CHAPTER V
TECHNIQUE OF SLOW FIRE

A. GENERAL

1. A technique is the method of performing the procedures of an operation.

2. A technique of slow fire that will permit a pistol shooter to compete successfully will include:

a. Painstaking preparation.

b. Thorough planning.

c. Systematic relaxation of muscular system.

d. Intense concentration.

e. Coordination of all the fundamental factors in delivery of an accurate shot.

f. Analysis of shot delivery.

g. Correction of errors.

h. Strict uniformity of execution of the above is required to insure duplication of a good performance time after time.

3. The factors regarding the technique of slow fire shooting should not be regarded as hard and fast which demand strict execution of each point. In competitive shooting, as in any other sport, there are no established rules on technique that apply to all persons.

4. The shooter should accept the material in this chapter in a critical manner, using it as a guide in finding his own style of shooting - a style that fits his temperament, individual ability and physical construction.

B. TECHNIQUES IN SLOW FIRE CONTROL.

The best technique of control is slow fire, for each individual shooter, is the proper employment of a combination of the fundamental factors that contribute toward attaining satisfactory performance.

1. Dry Firing Before Shooting: A shooter should rarely shoot the first time he settles to aim. Form the habit of firing a “dry” shot or two before the first shot. This will aid in attaining the sharp, clear focus necessary for a smooth, coordinated performance. Avoid dragging out a shot which results in increasing the arc of movement and dulling of the vision. A shooter, after trying unsuccessfully for five or six seconds, should stop dry-firing, take his finger from the trigger and rest, and then make another attempt to dry fire a satisfactory shot. Do not do this too many times, however. A long day’s shooting will make heavy demands on the muscles and eyes.

2. Carefulness: Great care is one of the mainstays of the control of slow fire shooting. Every shooter will get a certain percentage of good shots, the rest will be mediocre to poor. The poor shots result from carelessness. Accepting conditions as almost good enough is a form of carelessness. There are few top shooters who are absolutely without some compromise. The shooter who is not willing to devote himself fully and fails to pick up the tie breaking point is the one that loses the match. The principal damage that carelessness inflicts on controlled performance, strikes at the point where it can be least afforded; uniformity. For example, the failure to properly re-grip the pistol for each new attempt to shoot, violates the stipulation that if a good performance is to be repeated, you must uniformly duplicate the employment of all the fundamentals.

3. Patience: Patience is of great importance to the conduct of slow fire, in that without it, the shooter may disrupt an otherwise good performance an instant from successful completion. When the conditions for a controlled, accurate shot are met, the problem facing the shooter is reduced to one of patiently allowing proposed events to follow their normal course. The synchronization of the factors in delivering an accurate shot require a certain time for completion. Any impatience that would cause one control factor to be disrupted will reduce the whole to a shambles. Improvised, desperate measures to reconstitute a lapse cannot possibly succeed. As an example, a shooter is on the firing line, making a concerted effort to maintain conditions that have been set up to control an accurate shot. His sights are aligned, the arc of movement is settling and he is positively pressing straight to the rear on the trigger, and then must momentarily wait. At this point in his technique of employing the fundamentals he will succeed or fail, depending upon his ability to allow the necessary time to pass for the smooth, undisturbed release of the hammer.

4. Over Sighting: A shooter must remember that his scores cannot be improved by sighting for a long time. On the contrary, “over-sighting” sharply reduces accuracy. After about ten or twelve seconds of sighting, vision becomes gradually blunted and the shooter’s eye ceases to observe some minute errors. The result is a deceptive aim, and the shooter without noticing his error in sighting makes an inaccurate shot. In order to achieve the highest accuracy, sighting should be accomplished within six or eight seconds. This system of sighting is good because a shooter who does not over-sight and strain his eyes, permits them to recover rapidly and to keep their sharpness for the duration of the whole match.

5. Establishing a System: A system of operation must be devised by each shooter individually without which he is not capable of attaining a sustained high performance standard. Consult Chapter IV, “Establishing A System”. The shooter’s guide to comprehensive organization of control of a slow fire shot, “The Slow Fire Worksheet” is included in Chapter IV.

Completing the day’s schedule of shooting successfully requires the shooter to go through all the stages of shooting for every shot in exactly the same way. This is possible only if the shooter can conserve sufficient physical energy, sharpness of vision, quickness of reaction, etc. while he is shooting. The ability to repeat everything the same way requires an intelligent and economic use of ones energies.

