Jun 25, 2008

Breath Control and Shooting

Myth – “Breath Control is the critical component of marksmanship fundamentals.”

Fact – Shot placement is determined where the barrel points, as indicated by the aligned sights, when the trigger is pressed.

It is common, especially in military circles, to believe that breath control and/or breathing has some mystical effect on shooting and will magically cause shots to go high or low.

Any movement, whether caused by breathing or any other factor, will show as motion in the sights. While the hold may wobble, the shot will always be where the aligned sights indicate when the trigger breaks (assuming a good zero and ignoring trajectory, of course.)

All breath control does is pause the shooter’s respiration while executing shot(s), thus helping to minimize movement. That's it! Pause breathing while pressing the trigger and breathe normally at any other time.

The problem is novice shooters often tend to hold too long, over-staring the sights, holding their breath until blue in the face, and probably inducing a flinch just to be rid of the chambered round. Breath control alone can't cause shots to go high or low. Even if it somehow could, the shooter can see that aiming error with the sights. This assumes the shooter can call shots and fire without flinching.

Breath Control does have one important contribution to improved marksmanship: If you're on a range and over hear “advice” such as “Watch your breathing” you can probably ignore anything that person says about marksmanship because he has just identified himself as someone who doesn't understand the subject.

Jun 18, 2008

Good Marksmanship Training

Myth – “Our unit/department shot the qual course a bunch of extra times. It was good training.”

Fact – Shooters improve by focusing on core fundamentals and maximizing feedback.
FM 3-22.9, Page 1-9
“Feedback (precise knowledge of bullet strike) must be included in all live-fire training. The feedback is not adequate when bullets from previous firings cannot be identified …”

The only way to yield consistent improvement is to maximize feedback so the shooter so he can compare his efforts to the results. Some of feedback that would be useful to receive would be:

  • Shooting on a feedback target plotting the exact location of each shot. This can be done on a KD range or electro-acoustic/LOMAH targetry
  • Recording both the call and actual location of each shot in a data book
  • Dummy rounds and dry practice interspersed with live shooting
  • Video recording the shooter as he trains
  • System to trace movement before, during and after a shot, dry or live (e.g., Noptel)
  • A good coach to help interpret the results

We often can’t have all of this available but the more feedback a shooter can get the more he can learn and, consequently, the better he’ll perform. As you can see, RETS “pop up” courses offer almost no feedback. Field courses are fine for testing and qualification, but not for training and learning.

Jun 11, 2008

Practice Shooting at Short Range

Myth – “Scaled targets at close range don’t provide good training. You have to shoot at full distance.”

Fact – Short range shooting can provide just as much feedback in training fundamentals.

Scaled targets at close range provide a nearly identical marksmanship challenge as the full size equivalent at actual distance. What’s more, the scaled ranges are the only place most Soldiers ever receive any useable feedback for improving their shooting, because they certainly aren’t getting it with “pop up” targets. Olympians shoot events as close as 10 meters. If your range is 100 yards or less you can still get great training!

A nine-inch group at 300 yards is three minutes, as is a three inch group at 100 yards or a ¾ inch group at 25. True, scaled targets at short range can’t take environment into account and the only way to ensure a solid zero at a certain distance is to shoot at that actual distance. However, this lack of environmental effect can be an advantage. It is hard to blame a wide shot on a poor wind call at 25 meters.

At any rate, the training benefit of practicing fundamentals is the same and can be learned and refined at closer range.

Jun 6, 2008

Joint Electronics Type Designation System

PEQ-2, PAQ-4, PAS-13, PRC-119 (SINCGARS), PRC-77

Ever wonder why some military hardware has these funny names?

It's a electronics designation system designed by the Army/Navy during WWII called JETDS (Joint Electronics Type Designation System).

Each JETDS device has a three letter code designating its use, prefixed with A/N and ending with the series/model number. Some examples:

A/N PAS-13
Army/Navy, Human Portable, Invisible Light, Detecting - Search, Model 13

Army/Navy, Human Portable, Laser, Combination Purposes, Model 2

Army/Navy, Ground Transportable, Visual/Visible Light, Detecting - Search, Model 5

A/N PRC-77
Army/Navy, Human Portable, Radio, Communications (two way), Model 77

Intuitive, right? ;-)

Full documentation is here:







Jun 4, 2008

Proper Practice and Shooting

Myth – “Practice makes perfect”

Fact – Practice makes permanent

If a shooter practices a poor technique, or practices it inconsistently, the shooter will not improve his ability to shoot. More of the same can never improve things. Good marksmanship involves programming a series of conditioned reflexes, some of which are contradictory to natural human response. Shooting more, but failing to develop certain specific reflexes and removing others (flinch), will only condition the shooter to stumble along at a lousy level.

