Feel the Wiggle

For what it may be worth, I learned something unexpected in dry-fire. Whether or not I need to keep that lesson or if it was just a stepping stone along the way, I don’t know.

Regardless, here it is.

In dry-fire, I noticed there is a small amount of lateral play in the triggers on my 1911s. And in trying 1911s that belong to others, I also noticed it in theirs as well. I presume it is present in all 1911s, to greater or lesser degree it is true, but it seems to always be there.

I’m only talking a fraction of a millimeter but to the sensitive finger-tip, it’s very definately there. I can feel it.

Part of my trigger preparation now is to “feel” for that left-to-right movement and to position the trigger in the middle of it.

What I think is happening is that, inside the gun’s frame, the harp of the trigger is “floating” – it is not touching the frame or magazine on either side. Instead, the trigger is, if you will, “standing” on the sear. There is no other contact inside the frame.

The release I subsequently get is far more likely to be straighter back than if I just feel for where the trigger and finger come into contact. Don’t misunderstand. I still have to get trigger and finger in the exact same contact but I then also do the lateral wobble to feel the movement and finally place the trigger right in the middle of that space. The trigger feels like it is balanced on a point deep inside the gun.

I mentioned this to John Zurek but he looked at me like I was nuts. (Well, maybe I am.) John might have said something like, “You’re gettin’ way too analytical, Ed.”

Well, there is certainly some truth to that. It is an occupational hazard, and my wife would certainly say it annoys her to no end sometimes.

Yeah, I’m an analytical kind of guy. Guilty as charged.

But whether it is too analytical or not, I don’t care because, frankly, it works!

I am suddenly (well, not so suddenly – it’s been a looong time coming) getting some really nice releases and a much improved “score” on calling those shots. The holes in the target are right where I saw them, dead on and my Slow Fire is up 10+ points.

Unfortunately, Timed and Rapid Fire, especially Rapid, start good but then I fall into old habits. The first shot or two are straight back and hit the target very nicely, but then the rhythm-monster takes over inside my head and my whole body spasms to yank the shots off “in tempo”. I’m also a musician and, boy, can I keep a steady beat. But in Rapid Fire, I don’t consistently follow through, don’t get the sights back on the target, but the “beat” is there and the gun fires precisely on the beat, forget the target thank you very much.

And most noticeably, there’s always this same circular motion that starts as the gun comes down out of recoil and enters the black. At that point, something takes over and the gun takes off to the right, moves out of the black, neatly circles down and completely around the black, and the shot goes when the aim point reaches jerk land sometimes with an extra jerk in there just to show me who’s really in control here.

“Oh no, it’s the jerk,” I could almost scream.

The monster is in control and, oh yeah, the holes are gonna be down and left.

“Ragged Fire” is going to take time.

But getting that trigger under control in Slow Fire, in finding a mantra that enables me to move that trigger straight back, well, it’s a major revelation!

Is this something good shooters have to think of? Almost certainly not. Most shooters, I’m just about convinced, learn by watching and doing. As infants, we learn how to learn by observation. Let a child see a step-stool in use and they’ll soon be climbing the furniture and onto the counter. Most things in life we learn by watching and most of the things I’ve learned about shooting, I’ve learned by watching others.

Is this something good shooters have to do but aren’t necessarily aware that they’re doing it? Again, the answer is probably no. What is essential seems to be moving the trigger straight back. If you can do that with the harp pressed up against the inside of the frame, that’s fine. What matters is the hole in the target.

But is this something I needed to discover so I could find a way (not necessarily the only way) of getting a clean release?

To that, my answer is an emphatic, “Yes!”

It was the step that moved me through a tough road block.

For the next several weeks (and years?) I’ll be in the process of cementing that lesson into place in head and body. Repetition is the way that’s done. I’ll write it up for my Shot Plan and tape it into my gun box. I’ll read it often and mentally say the steps to myself many, many times.

  • “Okay, raise the gun so the sights are just above the bull.
  • “Find the dot. See the dot. Focus on the dot.
  • “Now, place the finger carefully on the trigger right there on the pad of my finger, and right there on the trigger.
  • “Put on a slight pressure so you feel the contact with the trigger more on the lower part of the finger rather than the upper.
  • “Next, gently move the trigger left and right. Do you feel the free space? Move it again if you don’t. You’ve got to find it. [Put the gun down and start over if you can’t find the free space.]
  • “Okay, position the trigger right in the middle of the space and add a tiny bit of pressure to keep it there.
  • “Come down into the bull and into the aim point.
  • “Let the wobble happen – it will diminish and when it does, my unconscious mind will move the trigger straight back through that free space and the shot will go straight to the target.
  • “Okay, stay on the dot, … the dot … the dot … ohmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… Bang!”

With repetition, that straight back movement will eventually dominate what’s happening in Timed and Rapid Fire. It will come.

Ultimately, the evil “jerk” will be banished.

His days are numbered.



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