6. The Tempo of Shooting: Experience has shown that the best way to shoot is to shoot each shot rapidly, within six seconds after settling. The time spent between each shot, preparing and planning, is limited only by the total time allowed for the stage of fire. All shooting should be done at a definite tempo and with a definite rhythm.

a. In order that the shooter not only expend his energies with care, but actually build them up during the course of shooting, adequate breaks should be taken both between shots and between series of shots. It is beat to shoot at regular intervals, using all the time allotted for a particular match. In slow fire, circumstances rarely permit unbroken rhythmical shooting. Therefore, the shooter must take a particular situation and his own daily capabilities into account and shoot, sometimes at an accelerated or reduced rate, thereby operating at a tempo that will permit maximum performance.

b. Before beginning to shoot for record, it is recommended the shooter fire “dry shots”. If he feels that after the first shots that his shooting is going easily, he should proceed to shoot live ammo, making no attempt to slow down, so that the established coordination of his movements will not be upset.

c. When a shooter finds it difficult to shoot, he should not speed up his shooting. He must re-plan, relax, wait a short time until he has the “feel” of his pistol, shoot some “dry shots”, patiently reestablish control of the trigger, aim with care before each shot, and then begin shooting with assurance at a quickened tempo in order to make up for lost time.

d. No matter how well the shooter is doing, a shooter should always be careful to control his movements at all times so as not to cause a performance failure because of negligence. There is no such thing as shooting for a long period of time without some lose of control. However, one must be constantly on guard against becoming nervous and rushing because of a bad shot, as if it is necessary to compensate in a short a time with good shooting for the poor shot. It usually happens that rushing leads to repetition of the same mistakes. Under such circumstances, analyze, correct errors, shoot without haste, and develop the next shot with more care.

e. The regular tempo of shooting applies when a shooter is shooting under favorable conditions in good shooting weather. If, on the other hand, the weather is not favorable, the shooter should use a different tempo and approach, depending on the conditions prevailing.

7. Resting During the Breaks Between Shots: During the rest period between shots, a shooter should see that uniformity in assuming body stance and positions is not destroyed. The angle at which the body is turned from the target and the relative position of the feet should not change. In order that the rest interval be most effective, it is a good idea to assume a posture which will make it possible for the muscles to relax and rebuild their strength. The best way is to put the pistol down on the table and sit down in a chair without moving the feet. You can mark the position of the feet with chalk if you are afraid the exact position of the feet cannot be duplicated. It is necessary, when shooting in gusty winds, to rest while standing, with the pistol in a slightly relaxed grip. The shooter must be prepared to assume the firing position quickly, to shoot between gusts, and during the best periods for firing.

D. COMMON POINTS OF DEFICIENCY IN CONTROL.

There are a multitude of causes for bad shots. Listed below are those most frequently found. It is not intended to be a complete list nor is it intended to provide the shooter with a convenient list of bad habits. It is, however, intended to assist the shooter in finding the source of his trouble.

1. Jerk or Heel: The abrupt application of pressure either with the trigger finger alone or in the case of heeling, pushing with the heel of the hand at the same time.

2. Vacillation: Lack of know-how and skill causes constant changing of technique. The end result is usually that you hope to get a good shot.

3. Anxiety: You work and work on a shot, meanwhile building up in your mind a doubt about being able to fire the shot while your control is optimum. Impatience sets in. Finally you shoot just to get rid of that particular round so you may work on others.

4. Not Looking At the Sights: This is listed frequently as “looking at the target”. A shooter may be focusing his eye on neither the sights nor the target, but since he does not see the target in clear focus he assumes he is looking at the sights. Concentrate on sight alignment.

5. Loss of Concentration: The concentration will shift between sight alignment and the relative position of the sights to the target if good sight picture is the objective. Concentrate only on attaining perfect sight alignment with minimum movement and the application of positive trigger pressure comes much easier and is almost involuntary.

6. Holding Too Long: Adverse conditions that disturb a shooter’s ability to “hold” will cause him to delay his positive application of trigger pressure while waiting for conditions to become better. The disturbing factor about this is that you will do it sometimes when you have your normal minimum arc of movement, therefore, you must try to freeze all arc of movement momentarily to get off a perfect shot quickly before any movement is resumed.

7. Control: Maintaining control of your shooting is a continuous battle. The battle builds tension. Tension tightens the muscles and finally the abrupt motions made in compensation for errors cause the shooter to go beyond the desired area and deliver shots in exactly the opposite place from where the error was causing him to shoot originally. Smooth coordinated actions are best assured by the relaxed, confident and carefully planned approach.

8. Lack of Follow Through: Follow through is the conscious attempt to keep all control factors applied through the break of the shot. For example, you are continuing to maintain concentration on sight alignment even after the shot is on the way. This is accomplished by having a surprise shot break and no reflexes of anticipation to disturb sight alignment. Follow through is not to be confused with recovery. Merely recovering from recoil and reestablishing the hold and sight alignment after the shot is fired is no indication that you are following through.