It isn’t like physical training, where simply pounding out repetitions will probably yield some gains. A person could expend 100 rounds a day for years and possibly never improve his ability to shoot.

Jun 1, 2008

Kids, Guns, Safety

Kids and Guns:
Fatal Attraction, Fatally Flawed

A while back, ABC aired a program entitled “Fatal Attraction” hosted by Diane Sawyer discussing kids' reaction to firearms and whether they can be trained to safely handle this technology. Ms. Sawyer unwittingly demonstrated what is wrong with the mass media and the gun culture at the same time.

The episode started with a gun safety lecture given to a group of urban kids with little to no firearms experience. Over the course of several weeks this same group of kids were left in a room alone and presented with a planted handgun. A hidden camera recorded the results. This segment concluded that kids couldn’t be depended to learn how to properly handle a firearm, even after “proper” education. Not surprisingly, the conclusions reached were flawed.

The first flaw was in the education provided. The kids were given one short “gun safety lecture.” No effort was made to show the kids how to properly use the firearms and there was no hands-on experience. They were literally telling kids “Don’t touch this” and then later tempting them with forbidden fruit.

There is a huge difference between knowing and doing. One can tell a kid how to ride a bike, but they won’t really know how until they get on and try. Bikes are dangerous. The rider can fall off or run into something. So the mentor installs training wheels, insists on safety gear, (helmet, pads, etc) and helps with balance. Soon, with a little help, the student can go it alone. Firearms are no different.

There is also a huge difference between “growing up around guns” and being truly skilled. One young man portrayed comes from a family who works in law enforcement. His poor handling was “proof” that training doesn’t work. But the fact is many cops have poor firearms skills and their profession doesn’t automatically qualify them as instructors.

In one segment of the hidden video Ms. Sawyer made the comment that this kid clears a pistol “like a pro”, despite the fact he made the classic novice error of trying to unload a self loading pistol by working the slide before removing the magazine. That level of handling is indicative of someone who learned marksmanship from TV, not at a shooting event.

Another young man who participated in Boy Scouts and earned a merit badge in marksmanship demonstrated poor handling skills as well. This was more “proof” that education doesn’t work.

The simple courses that are offered to Boy Scouts or new hunters are the beginning of knowledge, not the end. The Boy Scouts offer merit badges for Computers, Chemistry, Photography, Plumbing and others. Check http://meritbadge.org for more info and examples. If you were interviewing prospective employees, would you hire someone whose only qualification was “I earned a merit badge when I was in the Boy Scouts…”?

These were the most solid arguments presented that “education doesn’t work” and that “guns are inherently unsafe.” Ironically, some of the kids were later shown enjoying a game of table tennis. In a study the National Safety Council found that Ping Pong had a higher rate of injury than hunting or target shooting.

“Is education the answer?”

The segment posed the question, “Is education the answer?” Think about how ridiculous this statement is by itself. The “journalists” of this segment are questioning the idea that that effort spent in learning about a subject will fail to make an individual more knowledgeable about the said subject.

But the media mongers have already demonstrated that education is indeed the answer, but only if it is the right kind of education. Kids will do as they have been taught. Over the course of many years American kids have been exposed to thousands of hours of gun “play” on TV and in video games. Even a semi-trained marksman can see that almost all these demonstrations portray examples of poor, even reckless, handling.

To counter these thousands of hours of indoctrination these same kids are given one short lecture lasting minutes teaching them the opposite. That’s like giving an obese person one short lecture about proper nutrition and exercise with no hands-on learning, returning in a week or two to find the obese person is still heavy and saying, “Education doesn’t work. You’re still fat.”

The REAL problem

People who shoot classmates or co-workers make national headlines. People who win medals in shooting never earn the recognition they’re due.

Klebold and Harris are national celebrities. Gallagher, Rhode, Barnhart, and Caruso are unknown.

Columbine makes the news. Camp Perry isn’t mentioned.

In the twisted world of the mass media, murdering people with a gun is more newsworthy than using it to win a national championship. The events at the shootings are analyzed ad naseum, often times for years after the fact. Yet, a National champion or Olympic Gold medallist won’t earn one second of airtime.

It seems the real “fatal attraction” lies with the media and their sick priorities. Of course, we gun owners are to blame as well. By failing to promote our activities to the general public, Joe and Jane Average have no idea who represents true expertise. So Joe and Jane get their gun advice from Diane Sawyer instead of Nancy Tompkins-Gallager.