Sight Alignment, Trigger Control and the Big Lie
Improve your groups and scores
The following is the first four chapters of my book "Sight Alignment, Trigger Control & The Big Lie."
The sections in red are techniques that should be paid close attention.
Help a Junior Shooter - Please make a generous Donation to the Camp Perry Retired Marines!
Former National Champion, Marine Corps Warrant Officer, Michael Pietroforte, was well aware of the importance of sight alignment and trigger control when a few of his friends tried to play with his mind. Prior to a 200 yd. Rapid Fire practice session, they nailed his target to a couple of 2 x 4's. When they ran the target up, and walked it down the catwalk, he followed it --- and cleaned it!
Second only to safety, sight alignment and trigger control are the most important factors in shooting. You may have the best positions, rifle, equipment, ammo, but you will not shoot well if your sight alignment and trigger control are not correct.
Some people try to teach if the sights are misaligned by only one one-thousandth of an inch, your shot will be off by so many inches at this yard line. I do not even want to know. First of all, you are dealing with a negative. The human eye cannot judge one one-thousandth of an inch. One gets so wrapped around the axle with the numbers that one forgets to work on the correct things. Most articles or books on sight alignment cover the subject pretty well, but give the single most important factor only a few lines at the end. I will get your attention and force home the point when I teach the ONE thing that causes people to reach a plateau. Until they change their technique, they will remain on that plateau. Their scores will go no higher.
I learned to shoot in Marine Corps boot camp. I remember very well because the PMI (Primary Marksmanship Instructor) stood with a foot on each side of my body while I was in the prone position. He bent over and twisted my right ear as he was explaining the importance of using the windage knob. Another thing I remember was the acronym they taught us to remember the proper method of sight alignment and trigger control.
(Breathe, Relax, Aim, Slack, Squeeze)
Unfortunately, that was as far as the instructors went. They assumed that you knew what each of these words meant or how they were applied. I view B.R.A.S.S. as a good foundation to build on.
You have been breathing all your life and no one has to tell you how. The new shooter will put the rifle in his shoulder and notice the sights are rising and falling as he breathes, common sense tells him to hold his breath to stop the movement. That becomes the extent of his knowledge: he tries to hold his breath for the full string of rapid fire. When he turns blue, he finds that doesn't work either. So he holds his breath for two or three shots and takes a quick breath between shots (Not Good Way to Learn!). When you inhale you take in oxygen and you let out carbon dioxide as you exhale. This process clears your mind and your vision. When you are ready to take the shot, take in a full breath and let it out, then take in another full breath and let it out to your normal Respiratory Pause, holding your breath as you squeeze off the shot. You are trying to get the same lung pressure each and every time. You must be consistent.
The amount of time you hold your breath should be no more than 10-15 seconds. (See Figure 1). When you put the rifle in your shoulder and take aim, from the point you hold your breath, your unsteadiness will be about 3-4 seconds (provided you have a good position and do all the other techniques correctly). The rifle will settle down for a period of about 4-5 seconds and with the proper sight alignment and trigger control, that is the period during which you should break the shot. Any time after that, the unsteadiness will return and it will not settle again. You must have the courage to take the rifle down and start the process over. Failure to do so will result in blurred vision, loss of mental concentration and a tendency to snap the trigger.
During a string of rapid fire, breathe between each shot. Take in a full breath and let it out, then take in a full breath and let it out just to your respiratory pause, before holding or cutting off the breath, maintaining the same lung pressure each time. Breathing is done as you are recovering from the last shot, checking your number board and picking up your sight alignment. Do not try to hold your breath for the entire string or for more than one shot. The result of improper breathing, particularly failing to have consistent lung pressure, is shown in Figure 2. The group shown in Figure 2 can also be caused by "crawling," but that will have to wait until the book on positions.
I was standing in front of my target in the pits and I overheard one shooter tell another, "You know how you tense up just before you shoot?" I gave a sideward glance and thought: "That's like saying: you know how the Sun comes up at 2:00 a.m.?" You should not tense up for a shot. You should relax and let your position take over. You will get far greater accuracy if this is done correctly.
