Apply the Fundamentals and Train!
Lots of Excuses Available
Only one lung left due to the ravaging of cancer but still he finds a way to have breath-control. Terrible medications due to kidney failure that cause him to shake and have an increased level of natural arc of movement and yet he finds a way to accurately hit the target through trigger finger discipline to just “keep pressing.”
Diminished strength and some questioning if she’s too old to learn a new skill and start carrying a pistol for defensive use at 75 years old but she’s got purple hair and don’t care. His eye sight isn’t what it used to be but with his reflex sight on his pistol he’s back in business. What’s your excuse again of why you can’t train or still carry a defensive pistol?
The fundamentals of marksmanship can certainly be more easily displayed in the younger, healthier individual when properly instructed but that doesn’t mean others can’t work through obstacles in front of them.
If a student shooter can demonstrate the proper knowledge, skills, and attitude about safe gun handling, it’s worth trying to overcome physical limitations. Remember to ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use, and ALWAYS be sure of your back-stop, surroundings, and beyond.
The core fundamentals of marksmanship being aiming, breath control, hold control, trigger control and follow-through is what matters! Not age, size, gender, or physical limitations.
Once a shooter understands aiming (sight picture, sight alignment, and focusing on the front sight) they shouldn’t have to keep thinking or focusing on this skill. If the shooter struggles with clear vision because of bifocal lenses, transition lenses etc., they may find the use of a red dot sight such as those offered by Trijicon, Vortex, Burris, Bushnell, Sig Sauer, and certainly many more brands to be very helpful. Reflex sights are becoming highly reliable and easy to use. As your vision diminishes, finding the correct focal plane of the front sight can become more of a challenge. Reflex sights allow you to just focus on the threat or target.
Breath control for one of my shooters could sometimes be a challenge. Having only one lung caused only one side of his chest to rise and fall! It was easier for him to become winded under certain circumstances. He overcame this problem by simply acknowledging it was there and giving more attention to pressing the trigger during his pause between breaths when he needed more accurate marksmanship. Most of us just need to remember to breathe when focusing on a challenging shot!
Hold control or maintaining the proper sight picture and sight alignment during the process of firing the shot is an important factor in marksmanship. Often, we can improve our hold control by simply improving our grip on the gun. Be sure to place the pistol as deep in your primary hand as possible and cover as much as the grip as possible with your support hand. Keep both thumbs on the support side of the pistol and let your support hand do most of the gripping!
Hold control also needs us to work with our natural arc of movement. It’s impossible to hold the pistol in a shooting position without some motion! Some of us have more arc of movement than others. One of my shooters that deals with an increase of arc of movement from medications has communicated to me that he does much better with his marksmanship by focusing on the concept of “keep pressing the trigger” and working on keeping his sight alignment and sight picture accurate during the natural arc of movement. When he avoids “snapping” the trigger when he thinks the shot is perfect and instead, keeps pressing, he gets accurate shots on target.
Trigger control, or activating the trigger properly, minimizes the movement on the gun that can cause misalignment of the sights. Don’t try to predict when the gun will fire. Let each shot come as a surprise! Press the trigger straight and to the rear without disturbing sight alignment. Pressure should be applied evenly and continuously. Don’t press to the “wall” and then quickly finish the press when you think the sight alignment is perfect.
Shooters with small hands, injuries, or missing fingers might struggle with trigger control. Be flexible and work to find a solution. Consider the choice of firearm for the limitations of the shooter! Not all guns are created equal for hand size, strength, and remove to accommodate a “different” finger for pressing the trigger. Whatever solution is found for pressing the trigger, try to always consistently place your finger at the same spot on the trigger to set yourself up for proper follow-through.
Follow-through is the continuation of the application of the shooting fundamentals through and immediately after the shot. Think of the archer releasing the arrow and continuing to hold the bow until the arrow has completely cleared.
When the shot breaks, begin looking for the front sight, relax your trigger finger and reset the pistol to prepare for the next shot. Make a mental decision to shoot again or index and muzzle down.
When working through the fundamentals of marksmanship, remember that the two most important fundamentals are trigger control and aiming. Put your focus on the trigger control and apply the concepts of proper aiming. Find solutions to your problems and work through them. If you can apply the basic safety rules while solving your problems, there are no more excuses!
If you’re interested in finding solutions to your individual situation, consider finding an NRA Basic Pistol Course near you and attending. If you’re in the SW Washington State area, I’d love to have you out and help you at Willapa Firearms Training.