Focus On The Trigger

What, really, is the difference between defensive shooting and competitive shooting?  Most people would suggest that competitive shooters take a lot of time to make a surgically precise shot at a small target, and the defensive shooter needs to get a shot off within 3 seconds.  True, but the real difference is that many defensive shooters do not have the same understanding of mental focus as do competitive shooters.  That focus, or psychology, is as important for the 3-sec shot as for the 10-sec shot.

In pistol shooting, there are some basic fundamentals like stance, grip, extension, sight alignment, and breath control.  While those are important, you can do those incorrectly (within limits) and still make that defensive shot that might save your life.  Trigger control, however, is a different story.  I have seen students who did the other fundamentals reasonably well, yet could not consistently put shots within an 18-inch group on a paper target at 7 yards.  When you factor in the effects of crisis (panic, adrenaline, blood pressure, tunnel-vision), it is likely that person would have less than a 20% chance of making that shot.  In fact, the FBI says police officers in a crisis only hit their target 25% of the time.

The other fundamentals require a mastery of the physical self, but trigger control requires a mastery of the psychological self.  Most shooters know that the biggest perceived problem is recoil.  In fact, recoil is not the direct problem, but an indirect one.  By the time you feel recoil, the bullet has already left, so the real problem is anticipation of recoil.  It is a natural human tendency to prepare for the coming dramatic event, so at the last moment, people grip the pistol harder, or change their stance, which causes the muzzle to move very slightly, and ruins the shot.  This is a very common problem for all shooters, but especially newer shooters, who also often jerk the trigger so they will have a more precise idea of when the shot will break.

Instead, one must adopt the “tortoise and the hare” concept of the competitive shooter: slow and steady wins the race.  Prepare the trigger (gently take up the slack in the trigger until the connector touches the sear; you will feel a stopping point), then gradually put pressure on the trigger until it breaks.  Try to have no idea when the break will occur, and be surprised when it does.  Continue to pull past that point until the trigger bottoms out on the frame.  Do not respond to recoil until it happens; you can’t stop it anyway.

That last point is counter-intuitive, which is where mental focus comes into it.  Imagine that you are standing against a wall, and someone is shooting an arrow at your head; I just told you to not duck until after the arrow hits you.  That would make no sense, but that is exactly what I am telling you about recoil.  Do not allow any change in the shooting process until the shot breaks.  Yes, you know it is coming, but you can’t stop it.  Learn to “ride the wave” up and back down, reacquire the target, shoot again.  Always include these steps:

  1. Take up the slack
  2. Slowly squeeze, even when shooting rapidly

Bringing relaxation, calmness, and mental focus into the process has another benefit: besides allowing a more surgical precision and tighter groups, you will be better able to block out fear and debilitating physical responses, and create a mental tunnel-vision that may allow you to deal with the crisis at hand, and perhaps save your life.


Texas CHL Classes

Every two years, the Texas Legislature meets to create yet more laws to govern the populace.  A variety of gun laws are included in that mix.  Since those usually take three sessions (6 years) to reach the Governor’s desk, a few emerge from the “sausage factory” in July of every odd-numbered year, and take effect either the following September or January.  The Texas Concealed Handgun License law has now been in effect for 21 years, but there have been numerous changes over that time, both to the process and to the underlying law.  I hear every week from people who have incorrect ideas about either the process or the law, based on things they were told by a friend or relative.  That is especially true lately, as there have been several major changes in the last four years.

Here are several important changes:

  • The Concealed Handgun License (CHL) has been replaced by the License To Carry (LTC).  The training and testing are essentially the same, but the new name reflects the new support for Open Carry.
  • The training requirement has changed from 10 hours to 4 hours.
  • The handgun one is certified to carry is no longer dependent on what you qualified on.
  • Open Carry of a handgun is now allowed, except where restricted by either state law or private business policy, provided the handgun is in either a belt- or shoulder-holster.
  • Private businesses may disallow concealed carry, open carry, or both, with proper signage (PC 30.06 and PC 30.07).
  • The penalty for carrying a gun in a location posted with 30.06/30.07 signage has been reduced from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class C.
  • Churches are no longer automatically off limits, unless specifically posted.
  • Persons caught with a gun in the security screening area of an airport are no longer automatically detained, but are given one chance to leave without argument.
  • Citizens now have the right to report to the Attorney-General any tax-supported facility (other than schools) which improperly post notices under PC 30.06/30.07.  These are typically city/county offices and city halls.
  • Starting in August, 2016, all public 4-year colleges in Texas have to allow Concealed Carry in almost all areas of the campus (private colleges are exempt).

There are dozens of new gun laws in the pipeline, including such proposals as Constitutional Carry, arming poll workers, lowering the fees, and allowing .22 pistols for qualification.  Those that survive the committee process will make it into law over the next few years.

Stay tuned.