Tag Archives: shooting better

SKILLS: Hold Control

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Getting, and staying, steady on the target is the first step in learning to employ correct shooting technique. Here are some great tips on how to do it…

Hold control

by Larry Quandahl, NRA Family

What do we mean when we talk about “hold control”?

Simply put, “hold” is the relationship of the gun and shooter to the target. Hold control is the way in which you correctly maintain it long enough for the shot to break. Here’s how it works: The shooter uses sight picture to monitor the hold. In stationary target shooting (bullseye rifle and pistol), sight picture consists of sight alignment (relationship of your eye and the rear and front sights), and the relationship of the aligned sights to the stationary target. For beginning shooters, it is as simple as holding still while firing the shot, but the simplicity of hold control is deceptive. Controlling hold is actually the most difficult aspect of accurate shooting. Even world-class shooters experience movement in their sight picture while shooting. The goal — hold control — is to control the combined movement of the shooter and firearm on the target.

The NRA Muzzleloading Rifle Handbook describes hold control as learning to hold the rifle steady, but that’s just the beginning of the story. Hold control applies to shooting at stationary targets as well as at quick-reaction targets and moving targets. For simplicity’s sake, this article will deal with stationary targets.

When shooting at a stationary target, the shooter has to aim at the target and hold the firearm still as the trigger is pulled. Your hold is the movement of your aligned sights in relation to the target that you see while aiming. The amount and speed of movement shows how well you are controlling your hold. Your task is to hold the firearm as still as possible, which is best done by relaxing and letting your position and natural point of aim do the work for you. Concentrate on holding your body and the firearm as still as you can.

As a shooter, you need to learn to recognize the period of your steadiest hold. This is because the shot should be fired when hold is steadiest. Your goal is to reduce the amount and the speed of the movement and to release the shot when the hold is at its best.

So how do you do this? Start by establishing a benchmark to measure success at controlling hold. When you look through the sights at the target, you’re automatically aware of the amount and speed of the movement of the gun as you hold. Have a mentor or coach look over your shoulder and observe the front sight with relation to an object or area downrange. Now that you and your coach know what kind of “wobble” your current hold is giving you, you can move forward.

There are five elements of a shooting position: consistency, balance, natural point of aim, comfort and, for competitive shooters, the position must be legal. To improve your hold, start by focusing on balance and natural point of aim. If you fire from an off-balance position, or if the natural point of aim does not coincide with the target, hold will be larger. The resulting movement will be like a leaf blowing in a windstorm. And the longer you hold, the stronger the “wind” gets.

To develop good habits, you can use a simple “go/no-go” system to get into and check position. You should always stop and correct any problem, no matter how small. The position checklist can be divided into two categories: external checks and internal checks. For example, checking to see that the butt of the rifle is placed correctly on the shoulder is an external position check that you can observe. An internal check would be checking the muscles and bones of your body, to ensure that they are in the right position and work together to support the gun. (The internal check is largely a matter of feel reinforced by experience.)

A good coach or trainer will provide a position checklist for you. As you gain experience, you’ll create and continually modify a personal checklist to reflect refinements in individual position. Using this method of checking, you can determine whether a change has improved your hold.

Concentration improves hold control. Something as simple as thinking “hold” — or using hold as a key word — can slow and reduce movement. This will allow you to focus on sight alignment and sight picture. Through concentration, you literally reduce the amount of hold and its speed. If the hold is small and slow, your position is good with respect to natural point of aim.

MASTERING GRIP: 5 Ways You’re Holding Your Gun Wrong

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A correct shooting grip is one of the most important fundamentals in mastering pistol shooting, but most don’t know to do it! Find out…

Courtesy Team Springfield

It’s show and tell time.

We asked Team Springfield™ shooters to assemble some of their go-to tips to benefit the fans out there looking for some pro advice. The first topic we threw out to them was the art of the grip. Let’s dive in.

#1: ROB LEATHAM: WRIST ACTION
The most common email question I get is asking how to correct the low, left shot on the target (from a right-handed shooter). One of the ways to address this problem is:

LOCK YOUR WRISTS, AS IF THEY ARE A VISE ON THE GUN

When instructing, I primarily observe the arm/wrist/hand areas when a student is shooting. I often see prominent movement in the strong-side wrist and hand (and sometimes into the arm) before or as a shot is fired. Even the smallest of movement before or when the shot is fired will cause the gun to move out of alignment, typically in the low, left direction.

