Part 7, Shooting skills
Owning lots of quality weapons will do you little good if you can't use them efficiently. You wouldn’t buy a quality knife and leave it dull, right? Well the same thing applies to guns. You must practice in order to keep your ‘edge’.
Practicing at a range is fine, as long as you aren’t shooting off a bench rest. Shooting off the bench is for sighting in, extreme long range etc. not for practical shooting. You are practicing for combat. As such, you need to practice realistically. (Ideally you will have access to a safe place to shoot where you are free to move about the range, and practice firing while moving etc.) So, practice shooting from realistic positions. Standing, kneeling, sitting, prone and “rice paddy prone”. (I’ll get some pictures of these positions soon…).
As often as possible, go to the range with a friend. They can help find flaws in your techniques much more quickly that you will be able to on your own. Let’s go over some of the common mistakes…
- Improper hold on the weapon. See the 'cheek weld' section below.
- Improper breathing technique. If you were taught to 'hold your breathe' when you pull the trigger, you can jerk the trigger becaue you are in a hurry from running out of air:) See the 'breathing' section below.
- Involuntary fear of recoil. This is most often caused by not being comfortable with the weapon you are shooting. This will usually go away on it's own if you shoot enough. If you can't seem to eliminate it, have a friend shoot from right next to you while you are shooting. Often with the 'extra' noise your brain will stop fearing the recoil for some reason. (I don't know why it works, but it does work.)
- Attempting to shoot faster that you should be. You can't shoot fast AND accurate right 'out of the box', you have to practice, alot! With enough practice, you will be able to shoot fast and accurate, but don't worry about it right now. Practice proper techniques first, and the speed wil come.
- Improper body position, causing you to have to ‘force’ the weapon onto the target. The most common things I see are the shooter having either the feet to close together, or the elbows out to the sides. Both of these things cause the shooter to feel 'off balance'. Again, having a friend help you will quickly eliminate this problem.
- Forgetting to keep your elbows in. This can cause very poor groups and can often be missed without someone there to critique your shooting.
- Improper cheek weld. Ideally your cheek should ‘weld’ to the gun-stock in exactly the same place each time you bring the sights up. This can be practiced at home with an empty gun. Hold the weapon at ready. Aim at a spot on the wall our out a window etc. (a small spot!) Concentrate on aiming correctly. Then lower the weapon. Now close you eyes and bring the weapon back up again. Visualize aiming at the exact same place as before. Now open your eyes and critique yourself. If you do this every day, you will notice a great improvement next time you shoot at the range.
- Breathing. While you do need to control your breathing to shoot well, you do not need to 'hold your breathe' per se. Starting from a ready position:
- As you raise the weapon, take a deep breath.
- Bring the weapon to target, breathe out,
- As you take up the trigger slack, breathe in,
- Focus yourself on the target, and slowly exhale, evenly pulling through the rest of the trigger.
- As the shot goes off, keep your eyes (yes, both eyes, see below) open, continue breathing out, and keep pulling the trigger until it stops.
- Now release the trigger smoothly and breath in deeply.
Keep your eyes open! I can't stress this enough. Keep both eyes open while shooting. Doing this will immediately improve your groups. Not to mention that in combat you need to be able to see everything, not just your target. I have helped many people shoot better in just one trip to the range by helping them keep their eyes open while they shoot. I learned this technique for shooting pistols, but I found that it works equally well for rifles and shotguns too.
So you can't go to the range all the time? Here are some alternative ways to improve your skills:
- Practice the 'cheek weld' technique outlined above daily.
- Using some "snap caps" combine the breathing technique with the cheek weld technique.
- Shoot air guns or airsoft indoors or in the back yard.
- Practice your shooting positions daily.
- Practice changing magazines (with your web gear on!) daily.
- Practice odd positions. Real life will probably not give you the ideal shooting position, so think about it ahead of time.
- Practice, practice practice. train hard, fight easy.