I got a call from a fellow who was having problems shooting an acceptable qualification target. He wasn’t a student of mine – simply heard about me in one way, shape or form and asked if I could help him.
I suppose this post will apply primarily to instructors – but if you’re a “student” you’re welcome to listen over my shoulder.
Any time you have an experienced shooter (this fellow was) – that’s having problems shooting a qual target it typically is because their focus is on the final “score” and not the fundamentals. The parameters were not onerous – 10 engagements, from low ready, each with an accelerated pair, each engagement under 2 seconds, with a scan and assess between each engagement. Nothing tricky here.
We set a time to meet at the range and on the appointed day “Sam” showed up. Older gentlemen, fairly easy going but obviously a tad nervous. While he’s extracting gear I chat with his wife a bit and when he’s ready we head to the range.
As instructors, our range demeanor needs to straddle between “firm handed” and supportive. Sometimes it seems instructors seem to want to relive old days on a military range or they want to imitate the “tacticool” instructors. My suggestion – be firm but don’t forget who you are. At this point I wanted to run the specific range rules past him, remind him of the basics, and then spend some time with a SIRT pistol watching his basics – stance, grip, how he acquired the target and his trigger press. The SIRT is such a great tool for this part of range work.
“Sam” is in his early 70s and has a bit of a tremor. Not enough to ultimately make a difference in his shooting because it simply left his hands as he punched out – but it was obvious it played a part in his overall concern.
We repeated the qualification drill a couple of times with the SIRT before finally moving to his carry gun, a Glock 26.
His first target clearly showed his nervousness. Yes, instructors need to punch the target cold as part of a demo to students. But – in this case – HE was the student so there was no need to bust his chops because he shot a 60% the first time out of the box. I made suggestions on the placement of his finger on the trigger (I teach the end 1/3 of the pad should rest on the trigger), threw in a few thoughts on his stance and had another go at it. Much better with an 80% - minimum qualifying. Since this is a typical qual target for a course I do teach – and I expect instructors to shoot a 100% - I kept after him for a box of ammo. He finally just settled – and you will see this with your students as well. There will be a point in the day on the range where it “clicks” – their body firms up, their hits settle in and they get down to business.
About that time he clipped a finger with the slide. Not really sure how it happened, but the very end of a finger had a distinct tear on it. It simply wouldn’t stop bleeding. If you see this, and they can’t control it – ask a simple question: “Are you on blood thinners?” A broad number of Americans – especially those 70 and over – take a daily aspirin at the very least. Such was “Sam’s” case. So I went to the Jeep, retrieved my boo-boo kit, cleaned the tear and bandaged it. At least it kept his gun clean.
So, back at it. His last target of the day was awesome, all rounds within a 6” circle.
We all need a bit of a hand now and then – even current instructors. Focus on the result – and the steps needed to get there – not on the “why the heck does an instructor need this kind of work?”
It’s always basics – stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger finger position, trigger press – NOT the gun, the weather, the range instructor. Focus on the basics.
Nerves affect us all – even experienced instructors. As the T/O for the day, it’s your responsibility to create an atmosphere that allows folks to get their head in the game.
And, if you find a portion of your skill set sliding off the rails, sometimes the coaching and advice of another shooter is all you need to get the kinks worked out.