Fighting Frustration

Learning from Rescue Dogs

On September 11th, 2001, the world as we knew it changed forever when four commercial planes were hijacked and used as guided missiles. Two planes destroyed the New York’s Twin Towers, one plane crashed into our Capital’s Pentagon, and the fourth was grounded by the brave passengers on board, stopping the terroristic attack as it crash-landed in a Pennsylvania field.

Nineteen years later this week, the attack still stings. Only stories of the numerous brave acts help ease the pain associated with it. One such story I read involved the search and rescue dogs used to find possible survivors after the Twin Towers crumbled. Trained to find buried survivors, these dogs are, and were, heroes in their own right.

Unfortunately, there were very few survivors. In fact, the dogs became so depressed and discouraged their handlers had firemen bury themselves in the rubble, letting the dogs find them to keep their enthusiasm and morale high. Besides showing we’re not worthy of a dog’s love, this serves as a prime example of how frustration can affect any creature with a heartbeat.

By now, you’re probably wondering how this relates to guns and shooting. Sometimes, we all have bad days at the range — we get frustrated. Rather than waste our time (and money), here are a few tips for how to end things on a high note. These tips are especially helpful for new shooters and something to keep in mind when teaching someone how to shoot.

Tip: Shoot Small

I always bring a .22 pistol with me when I go to the range. We all have our limits, or thresholds, with how much recoil we can handle, especially when shooting big bores. When you notice your accuracy going south, literally, it’s a clear sign you’re fatigued or anticipating recoil.

Now is the time to stop, as you don’t want to reinforce bad habits. This is when the meek rimfires are worth their weight in gold. Since recoil is non-existent, they allow you to concentrate on the basics, such as proper sight alignment, sight picture and trigger press, and leave the range on a high note.

Tip: Move Closer

If your target looks more like a shotgun pattern than a well concentrated group, simply move closer to the target, or move the target closer to you. This is simple advice, especially for new shooters as shooting close helps build confidence. As skill level increases, you or the target can slowly back farther away, and before you know it, your groups will be the same at 25 yards as they were up close.

The reverse is true for diagnosing your shooting form, as distance exaggerates poor habits. At distance, you’ll quickly see any weaknesses in your shooting form, but once observed, they’re easy to correct.

Tip: Go Bigger, Brighter

If you’re at a range where you can’t easily get closer to your target, simply use a larger target. Just hitting the target instills confidence and interest, especially when working with kids or new shooters.

Instead of using 3” bullseyes, use 12” targets. Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C and other targets that show hits with bright colors are also great, especially at longer distances or in low-light conditions.

Tip: Switch Sights

If you still enjoy the challenge of shooting iron sights — and many of us do — there comes a time when eye fatigue overtakes us. Our eyes lose their elasticity as we age, taking longer to focus from front sight, rear sight and target, back to front sight. I actually have to wait sometimes, talking to my eyes, saying, “come on, focus on the front sight,” before they respond. It’s a clear sign of eye fatigue.

Having a second gun with a riflescope or red dot sight, or simply a quick-attach optic, is an easy solution to combat this and continue your shooting session. Focusing on a single sight plane is a lot easier on the eyes than seeing that pesky front sight.

I hope these tips help you the next time yourself or someone you’re shooting with become frustrated. Nothing stops the fun of shooting quicker than having frustration creep in. When you see it rear its ugly head, try one of these remedies to keep the lead flying — on target. And keep it fun!

Subscribe To American Handgunner