Sunday came with high hopes but that’s as far as it went.
The first target told the story: 22 Slow Fire, 84-0.
To make Expert, I needed an average of 90 across all forms and guns. And although things got better and I ended with 824-19 in that caliber, needing an 810 average, that gave me only a 14 point “hedge” against center fire and 45 caliber performance.
My 22 is often better, much better, and I was counting on it to pull up the scores in Center Fire and 45 to the needed 90% average for Expert.
This doesn’t look good for the Expert card today.
Changing to the wad gun I shoot in Center Fire, I knew I needed to do better than usual, and probably much better.
My mind was busy calculating scores as I began Center Fire.
And with the second Center Fire, it was over.
Oh my gosh, how could I butcher a target so incredibly bad!
Looking in the scope at the target 50 yards away, I could only see seven holes that were worth anything.
61-0 with two visible misses, and then one completely off the paper.
How could it get so bad?
I shook my head in disgust.
But I knew the answer: Ignore the basics and it goes to hell in a hand basket real fast.
In Bullseye, you just cannot let up. A moment of distraction and, “Bang,” into the berm outside of the target.
And that’s exactly what happened.
I was thinking about my scores and that Expert card, and didn’t think about the shot.
The shot. The one you’re doing right now. You’ve got to stay on that one shot and nothing else.
So there I was standing and looking at that dismal target and knew it was hopeless.
Should I pack up and go?
Go home and dig up the yard?
Or do I want to work through this, figure out what all is going wrong, and get back to where I can shoot most of the middle out of a target again?"
I’m not a quitter. As long as I’m safe to shoot, I’ll try to work through it.
So I sighed, had a quick snack of bitter crow in front of the other shooters, and then resigned myself to work my way through, to forge ahead and get back to the basics.
The first Slow Fire of the National Match Course in Center Fire was next.
I thought myself through the shot process.
I will focus on the dot. Then come into the aiming area. I’ll start the trigger straight back (feel my trigger finger arching to move it straight back, and then I’ll just hold it there, ignore the wobble, focusing on the dot, the dot, the dot and wait until it goes.
First shot. Do the process. “Bang!” That felt pretty good.
Let’s do it again.
After each shot I’d glance in the scope to see if it landed where I called it.
But after seeing that one new hole, I went back to the shot process.
After the tenth shot was gone, I reloaded the magazines, clicked the dot down four clicks for the short line (next), set the screw driver on the table with the blade pointed toward me (meaning the sight was now set for the short line), and looked in the scope to tally the score.
I looked again, counted the holes, and then tallied the score a second time.
A 91-2 in Slow Fire?
I just shot a 91-2 in Slow Fire!
Damn! That’s good!! That’s real good for me!!!
Wait. What did I do? Why was that different?
I repeated the mantra to myself: Focus on the dot. Come into the aiming area. Start the trigger straight back … and then just hold it there, ignore the wobble, and wait for the shot to go.
And what did I not do?
I didn’t think about getting my Expert card.
I just thought about the next shot.
Timed and Rapid came and went as I worked to focus back on that basic process for each shot. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but even in the latter case, all the shots counted – there were no more misses, not in Center Fire and not later in 45.
With the three misses in Center Fire and the struggle to resurrect “how to shoot a good shot”, I ended with 772-12. That’s so short of the needed 810 that even that tiny corner of my mind that hoped against hope to still pull victory out of this disaster, even that gave up.
45 caliber was next. Nine targets later, I saw my total: 802-14.
Still short of the needed 810 but, then again, if you look at the progress of a bad 22 performance followed by an utterly dismal Center Fire Slow Fire, and then the return to basics and the scores coming back up, well, that 802-14 actually looked pretty good.
If my 22 had “been there” and my Center Fire and 45 had been up to that same 802 level, I might have had enough for the Expert card.
But there was a much more important lesson here.
Indeed, if I were looking for a prime example of how thinking can mess up shooting, thia was it. I had started the day thinking, “I’m gonna earn my Expert card today,” and then became so preoccupied with that thought that I completely destroyed the possibility.
And as soon as I accepted the fact that I couldn’t get there and would, instead, go back to the basics and look no farther ahead than the next shot, it all started coming back.
My Expert card will come someday.
It will happen.
But I won’t get there by striving for it.
In some sports, you may be able to visualize that gold medal hanging around your neck and use that inspiration to help you get there.
But in Bullseye, your vision can’t be any further away than the end of the barrel or that red dot and this next shot.
Focus on this shot.
The Expert card is the mailman’s responsibility, not mine.
It’ll come with it comes.
Memo to self?
That’s easy. It’s to focus on the dot, come into the aiming area, start the trigger straight back and then just hold it there, ignore the wobble, and wait for the shot to go.
Anything else is noise.