Breathing in Dueling Fire

I recently discovered a very simple aid to Dueling Fire. My scores took an immediate jump of 5-6 points and, even better, I started enjoying it.

Breathing with the rhythm is the answer!

This form is more properly called the “25 meter rapid fire stage of the center fire pistol competition” but for brevity and because it shows where this form originated, I will continue to call it Dueling Fire.

Begin with your arm down at a 45 degree angle when “Attention!” is announced.

Six seconds later, the target – a huge black circle the size of the 5 ring in Bullseye – faces and you have three seconds to raise your arm, aim and fire.

One shot.

The target then edges and you have to lower your arm back down to the 45 degree angle.

That cycle of edge for six and then face for three seconds repeats for a total of five shots.

That up and down for each shot with only three seconds to move up, acquire the sights, get them to the right place on the target and then gently release a shot without disturbing the sights – well, let’s just say if you can’t laugh at yourself, you probably won’t like Dueling fire.

I absolutely howled at my performance the first time. Out of ten shots, I think I had less than five anywhere in my target. The remaining five had gone below the target, into the dirt halfway to the target, into the berm below the target and, yes, one even may have gone into the overhang that keeps bullets from going over the berm.

I was awful!

Many organizations including the pistol division of the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club offer this competition in both practice and formal, registered competition because it is excellent “sight picture acquisition” practice. It is fired with iron sights on turning targets with any ammunition from 7.62-9.65mm (includes British and American calibers from .30 up to .38 and .380)*****.

Over time, I’ve gotten a little better. All of my shots will be in the target. (Well, almost always.)

But my scores aren’t great and that’s because I really feel rushed. Frankly, there’s just a whole lot of things to do – and do them safely – and I guess I get flustered.

Watching others bring up their arms smoothly and then gracefully get their shots off before the targets hide, well, I’ve always marveled at their quiet composure.

How do they do that?

Now I dare say it has probably been obvious to everyone else on the line but [Doh!] I just discovered that if you breath right, this gets easier, a whole lot easier!

Here’s my “shot plan”, breathing included.

At “Attention!”, I concurrently inhale and raise my arm quickly to acquire the front sight, and then lower my arm to the 45 degree “Ready” position, exhaling on the way down.

  1. There is a beat or two when I don’t breathe. I think of this as the bottom of the cycle.
  2. Then, I start a relaxed inhale, timed so that when the target faces, I’m about 80% full.
  3. Raising the gun and capping the inhale when I reach the target, I aim and shoot.
  4. After the shot breaks, I hold the trigger depressed but begin exhaling and start letting my arm back down to “Ready” position.
  5. By the time I get there, the air is gone and during the beat or two when I don’t breathe, I let the trigger reset. “Click.” I’m back to the bottom of the cycle.

In the past, I’ve always felt rushed. It was hard to get off a clean shot without running out of time, or at least that’s what I felt. But with this slow breathing tied to the target cycle, I now feel perfectly relaxed and have plenty of time to aim and then smoothly release a shot.

Piece of cake!

And while not great, I fired 91 on each of the dueling fire targets recently. That’s nicely up from my previous scores that were always in the low to mid 80s.

I attribute this significant improvement to feeling so nice and relaxed throughout the Dueling Fire string. And that comes from the slow deep breath I’m now getting for each shot.

Amazing what a little oxygen will do for the brain!

Note: It is not uncommon to see iron-sighted .45 caliber 1911s as well as rimfire .22s in unofficial practice sessions. While these are outside the calibers allowed by the rules, many Bullseye shooters use this as an opportunity for additional iron-sight practice. And the fast sight-picture acquisition required in this specific form is also helpful to action shooters such as compete in IDPA events. Note that the rules state that all shots are to be scored as if they were .38 caliber bullets so, regardless of what the shooter is using, a .38 caliber overlay should probably be used when scoring.

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