No More Dots!

It’s gonna be the hard way, now: Iron sights and nothing but.

For weeks now I’ve had the growing suspicion that I’m snatching my shots when using a red dot. I will raise the gun, settle into position, think I’m starting the trigger and focus on the dot.

If that was really happening, I wouldn’t complain, but it’s not.

Instead, I’m convinced that I’m putting a little pressure on the trigger, initially focusing on the dot, but then I’m monitoring where the dot is sitting on the target and I’ve somehow trained myself to know when that dot is headed for a good position on the target and to then pull-off the shot at the right moment.

Sometimes, this works. In Timed Fire, for example, I have enough time for each shot that the recovery from the previous shot gets me back into right area and I can see when the dot will cross the X ring.


But in Slow and especially in Rapid Fire, the results are dismal. A large proportion of those shots are jerked, down and left. Yeah, there are some good ones too, my “jerk” is sometimes timed well and close enough to straight back that I hit the center of the target, but there are other targets where everything just plain goes to hell in a handbasket. Every shot will land low and left. Boy, is that embarassing!

I want to say, “Please, don’t anyone look at that target! And please, don’t score it. Just give me a zero. Here, let me cover it up. Please!”

It’s hard to say what exactly is trained to this, the conscious or the subconscious mind but, regardless, something in me knows, sends the order, and the trigger finger yanks way, way, way too fast.

On the other hand with iron sights, I simply cannot see the target as anything other than a foggy blob. I can show you about where my hold is in the sub-six area – about one ring below the bottom of the black – but when I’m holding, I really don’t know when I’m there or a bit high, left, right or low.

With the dot, I know. But with iron sights, I don’t.

With the dot, I yank the trigger. But with iron sights, the only choice is to either yank it at random [duh, why now?], or to simply build pressure and keep the sights in alignment until it goes bang.

I got my proof of the problem last Sunday. It came as I shot the 45 portion of the Desert Midwinter competition partly with a red dot and partly without. [I had been travelling on business the week before and that was the only portion of the competition that fit my “Gee, honey, I’m going to be out of town on Valentine’s Day” in-the-doghouse schedule.]

Here are my scores:

Slow Fire #1:89-1x
Slow Fire #2:84-2x
NMC, Slow Fire:82-2x
NMC, Timed Fire:97-5x
NMC, Rapid Fire:92-2x
Timed Fire #1:85-1x
Timed Fire #2:77-0x
Rapid Fire #1:85-1x
Rapid Fire #2:92-1x

The aggregate score is 87% [783/900] of the maximum and roughly in the middle of the Sharpshooter range of scores, my current outdoor classification.

You can see a very clear decline in scores over the three Slow Fire targets. I started well (89-1x) but then bad habits crept in (84-2x) and got worse (82-2x). Suddenly, the first Timed Fire looks great (97-5x) but the decline comes back in Rapid Fire and the first Timed Fire thereafter.

Then, something happened in the second target of the Timed Fire match. That 77-0x signals the sudden change and, thereafter, things got better, not worse.

Specifically, at the end of the first string on that target, the red dot on my wad gun had separated into front and rear components, both still in the mounting rings. The body of the dot was attached to the front tube but there was a quarter-inch gap between it and the rear tube. One of the rings was apparently a little bit less than tight and the impact of firing had literally pulled the scope apart. (It goes back to Larry’s Guns today for repair.)

When it happened, I signalled a disabled gun and was allowed to switch to my backup, my ball gun with iron sights. But in the stress of broken gun and the line waiting on me, I forgot to put on the lense that lets me focus on the front sight. Without it, my eye will not focus on the front sight. So my sight picture was blurry and in that second string on that target, I dropped 10-20 points in what might have been my best target of the match. (See the TF target just above, and also the TF target higher up in the NMC for comparison. Timed Fire is MY target!)

But from there on with lense in place, I shot as well or better with the ball gun (shooting the wad ammo) than I had with the wad gun.

Pondering that, wondering why I had shot as well with iron sights as with the dot, was when I realized what I was doing different.

With iron sights, I have no choice except to pressure the trigger until the gun fires. My eye simply cannot bring the target into focus through that added lense and there’s no way to know when to shoot or when to wait. Instead, once I’m in position the only thing I can do is keep the sights in alignment, add more and more pressure to the trigger, and wait for the gun to fire.

I confirmed the negative effects of the dot last night shooting the last two NMCs for Inland Empire with my 22. Although my scores were consistent and just about where they usually are with that gun at 275-5x and 275-7x out of 300 (91%), and in-line with my (indoor Expert) classification, I clearly noticed the relationship between when the shot was going and my semi-conscious expectation that the dot was about to move through the center of the bull.

That’s bad, really bad for Bullseye. I can fix all sorts of other things but as long as I keep yanking the trigger, I’m just not gonna go very far in Bullseye.

Trigger control is really tough for me. No amount of self-talk has succeeded in a smooth accumulation of pressure when I can see, when I can predict, when the shot needs to go so it will land in the middle of the target.

I need to re-train my finger while keeping my brain out of the act.

Iron sights and the lense I use to focus on the front sight – which blurs the target into a fuzzy ball – are the perfect combination: If the brain can’t see where the sights are on the target, it can’t know when to fire.

So, for the next several weeks and months (years?), I’m off the dot. It’s gonna be nothing but iron sights for a while.

I’ll shoot matches with iron sights.

I’ll dry fire with iron sights.

So, I took the dot off my 22 this morning revealing the patridge iron sights still usable thereon.

And the wad gun is gonna sit in the safe for a while. I’ll shoot the ball gun with its patridge sights and use the wad ammo in it which seems to be both reliable and accurate “as is”.

Patridge, whoever you are, I’m with you and your sights from here on!

Teach me.

“Level and smooooth,” Coach Pat would croon.

I’m with you, Coach. Forget the friggin’ target. The only thing that matters is what happens up here on the shooting line and no farther away than the end of my arm.

From here on its …

  • Level and smooooth…

… and to hell with the target!

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