9. Match Pressure: (See Chapter VII - Mental Discipline) If there are 200 competitors in a match, rest assured that there are 200 shooters suffering from match pressure. You should exert all your mental energy toward planning and executing the fundamentals correctly.

E. WIND SHOOTING AND ADVERSE CONDITIONS.

In a shooting day the weather is apt to change drastically but not necessarily very often. This means that a shooter must be able to react to all changes taking place around him and to change his method of shooting accordingly.

A shooter should also be guided by the rule that shooting should not be rushed when the weather conditions are changing frequently. He should be particularly attentive and carefully analyze any weather condition. After making a decision to shoot under a certain condition, adopt the appropriate method, and shoot only under that condition, time permitting.

1. The Wind not only causes a bullet to drift to one side while shooting, but it reduces accuracy by increasing the sway of both the shooter’s body and his pistol. The shooter should try to determine a proper compensating sight change if there is a constant side wind. If there is a head wind, take care that the wind is deflected away from the eyes by shooting glasses. Powder fragments and acrid fumes blown back into the face cause smarting and watering of the eyes. Body sway can be minimized by a concerted effort to resist the wind pressure. A slight increase in general muscular tension is necessary.

a. Wind shooting is conducive to jerking the trigger because as the arc of movement increases, the shooter develops a tendency to relax his positive trigger pressure. Usually the shooter is waiting for a more stable sight picture. His concentration on sight alignment will diminish and he will make an effort to set the shot off on the move as the sights pass the vicinity of the aiming point.

b. The obvious answer is to first wait for a lull in the wind; next, concentrate as one normally does on sight alignment. When the smallest arc of movement that is possible to obtain under existing conditions is achieved, positive pressure is applied to the trigger.

c. Do not continue the hold during extreme gusts. Always take advantage of a chance to rest. Each subsequent attempt to fire a shot should be made with a firm resolve to align the sights and to apply constantly increasing trigger pressure until the shot is fired.

d. The surprise shot continues to be the indicator, even under these conditions, of whether you are applying the fundamentals correctly. Your shot group will be somewhat larger as a result of the wind disturbance increasing the arc of movement, but the wild shots resulting from faulty sight alignment, flinching, jerking and over correction will be minimized.

e. Extensive practice under wind conditions is not recommended, but enough firing should be conducted under those conditions to familiarize the shooter with the technique and method best for him.

f. Changing of Wind: When shooting at 50 yards and the whole air mass is moving approximately the same velocity in one direction, fairly accurate sight corrections can be made for wind. When doing this, however, it is not wise to think an all-purpose correction has been made. The changing nature of the wind must be taken into account. The grass and weeds, etc., should be watched attentively while shooting to detect a change in the force and direction. A shot should be made only when wind conditions have been accurately determined.

g. Sometimes the necessity to shoot when the wind is gusty requires a shooter to shoot accurately in a very short time, say within two seconds. The successful firing of an accurate shot under such conditions will be achieved only if a shooter has remained in the firing position in the intervals between lulls. When shooting under such conditions, he should figure out the most advantageous posture for himself in which he can wait out the gusts of wind. As soon as there is a lull he will be able to take aim quickly and fire his shot.

h. To aid accurate shooting when a gusty wind is blowing and when the wind is changing, a shooter must alter his tempo of shooting. Sometimes he must shoot rapidly, sometimes shooting twice when the wind is quiet or when the lighting is right, sometimes taking fairly long breaks. Wait out the unfavorable conditions for making a shot; but watch your time!

i. In order to manage the difficulties arising during windy conditions a shooter should be prepared beforehand to change both the tempo of his shooting and alter his system of control as the situation in which he finds himself changes.

2. Adverse weather conditions such as cold, hot or rainy weather or extreme light conditions pose problems that can be solved in much the same manner as in wind shooting. Be determined to adhere to the fundamentals and ignore distractions to the competition. Compensate for disagreeable conditions.

a. It is advisable to carry a raincoat with you at all times and possibly a plastic cover for your gun box to keep your equipment dry. Most ranges, except for those at the National Matches, have covered firing points that help to keep the competitor dry during rainy weather. A rain suit or short heavy coat are the best garments for shooting in rain or cold windy weather. The folds and loose ends of a rain coat or overcoat flapping in the wind will cause body movement.

b. During cold weather the shooter must obviously wear warm clothing. Use insulated underwear to avoid wearing many layers of heavy clothing. When the shooter becomes shivering cold it is difficult to hold the sights in perfect alignment or retain sensitive trigger control. Hand warmers are very good and are small enough to keep in the gun box or pocket. Light weight lubricating oil must be used in cold weather to prevent malfunction of weapons.

c. During hot weather, perspiration becomes a problem. A sweat band on the forehead keeps the sweat out of the eyes and it is recommended that powdered rosin be used to dry the hand. When not on the firing line the shooter should relax in the shade. Covered firing points provide protection from the sun while shooting. Salt tablets prevent heat prostration. Eat lightly.