I don’t care if you “jerk” the trigger. You can jerk all you want if you are able to hold the gun completely still. IMO, “Do not jerk the trigger” should be replaced with “Do not move your wrists.”

#2: KYLE SCHMIDT: UNSUPPORTIVE SUPPORT HAND

When Rob asked me to explain my No. 1 issue regarding grip, my mind immediately turned to earlier in the day. Less than an hour prior to the text from Rob, I was working with a few struggling shooters. Each one of them suffered from a very common gripping issue that I regularly see:

NOT USING THE SUPPORT HAND PROPERLY

Without proper support (i.e., position and strength) from the support hand, you are essentially shooting one-handed. One of the first indicators of improper support-hand usage is that the primary and support hands separate (partially or completely) when the gun is fired. Many shooters try to correct this problem by continually readjusting their support hands between shots; however, that correction is time-consuming and typically short-lived. The lack of use of the support hand has a significant negative effect on the shooter’s ability to both hold the gun steady when aiming difficult shots and the ability to quickly return the gun onto the target after firing.

#3: KIPPI LEATHAM: GET YOUR SHOOTING GRIP FROM THE GET-GO

I work with a lot of newer shooters, and the No. 1 gripping problem I see is:

PICKING UP THE GUN A DIFFERENT WAY EVERY TIME

One time they grab the gun with their strong hand and the webbing between the thumb and trigger finger is positioned one to two inches below the tang. They immediately have to re-position the webbing higher under the tang/beavertail before they can rack the slide and shoot.

The next time they pick up the pistol with their support hand to seat a magazine with their strong hand, they only to have to switch the gun and grip back to the strong hand before chambering a round to shoot. Or they draw the gun from the holster with all four fingers under the trigger guard, requiring an adjustment of the grip to re-position the trigger finger so it can press the trigger and move the other three fingers under the trigger guard.

My advice is to get the proper shooting grip immediately (if possible), whether picking the gun up off of a bench, drawing from a holster, taking it off of a display rack, etc. Every time I handle one of my pistols, whether I’m loading a mag, unloading the gun, drawing from a holster, just admiring it, etc., I use my strong-hand shooting grip —

Trigger finger rests on the frame (below the slide), visibly above/outside of the trigger guard.

Three remaining fingers are closed and touching under the trigger guard.

Thumb webbing is centered on the back strap of the gun and positioned under the tang as high as possible.

Thumb on the left side of the gun is touching the side of the frame.

proper pistol grip

If you can do this every time you handle your pistol, you will repeatedly reinforce your proper shooting grip, and, soon, muscle memory should take over.

#4: JASON BURTON: LOSE THE LOOSE GRIP

GRIP THE PISTOL TIGHTLY = HAVE MORE TIME

Whether it is competition such as USPSA, shooting bullseye at Camp Perry, or defensive-oriented pistol craft, time and its effects on the end result are a factor present in most shooting. Time as it relates to competitive shooting can often be categorized in two ways: Expend the least amount of time (or do things as fast as the shooter is capable) or make the most of the fixed amount of time allotted. However, time as it relates to personal defense is neither fixed nor limitlessly expendable, but rather a consideration often used and quantifiable for making decisions. So when it comes to actually shooting the pistol from a personal defense aspect, how can we have more time with which to make decisions and/or react to the evolving situation?

ONE VERY SIMPLE WAY IS TO MAKE THE PISTOL MOVE LESS

Many times in classes (as well as competitive circles) I have seen shooters who wait to move from one target or part of a shooting array to another until they have completely recovered the gun onto their existing problems. While more prevalent in defensive pistol craft, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is essentially an assessment of one’s previous actions and the results they had.

However, the sooner you can get to the point of assessing your previous action, the sooner you can move on to the next problem. Herein, the application of proper shooting technique will contribute to the speed at which you can assess problems. Simply put, the better you grip the gun the less it will move, and the less it moves the sooner it will return to the target, which allows you more time to evaluate if what you did worked. My friend Clint Smith has a saying, “You have the rest of your life to solve the problem. How long your life lasts depends on how well you do it.” So grip the gun like your life depends on it, because it just might.

