Seeing Red, Shooting Black
We shot at seven yards, and Cassie decided to stick with the Ruger MKII. That was fine with me, she was familiar with it, and comfortable shooting it. Cassie naturally assumes an Isosceles stance. All I had to do was ask her to spread her feet just a little farther apart for stability. She had brought along 550 rounds to enjoy shooting. I would be her magazine loader and coach/cheerleader.
As each bullet pierced the target, I either said "Good," or I kept quiet. Hits in the red merited a response. Hits in the white were ignored. At this point in Cassie's shooting, I am striving for confidence, and fun. Precision can come later. If she doesn't have fun shooting, then she will eventually give it up. If she doesn't feel confident, she will eventually move on to something else.
During a break in the shooting, I talked to Cassie about focusing on the front sight. "Your eyes can not focus on the target, the front sight and the rear sight. The distance between them is too great. Rather than trying to see all three, bring the front sight into focus, and let the rear sight and the target be a bit blurry," I said.
Cassie shot a bit more, and then confessed. "I can't see the front sight," she said.
Since I wasn't shooting, I had not noticed the orange front sight and the red target. Cassie was staying in the red by the process of elimination. When she saw the front sight, she placed it back in the red to make it disappear and pulled the trigger. A novel solution, but not what I was looking for.
I dug into my range bag and found a black Shoot 'n' See target. We affixed that over the red spot, and went back to the firing line. With the next hot range call, Cassie picked up her pistol and aligned her sights. "Wow, I see what you mean!" she exclaimed.
"Can you see the green rings in the black?" I asked.
"That's OK. We're shooting for the center. Just imagine two lines across the black spot intersecting in the middle. Line your front sight up with that point of intersection right on top of the front sight," I instructed her, "Then, squeeze the trigger without pulling the front sight off that intersection."
With Cassie's first, second and third shots, I was pleased to see green craters appear in the center of the black void. Then her accuracy began to suffer. After the first magazine was fired into the Shoot 'n' See, we talked some more. "You have sight alignment now Cassie," I told her, "But any monkey can do that."
"But why don't the bullets go where I point the gun?" she asked.
"They do. What you are not seeing is that you are pulling the sights slightly off target with your trigger pull sometimes. Compressing that trigger without moving any other fingers and without changing your sight alignment is the key to putting a hole precisely where you want it."
"It's not that easy."
"No, it's not. That's why it's called a skill. But truthfully, that is all there is to it. When you shoot, discard anything that causes you to move the sights off target while pulling the trigger. Keep everything that helps you accomplish that task. Don't lock your elbows. Don't anticipate the shot. These are things to discard," I told her. "Pull the trigger at a steady rate straight backwards. When you are waiting in the check-out line somewhere, don't just day dream. Instead, practice moving your trigger finger straight back with the rest of your fingers held perfectly still. Being able to control that finger independent of the rest is key."
"It takes a lot of practice," she responded.
"It does," I said. "It's not like the movies where somebody picks up a gun for the first time and scores bulls eyes. It takes dedication and practice, but if you focus your practice to achieve your goal, you will arrive there quickly."
"I'm not sure I have that dedication," she said.
"You don't have to," I replied. "You are shooting well enough now to accomplish your goal of self defense. Think of it as a zen thing, a meditation. It's a zone you want to be in, where you can pick up a handgun and place the shot exactly where you want it to go. Your goal when we arrived today was to stay in the red, and for the most part, you accomplished that. Shooting is a skill that involves stripping away all the hindrances to the basic skills of aligning the sights and pulling the trigger."
"A zen thing," Cassie mused, "I could get into that."
Labels: Neophyte Shooters