Ordinarily, I’d leave the posts on faith to Fishbreath. But this one is quite specific, and there’s an interesting point to be made with it.
Last year, one of my pistol classes had a long-range component. A really long range component. We had plates at 25, 35, 50, 80, and 110 yards. Pistols had iron sights, nothing too fancy. Shooting from the usual offhand1 unsupported position. There was no real time limit. Just you, and your pistol, and a steel, man-size plate.
The first thing I had to learn, having come off a bunch of speed drills, was that my trigger finger had a speed other than maximum. We had trained for the past day and a half on a continuous speed trigger press, and since these were 10 yard timed drills, the correct technique was to grip the hell out of the gun and get on that trigger hard and fast. Now, there were no follow-up shots to worry about. So grip wasn’t as important to manage recoil. And we had to learn how to work that trigger slow without stopping. Stopping tends to mean “jerking” and screwing up the shot.
I was missing a lot, but I was learning a lot too, and getting my hits. And I brought six 17-round magazines for my Glock 34. Prepared. At least until round four. That damned 80 yard plate. Everything went all to shit for me, and I’m not quite sure why.
I can tell you the symptoms though. I was switching eye focus rapidly, between the target plate and my front sight, which was wobbling, and back to the plate. Back and forth. It was odd. There were stops in my trigger press, with the predictable shanking of shots into the dirt like a damned noob. I took a break in frustration, and talked to my instructor.
He said, “The plate isn’t fucking moving. Relax. Pick your aim point, have faith in yourself, and focus on your fucking front sight.”
Faith in myself. Faith in my pistol. Faith in those Warren sights I liked so much. Faith in my instructors. Faith in the fundamentals of marksmanship. Faith in my trigger press technique, which had worked well throughout the class. Faith in the cables holding the target in place.
Did I mention faith in me? Yeah, that’s a big one.
So I took a lot of deep breaths. And tried my best to forget all those damn misses. Stepped up to the line, picked my aiming point, and focused on my damn front sight. Like I was supposed to. Took the shot.
Okay. No problem. Adjust your aim. Focus on the front sight, nice continuous speed trigger press. Nice and slow. Press and let the gun do it’s thing.
“Just like that!” called out my instructor. I started getting results. I guess those fundamentals meant something. The drills continued.
I’m not quite sure why it took so long to really run into problems that required me to understand what’s really meant by a hard front sight focus. Nothing highlights problems in your fundamentals like long range pistol shooting. It took many more reps to get the trigger press right, but there’s a lot to be learned from my front sight issues.
One of the other shooters ended up exhausting his supply of ammo at the 80 yard target. He was new at this too. My instructor called endex. I checked the mag in my gun. It still had ammo. I asked if I could have a go at the 110 yard target, at least until other, more-ammoed students showed up. And so I went back to the line.
Front sight focus. Constant speed press. BANG!
Part of shooting, especially long range shooting, is understanding that you can’t take that shot back. That bullet is gone. Move on. Focus, focus. BANG!
Focus. Front sight. Trigger press. Slow. Let the gun do its thing. Maybe that’s what whoever coined the term ‘surprise break’ meant. We’ll go with that. Don’t get impatient. BANG!
Good. Just like that. BANG!
See, it’s working. I might have smiled a little. BANG!
Ugh. What was that about not getting cocky? I’m even missing in a brand new way! Let. It. Go. Breathe. Are we breathing? We need to do that to live. Breathe. BANG!
Slide locked back. I dropped it, and experienced the awful feeling of running your hand along your belt pouches and discovering they’re all empty. My last mag went splorch in the mud.
I reminded myself to breathe again. And then there was quite a bit of uncivilized whoopin’ and hollerin’ on my part. Because I showed that 110 yard plate who’s boss.
And I couldn’t have done it without finding faith at 80.
- i.e. standing ↩