My Thoughts On The “Basics”

Hello everybody! I recently took part in a short pistol clinic. It was held by a local instructor and was geared towards safety, basic shooting fundamentals and holster work. It was a fun clinic that really focused on drilling safety and fundamentals into us. As an instructor and firearms enthusiaist I truly appreciate that. But it really got me thinking about the basics. Not just there importance but actually wrapping my head around using them with every single round I send down range. How do we truly clear our minds and let those primordial shooting skills and “muscle memory” really take over. A good friend of mine calls it “Monkeys and Footballs”. Whether using a timer or a “threat” yell we all battle with our own lack of concentration at times. Our minds turn to jelly it seems, and we end up looking like a bunch of monkeys trying to play catch with footballs if you can envision that. So how do we minimize this? How do we control our minds and concentrate on topics of our choosing instead of bouncing around from one mental locker room to another? Well lets look at some basic disciplines of pistol shooting and I believe we will start to see a pattern.

First of all if you don’t have a solid understanding of the basics of pistol shooting it’s going to be near impossible for you to have consistency on your targets. So what are some of these basic fundamentally known disciplines I’m speaking of? This is just my opinion of a portion of what the list looks like.

Stance: You need to have a comfortable, natural stance. Feet should be about shoulder width apart and you should be squared up to the target. To steady your platform lean forward just a little to maximize your center of gravity. This is going to help you aim. It may feel unnatural at first but with practice it comes relatively easy.

Grip: I’m only discussing semiautomatics here not revolvers. They’re all that matter in my opinion. Holding the pistol in your strong hand I want you to get a high grip but make sure you keep your hand below the slide. Support hand thumb goes along the frame just under the slide and keep your index finger on the opposite side of the frame. Finger off the trigger! Wrap your support hand around your dominant hand, keeping your fingers under the trigger guard. Dominant thumb should be laying on top of the support thumb. This is a thumbs forward grip and it takes a lot of practice to become comfortable with it and even more training to become efficient at it.

Aiming: Front sight focus is imperative to your success here. Pistols have front and rear sights. Use them! People have peripheral vision. Use it! What do I mean by this? I mean always shoot with both eyes open. For many of us, this requires many hours of dry fire practice but the good news is that dry fire practice is free. Just takes the right kind of attitude and ambition to be successful at it. If you’re taking the time to read this blog then you probably have the mental fortitude to do this with practice. Keep both eyes open, line up the front sight so it sits squarely between the rear sight posts and is centered on the target. This is called sight alignment and sight picture and together, when done properly, keep your aim true. This doesn’t happen overnight though. You may get discouraged but you can do this with practice.

Trigger Control: I can’t stress enough the importance of pressing the trigger straight back in a smooth fluid like motion using the pad of the trigger finger. The smooth press straight back minimizes movement and thus helps to keep you on target. Anything else is unacceptable and will leave you wondering, “why didn’t I hit my intended target”? Listen to me here, there is no substitute for dry fire practice and live fire practice on this particular discipline. Every practice rep and every round down range counts so make the most of them.

Recoil Management: Guns produce recoil. No doubt about it. The battle we all have is minimizing or controling it. How? Well with a lot of practice. A solid grip and base are very important during practice. You’re probably going to anticipate the reoil though and that will cause you to push the gun downwards sometimes. It’s a common problem amongst newer shooters especially but with practice and training it can usually be overcome. Stop focusing on the “fear of the bang” and concentrate instead on your front sight, breathing pattern, holding the gun steady, minimizing your arc of movement, and presentation toward the target. Clear your mind. Stop worrying about what’s for dinner and concentrate on the business at hand.

Concentration: Defined as the action or power of focusing one’s attention or mental effort. We have now come full circle.

Concentrating is one of my basic pistol shooting disciplines. Without it I don’t believe we can have repeatable success on the range. We may get lucky from time to time but if the shot isn’t repeatable does it really matter? So did we answer the original question? Do you remember what the original question was? Let me refresh your memory. I basically asked how do we improve our ability to concentrate when we’re on the line? Well folks, like most things involving firearms the answer is simple. We practice and we train until we succeed. Concentrating is just another discpline that requires our best efforts. As gun enthusiaists, competitors, hunters, 2nd amendment advocates, etc that’s just what we do. We work with our tools until we are the best we can be.

Leave it all on the range,

Joe