#5: STEVE HORSMAN: THUMBS DOWN

When I taught concealed carry permit classes, we would spend the first day in the classroom discussing safety, state self-defense law, basic shooting technique, and — did I mention safety? On day two at the range, after discussing safety again, I would ask the students to shoot a group at 5 yards and 10 yards, and my primary objective was to observe how the student gripped the pistol. While I would occasionally have students shooting revolvers, most were using a semi-automatic pistol, such as the 1911 or the striker-fired XD® line. So this is the grip I’ll focus on.

What I immediately noticed was that most shooters would place their primary thumbs over the top of their support-hand thumbs, with the thumbs almost pointing down. If you can visualize a good revolver grip, this is what many shooters were doing while shooting their semi-autos.

THUMBS DOWN TO THUMBS DOWN

However, most firearms instructors and accomplished competition shooters grip the pistol with a high thumb grip. Visualize my primary-hand thumb resting on my support-hand thumb, with both thumbs somewhat pointing toward the muzzle of the gun. Thumbs should look like they are in direct line of the slide/barrel.

gripping pistol
This high-thumb hold/grip allows you to get more of your support hand on the pistol and forces your hands as high up on the pistol as possible. The best thing about that grip is that it reduces the muzzle flip!

With this tip, and the others that my Springfield teammates have suggested, head out to the range, give these techniques a try and see if you don’t just notice some improvement…

SKILLS: Shooting Range Etiquette 101

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Don’t be “that guy” who threatens others enjoyment and safety at the shooting range. Here are 7 “always” and “nevers” to fit in like a seasoned pro. Keep reading…

Adapted courtesy Team Springfield Blog

Team Springfield

So you just bought your first pistol and cannot wait to get some rounds downrange? Congratulations and welcome to the exciting, wonderful world of firearms and shooting! If you’re like most of us, though, you probably don’t have your own private land to shoot on, which means you will be heading to a range on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of stories out there about poor shooting-range conduct. When range rules get broken, it’s usually because of the lack of education and the lack of practice of proper techniques.

So we’re here to help you avoid being “that person” — the unsafe and disruptive shooter.

Being a conscientious firearm owner comes with many responsibilities, safety being the main priority, of course. And understanding range etiquette is an integral part of firearm safety.

Following and practicing good range etiquette, whether at an indoor or outdoor range, is always the way to go. It only takes one bad apple to reflect poorly on us all. Here are a few simple rules and courtesies to keep in mind when you hit the gun range.

ONE: FUNDAMENTAL SAFETY — FIRST AND ALWAYS
While this may seem obvious, it’s vital to learn and always practice firearm safety. Sometimes even experienced shooters get too comfortable in their routines and become lax with gun safety. This is never acceptable. You should always be a good student and ambassador of the universal firearm safety rules. And always, always be aware of the moment.

Treat all firearms as if loaded.

Never point a gun at something you are not willing to destroy.

Know your target and what’s beyond it.

Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on target.

TWO: FOLLOW RANGE RULES
This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway — follow the rules of the shooting range you’re on. Shooting ranges all operate on fairly similar rules, but each individual range will most likely have one or more unique rules. If you have a specific question, call the range before heading over. This could save you some time and grief. If you’re wanting to shoot your new AR-15, for instance, some indoor ranges may not allow rifles. Most ranges have specific rules about ammunition also, and don’t allow steel-core (armor piercing) ammo.

THREE: LISTEN TO THE RANGE SAFETY OFFICER (RSO)
Range safety officers are present for everyone’s safety. Unfortunately, they sometimes get a bad rap for yelling (remember, we all have ear protection on) or being mean. Trust us — they have a hard, risk-filled job full of responsibility — a job most people would probably not want. Help make their job easier! If you follow firearm safety rules, practice good range etiquette, and are always listening for and following the RSO’s commands, you should never get singled out or yelled at by the “mean” RSO.

FOUR: SLOW AND EASY
If you are a beginning shooter, you are undoubtedly experiencing a lot of new rules, terminology, techniques and procedures. Simply put: it can be overwhelming.

Slow down! Take the extra time to think about what you are doing — everything you are doing at all times. Think about where the muzzle is pointed, think about where your trigger finger is, the status of your firearm, and your neighbors on the range.

FIVE: LOADING AND UNLOADING
When you are on a shooting line, there are going to be other shooters next to you. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that the muzzle never points to the right or left of you.

