Thursday, February 10, 2011
Develop a Relationship with Your Firearm
The Marines required us to name our rifles. They suggested that we give them female names. When we were in the field with these weapons, we slept with them. Arms and legs wrapped around both the rifle and the sling in a manner that would make it difficult for one to take the rifle without waking you as you rested. Back then, I took this as the only, and primary, reason for the task. Last week it became evident that there is probably a little bit more to it.
A firearm is a tool. A tool for sending a projectile down range at a high rate of speed in a very precise and accurate manner given the skill level of the shooter. It is because the precision is dependent upon both firearm and shooter, that there has to be a close personal relationship between them. Just like a baseball player has a preference for a particular kind of bat, wood or metal, wrapped or unwrapped, a specific weight, every shooter - especially the really good ones - has a very particular preference for their firearms. They have specific calibers and very specific loads for these calibers. They prefer certain stock shapes, weights, and materials over others because of the way they feel to the shooter.
Competition shooters also spend an incredible amount of time with their weapons of choice. They know all of the nooks and crannies of every part of the gun. They can take it apart and put it back together, blindfolded if necessary, and they know when things are right just by touch without even having to look at the weapon. When they shoulder their firearms and ready for the shot, they have done this so many times that they have a very well developed natural point of aim (NPOA). So natural are their shooting positions that their muscles return to the position by muscle memory alone without necessity for thought.
After thinking about all of this for a couple days and really processing it, my best piece of advice for anyone who wants to become a better shooter, is to spend a lot of time with your firearm. Get comfortable with it in every shooting position. This doesn't require firing your weapon. Spend time with it doing nothing more than shouldering it, acquiring a site picture, practicing your breathing, trigger squeeze, and follow through. Visualize every shot, using snap caps if necessary, and follow through as if you've just fired a shot in competition, or taken a world record trophy. Know every line, curve, and protuberance of your guns. This will help you to develop a very personal relationship with your firearm. You will know every one of it's qualities as well as your ability and you'll be more effective as a team the next time you have the opportunity to take a shot.