The Cornered Cat
Start smart

Yesterday I wrote this: “All of that constant, unavoidable body motion means we can’t just line the sights up once with a  glance and then let fly with the trigger, KA-BLOWEE! If we do that, our shots hit unpredictably, sometimes in the right place and sometimes … somewhere else.”

Today I should probably erase that paragraph, take it back, and pretend I never said it, because you and I have both seen many excellent shooters who appear do just that – glance at the sights and let fly. They certainly seem to hit their targets, too! But even in the face of this evidence, I still don’t take back what I said there. Because it is true. It’s just not the whole story.

Those superfast action pistol competitors reach high but accurate shooting speeds by mastering sight alignment, the art of trigger control, and especially the art of follow-through. With a lot of hard work and smart practice, they first learn how to see what they need to see and how to manipulate the trigger properly when they see it. They build up thousands of repetitions of doing the right thing. They naturally pick up their speed as their practiced technique becomes built into their synapses, until they can finally push the speed limits of these ingrained good habits until they’re flying down the road without any apparent effort. In other words, they don’t start fast. They start slow.

Since it’s tacky to always quote your own writing (hey, don’t shame me), here’s another firearms trainer on the same subject. Well-known for several gunfights he was involved with during his years on the LAPD, Scott Reitz has trained hundreds if not thousands of officers over the years. Although it is a little dated these days, his book The Art of Modern Gunfighting (Pistol) should be found on every well-stocked defensive handgunner’s bookshelf. Reitz writes: “It is very difficult to fine tune a trigger press if all one does is to press the trigger rapidly. You can never learn the nuances and idiosyncracies of a particular trigger at great speed. This knowledge will only come at a slower speed and then will be built upon from that point.”

So let’s discuss what you can do, slowly, to improve your ability to shoot fast and accurately. Over the few weeks, I will be introducing a series of simple exercises you can do to improve your awareness of how you’re using the trigger and how well you can control its motion.

To prepare for this series, I recommend reading (or re-reading) the following articles.

Watch this space tomorrow for the first recommended exercise.

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