NATURAL POINT OF AIM
Natural point of aim is a subject that is often only briefly mentioned. Of course, you are told how important it is to establish your natural point of aim, but you are not told: (1) What it is; (2) How to check it; (3) How to establish it for each position; (4) How to maintain it; (5) What does happen, when it is slightly off?
Natural point of aim is so important, it must be taught twice: once in the position classes and once in the aiming classes. It must be reinforced.
To help get a picture of the natural point of aim, imagine a spring; an op rod spring will do. If you compress it, stretch it (a little), bend it to the right or left, up or down, you use a small amount of force. When you release the force the spring will return to its natural state or rest position. Your muscles are pretty much the same. Make a tight fist, the muscles in your forearm will be tight. You will have to hold it to keep the tight fist. If your mind wanders or you concentrate on something else (sight alignment and trigger control), your muscles want to relax and return to their rest position, natural state.
The new shooter gets into position and puts the rifle into his shoulder and points it at his target, without regard to the natural point of aim. Remember as a kid you had the little plastic toy soldiers with the rifle in different positions: standing, kneeling and prone. When you set the toy soldier down his rifle was pointed off to the side - you had to turn him a little (his whole body) to point the rifle where you wanted it.
The new shooter sets his body down, but, since the rifle is not pointed where he wants it, he moves the rifle with his left arm to align the sights. This puts some muscle tension on the arm. His natural point of aim is where the rifle is pointed at the total rest. As he tries to perform the mechanics of shooting, his concentration is focused and his muscles relax and the spring tries to return to its natural state. Even with perfect sight alignment and trigger control, he will lose shots he should not have.
The Natural Point of Aim can be off just a little and cause you problems. Bill Wallis, the "gentleman" (?) who provides the visual aids for my high power rifle classes, was shooting off hand at a local match. He kept putting his shots out of the ten ring about the four o'clock position. He looked back and wondered why I asked him if he had checked his natural point of aim. He did a quick check then made an adjustment - the remainder of his shots were tens and Xs. He walked off the line with a sheepish look on his face!
When you set up your position during your three minute preparation period, you should establish your natural point of aim. You must first check your direction of aim.
The first thing you do to check the natural point of aim is to put the rifle in your shoulder and get into your off-hand position. Then, close your eyes. Take two or three normal breaths. On the last one, exhale to your normal lung pressure, and hold while totally relaxing. Open your eyes and see if the sights are right on your aiming black - do not settle for just being on your own target. The sights should be aligned exactly where you want them. Make minor adjustments until they do align.
In the off-hand position, your feet and body are facing ninety degrees from the target and your feet are approximately shoulder width apart. To adjust your natural point of aim, move the foot that is farthest away from the target (the right foot for right-handed shooters). The left foot or the one closest to the target does not move - it is the pivot point. (See Figure 3a).
If your natural point of aim is to the left of the aiming black, you need to adjust the muzzle of the rifle to the right. Simply drop the right foot back a few inches (a fraction of an inch to fine tune the position). (See Figure 3b.) This will bring the muzzle to the right and you have adjusted your position and your natural point of aim. As you relax, your position will "float" right to the aiming black and you will not have to muscle the rifle.
If your position is to the right of the aiming black, adjust it by bringing the right foot forward (See Figure 3c.) This will bring the muzzle of your rifle to the left. Again, only a fraction of an inch is needed to adjust into the correct position. You will need to check the natural point of aim after each adjustment and keep adjusting until it is correct.
If your natural point of aim is either too high or too low, it can be adjusted by bringing the feet closer together, lowering the natural point of aim, or by moving the feet farther apart, raising the barrel and natural point of aim (See Figure 3d.)
Once you have established your natural point of aim, YOUR FEET DO NOT MOVE!! Moving your feet destroys the natural point of aim and you are back to square one. Every time you move your feet you set up a different natural point of aim. All of the equipment you need should be on your stool so the only movement is done by the upper body.
Adjusting the natural point of aim in the sitting position (crossed ankle) can be done by inching the right ankle forward or back to move the barrel left or right. The crossed leg and open leg positions are adjusted by moving the buttocks. The prone position is moved right or left with the hips. The up and down movement is controlled by the amount of lung pressure.
For Chapter Two Click HERE
Sample Chapters Available: (1, 2, 3 and 4)