3. Changes in light intensity and direction have a great influence on the accuracy of aiming. Under changing conditions, the eye does not perceive the relationship of the front and rear sights consistently. There may be a change in the point of impact of the shot group on the target. Experienced shooters usually settle on one lighting condition when the cloud cover is changing, aiming only when the sun is shining brightly or shooting only when the targets are in the shade. The choice of a lighting condition must be made depending on the relative length of time that the targets are well lighted or shaded.

a. Light condition varies from extremely bright to very dim and the shooter must keep a record of the light conditions on every range he fires on in his scorebook. Some competitors are affected more by changes in light than others. A note should also be made as to how much his zero changes in these different light conditions. Sight should be blackened with care on bright days. As part of your shooting accessories, you should have both amber and green shooting glasses not only for light conditions but for protection against oil, powder fragments, fumes, wind and empty brass. Firing from an uncovered firing line usually requires different sight settings than the firing from under a shed. Ammunition should be kept out of the sun as its accuracy is affected if it is exposed to the direct rays of the sun.

b. A shooter must also be able to complete the match rapidly in order to avoid firing under marginal conditions. The necessity for rapid shooting arises when twilight sets in. There are times on any range when a shooter must either accept an interruption during a match or shoot at a stepped up pace. For example, when the light on the target is shifting he must finish shooting before the sun’s rays come through the target from the rear. This causes the target to appear blotched and makes accurate sighting and shooting difficult.

4. Our accomplishments on the firing line stem from our mental capacity to face up to the out of ordinary, and parlay these conditions into winning. Poor conditions must never become an excuse to quit or compromise. Good scores are produced by hard work in the application of the fundamentals regardless of the conditions. Proper control of the application of the fundamentals is the most important factor in shooting winning scores under adverse conditions.

F. TRAINING METHODS:

1. Competition: Any top shooter will agree with this word of advice: Shoot every match you can afford. The special conditions created by shoulder-to-shoulder competition can best be controlled by lessons learned in match experience. To learn how to apply this control to your slow fire technique is the result of continuous match competition.

If numerous matches are not available, try to make your practice sessions duplicate match conditions as nearly as possible.

2. Dry Firing: Developing the ability to apply the fundamentals to your shooting Is a tedious, painstaking process. If all the effort is confined to range practice and competitive matches, years of hard work and great expense for ammunition are involved. The use of dry fire practice can reduce the cost in both respects,

Dry firing develops the ability to control your shooting in all the primary factors - coordination, eyesight, arc of movement, uniformity of applying fundamentals, analysis and correction, etc. Achieving the ability to control your body in its job of delivering a good shot is one of repetition of good shooting habits. Dry firing is a definite aid in this stage of development. To got the most out of your dry firing, use the appropriate work sheet to guise your work. Prepare and plan each shot as if it were a live round. Relax when you are ready and give yourself fire commands. Deliver the shot with the same amount of effort as in live practice. Use a target center on the bench to record your shot calls. If the shot calls embraced a detectable error, analyze and determine why the errors were in your performance. You may notice errors in your performance that have been hidden in the recoil and sound of the weapon as it is fires. Precise identification of these errors can be made only during dry fire sessions. A positive correction is necessary before proceeding to the next shot. A bulls-eye, a blank wall or the open sky may be used to conduct dry firing.

Dry fire practice can be overdone. Initially, the new shooter should limit himself to ten minutes of effort. Later, as performance Improves, maximum time should be about thirty minutes.

3. Ball and Dummy: Ball and dummy exercise is another important aid in accelerating your improvement. It is most effective when another person loads the weapon and observes the shooter as he attempts to fire. The coach loads either a live or dummy round at random. The shooter must never know whether he has a live or dummy round in the chamber. If the shooter is disturbing the weapon with muscle reactions In any way, the coach will be able to identify the error immediately. After identifying the error pattern, the coach and the shooter must agree on a positive correction. Ideally, the correction will prevent recurrence of the error. In most cases however, the coach and shooter must be satisfied with the error occurring less frequently.

4. Instruction in Fundamentals and Techniques Must not be Overlooked: Every shooter must be thoroughly schooled in pistol marksmanship fundamentals. His future success will be based on how well he masters the fundamentals and the techniques of employing them.

5. A Review of Fundamentals and Techniques must be conducted periodically. The shooter must be reminded of the fundamental points of pistol marksmanship to assure that his shooting skill will constantly improve. Each shooter must develop a personal technique of employing the fundamentals. Improvement is at a standstill when analysis of the technique no longer identifies and removes the flaws from poor performance.

SUSTAINED FIRE