Technique of a Good Shot

Many people have told me I should not openly explain the technique of a good shot otherwise why will people come to me. On the looks of it, yes makes sense. But then I thought if a child starts reading a book on science, it will only develop his interest in the subject. Finally to become an engineer he will need a teacher who can explain the concepts, answer the zillion questions, clarify doubts, have healthy discussions and finally who can show the correct path of how to do the things that are written in the book. So here I am sharing with you all, my knowledge of the technique of a good shot.

What is a good shot? No it is not a ten. That is where most people make the mistake, to associate the result with the shot. A good shot is not necessarily a ten. Atleast in pistol shooting it is not. Many a times some of my best shots were in the 9th ring! Why a good shot may sometime not be a 10 can have a million reasons and these are the reasons which will distract you from the technique and then over a period of time you would be a lost shooter who would wonder “there was a time when shooting was so easy”.

Shooting is an unbelievably easy sport. It is us who complicate it. The grip, the trigger pressure, the ammunition or pellets, the light, etc. nothing matters. Yes if anything is causing considerable physical discomfort then it needs attention, but otherwise they are all gimmicks and excuses. And finally every sport is a business, people need to sell products. They market the fancy customised grips, ear plugs, shooting glasses, shooting shoes, even sports drinks! But let me assure you, the best performances come from shooters who do not get into all this. The manufacturers pay the top shooters to use their products so that they can market them, but the top shooters have not become top shooters because they use those products.

Ok so what is the shooting technique? In film shooting, they say ‘!’ In pistol shooting we say ‘muscle tone...sights...trigger’. That is it. That is how easy a good shot is. Focus on anything else and you will be digging your own grave. So now lets talk about these three parameters in depth.

Muscle tone
Muscle tone means the muscle tension. Every shooter has his own way of gripping and holding the pistol. Some grip it tight, some grip it loose. Gripping too tight, to the extent where it starts vibrating is as bad as gripping so loose that you feel no control. Anything in between is fine. The pistol must be held firmly, not tightly. The level of firmness can vary from person to person. It should only be that firm that it gives a sense of the pistol being in the control of the shooter and not vice versa.

More important than the extent of firmness is that this firmness should remain consistent during the shot and for every shot. The arm or the pressure on the grip must not get tighter or looser while you are shooting the shot, it must remain the same like a statue. And when the muscle tone remains the same, the wrist also remains locked in its position.

It is interesting to note that this problem occurs only when the trigger is being pressed. If a shooter was holding without wishing to press the trigger, the muscle tension would remain constant. Only when the trigger finger is adding pressure on the trigger, muscle tone tends to vary. And continuing with such a shot is teaching bad habits to your subconscious. Whenever the muscle tone changes, simply cancel the shot.

As shooters we tend to manipulate muscle tension to be able to execute a shot which we are unable to execute for whatever reasons. But this is exactly what stops us from becoming champions, we manipulate our technique and if we get a 10 with such manipulation, we are happy. We do not realise that this is the beginning of the end. We need to have strong self discipline so that we accept shot executions only through correct technique and do not pamper ourselves with fake results.

Sights, not aiming
No aiming? How can that be? That is what you are thinking, right? But well, yes, aiming is the root cause of all problems in pistol shooting. Aiming is what makes it difficult to squeeze the trigger, to keep the wrist fixed and aiming also makes it difficult for you to look at your sights!!

It is human nature to be perfect. Everybody wants to be perfect right from the word ‘go’. And that is why people try to see where they are aiming and then pull the trigger in a fraction of a second when the arm is crossing that sweet spot on the target. Now what happens when one tries to grab this opportunity? He jerks the trigger so the trigger is not pressed smoothly and continuously, he moves his wrist because it is almost impossible to move your trigger finger so fast and not move the wrist, obviously the shooter was looking more at the target to identify when he crosses that sweet spot instead of looking at his sights and finally what happens? The shot is miles away from where the shooter thought he had executed it.... WHY? Did he not fire at the right moment?

But because of all the above mentioned mistakes, the shot lands up far away from the centre of the target. Also remember, your arm is moving continuously. So when you reach that sweet spot in the centre of the target and by the time your brain signals your body to react and pull the trigger and by the time you actually pull the trigger and the shot is fired and reaches the target, your arm has already moved away from that ideal position. So in any case the shot will not be in the centre!

The key to becoming a good shooter is not to try to shoot tens or bullseyes, it is to make sure that all the shots that you shoot are within the movement of your arm. With training as you get steadier, the shots will get closer to the centre. And with the natural coordination, there might come a time when you will be able to shoot all tens or all bullseyes but in reality you will not be steady enough to be able to hold your gun within the bullseye at all times. Please do not come in your own way by trying to control everything. Let things happen and enjoy this process.

Ok now coming back to what you should do, you should only maintain the sight alignment in your aiming area and keep adding pressure on the trigger, waiting for the shot to fire. Now ofcourse your arm is moving and the shot could be high or low of left or right, and THAT IS FINE! As long as the shot is fired within this movement of your arm and your muscle tone was constant, it is a good shot. Do not associate a good shot with the result. Yes there will come a time where the result has to match the quality of shot, but not now.

So, it is not important where you shoot. You should only have a consistent ‘area’ and not a ‘point’ where you execute the shots. Do not aim or try to be precise. 

Now comes the most important part...the trigger. All your muscle tone and sight alignment can go for a toss if the triggering is not correct. And what is correct triggering? It is to smoothly and continuously add pressure on the trigger till the shot fires. That’s all. Once you start pressing the trigger, there should not be any pause or interruption. It should be one smooth continuous action. If you feel the need to stop this process, cancel the shot. If you try to restart pressing the trigger once it has been interrupted, there are high chances your wrist will move slightly and this slight movement of the wrist is enough to cost you that shot. No just that, again doing this would be compromising with the technique and you will never be able to develop the subconscious that every sportsman dreams of developing, a subconscious which helps you perform “automatically”.

Follow through
This is another important factor, which happens after the shot is fired but which is very important as it is an indicator of the quality for that particular shot and also sets a base for the next shot.

A follow through is often mistaken to be holding the gun after the shot has been fired. A follow through is lot more than that. It is an extension of the shot, as if the shot has not yet fired. So you continue maintaining your muscle tone, you continue to look at your sights and continue adding pressure on the trigger. This is to be done for 2-3 seconds after the shot has been fired. We do this because we do not treat the firing of the shot as the end of the process of execution of the shot. The shot gets fired somewhere in the middle of our process of the execution of a shot.

This is done because we do not want to give any importance to the firing of the shot. Importance needs to be given to the process which is muscle tone, sight alignment and smooth trigger. And that is why we do not react when the shot is fired because it is almost an irrelevant moment. The firing of the shot should mean nothing to a shooter. This is the attitude that needs to be developed to become a good shooter.

If you are able to stick to just these points, you will improve rapidly and will enjoy the sport. Otherwise you will get lost in finding your answers in your equipment whereas you yourself will be the problem. Always remember, it is the shooter who shoots the gun. So improve the shooter in you, not the gun.