Part 1 in a series

 

The components of a good shot

 

 

Oct 15 2011

 

 

 

Let us start by defining ‘a good shot’ by what it is, and what it isn’t.

 

What a ‘good shot’ is:

  • For each individual shooter, any shot which goes within the group area of which the shooter is capable (there is an indication here of difference between the top shooters and the rest of us; top shooters have a consistently smaller grouping area than the rest of us).
  • Consistent procedure for the release of the shot with all the factors that move the shot away from the centre of the group of shots reduced as much as possible.

 

What a ‘good’ shot isn’t:

  • A ‘good’ shot is not necessarily a high scoring shot – a 10.9 might be a perfect score, but be obtained (by luck) as the outcome of a ‘bad’ shot.  This may sound strange at first but if for some reason the centre of the group of all a shooter’s shots does not coincide with the centre of the target (e.g. the sights are misaligned) they could all be ‘good’ shots with a comparatively low score value.
  • Any shot which has a placement on the target that is inexplicable by the shooter (whatever its location on the target).  This applies irrespective of the misplacement being due to the pistol/ammunition or the shooter, or both.
  •  

 

 

 

So, what are the components of a ‘good’ shot?

 

No individual component listed here is more, or less, important than the others: they all have to be present for a shot to be ‘good’: they are listed chronologically as they are applied in the release of a good shot:

 

 

 

 

Preparation

 

In its own way ‘preparation’ is part of some of following sections on ‘no distractions’ and ‘arousal’, but it goes further than that and deserves its own section.

If you are serious, it’s not merely a matter of loading and picking up the pistol[1]: your preparation for firing an individual good shot starts MUCH earlier.

 

A listing of your preparation for a ‘good’ shot goes like this:

  • training xxxx
    • the training you have done (or not done) in the weeks and months preceding a session at the range will have a marked affect on your ability to produce good shots on demand
  • before you travel to the range
    • following your optimum sleep pattern the night before to produce a  xxxx of good shots
    • diet – meals the day before and during the day
    • light warm-up exercise before leaving for the range
    • select clothing to suit the day’s weather changes
    • double (even triple) check you have all the required equipment and shooting clothing (and Equipment Control Card, Start Number and Accreditation pass for major competitions)
    • travel to range with spare time to go for a 20-30 minutes walk
  • on arrival at the range
    • check you have all the required equipment and shooting clothing (and Equipment Control Card, Start Number and Accreditation pass for major competitions)
    • a 20-30 minutes walk
    • change into shooting clothes
    • light warm-up exercise
    • be ready to go onto firing point in good time
  • at your firing point
    • set out your allocated ‘personal space’
    • conduct your in-bay physical and mental warm-ups
  • to fire the shot
    • as per the following items

 

 

 

No distractions

 

Your conscious and subconscious brain needs to be concentrated on the task at hand: i.e. achieving a good shot.

 

 

 

Balanced and stable shooting platform

 

Balanced stance

A balanced stance is how you provide a stable platform for holding the pistol steady and the release of the shot.  Your stance needs to (reasonably) natural, balanced with your centre of gravity over the support provided by your feet, have an upright posture, your feet, pelvis and shoulders all in the same alignment with your head upright and the shooting eye within 5° of straight ahead to the target.

 

Balanced stance 1 – placement of feet

Your most stable position of the feet is with them approximately as far apart as the across your shoulders and with the feet pointed slightly outwards at the toes.

If you observe the stance of the top shooters at a major competition or look at the videos on the ISSF website you will notice that there can be considerable variation in the way these top shooters place their feet: however, without knowing the  circumstances affecting the individual shooter you should not assume that any one shooter’s stance is better or worse – e.g. shooters with a background in gymnastics will tend to have a ‘narrower’ foot placement while those with a background in xxxx will tend to have a shooting stance with the feet further apart.

For a shooter starting out in the sport the placement of your feet as stated above will be your best option. 

 

Balanced stance 2 – centre of balance

Your toes and heels will define a trapezoid on the floor: ideally in the shooting position with the pistol raised to the target your centre of gravity (CoG) should be over the centre of this trapezoid.  When you raise the pistol the weight of the pistol and extended arm will change your centre of gravity – to bring your CoG back to the centre of the trapezoid of your feet you will need to lean back (ever so slightly) in the opposite direction.  The best way to achieve this is to spend a session with a 1 or 1.5kg weight in your hand on a balance apparatus or suitably set up ‘Wii fit’.

Your weight should be evenly distributed across the front and back of each foot, and evenly distributed between the two feet – more on this in  Balanced stance 5 – weight distribution over your feet, but I might as well mention now that your body’s Centre of Gravity will change as you raise the pistol to address the target: the weight of the pistol and your arm in the raised position will shift your Centre of Gravity towards the target.