Take extra care when loading and unloading your firearm, making certain to keep the muzzle pointed downrange. If you need more leverage to manipulate the slide, turn your body sideways (instead of turing the gun sideways). This enables you to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

CEASE FIRES
During a “cease fire” RSOs require you to unload your gun and lock the slide/cylinder open and then ask you to step behind a visible line on the ground while shooters go downrange to tape and set targets. Firearms are not allowed to be handled during a cease fire. Once unloaded, leave the firearms alone and grab everything you need from the firing line before backing across the line (phone, water bottle, etc.). Cease fires are a good time to chat with the shooter next to you, hydrate, send a text or check some emails. Just do all of this behind the cease fire line!

SIX: DON’T BACKSEAT SHOOT
How many people are fans of backseat drivers? Probably not many. The same goes for the gun range. Unless someone asks, it’s courteous to keep the technique corrections and tips to your own lane, even if the person next you isn’t using the stance you would.

However, if someone is doing something dangerous, it needs to be addressed immediately. Report the incident to the RSO, or, if you are comfortable doing so, deal with it directly.

SEVEN: ONE LAST THING…
Make sure to clean up after yourself when you’re done shooting. Any brass, ammo boxes or miscellaneous trash should be picked up. It might seem like a small ordeal, but leaving your mess for someone else to clean up is frustrating for the next person and leaves a less-than-stellar impression. And make sure you wait for a cease fire before venturing forward.

Shooting Skills: Dry-firing Practice, Part 2

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Click, Click, Boom. Here’s three ways to get more from indoor practice. Read on!


By Glen Zediker


 Defined: dry-firing is shooting with no ammunition. Cock the gun, hold on a target, break the trigger. It’s a simulation.

Last episode we talked about the essence of dry-firing, the means. Here are more ideas on getting the most from this valuable venue.

1. When to make it “real.”
There are two fundamentally-differing approaches. One way is to use dry-firing as a means for technical or mechanical improvement. That’s main, and that’s the usual focus. Another, though, is as a way to rehearse a course of fire or another orchestrated shooting scenario. Some believe that the more “real” we can make dry-firing the better. I agree, and then I don’t. If the idea is to replicate a competitive event, for instance, that means setting up a firing point, running a timer, adorning all personal gear, positioning all kit items, and so on. I think that is a great exercise for newer entrants because, in NRA High Power Rifle, for good instance, it’s all the “other” things beyond shooting that can get in the way of progress. There’s a lot to remember, a lot to do.

1907 sling use
Something like learning to install a 1907-style sling onto your arm for support is decidedly not something you want to experience first at a shooting match. Such as this needs to be done over and over (and over) to learn. Best way is taking your time at home.

 Away from needs on the firing line, dry rehearsals are way on more than wise. If, for instance, you’ve never fired a gun at night, start experiencing that scenario sans ammo. If you’re a concealed carry person, figure out the smoothest and fastest way to get your pistol pointed. That might “go without saying,” but I just said it because it needs to be done. Anything, for that matter, that has changed or modified a firearm or the means to deploy it should be drilled over and over until you “got it.”

 It takes more than a lot of directed thought and careful planning to get a gun leveled through a car window, for example. Have you ever seen how fast you can get to another room in your house in the dark? If you think that might be valuable to file in the been-there-done-that archives, then be there and do it. It’s a kind of self-made “fire drill.” Doesn’t make much sense to put stock in something that’s really important without verifying that it’s workable… And it’s plenty easy enough. Just make sure the gun isn’t loaded.

When technical and mechanical improvement is the focus, I don’t think it matters even a little bit to attempt to duplicate “real” conditions. Just make yourself comfortable.

2. Do something different.
Once you feel like you’ve honed the skills of triggering mechanics, noticed progress in hold quality, and all-around have attained some satisfying improvement, take a stab now at dismantling the entire thing!

shouldering rifle
Same goes for working on the other essential elements in a shooting position, like learning to position the buttplate in the same spot each time. Here’s me first figuring out exactly where that spot should be…

Dry-firing is the time to run experiments, so experiment! These can be major changes, like a different holding or gripping method, or small things, like nudging the head a quarter-inch farther forward on the rifle stock. Everything and anything that’s not part of the “routine” is an experiment. Backing up: dry-firing gives the opportunity to really tune in to just exactly what your routine is. Competitive shooters often call it the “control” position. When you make a change to that control position, do it one thing at a time. Otherwise feedback might be less accurately reliable. Decide that the big change is worthwhile (even if only for more testing) before incorporating more changes along with it.

