Monday, April 11, 2016

Back to the Basics

I was able to get out to the desert for a little shooting with one of my sons and a friends and his kids this weekend. A good time was had by all. My AR (which, as you may remember, I had installed a heavier buffer to deal with a short-stroking issue) fed and shot flawlessly, even using some 50 grain soft-point hand loads of mine that I had worked up for a different rifle. Given the light weight of the bullet, I didn't expect the best accuracy--the twist in my AR is 1:7, so it really needs a heavier bullet weight to get the most out of it--but in trying it out with my AR, I was more interested in feeding than accuracy. (For those of you that are interested, the load was a 50 grain Sierra soft-point over 27.0 grains of 2230 powder).

I took out my Marlin Model 60--the one for which I had replaced the feed throat--which also worked well. I had two failures to extract in the first 50 rounds through it, but I think it may have been that it simply didn't like the ammunition, because we had no more problems after switching to a different brand of ammunition.

My friend had brought along a few different weapons that I tried, including a Springfield XDS in .45 ACP. The XDS is a lightweight pistol, so I have to admit some trepidation when I first pulled the trigger. However, the aggressive texturing on the grip allows for a firm hold on the handgun. It took me a few shots to get the feel for the correct hold for the sights, but accuracy appeared good in the limited shooting we did. I would recommend shooting gloves for extended shooting sessions, though.

I had also brought out a WWII era 1911A1 (manufactured by Ithaca) that one of my sons was interested in shooting. My son primarily likes shooting rifles, although he has shot .22 and 9 mm pistols. However, moving up to the heavier 1911, with the greater recoil, definitely highlights deficiencies in one's shooting style, and his initial attempts were not very good. So, after watching him shoot a few magazines and noting some issues, it was time to return to the basics of pistol shooting.

I take some of the blame upon myself. Being someone that has favored the Weaver stance (primarily because that was the method I was taught and have used my whole life) that is what my son had primarily copied. Also, he admitted the Weaver stance felt more natural because it mimicked the standard fighting stance from martial arts. But it is not necessarily the best stance for an inexperienced shooter, so I began by demonstrating the Isosceles stance (similar to the horse-stance from martial arts, although with only a slight bend to the knees, but with which he was familiar) and the hold on the weapon, then had him grip the weapon and practice the stance, with me adjusting his stance and hold as needed.

With the actual grip on the firearm, I payed attention to the placement of the fingers of the support hand (the three fingers of the hand overlaying their opposites on the hand gripping the pistol), with the pointer finger of the support hand pressed up against the bottom of the trigger guard. I worked on the orientation of his thumbs (he was curling his thumbs), demonstrating to him that it was both more accurate and comfortable when the thumbs were placed where they are essentially in line with one another, neither curled nor hyper-extended.

The trigger (pointer) finger was another topic, where I noted that it is helpful to rest the finger along the side of the weapon and use the pointer finger as if pointing at the target. Fortunately, the stock 1911A1 has a slight cutout above the trigger which is a natural resting place for the pointer finger.

He also had a tendency to bring the handgun up in an arc to shoot. So, I taught him that with the Isosceles stance, it is better to bring the gun up while keeping it closer to the chest and then extend (push out) toward the target, again emphasizing that it is like pointing with his pointer finger.

And, of course, I noted to him the importance of the sight picture and making sure that the front sight blade was down in the notch--something particularly hard with the standard 1911A1 due to its small sight blade and notch.

After more dry fire practice and when he felt comfortable, we went back to shooting the weapon with the ammunition, with much greater accuracy and consistency. I've found that even with myself, if my performance is dropping off, I sometimes need to slow down and revisit the fundamentals. I was also chagrined that I had not been better at teaching my son and following up on my teaching. The reminder, however, is that shooting is very mechanistic, and so attention must be given to the basic mechanism of stance, hold, and sight picture.

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