Given that

 

Balanced stance 3a – vertical posture

An upright posture without any unnatural strains is recommended.  You will feel better, tire less, breathe easier and have better balance.

 

Balanced stance 3b – alignment of feet, pelvis and shoulders

Unless you have some specific muscular-skeletal condition preventing this from being ‘natural’ for you:

·         your feet, pelvis and shoulders should all be in parallel alignment

·         a line through the shoulder joints should be reasonably parallel to the ground,

·         similarly, a line across the pelvis should be reasonably parallel to the ground,

·         your feet should be angled slightly and equally outwards.

It is of advantage to have somebody else observe your stance and assess these alignments for you – chances are you will not be aware of any misalignments.

 

Balanced stance 3c – alignment of the head

There are two objectives here:

1.     is to have the shooting eye looking to the target with as little deviation from its ‘straight-ahead’ alignment in the eye socket as possible.  This objective is to:

·         reduce the strain on the eye’s aligning muscles these muscles will be relaxed if your eye is in a ‘straight-ahead’ position, and

·         eliminate any possibility of one of your eyelids interfering with your line of sight – this can be a subtle problem that you will be probably unaware of,

Your head should be upright and the shooting eye within 5° of looking straight ahead to the sights/target.  Unless you are standing face on to the target this will require some sideways twisting of the neck to achieve.

2.     Not to have your neck twisted to such degree that the position restricts the flow of blood to the brain or is painful.

Balancing these sometimes conflicting requirements can be a problem; less so for the ‘rapid fire’ stages and events, but of major importance for precision stages and events.

 

Balanced stance 4 – angle of body to the target/s

There is not one ‘perfect’ angle of the body to the target/s that will suit all shooters – this not only varies from shooter to shooter, it can also vary for an individual shooter with the passage of time. 

There are so many considerations (the type of ‘work’ you do, your build, etc.) that it is impossible to generalise – that stated, for a shooter beginning in ISSF pistol events it is going to be easier in the long run to start with your feet (pelvis and shoulders) aligned at about 30° to the line to the targets.  This 30° can be modified if/as needed as you gain experience in the sport.

 

Balanced stance 5 – weight distribution over your feet

xxxx

 

Balanced stance 6 – body awareness

xxxx

 

The shooter’s muscular-skeletal structure & ‘condition’

 

Some important points to consider

  1. Good general condition is more important than ‘strength’.  Be realistic: that pistol weighs less than 1.5kg…
  2. Core strength is more important than ‘strength’
  3. Pumping iron at the gym will decrease the fine motor control you need for a good shot
  4. Balanced cross-training will improve your general condition – recommended are swimming (not butterfly or breast stroke), core strength exercises, flexibility training and walking.
  5. Learn how to stand ‘properly’ – your muscles should support your stance, not your bones.

Xxxx All that said, there is one pert of your body that improved strength will improve your pistol shooting: your wrists (note the plural – whatever wrist strength exercises you do with the right, do with the left)! 

 

Arousal level

 

OK. Stop sniggering – this nothing to do with sexual arousal:

 xxxx

 

Breathing

 

The natural respiratory pauses

You have two natural pauses in your respiration when breathing normally (i.e. sitting or laying down when relaxed): one that occurs when you complete an inhalation phase and one that occurs when you complete an exhalation phase.  When completely relaxed, at the completion of each inhalation or exhalation there will be a pause of between ½ and 2 seconds.

Neither of these natural pauses occurs anywhere near your maximum inhalation or exhalation, but they are important in providing a balanced and stable platform of your body as at these natural pauses the muscles involved in breathing are relaxed and will not interfere with your stability.

 

Usually precision shots are released at a natural exhalation pause.

Recommended for newer (and good practice for all) shooters is the ‘two breath’ method.  For this method the shooter accepts that the shot will be released xxxx

 

Commence raising pistol

Commence normal inhalation

Aligned sights slightly above the target’s black

Complete the inhalation

 

With pistol aligned slightly above the target’s black

focus on (and at) front sight for normal exhalation and inhalation cycle

Lower aligned sight picture through the black

Normal exhalation

Add pressure to the trigger

Take up first stage as aligned sights pass through the black

Add pressure through second stage once as the aligned sights come below the black

Shot is released

Coincides approximately with exhalation respiratory pause

Follow-through

 

For beginning pistol shooters, the 'two breath' method is recommended for precision shots. For this:

AFTER the shooter has the correct body position, AND the correct grip of the pistol

You can take a slightly larger-than-normal breath to start the breathing sequence - if you find that you take a longish time to release the shot, this slightly larger-than-normal breath will give your blood a bit more oxygen, but with the 'two breath method' and releasing the shot within a few second of getting into the desired aiming area you should not have much need for 'extra' oxygenation.

