Controlling time?

Last weekend I was at the range with a party of different shooters and friends.  There were several kinds of props and targets and everyone was having a good time shooting.  The group consisted of some novice shooters and at one station there was a military guy with his “babe” of a girlfriend.  She had taken up a stock Glock and was trying to knock down plates on the plate rack.  Well…she was struggling.  She was jerking the trigger, throwing shots repeatedly to the left driving through the magazine.  At this point, her “stud” came over and told her the all knowing advice of “slow dow and get your hits!”  Duh!  Just slow down and get your hits.  Of course this did NOT go well.  Our heroine tried her heart out but only managed to miss slowwwwly.

So did his sage advice work?  Not really.  Despite the good intentions, he only changed the time these misses occurred.  I didn’t want to move in and cause friction between the stud and his dame, or myself, so I silently shook my head.

I reflected on how many times in my life I’ve heard that same quote.  It is a staple in the training community and to this day I still hear other instructors chant it.  Why is it a problem?  Let’s look at what is happening to cause this issue.  The trainer is watching the student yank off rounds at what they believe is a fast pace and still missing what ever they are shooting at.

“Slow down and get your hits!”

Slow down.  Why slow down?  Is the time equation really the problem?  Where in the manual of arms does time factor in?  Sights, trigger, grip, stance, breathing….all fundamentals of shooting.  Speed control is no where mentioned.  But this is the first phrase shouted across many a range in the US.  Are the instructors hoping that jerking the trigger slowly will solve the problem?  Yes, you say.  That’s it.  Pull the trigger slowly and sometimes the “hits” are there.  Now we are getting warmer.  So something happened when the trigger was pulled slow and smooth with no jerking.  Ok, but how can I shoot realistically at a snails pace when real life happens…fast.

If we break down what happened when the shooter pulled (pressed) slowly and the shot went off to impact the steel plate, we can understand why that worked.  The shooter allowed a proper trigger pull and “felt” the trigger instead of racing through it.  You could call this “paying attention” to the trigger.  And that’s a good thing since 99.9% of missed shots are bad trigger pulls.  What else could a shooter pay attention to?  How about their sights?  Seeing the sight on target and lift without being disturbed (trigger) will also guarantee success.  I sense a trend…

So, maybe, instead of shouting “slow down” you can say “pay attention..and get your hits!”

This entry was posted in 10-8 Performance, Competition, Training by Arik Levy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Arik Levy

Arik Levy is an 12 year veteran law enforcement officer working full time at a major metropolitan agency in the South East. He spent 7 years working the streets in patrol and as a field training officer. For the past four years he has been a full time firearms instructor teaching handgun, rifle and shotgun. Arik also has been competing in USPSA for the past two years where he is currently classified in Production Division at A class. He is a two time gold medalist in his division for the Florida Police and Fire games 3 Gun match, and a gold medalist in both the Practical Pistol and Shotgun match. He is also the Top Cop Pistol Champion for 2014 and 2015. He has trained with an extensive list of both tactical and competitive instructors including: Mike Pannone, Pat McNamara, Frank Proctor, Scott Reitz, Chris Costa, Max Michel, Frank Garcia, Bruce Gray, Ben Stoeger, Steve Anderson and Jerry Barnhart. Arik is also a certified Advanced Armorer with Glock, Colt, Sig Sauer and Smith and Wesson.

12 thoughts on “Controlling time?

  1. “99.9% of missed shots are bad trigger pulls”… that’s true, for people above the very basics.

    I’m a big believer in first teaching weapon safety and handling thoroughly, then teach proper grip and sight alignment, then trigger control and practice dry firing, and finally live fire, closely monitoring the shooter. It doesn’t take too long, and makes for a real learning experience, not merely “gee honey, I shot a gun!”.

    I like to start with few rounds, close range, slow fire, and as the shooter progresses (and this varies with each individual) increase the range and pace. Some people get to shoot pretty well in only one lesson, some don’t.

    I hate seeing people wasting ammo on the landscape.

  2. Good points! Sometimes we use phrases that sound good, but don’t relay our true intent. Perhaps the intent of the “slow down and get your hits” statement is really, “don’t go so fast that you fail to pay attention to your sights and trigger press.” Keep up the great articles.

  3. Slowing down does help in that a rushed shot is one where someone is not paying attention. They do not have the time to pay attention. It’s like any other physical skill. Take riding a bike. Did we go blazing off at top speed when we first got on that one with training wheels? When we took the training wheels off did we go faster?

    Slow down should be followed by watch the front sight, pull the trigger slowly and smoothly, etc.

    In time the pieces will be put together one at a time.

  4. Back in the day, some of our instructors were big on telling officers to “concentrate”. I’m not sure what the instructors wanted them to concentrate on or if there was any indication the officers were daydreaming, but it saved time for instructors who couldn’t bother diagnosing issues.

  5. My suggestion for the newer shooter is: that taking a bit more time will allow the newbie’s overloaded computing circuits to catch up to what their hands and other body parts are doing.
    I don’t disagree with the overall concept, and I certainly understand the rant, but for someone processing too many unknowns, time can be helpful.

    • Thanks for reading the article! You’re right on track and the point is not that “time” is what a shooter needs to do “slow down…” but rather pay more attention. If paying more attention causes them to slow down, that’s okay but it wasn’t the goal. See the difference? I’ve seen people miss, jerking the trigger every time, AND going slow up to the point of jerking the shot. The shooter gets confused and frustrated because they thought they were “slow” and everything works, but in reality, the only thing the will work is learning to watch the sights and pull the trigger properly.

  6. Yup, the old adage of ” slow is smooth, smooth is fast, speed will come with time” applies when the basic fundamentals are sound. Some days it’s just as difficult to watch others flounder as it is to teach them out of bad habits.
    Excellent read.

  7. Hard to believe as we always hear that women are better shooters………….

    • Rick, they often- not always- are, at the very beginning.
      We (my female partner and I) do many Intro to Handguns classes, both women-only and co-ed.
      It’s not unusual for the women to get ahead during the first 50 rounds in terms of accuracy. However, that does not usually last beyond the 100 round point.
      Then, further down the road as speed and time are included, the disparity increases.
      Women at the Intro point simply tend to listen more closely and take direction better. It’s a difference in learning processes combined with a certain amount of cultural acclimation- they’re typically less comfortable at first and on higher alert.

  8. Arik,
    As usual, great write up! You hit the nail on the head. Keep the wisdom coming! I still have so much to learn!

  9. I don’t know if 99.9% of misses being caused by bad trigger work is true for everybody but it surely is for me. It is easy to diagnose but hard to cure. I would like to see more trainer emphasis on how to fix it. One problem is that high end trainers tend to teach advanced classes. Perhaps devoting more effort to teaching the trainers of basic classes would pay dividends.

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