Muscle and Trigger Training for Target Shooting
Muscle and Trigger Training for Target Shooting
Along with muscle training will have to come nerve education. The great problem of rifle shooting is unity of action between brain and trigger finger. The student will soon dis that he can hold and hold, perhaps keeping the sights on the dead center for seconds at a time he will pull and pull, but the trigger will not though he knows a minute pressure would start it. Of a sudden his sights begin to move off the mark and he tries to ease up on the trigger, when bang goes the gun—wild shot, of course.
What was he doing all the time he thought himself putting ample pressure on the trigger? He cannot tell, nor can anyone else more than conjecture. Perhaps he was really pressing the trigger but not quite hard enough; possibly he was pulling with the whole hand except the trigger finger, exerting all the force on the grip of the rifle; more likely he was not putting a grain of weight on the trigger, though his brain distinctly told him that he was. His "motor” nerves were locked rigidly by the effort of holding the rifle still, but the moment the piece moved the brakes were off and so was the shot.
The man who can pull trigger while his gun is hanging as though in a vise can shoot like a machine, but such an individual I have never seen. The shot must be pulled within the fraction of a second after the bead settles to the center or on go the "control brakes" and he will have to let the rifle move off to try again. No matter how well the shooter is holding, if he keeps on pressing after the trigger has refused to move at the dictate of his will, the first thing that must happen is the release of the nerves which control steadiness, and the rifle is bound to move before the trigger can be pulled.
Individuals differ, and the writer can best give his personal experience. In my shooting the pressure on the trigger was started just an instant before the sight covered the center, with the expectation that the trigger would yield at the precise time when the rifle settled "dead" in the middle of the bull. If my anticipations were realized I got a shot in the 24; if the trigger let go too soon, most likely the shot was as good as a 22, but if the trigger failed to release the lock on time, and getting impatient I forced the pulling to get value for a fine hold, the shot could not be called accurately and might go out of the bull. When anxious to make a fine score I never forced, but trying about three times for a perfectly timed let-off and failing, would then take the rifle down from the shoulder and rest.
I believe this is the common experience of trained sharpshooters, and the patience and forbearance with which they will try again and again for a pull-off is something remarkable. Naturally such extreme care would only be used in the last rounds of a good score when one badly held shot would render futile all the good ones preceding.
By way of proving this point and at the risk of being thought egotistical, I shall have to describe an incident of my own work. When shooting at the tournament of the Central Sharpshooter's Association at St. Louis I had scored on the German Ring Target 24, 23, 23, and had one shot to fire. H. M. Pope, of Hartford, Conn., had already made 94 in his four shots, and in order to tie him I had to make a 24 while a 25 would win. For thirty minutes I tried to get a perfect pull, going back to the stand again and again before I got it, a 24 which tied for first. The man who won third, H. D. Schneidewind, of Belleville, Ills., told me that he spent an hour and a half pulling his last shot, but he finally got his 24.
Such extreme care as this is liable to defeat itself, through an accidental let-off or one of the many things that can happen and spoil a good score. With rifles cracking to right and left, and impatient marksmen behind awaiting their turn, withholding fire for a perfect pull is a nerve-racking business, but such is sharpshooting at a national tournament.
As in other rifle shooting a great deal of the training for holding and pulling can be accomplished at home in the room or yard without the use of ammunition. Put up a bull's eye corresponding in size according to distance with the regulation bull. Place an empty shell in the gun and sight on this bull and pull, and keep it up until thoroughly tired—train in this way every day, as often as time permits.
In this way the rifleman can so train his muscles that his sights will never quite move off the bull in the wildest movement they make while he is trying to pull. Only when he can hold continually on the black for seconds at a time can he consider himself a reliable shot, for it is to be expected that occasionally a shot will go when the sights are at their widest swing and if this is outside the bull, some of the bullets will miss it before a hundred are fired. The acme of skill is never to let a shot go outside the bull, and never let the sights swing out after the finger settles to the trigger.
Askins, Charles. Rifles and Rifle Shooting. New York: Outing, 1912. Print.
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