recently, I didn’t really look at the front sight.

I started out focusing on the target, and the gun’s sights would be blurry at best. Because I was shooting competitions where the targets were at 3 to 15 yards, it's how I did it, and I got away with it. My shots were mostly As and Bs on an IPSC target, with Cs on the far targets. Sometimes I would have complete misses, and I was at a loss to tell you why.

Yes, I always heard teachers say “focus on the front sight,” but I didn’t think I needed to do anything different.

Then, about two years ago, I was watching the Pro Tip on an episode of American Shooter. KC Esubio was talking about calling your shots. To me this was a foreign idea at best, but he was using a helmet camera that actually focused on the front sight. I could see the rear sight alignment great, and the target was somewhat fuzzy, just like I had heard it described.

Then he shot a string of fire and told us to call his shots. I was surprised – I could tell exactly where the sights were aligned when the front sight lifted. I called his shots.

So I thought, maybe I should start focusing on the front sight, and maybe I could call my own shots, and figure out why I was missing targets.

There was a problem, though. Thanks to presbyopia, “old eyes” for you young whipper snappers, I physically couldn’t focus on the front sight. I wear contact lenses that give me good vision at normal distances, but I’ve had to wear reading glasses for the last 12 years or so. Even with my glasses, I couldn't make something that close come into sharp focus.

So I got an idea. The next time I went for my annual eye exam, I asked the optometrist to help me out. He isn’t a shooter, but he understood what I wanted. He ended up giving me a sample contact for my right (dominant) eye that corrects it to 20/20 at arm's length. Suddenly, my fingernail was in focus at arm's length. The rest was up to me.

It was harder than I thought to train myself to look at the front sight. But to make it easier, I changed my sights on my competition pistol to a set of Sevigny competition sights with a fiber optic front sight. The difference has been amazing.

The first competition I shot with the contact in was the GSSF Annual Shoot, and it was my best GSSF match ever. Before this, my personal best was four misses in a match. This time I had only one miss, and I even called that one when it happened, and I knew I had jerked the trigger when it happened.

This contact has lasted me over a year, since I only wear it for about 6 hours at a time a few times a month. And, at my annual visit this year, my optometrist gave me another sample that I can use when this one wears out.

So, what's next in my rebuilding of my technique?