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Keep Your Head On - Consistency

Keep Your Head On - Consistency

Jim Benoit demonstrating pistol drill, West Chester, PA

Pistol Training

Aimed fire with a handgun is a skill we feel a student must master first before utilizing other types of engagement. Point shooting, using a visible laser, or utilizing optics should come after. Keeping one’s head is important in its relationship to the shooter’s surrounding but we do not necessarily believe that a student should hold their head high and bring their sights up for a perfect sight picture. “What,” you say? 

Train under stress

What we mean is this: under stress, whether it be competition or defensive shooting, the human body naturally tenses up. This often equates to rolling your shoulders up and forward and scrunching down your neck. This position is often in stark contrast to the form that many hold in practice - which is a very upright position. When you are relaxed, practicing upright is natural. However, we preach practicing and training how you will shoot. This applies to defensive or competitive shooting. When I was becoming a certified instructor, the counselor kept asking why I crouched, punched my pistol out, rolled my shoulder forward, and shot a very brisk pace. I was told I had plenty of time and as such could achieve a higher score. That was true as I did not score the highest in the class. I was however certainly the fastest and my score was in the top 10th percentile. I explained to the counselor that this was how I trained and shot since I primarily teach defensive shooters. This isn’t to say that you can’t go slow and target shoot, but target shooting is an entirely different exercise.

The problem of hitting high on target when taking a training class or shooting a match occurs when the training doesn’t match the actual shooting conditions. Keep in mind if your groups are consistent but off center your trigger control and front sight focus is good. Now let’s work on your point of impact.

Front Sight

We know through training that our front sight needs to be in view for accurate shots. What tends to be forgotten is the rear sight must also appear, even if ever so briefly. Our eyes see the rear sight as an obstruction to viewing the front and we tend to put the front sight over the top of the rear in order to see it better. This brings your shots up on target. On most sights, your front sight must nestle in the rear notch. Put the front sight OVER what you want to hit. Problem solved, right?

Maybe. To make this sight picture easier, it makes sense to have the rear sight notch wider that the width of the front sight. Many factory sights are not. Replace the sight or sights or simply file the rear sight wider. Don’t worry much about how much wider as our eyes will automatically center the front sight thought the notch (.02 inches is typically enough). This difference will also help in low light and as our eyes get older.

Train with the best

Another “trick” is to have contrasting colors or completely different sights from front to rear. I prefer a black rear sight and an orange front sight. Having 3 of the same color dots can confuse our eyes as to which dot is the front sight. So if you have a 3-dot white set, try making the front sight yellow or orange. You may be surprised how suddenly the front sight “pops”. As much as we hate factory Glock sights, at least the rear is a white notch and the front is a white dot. Most people see them well.

So now we are getting a good flash sight picture. Back to the mechanics. If you shoot in competition or practice in defensive shooting, realize you are under stress when the chips are down. Everything changes when a clock and/or a crowd is involved. We naturally lower our head and roll our shoulders. Don’t fight it, use it! It doesn’t matter if you are at work as LE, enjoy bringing your defensive shooting to the highest levels, or compete against others while on the clock. If you fall under these categories, practice and train as such. Make your draw smooth and refined. Crouch the same amount every time. Feet same width apart. Shoulders up and forward. Punch out the same way from position 3 to full extension. Only then will you see consistency at a large class or at the next meet.

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