Shooting

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Safety has to be trained. It is not enough to have rules read to the shooter. Firearm safety includes muscle memory actions, which by the nature of muscle memory require repetitive training. Certainly, properly conducted range time reinforces safety practices and develops a second nature of safe handling. However, all skills deteriorate and require formalized training to correct and maintain them. The next time you’re on the range, watch how many experienced shooters have slipped into sloppy slide manipulations. The muzzle should always be downrange but the further the shooter gets from training, the more the muzzle begins to wander to the side. Continue reading

Its been vigorously reported that an extraordinary number of Americans are now buying their first handguns. Interestingly, many of those buyers are over 50 and a good number over 65. Much of the correspondence I receive comes from older shooters with questions about sighting with vision defects. Here’s some suggestions concerning imperfect vision and marksmanship:

Be aware of lighting. Indoor range lighting is dramatically different from natural light. You can test this by trying to read small print indoors and then trying the same after stepping into direct sunlight. If you must shoot indoors consider light-colored, reduced reflection, shooting glasses which will magnify light and reduce glare. Continue reading

There is very little that is intuitive about successfully shooting a handgun. The same thing applies to good driving, splitting firewood, cooking a pot roast, or any other human endeavor. We all understand that education is required to master a skill but for various reasons many of us believe that shooting is like being left-handed, some are born with it and others are not. I suppose this comes from the informality which imbues marksmanship and guns in general. In the 19th century it was not uncommon for homegrown medicine salesmen to refer to themselves as “Doctor.” Today, every guy who has shot a gun twice is “Instructor.” Consequently, we too often rely on myths, old wives’ tales, and pop culture to form theories about shooting.

If you’re struggling with mastering your handgun take control of your training in the following manner:

  1. Start over. Accept that you may believe things which are incorrect. Receive formal instruction in handgun operations; I am referring to basic operations not marksmanship. Many shooters, cannot load a semi-automatic pistol while keeping the muzzle pointed downrange. Muzzle control in marksmanship is the next step after muzzle control for safety.
  2. Learn the fundamentals of marksmanship from someone qualified to teach them. I’m sorry to offend, I know there are many good independent instructors out there but I also know you probably haven’t found one. An NRA instructor course is worthwhile but it does not qualify a shooter to teach. Being a lead instructor requires having spent a lot of time coaching on the firing line in order to understand why shooters miss their intended targets. Being a good shot doesn’t mean one can teach. The instructor has to see errors repeated in many different shooters to understand how corrective action can be applied by a particular shooter. It took me years.
  3. Record every shot and analyze your results. A right-handed shooter tends to shoot low left for a very specific reason. If you know that reason you can correct the error, and panic and hopelessness disappear.
  4. Be patient. I am certain that no one expects to fly a plane through a storm the first hour of flight school. Marksmanship is a skill that you can learn and apply as you learn.

My first visit to a gun range was as a teenager. I took my father’s revolver and went as the guest of a range member. I was told by a well-intentioned shooter (who was kind enough to let me shoot his 1911 pistol) that “maybe the .45 isn’t your gun,” and the local gun nut insulted me for not being able to hit a bullseye with my dad’s Colt Python. I learned to shoot the .45 pistol (and handguns in general) because the U.S. Marine Corps knew how to teach. Leaving your shooting education in the hands of unqualified instructors will succeed only in making you give up shooting. For more, read my book, The Perfect Pistol Shot.

Marksmanship training requires precise training at known distances and specific targets. Practical shooting requires the student develop both sighted and non-sighted firing skills at those distances most likely to be encountered during an attack. Likewise, targets and environment must reflect probable circumstances. Fortunately we have one hundred years of recorded law enforcement shootings to guide us. We know that the overwhelming majority of defensive shooting occur at 6′ or less. We also know that a reasonable minority of shooting will involve distances beyond a couple of car lengths.  Most armed attacks will involve one assailant. However, a large minority of unarmed attacks will involve multiple attackers. We know that the legal use of deadly force is used against illegal deadly force regardless of the weapon. So we need training that includes the following: Continue reading

Let’s return to a familiar topic before everyone gets their Christmas guns. No single marksmanship fault impacts as many shooters as improper grip. In my book, The Perfect Pistol Shot (Amazon) I discuss the elements of a good grip, and in this blog, on several occasions, we have discussed the need for a light grip. But let’s take another look at grip solely from the standpoint of pressure. How much pressure is really needed? To begin, we have to know the reasons for applying pressure to a handgun, or any object for that matter. The purpose is allow the firearm to be held in the hand and adjusted for the purpose of sighting and operation. We don’t want to drop the handgun, right? But we don’t want to drop cell phones, babies, or pencils either. Do we hold an 8 pound babe as if he weighs 100 pounds? If we do, we’ll rightly go to prison for murdering a child. Continue reading

Many new shooters complain of sight-wobble while aiming; they can’t keep their sights still. That’s good, actually, because the only people who don’t have to contend with sight wobble are people who are dead. If you have a working circulatory system, respiration, muscle and nerves, your sights are going to move during aiming. So how do fire that perfect pistol shot? (Aside from purchasing a copy of my delightful and educational book The Perfect Pistol Shot.) We minimize and control: Continue reading

A couple night ago, Fox News Channel’s Megan Kelly (cute as a bug) told her audience that at least one of the San Bernardino murderers engaged in “dry-fire.” Kelly explained that experts said dry-fire was shooting a gun without bullets in order to “train the mind to kill.” Dry-fire is indeed the practice of pressing the trigger on an empty weapon while sighting on a target. This practice is wide spread and well established within competitive and traditional military shooting. Olympic shooters and local target enthusiasts engage in dry-fire because it allows the shooter to more easily spot flaws because there is no disruptive discharge and recoil. Wherever the front sight is when the firearm goes “click” is where the shot would have gone. I do not expect any news organization to have an army of fact checkers nearby with expertise in all areas but this error is one that could have been caught with a 30 second internet search. We must remember Bill O’ Reilly thinks fully automatic rifles are on sale at gun shows for instant purchase (despite being corrected on-air) and MSNBC commentators want police to “shoot to wound,” like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. Continue reading

In any pursuit, we can only succeed to the extent that we achieve a predetermined goal. In other words, we have to hit at what we aim. That’s a major problem for at least a broad majority of shooters. If you aim a barn door and hit the barn door door, are you a good shot? Maybe, if the shot was taken from 300 yards away. Otherwise, there’s no way to know because the target was too big. Let’s say your handgun is made to deliver 2.5″ groups at 25 yards from a machine rest. The only way that is mechanically possible is if the handgun is pointed in exactly the same direction for every shot. Continue reading

Let’s say you have a firearm, have successfully received both safety and handgun operations training, learned the fundamentals of marksmanship, accessed a handgun range, acquired quality safety equipment, and now are alone on the range for the first time. What do you do?

A handgun shooting career is either a deliberately built pyramid of skill built on the knowledge derived from disciplined experience or it is a hodgepodge collection of unrelated events which will prevent the shooter from ever improving. To benefit from your time on the range you first must recognize that range time is self-education. It can be great fun but it can’t pointless. Here’s a few suggestions: Continue reading

Gun ownership is rising and with it, goes the perennial question, “Which gun is best for home defense?”  Here’s my answer.

  1. Size-The one that fits your hand and allows you to keep perfect trigger finger placement and easily retain the weapon with a normal grip. Controls should be reachable with the shooting hand and with very little repositioning of the firearm.
  2. Continue reading

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The Author
Al
Albert League is a former Marine and law enforcement firearm instructor who consults on a variety of security topics.