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Bellow is a collection of articles written by Larry Sawyer for the MRRA Newsletter.
Reprinted with the permission of Lawrence M. Sawyer.
Successful Standing: Your Strategy Decision Part 2
ByLarry Sawyer

(c)2012 Lawrence M. Sawyer. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or distributed in any manner, including electronically, without the express written permission of the author.

Back in 2009 I wrote an article for the MRRA Newsletter which detailed the proper sequence for shooting a rifle in the standing position, successfully. Too much time has passed since that first article! I never intended to go this long before presenting a "Part II", but here it is.

In Part I, I talked about the "moment of arrival", when your hold reaches the bull's center.

Here is what I wrote:

In fact, if you are consistent with all of the parts of the pre-shot routine, you can actually break the shot at the moment of arrival at the bull's center. That's option number one.

Option two is to work the hold for some period of time until you are ready to break the shot.

I also implied that the first option, which is, breaking the shot when you arrive at the center of the bull, is your best option. I then went on to detail all of the ways in which one's hold deteriorates in the ensuing seconds, and thus, why you might be better off to take the shot on arrival instead of trying to "work the hold".

In this follow-up, we're going to examine the transitional period when you must, and do, make that subconscious decision to break the shot, keep holding, or abort.

Human beings are conscious creatures. We are blessed with the ability to analyze our surroundings and adjust our plans and actions based on that analysis. This is all well and good, except in shooting. In our game, one's instinct and sub-conscious skill set is the greatest factor in the success of a very challenging beast like shooting offhand, not conscious thought. Actively trying to make an analysis of your hold, while shooting, burns up precious fractions of a second, and dooms you to the time lag between when you think the thought, "pull the trigger", and when your finger actually moves. This is the .16-.30 seconds that I previously wrote about. You cannot win that game if the rifle is moving. Unless, of course, your hold stays well inside the ten ring even while moving, and the act of squeezing the trigger does not disturb your hold either. That kind of control is only enjoyed by a small number of elite shooters.

So, we want to concentrate here on a very short period of time again, just a part of a second, normally when your hold reaches the center of the bull. It is at this moment in time that the desired outcome (the gun going off) often falls prey to the horrible creature, Conscious Thought. During this transitional phase, your hold has descended from above the bull. The ideal way to do this is in slooowwww motion. The slower you can descend to the bull center, the greater the reaction window you'll allow yourself. Simultaneously, your trigger finger should have been moving, steadily increasing pressure. And, at that critical moment of reaching the center of the bull, you would finish squeezing the trigger. Not start, not think about it, not jerk it, just finish the squeezing process, which should be about 60-80% along at that moment.

You just complete it when the sight arrives at center.

Now, back to our arch-enemy, Conscious Thought. Unless and until you train 20-40 hours a week, you will probably find that the sight picture isn't necessarily cooperating when you hit the critical moment. It is moving. It may be kind of centered, or not, but it is moving. Movement makes us nervous. And that's when a shooter typically decides to hold on the bull, instead of aborting the shot or breaking the shot.

When you make that strategy decision, you are, consciously or not, making several other decisions as well:

  1. You are deciding to abort your previous plan to break the shot on arrival.
  2. You assume that your new plan to hold on the bull is smarter than breaking the shot would have been.
  3. You assume that your hold will improve in the next several seconds.
  4. You assume that you have the ability to recognize when your hold is starting to deteriorate.
  5. You trust and assume that you have the discipline to abort the hold in front of you when it goes south, so that you don't completely toast the shot.

Wow. That's a lot of assumptions. Rest assured, some of them will be wrong.

It's the movement that freaks us out. The movement of the front sight makes us think, "Whoa, that looks pretty bad, I'd better hang on until it gets better. I'll just hold more still and then break the shot."

The better strategy is to recognize that there will always be movement, but if you can develop a consistent starting (approach) point, a consistent speed, and a consistent direction of descent to the bull by refining your natural point of aim... so that the rifle wants to point at your bull... then you can trust where it's heading (the center of the bull), and even when it will arrive there. That degree of trust in the "system" that you've built and developed through practice allows you to squeeze the trigger with confidence, knowing that it will just be arriving when you finish the squeeze. They meet in the middle. Approach, meet Trigger Squeeze. Trigger Squeeze, meet Approach. Approach and Squeeze, meet Center!

The beauty of this method and strategy is that gravity is doing the work, and if you break the shot early, gravity is still moving the sights toward the center. You would be amazed at how many shots that you call high, actually end up near center. And, the icing on the cake is how few will go wide. A right-handed shooter should always approach from 11:00 to 12:00, so if you always endeavor to break it as it comes in, you are on a vertical (descending) path, not a horizontal one. You are always headed toward the center! It's a very forgiving technique.

If you practice the aforementioned sequence, you will train your body to let the rifle descend slowly, your finger to move smoothly, and the sequence will complete itself at the moment your eye sees a centered bull. In theory, you can develop enough predictability in your approach that you could finish the squeeze based purely on time! In theory.

This is the thought process that I have used for years in teaching my juniors, and which I use myself most of the time. On occasion, if I have been training with great frequency and extra effort, I switch to that "other method", the one based on holding on the bull. But, that's a story for another time.

Successful Standing (Part 1) | Top 3 Prone Mistakes (part 3)
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