You Might Be A Brain Surgeon…


I did actually have a brain surgeon in a class. Besides being a nice guy, he was a little naive about some aspects of shooting. His felt he could align the sights on the target, yank the trigger, and the bullet would be clear of the barrel before his “push” affected the bullet strike. We bantered this about some and then I showed him a few things he wasn’t aware of.

The Big Push

Correctly, this is a “pre-ignition push.” So with our doctor weighing in at 180 pounds and the pistol at a about two pounds, who do you think wins the pushing contest? When we “push” in anticipation of the pistol being fired, we move the sights off the point of aim before the bullet leaves. This is the reason so many right-handed students have hits in the lower left of the target. When the pistol is recoiling and the “push” is happening at the same time, there is often no sense of pushing the pistol. I know this because I’ve done it.

The lack of trigger control is actually the biggest reason people don’t shoot well. Trigger control is an acquired skill. Once the brain surgeon was shown what to do (and understood it), life started down the road toward a happy place. Keep in mind repetition is, indeed, the mother of skill.

In this quest of the trigger I often take non-believers and have them hold the pistol sights on-target while I press their trigger. This often results in overlapping holes in the target. This proves they are looking at the sights and it also proves they are leaning on the trigger. Once they see this they are on the path to better marksmanship.

Surprise Break

This is a steady rearward pressure on the trigger with the understanding the pistol is about to fire — without going “now!” Moving targets, headshots, surgical placement and application under duress can cause a shooter to lean on the trigger — or apply the “now” thing. Watch for the low-left shots in these cases. I think finger placement is a consideration here, with the best being the center of the first digit in or on the middle of the trigger.

Low left shots on the target are indicative of a
mash or jerk on the trigger in right-handed shooters.

Visual Control

Our last visual control over the projectile before it leaves the pistol is the sight picture. This also confirms why many shots fired even at short range don’t strike the target. This week I had a student roll-in, clearing a corner on a tactical exercise, point his pistol and fire a shot at a target only 8 feet away. He completely missed. Stunned he responded with the normal “I can’t believe I missed.” Followed by “The target was so close I couldn’t miss.” To which I promptly added, “But in fact, you did miss, and wouldn’t it be better to work on the premise the target is so close you better not miss?”

Without visual contact and control of the sights, the chances of missing increase no matter what the range. Could you nurture techniques like point shooting? Sure, but I also think it’s an acquired skill after much practice and many years of hard work. The late Bill Jordon had the remarkable, natural skill of pointing, shooting and hitting efficiently. Many pilots fly airplanes — not many pilots fly fighter planes. There are some with special gifts of hand-eye coordination, but are few and far between. And the people who will really work to acquire this skill are even fewer and farther between.

Flash Sight Picture

This is simple — and simply — misunderstood by many. We all know the regulation Camp Perry sight picture and what it looks like. A flash sight picture is a gross sight picture. It’s often not perfectly aligned, but very close to correct, superimposed over the target mass. It’s not surgical in application but it’s darn sure as precise as it can be, based on what the range and the volume of incoming rounds will allow. It’s often not perfect, nor was it intended to be. Get the muzzle between yourself and the threat; pick up the sights as well as you can, then “p-r-r-e-e-e-s-s-s-s” the stinkin’ trigger.

If you practice this well enough, you to may qualify to be a doctor of sorts — not of brain surgery — but perhaps a doctor of sight alignment and the all-important trigger control.
Doctor of Sights and Trigger? Sorta’ catchy, huh?
By Clint Smith

Editor’s Note: Clint’s getting over some surgery, so we’re running one of his most popular columns on trigger control while he heals up. He’ll be back and more ornery than ever, soon! RH

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One thought on “You Might Be A Brain Surgeon…

  1. Michael Baker

    I insist that everyone I teach to shoot starts with a single shot 22 rifle. After we have discussed safety, there are 2 things I instruct them on, sight alignment and trigger control. When they can consistently hit an appropriate target we move on to other types of firearms.

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