JULY 12, 2018

Skill Set: Range Time

I know this may sound strange.  I have a range in my backyard, and spend a lot of time on it, but I’m teaching.  It’s rare that I’m actually on the range and shooting.  However, last Saturday I wasn’t teaching, the morning temps were bearable so I get to do some live-fire practice.

I was packin’ the Browning Hi Power.  It’s been a while since I’ve had any serious time trigger time with the Hi Power, and it needed testing after I’d done a few the modifications.  The new Mec Gar thirteen round mags needed testing too, especially with hollow points.

My focus for the day is marksmanship at extended distances.  There’s an eight-inch target at about thirty yards, and a full size torso target at around fifty yards.  These aren’t extreme distances, but they demand applications of the fundamentals – Aim, Hold, Press and Follow Through.

Each drill starts by taking a couple of lateral steps and drawing the pistol.  By the second step the sights are on target.  I focus on the front sight, and presssssss… the trigger smoothly, letting the pistol decide when it’s time to fire.  After the hit it’s muzzle down, I index on the other target and repeat for another hit.

I work the drills with both eyes open.  This takes concentration because I don’t have a dominant eye; with both eyes open I see two sets of sights.  I hit the close, small target fairly quickly using both eyes.  On the fifty-yard target it’s more efficient to squint the support eye, making the strong side eye dominant.

Once the shot breaks I concentrate on visually tracking the front sight as it lifts off target during recoil and back onto the target during recovery.  This is difficult, something you have to really work on, but it pays off.  When the sight rises, it leaves the area between the eyes and target vacant.  The eyes will instinctually shift focus to the next object in the line of sight, the target.  After recovering from the recoil and getting the sight on target the eye has to shift focus back to the front sight.  Shifting the focus from sight to target and back to the sight costs time.  Focus on the front sight before, during and after the shot.  Again, this takes plenty of practice – live fire practice.  Dry practice doesn’t produce recoil, and it’s not something you want to simulate by moving the arms.

The key to shooting accurately – at close range and long distances – is to concentrate on the process as opposed to forcing it to happen, or worrying about where the shot will go.  Whenever you do it right you feel it; you immediately know it’s a good hit.  You have to trust your skills to produce the desired results.

Trusting your skills gives you good hits, but every once in a while you’ll have a miss.  Missing tests your self-control.  After a miss slow down, reset everything to ensure the next one is a hit.  This is especially important during my strong and weak hand shooting, again at long distances.  Missing once is acceptable; missing two in a row is a sure sign you’re going too fast and out of control.

Every so often you should go to the range and just focus on the fundamentals: Aim, Hold, Press, Follow through – recovering from the recoil, reacquiring the sight picture and resetting the trigger.  If you have to use your weapon for defense these are the skills that will win the fight.

Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama.  He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills, featured on GunTalk’s DVD, “Fighting With The 1911 and has regular columns in Gun Digest and American Handgunner.