I’ve been concentrating on the 45 hardball gun for several weeks (seems like months) and other than two 900s per month on the 22 and 45 wad gun, I’ve been shooting almost nothing else. I probably shoot 4X as much hardball as anything else right now, all on the theory that shooting the more difficult gun will teach me more and, in turn, help the other guns.
I think this is basically true, but there seem to be at least two limiting or otherwise extenuating factors, both of which have become prominent, and real problems.
By way of explaining, let me say that at last night’s league 900, my shooting was dismal with the hardball gun. I only succeeded in calling maybe one shot in ten. All the rest went somewhere wildly different than I thought. Or when I thought I’d heeled a shot up a little, it would hit the very top of the target “way up there” instead of just a little up that I thought I had done. My score for the 900 was a depressing 626-3 (70% but only because it rounds up that way).
I knew last night what was wrong: I have no trigger control with that gun. Instead, when the iron sights waggle into the right place on the target, I’m snatching the shot and, of course, yanking it all over the paper. Timed Fire is the only place I can establish any semblance of smoothness and that’s only by ignoring where the gun is aimed and just focusing on a smooth trigger finger movement. But I can’t even do that consistently so even in Timed Fire more than half my shots go down and left into jerk-land.
Dry fire will, I’m sure, fix this but, well, dry firing is just not much fun. There’s no flash, no kick, no bang and no smoke. You tell me where’s the fun in that?
So, that’s the first issue, trigger control. The good part of that is it’s a core issue: everyone struggles with it, occasionally even the High Masters. To be specific, I find it enormously reassuring when I’m standing at the line shooting slow fire and I hear one of the High Masters next to me release a shot and immediately mumble, “Damn!” (I love my amplified ear protectors!) I’ve heard Steve Reiter, several (three?) time Perry (US) champion, curse that he “jerked an eight” (I should be so good!). And I’ve heard John Zurek, US Olympic shooting team member, say almost the same thing.
Trigger control is the big one in this sport. Everything else is foundation and it all has to be there, but if you can’t release a shot cleanly, the rest of it just doesn’t matter.
The second issue, at least for me, goes by a couple of names including ego and confidence. Basically, when I get frustrated amd things aren’t going well, I can sometimes pull myself together and recover, but there are also those times when it just goes completely to pot. Last night was one of the latter because things just got worse and worse as the evening went on.
One of the very accomplished shooters last night commented his progress was like a badly cut saw: overall his scores are getting better and better, but only if you look at them over the span of several *months*. Looking at individual match scores, he said it is hard to see the progress, and sometimes very discouraging if you limit your vision to just one or two matches. You have to take the long view not only of what this sport is going to take, but also of each individual’s progress. For most of us, it is a long, slow and uneven road.
In a related vein, I’ve noticed that when new shooters come to the league, the others are encouraging and helpful to a degree but the really focused and patient help, the coaching that really matters, doesn’t come out for a while. Some might say they are waiting while the newcomer “pays his dues” but I think it’s something else. I think the experienced shooters intuitively know this sport is going to take time and present an awful lot of frustrations. I think they are unconsciously waiting to see if the newcomer has the determination to stick with it. The experienced Bullseye shooters know these lessons take a long time to learn, especially the one called “trigger control” and if someone is going to give up after as little as just a couple of years of trying then, hell, why bother showing them something that’s going to take a decade and more to master?
But speaking only for myself, my ego took a real beating last night and, frankly, it needs some TLC. So I am going to put away the hardball gun for a while. I need some successes. I’m going to shoot some 22 for a couple of weeks to boost my ego, and thereby my confidence. With the 22, I will again see that I can shoot, and that I can shoot pretty darn well, sometimes in the low Expert range. Hell, I even cleaned a target with that gun in an authorized competition. I need some time with that gun to rebuild my confidence, to boost my ego, and maybe to get a little angry at myself so that, when I do pick up the hardball gun again, I’ll have the determination to push through some more of that oh-so-valuable but oh-so-painful “learning experience.”
For me, it’s time for some fun and plain old self-gratification. I’m gonna forget the seriousness for a little bit and just enjoy making a big bang, a bright flash and a lot of smoke.
And, come to think of it, not worrying about where the gun is aimed (other than “in a safe direction”) will give me the perfect opportunity to practice just moving the trigger smoothly and not worrying about where it’s going to hit the target.
As Coach Pat would sometimes say, “Shoot, make noise, have fun!”
I love this sport almost as much as I love the people who shoot. (Ah, don’t get wierd guys. “Love” is a relative word, okay?) Having the opportunity to stand next to and try to do the same thing as world class athletes is incredible, and when we’re walking back and forth to the targets and they say something like, “You know, I noticed you’re doing something when you shoot – let me show you a different way of doing that – it might be helpful” – well, what are the odds of a poor duffer getting a personal tip from Tiger Woods who just watched you muff the tee shot? But in Bullseye, it happens, and not just once a lifetime.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.