Shoot Smart with Pistols
Master ONE thing that 98% of shooters have trouble with, and you will be a much better shooter! Shoot smart rather than shoot wrong! So, what is the trick we teach in our pistol skill development lessons in Jackson Hole? Trigger Press!
When we shoot, most of us grip a handgun in such a way that it recoils up and in the direction of our dominant hand. For most of us, that is up and right. Because we anticipate the “up and right” recoil, most of us subconsciously proactively counteract the recoil. Let’s peak into our brains subconscious discussion between the predictive part, memory part and physical control part.
- Predictive part: “I am about to pull the trigger, I wonder what will happen?”
- Memory part: “Dude, last time you pulled the trigger, the gun jumped in your hand and went up and right. It did not feel good being out of control, I hate that that emotional feeling.”
- Predictive part: “I really wish when I pull the trigger next time the gun wouldn’t go up and right, isn’t there a better way?”
- Memory part: “How about we tell your hands to shove down and left a split second before the shot breaks?”
- Predictive part: “Great idea, hey, Physical Control Part, favor to ask. As you pull the trigger next time, it seems like the only way to counteract the gun going up and right is for you to shove the gun down and left about .05 second before the trigger breaks.”
- Physical Control Part: “Ok, will do. Definitely. Definitely going to push down and left. Definitely.”
“Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become reality.”
— Earl Nightingale
Some of you are able to use your conscious brain to concentrate on trigger presses and are able to shoot well when you take your time. When stress is added though, our old pal the subconscious rears it’s ugly head and takes over. I suggest that you keep on trying to get your conscious mind to be in charge of your trigger press, I really do. Good luck with that.
What is a pistol shooting hack to help you shoot smart? A Surprise Break. This happens when your brain does not know exactly when the gun is going to recoil. Yes, it has a general idea that it will be in the next second or so, but it doesn’t know exactly when. This surprise break has been the most helpful pistol shooting trick thus far invented.
The surprise break is based on the knowledge that if the brain does not know when to send the message to the hands to “shove down and left” the pistol will remain in the correct direction when the shot breaks and the bullet exits.
I have this weird idea that a particular type of co-joined twins could be the best pistol shooters ever!
Imagine if Beth’s brain controlled the shared trigger finger muscles and their dominant eye.
Jane’s brain controls all other parts of the dominant hand and the support hand.
Beth’s brain likes the sight picture and sends a message to their trigger finger to gently press.
Meanwhile, Jane is patiently waiting, with support hand strongly supporting the pistol aimed perfectly at the target.
This shooting team would be incredible! They would naturally accomplish a “surprise break” every time! For those of you reading this that were born without this condition, you will need to work a bit harder.
There are several things we can do including improving our coordination. We can train athletically to have our body consciously obey our conscious brain. It is wise to isolate our trigger finger from the rest of our body. It is wise to get to know our trigger finger better.
Try this. Close your eyes and hold your trigger finger pad about 1 inch from your thumb pad on the same hand. Open your eyes. Pretty close, huh? You finger and thumb have probably had a bunch of practice doing this. Now, close your eyes and hold your support hand thumb about 1 inch from the back of your knee crease. Open your eyes. Not as close, huh? If, for some strange reason, you wanted to get really precise and accurate with this, I bet if you tried the drill 1,000 times a month for one year, in 12 months if I challenged you to put your thumb 1 inch from your knee crease, I bet you would be way better at it than sane people like me who don’t waste their valuable time like that.
So, how do we train our brain and trigger finger? Here are some drills:
- Dry fire, concentrating on the speed of trigger press. Press 10 times keeping a constant speed making the trigger break 2 seconds from beginning. Then 10 times taking 5 seconds, then 1 second, then 4 seconds, then some other number of seconds. Repeat this drill daily for a year.
- Chap Stick Drill. See section below.
- Clothespin. As you drive, work the clothespin repeatedly, focusing on timing as in the dry fire drill.
- Marble roll. I imagine most of you keep some marbles beside your clothespin. Geesh I am old. Put a marble on the table and put your trigger finger on it. Plant your thumb on the table as far away from the marble as possible. Using your trigger finger, roll the marble until it touches your thumb. Here is the thing though, you may only move the marble 1/8 inch at a time before taking your finger off and placing it back on top of the marble.
- Other dry fire drills. Duck-Duck-Go it.
A Chap Stick Drill
I came up with this drill to help a shooter’s brain and trigger finger become a better team.
- Take a tube of Chap Stick and stand it up on a table.
- Put your hand on the table with your thumb facing up, just as you would if you planned to grasp a glass of caramel flavored porter with chocolate undertones.
- Using your trigger finger, apply gentle and smooth pressure to tip the Chap Stick toward you very slowly. Your focus and goal is on getting the ChapStick to hover on it’s edge before it falls. Mr. Miyagi could probably get the Chap Stick to hover, though I never have.
- When the Chap Stick falls, stand it back up again.
Repeat this drill slowly 100 times each day, and in one month, your trigger finger and brain will be a much better team.
Shoot Smart – Pistols was written by Shepard Humphries. Shepard founded the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience and Nomad Rifleman and is a subject matter expert on pistol shooting, extreme long range recreational shooting, customer service training in the tourism industry and NLP. He lives in Jackson Hole Wyoming for most of the year, and other warm places around the globe during the cold 5 months.