Range Practice Log

A month ago – the last time I was at the range – I noticed that my wad gun shots were all hitting the target about 1-2" to the left of where I thought they should be. This may be a sign that the shooter’s trigger finger is in the wrong spot and, when the sear breaks from the hammer hooks, the trigger finger is pushing the muzzle left (or right) a fraction of a second before the bang.

But at that time, I tried moving my trigger finger deeper into the trigger guard or shallower but the results were not consistent. I couldn’t say if things were better one way or another. Something else was dominating the performance other than trigger finger placement.

Elsewhere I have read that if the wrist isn’t locked, all manner of ills muddy up the waters so badly it’s hard to see the effect of any corrections. So, for the last month I’ve been dutifully doing my wrist-strengthening exercise with stick, string and some handy weight as previously posted in this blog. (With only three TV channels in Brazil with occasional English, I had plenty of time to wind that weight up and down the string.)

Now back in the US and Phoenix for a few days, I spent Monday morning at the Phoenix Rod and Gun club pistol range determined to get a handle, and a fix, on this.

Here’s a transcript of my log book from that practice session.

But first, a warning.

There are some false starts in this log. Don’t read a paragraph and think it’s the gospel. On the contrary, some of what I was trying just didn’t work. If you keep reading the log, you see it was abandoned ten minutes later.

Monday, April 9, 2012 - Sunny, no wind, temp 75 rising to 85 during practice

Goal: Determine source of and fix for shots landing consistently to the side of where I think they went.

Reminder: Lock wrist so trigger finger moves straight back, not across as in “mouse finger”.

90 degree stance trial: 10 rounds – Shots landing right of center even though I see them centered when it breaks. (Odd they were left of center a month ago. Wrist strengthening?)

45 degree stance trial: 10 rounds - (Note: I need to remind myself to lock the wrist – it’s not (yet) a habit) Shots centered better and mostly landing where I call them. But sometimes my “hold” comes up to R of center. I will put the gun down when that happens and start over.

Continue with 45 degree stance for the rest of today’s practice.

10 more rounds - Good group shape and position but spread out. (Keep wrist locked!)

10 more rounds - Smaller group, doing better with wrist locking. Group is more of less centered on the target. (Trigger finger is “in” such that the last segment of my finger is contacting the trigger just outside the final joint and well before the “pad” on that final segment.)

Experiment: When does my hold stabilize? I will trying holding only (not shooting) and count off the seconds starting when the dot reaches the X ring. While counting, I will observe the wobble and try to figure out when it is less wobbly and stays completely in the black.

  • 2-10 seconds
  • 4-9
  • 4-12
  • 4-7
  • Note: 33% of the time there is no definite “stable period”, just wobble
  • 4-9
  • 4-11
  • 4-9 Note: If trigger breaks after about 15-20 seconds, it is always a “jerk” because I start to get anxious for air and so I yank it to get the shot off so I can then breathe. This means if the shot has not broken when I start to feel the need for air, I must abort that shot.
  • 4-8
  • 3-7
  • 2-9
  • Avg: 3.5 to 9.1 seconds

Experimental holding strategy: I will come up and on to the target. If not on center, I will reset and try again. When on the center, I will then count off four seconds and, if reasonably stable (in the black), I will start the trigger – I will keep my wrist locked and I will focus on the dot throughout.

Results: Nope, bad idea. When I said to myself, “Ok, start the trigger”, I jerked it almost every time. Conscious mind is F’ing it up. Let the body (animal mind) shoot - it knows how to do it just fine.

New strategy: Watch (monitor) the process but let it otherwise run on autopilot. The only conscious thought will be to abort. Other than that, conscious thinking (words in head) will be silent. If something isn’t right, I will order the abort. Otherwise, I will just let the process run its course.

40 rounds later: More and more successful over the course of these shots. (Fewer and fewer jerks.) Group is still fairly balanced but larger than I’d otherwise like. But on a good break, it’s often an X or a 10 and only rarely a 9 or a rare 8. (Jerks are always 8s and 7s “down that way”.)

Lessons learned:

  1. Wrist must be locked, not only for good shots but also to be able to diagnose other ills.
  2. Stance angle seems to determine whether shots move left or right after the break; this is in addition to trigger finger position effects; the wrist exercises may have improved my hold and eliminated last month’s “shots to the left” because I didn’t see those today. Instead, stance seemed to be throwing things to the right when standing at 90 degrees. Use 45 degrees for a couple of sessions to see if this continues to work. And
  3. “Monitoring” of the shot process by the conscious mind is the *only* participation it can competently do without messing things up. The shot process must be on “auto pilot” and the only thing conscious mind can do is call an “abort”. If I feel the need to breathe, I must abort that shot immediately. (Did you get that, Mr. Monitor?)

(End of log book.)

And yes, I talk to myself on the line. That’s why everyone plugs their ears.

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