Use your imagination. As long as you have a place to return to, any side trip is a no-harm, no-foul experience. Try canting the rifle inward a little more, changing the position of your right foot, gripping more (or less) with the little finger, loosening or tightening a strap on the coat. You name it.

 And do by all means name it. Write everything down! Don’t end a session without making a few notes. State what you tried and then what happened. Add on ideas for next time. Don’t trust memory. It’s right then and there that you have the most keen sense of feedback.

air rifle
This photo is a many years old. If you’re training for competitive shooting, at the least, wear your coat, glove, and ear phones (if you normally wear them). I learned the very hard way to now give that advice. I used to shoot my air rifle without my coat or any other gear but a glove. My idea was to develop a standing position that relied that strongly on skeletal support. (My idea also was to stay cool and reduce set up time.) As a result, I got to where I could shoot really good targets just in a t-shirt. I worked and worked (and worked) on this. Well, then I put my coat on, and my hear-phones, and found out that I couldn’t duplicate my t-shirt position! Oops. I learned a lot but overlooked the future application of why it was that I was learning.

3. Test yourself.
Don’t over-stay a dry-firing session. There’s a time to quit, and that’s so decidedly for your own good. A yardstick for a competition shooter is no longer than the “official” duration of a string, plus 5 minutes more or 5 shots more for a little extra strength. Those among us who tend to be, well, a little hard on ourselves, don’t like quitting until they “get it.” After a point, which varies with us all, we experience a physical and mental breakdown where we then are running experiences through a tired mind and body. I’ve seen this in other sports. Hitting too many golf balls, throwing too many pitches, running too many laps on a racetrack. If you’re trying to teach yourself when you’re tired, you’re learning only how to perform when you’re tired. If you want to build strength and endurance, do exercises where that is the focus. Hold the gun to the point of exhaustion, just don’t drop the hammer! I think you’ll get more from lifting weights.

 Speaking of exhaustion, still considering the cautions just presented, find out how long you can hold on a shot attempt. This is important. Over-holding can kill a score, so can “over-staring” the sight. Pay attention to sight movement, and then, mostly, see when it’s just done with until the next attempt. This is valuable. It’s hard sometimes on a record shot not to continue to hold beyond the point you should have brought the gun down.

Dry-firing is not shooting… We all score more “10s” dry than live. So, point is that if you can bring dry-firing closer to live firing you’ll be hitting a lot closer to center a lot more often. As always, call each shot, dry or live. We learn all this dry-firing and then we hope to remember this on the range. That’s the whole point.


Last: Take all your dry-fring practice to the limit first trip out to the live range this Spring. Here’s how: Have someone load your gun for you. Or not… Right: it might fire or it might not fire. You’ll be slap amazed at what you might have learned. It helps to have a friend with a dark sense of humor. Remember: the idea is to take that dry-fired perfection straight to target center.


 Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Zediker Publishing. Glen Zediker has worked professionally with some of the greatest shooters on the planet, and he does pretty well on his own: Glen is a card-carrying NRA High Master and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information, please check ZedikerPublishing.com

Shooting Skills: Dry-firing Practice, Part 1

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The art of shooting without shooting. Here’s how to make a big improvement in your on-target accuracy come Spring, and it doesn’t cost a thing but some time… Read on!


By Glen Zediker


Defined: dry-firing is shooting with no ammunition. Cock the gun, hold on the target, break the trigger. It’s a simulation.


First: Will dry-firing hurt my gun?
No. Any and every centerfire bolt-action rifle I know of (that “we” use anyhow) can be dry-fired endlessly with no damage done, and it’s the same for pistols. If you are at all worried, use a “snap-cap,” which is a cartridge duplicate that provides a cushion. Midsouth Shooters Supply carries them. .22 rimfires people have different opinions about. The fear is peening the area around the chamber friom firing pin contacts. Ruger actually encourages dry-firing its 10/22 (so says my factory manual). Inserts are also available to cushion the blow, and even a spent cartridge case left in place will do the trick too.

snap-cap
A-Zoom Action Proving Rimfire Dummy round.