The shooter inhales a NORMAL breath while raising the pistol to 'aim' in an area at the top of the target, and the sight alignment is adjusted (if necessary) while exhaling NORMALLY

The shooter inhales a second NORMAL breath

THEN while slowly lowering the pistol through the black aiming mark of the target, exhales (again, NORMALLY!)

As the pistol comes through the desired aiming area, add pressure to the trigger

If you have followed this procedure, at first some shots will 'go off' before you are in the desired aiming area( i.e. high); some shots will 'go off' after you have passed below the desired aiming area (i.e. low) - however, with some practice you can shoot lots of 10s with this technique.

 

 

For the Rapid Fire Pistol and the rapid fire stage of ‘Sport’ and Center Fire Pistol most shooters release the shot/s at a natural exhalation pause (exhaling as the pistol is raised from the READY), though releasing the shots at a natural inhalation  pause (inhaling as the pistol is raised from the READY) is equally valid.

 

For the 20-seconds series in Standard Pistol while it is possible to either  a) fire all five shots on one respiratory pause, or b) fire each shot after a short breath cycle, neither is advisable.  Far more preferable is to ‘break’ the series into 2, 2 and 1 shot.

xxxx

RO’s command

If shooting on inhalation pause

If shooting on exhalation pause

ATTENTION…

Commence exhalation

Commence inhalation

 

Slowly exhale

Slowly inhale

7-seconds pause before targets

Complete normal exhalation

Complete normal inhalation

Targets face

Inhale as you raise the pistol

Exhale as you raise the pistol

 

For the 10-seconds series in Standard Pistol

xxxx

For the first shot in the series, follow the breathing synchronisation set out for the first shot in a 20-seconds series, above.

 

For the Rapid Fire Stage of 25m Womens and Center Fire Pistol the 10-seconds shot cycle (3 seconds facing and 7 seconds away) suits most shooters as a breathing cycle.

xxxx

RO’s command

If shooting on inhalation pause

If shooting on exhalation pause

ATTENTION…

Commence exhalation

Commence inhalation

 

Slowly exhale

Slowly inhale

7-seconds pause before targets

Complete normal exhalation

Complete normal inhalation

Targets face for 3 seconds

Inhale as you raise the pistol

Exhale as you raise the pistol

On follow-through after shot

Slowly exhale

Slowly inhale

Come to the READY

Complete normal exhalation

Complete normal inhalation

Next shot

As above for first shot

 

For Rapid Fire Pistol it is fairly simple to bring your breathing cycle to synchronise with the Range Officer’s commands:

RO’s command

If shooting on inhalation pause

If shooting on exhalation pause

ATTENTION…

Commence exhalation

Commence inhalation

3-2-1-START

Slowly exhale

Slowly inhale

3-seconds pause before targets

Complete normal exhalation

Complete normal inhalation

Targets face

Inhale as you raise the pistol

Exhale as you raise the pistol

 

 

Hyperventilating; its plusses and minuses

Hyperventilation – breathing more deeply and/or faster than normal to increase the amount of oxygen and decrease the amount of CO2 in your blood – can be a two-edged sword.

Hyperventilation can, but does not necessarily always cause symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the hands, feet and lips, lightheadedness, dizziness, headache, chest pain, slurred speech, nervous laughter, and sometimes fainting.  reduces the carbon dioxide concentration of the blood to below its normal level because one is expiring more carbon dioxide than being produced in the body, thereby raising the blood's pH value (making it more alkaline), initiating constriction of the blood vessels which supply the brain, and preventing the transport of oxygen and other molecules necessary for the function of the nervous system.[4] At the same time, hypocapnia causes a higher affinity of oxygen to haemoglobin, known as the Bohr effect further reducing the amount of oxygen that is made available to the brain.

Xxxx

 

The time factor

 

Breathing - respiration and your eyes

Simply, holding your breath too long will affect your eyesight at the time. Affect and reasons

Worse, during a precision stage or event this affect can be cumulative – the ‘cure’ is fortunately simply achieved, do not hold your breath to long – with training and practice, the breathing suspension at the natural breathing pause as you release the shot

 

Breathing – build up of lactic acid

 

 

The shakes

 

The difference between having the pistol raised and ‘holding on the target’

 

 

Grip/hold and trigger finger placement

 

 

 

Sight alignment

 

 

 

Trigger release

 

 

Follow-through

                …but wait; there’s more…

 

The shot (or series) is nowhere near over merely because the projectile has left the barrel on its way to the target!

  • Your triggering techniques is not complete until you have fully completed the motion of the finger an have felt the trigger stop – this process needs to be the completion of your smooth and continuous triggering technique.  If you stop the triggering technique merely because the shot has been released
  •  

 

 

Analysis of the shot/s

                …but wait; there’s even more…

 

 

© 2011, Spencer Tweedie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] I am using ‘pistol’ in its generic form, referring to a pistol or revolver.