Check out a few products at Midsouth, if you’re worried…


Every shooting coach I know of sings the value of dry-firing. It’s a training staple for competitive shooters, and, as a matter of fact, me, David Tubb, and most others I know spend time dry-firing prior to an event to get mind and muscles warmed up. However! It’s the equivalent of stretching for a runner. As with many things, most things, as a means toward improvement, you get from it what you put into it. A big part of that is also in how you put into it.

First is safety! Make double-daggone sure there is no ammunition in the gun (of course) and also that there is none nearby. No loaded magazines in vicinity. I’ve heard stories from people who reloaded their handguns, in this instance, after a dry-firing session and then decided to snap just one more “for the road.” Yikes. Don’t trust memory.

Part of the point and advantage to dry-firing is elimination of distractions. We can then see and sense things when we’re in our little cocoons that may be obscured in live-fire at the range. I’m not saying that no one can tune in as keenly outdoors with a loaded gun, but can say there are always more distractions in that environment. The point is to see it dry-firing, and then experience it again at the range. That’s the idea.

The first and foremost conviction necessary to make dry-firing “work” is a commitment to two things. One is observation, close observation, of sight location and movement. No matter what, that’s the “it.”

You must be able to connect sight location at the instant you are aware of the audible “click” of the hammer or striker fall. Not just when the trigger breaks. There’s a few milliseconds in the interim. It won’t take long to, on its own, develop the skill of “calling” shots with more precision and realism dry-firing with this as a goal. (Calling a shot is providing an estimation of its location on the target based on sight location at the moment of firing.) It’s how a shooter learns to separate what should be and what actually is. If you are perfectly aware of the sight location on the target at the strike, that by itself may have improved followthrough. You are then “holding on” just a little longer, and I discussed the importance of that in an earlier article in this series. Experience will show you the difference between seeing the sight picture and breaking the trigger, and calling that result, compared to seeing the result upon the strike, and calling that result. It’s a small thing, but many small things happen in the time it takes for the bullet to exit. No matter what your last name is, everyone’s gun is moving. It’s also here that the shooter learns to watch closely for movement.

Dry-firing allows a shooter to discover perfection in natural point of aim. Natural point of aim (let’s cut it to “npa”) is a drilled and preached fundamental by every instructor or authority I know. Dry-firing gives the opportunity to honestly get in tune with it. At least three things you’ll learn: npa is a finite point, not an area. It has two components, vertical and horizontal. And it changes! Even among the very best shooters, it’s not likely to start and stop with the exact same body orientation for a full shot string.

A huge key to refining npa is watching for sight movement just before or just as the trigger breaks. That’s easy to see in dry-firing and more difficult with a loaded gun. I’m not exactly sure why npa sometimes “reveals” itself in this moment, but it does.

AR15 dry-fire device
Here’s handy for AR15 shooters. Renown AR15 builder John Holliger of White Oak Armament developed this device to help dry-firing an AR15 easy. It drops in and replaces the magazine and lets you reset the trigger using the lever on the device rather than racking the action each shot. Cool. Check it out HERE

The target you select for dry-firing exercises can be very variable. If you’re looking to replicate the same target you use outdoors on a small scale, a calculator and computer printer gets you close, and experimentation gets you closer. Otherwise, anything can work. Light switches are great for pistol practice. They look a lot like a USPSA-style “Milpark.” And, why not also try the “Holding Drill” targets shown last time?

dry-firing target
Scale a target for dry-firing. I can’t tell you exactly what size to make it, but a little math usually gets it pretty close. Due to varying appearance that results from distance outdoors, the one you train with dry-firing might need to be a tad different size than calculations indicate. Lighting conditions change the appearance of a bullseye, as can perception of sight picture relationship to same. This is what I use from 20 feet for rifle practice: the aiming black area is 0.700 inches diameter to replicate an NRA SR1 (200-yard target). That’s a little smaller than the calculation indicates. CLICK HERE  to download a .pdf ready to print

 Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. Glen is a card-carrying NRA High Master and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information and articles available for download visit ZedikerPubllishing.com

Skills: Holding Better

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Become a better offhand shooter over the winter, without firing a single round…


by Glen Zediker


Last time I talked about an offhand shooting method called an “approach,” where the sight is deliberately started at some point away from target center and then systematically and methodically brought to bear on target center. The shot breaks when the sight touches center. Technically, the rifle is in motion during the span of time and distance that encompasses employing this technique. And. There’s no question that this technique or method or mindset, whatever names it best, is the surest and simplest way to fire a whole lot of center shots.

Pursuing a quest to become a truly good offhand rifle shooter, however, still requires attention directed toward improving the hold. “Hold” is the static portion of a shot where the sights are on the target. Part of the reason for this is because, in refining and improving the hold, you are also refining and improving the shooting position. That is then the base and basis for the approach. Shooting on the move is way on easier and more productive and reliable when you don’t necessarily have to rely on it… The better quality the static hold is, the more control and finesse can be employed into the approach. In calm and quiet conditions, when there’s no time element pressing, then watching a nicely centered static hold is a true accomplishment as a rifleman.

A many years ago I had the pleasure to meet Troy Lawton at an NRA Silhouette Rifle National Championship in Raton New Mexico. Then USAMU Sgt. Lawton (United States Army Marskmanship Unit), best known as an ISSF Running Target ace, was also a dominant silhouette rifle shooter (two perfect 40-target tournament scores among his accomplishments). We discussed the importance of holding ability, even though we’re shooting moving rifles, including intentionally moving rifles (as in the tracking engagement that defines running target competition). Here’s the essence of a very effective training element he used to go from “good” to “world-class” in ability to calm a rifle.

HOLDING DRILL

holding drill
Manufacture a series of target circles as shown, or use this one, and affix it to a wall any place you can dry-fire. Make the circles using a template as found at an office supply, a compass, or, easy, a computer and printer. Dry-fire (and you know the gun is empty because you’ve looked into the chamber) and determine a circle size you can maintain the sight fully inside during the most comfortable segment of your hold. The idea is that, using the slowest, most deliberate trigger pull you can, the goal is to release a shot at any time during this holding period and land it inside that circle. You’re not even trying to hit the center of the circle. Then we make it smaller…

This drill is best done indoors. Distance from the target doesn’t really matter as long as it’s always the same.

Troy’s “Holding Drill” is pretty simple: To start, determine the area you’re working with. Do that by holding and watching the range or area the sight is covering. As said last time, this will be an orbital pattern, fluctuating around your natural point of aim.

So, this initial observation defines and draws the first circle. (Or you can just print out the included illustration and hang it at 15 feet distant and see where you stand.) That circle should be a size where you could slowly pull the trigger and hit within the circle, but not necessarily the center of the circle, at any point during the time you’re holding. We’re going to work systematically to reduce the size of this circle.

Click here to get a .pdf of the circles: msss_holding_drill_target

The targets as shown here are designed for best use with a scoped rifle. Crosshairs show up well and precisely show movement area. Modify the targets to accommodate iron sights. Try white squares with a post front sight, and the target area will have to be bigger to define the holding area because the sight itself is a good 5 MOA wide.

holding drill
No doubt, the smaller the sight orbit and more consistent its pattern, the easier it is to employ an approach, even if the movement in the approach is reduced to the pulse-induced rising and dropping to a perfectly centered sight picture. This drill helps you help yourself, all by itself. All you need to do is do it. Remember, the idea is to stay within this circle throughout the shot attempt.

Back to the drill: after you’ve confirmed your ability to hold within the original circle you chose, make a target with a smaller circle and go back to work. There’s no end to this: you can always try to hold a smaller area. It’s recommended to reduce the circle size by one-half-moa each step. You’ll need a calculator to figure out what that might be in inches for the distance you have.

Holding Drill
Now. A really good question: “how long…” How long to hold? That depends on the state of muscle tone, position effectiveness, and, mostly, how efficiently your body uses oxygen. The holding limit is reached when there’s clear deterioration in the whole state of the effort. You start shaking! Symptoms of oxygen depravation are fundamentally obvious. Take the rifle down and start over. This drill also improves this capacity. NOTE: I am dry-firing in these photos, and that’s why no ear and eye protection! Otherwise: ALWAYS!

Spend some time with this over the winter. Even a couple of times a week for 30 minutes a whack, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll shoot. This drill is one of those perfect “indirect” learning tools where you will specifically improve where and what you need to improve keeping only this goal in mind.


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