What Comes Naturally

posted on March 18, 2015

Come on, man: This is getting embarrassing. Relax your grip, clear front sight, press the trigger smoothly to the rear, clear front sight –  shit, the sights are blurry – bang! Dammit, not again. I’m at 50 yards with my beloved Glock 19 and a line of people behind me, and I just missed another shot at the steel target. Just about everyone has hit the target at least once, and here I am still trying to hit it for the first time after five or six tries. I’m doing everything I was taught, but I can’t hit the damn target to save my life.

When I first started shooting I wasn't a very good shot; I have the YouTube videos to prove it.
Then again, the level of pressure I put on myself is akin to that of Nigerian parents who believe the only professions on the planet are doctors, engineers or lawyers. Besides my ability to grip a gun, pull the trigger and make sure the round generally flew in a straight line – a blind monkey could do this – I lacked any real “natural” ability to shoot well.

I loved shooting and wanted nothing more than to be good at it, but I felt like I was steadily getting worse because I failed to grasp how perishable shooting skills were. I also didn’t understand how shooting courses actually work to improve your performance. I wanted a magic fix, some tactical voodoo magic that would make me a great shooter over night. Shooting courses are fountains of knowledge, knowledge that you get to take away with you when you leave the class. You build on that foundation with each course you take, with each instructor you shoot with, with every piece of random advice given to you.

Nowadays, I shoot a lot more than the average person; and because I review guns, I have a lot of trigger time behind different types of guns. For you overly critical trolls reading this, I am not trying to say that I am an expert because I shoot more than the average person and review a bunch of guns. On many of my gun review videos, without fail I get the proverbial, “you’re doing it wrong, stop doing this, stop doing that, etc.” I have the unique experience of putting out shooting videos for the world to analyze and point out every “mistake” I make.

I always felt that shooting videos created this expectation of perfection that I used to subconsciously try to live up to. There is no shortage of egotistical, hyper-informed know-it-alls ready to criticize everything “you’re doing wrong” when it comes to shooting, so I stopped paying attention to it and focused on making myself a better shooter than I was the day before.

If there’s one thing I have learned from the courses I’ve taken and the instructors I have trained with, there is no “right way.” Yes, there are fundamentals, which provide a basic foundation to build your personalized skill upon, just like in basketball. However, even in the fundamentals there is conflict about the “right way.” I’ve heard instructors belabor the importance of trigger reset only to have other instructors say flat out that trigger rest is wrong and that you should focus on removing the slack on a trigger soon after the gun recoils. I’ve been taught one thing from one person only to have the person next to him tell me soon after that that guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Who was right and who was wrong? I don’t know.

I do know that with having free information at the click of a mouse, it’s easy for people to deputize themselves as experts on all things shooting because they’ve watched a million YouTube training videos and spent hours on end on gun forums. Granted, these same people will never put their expertise and the skills they developed through virtual osmosis to the test in front of people or on video. I’m positive a vast majority of these people don’t shoot nearly as many rounds or guns as I have or research shooting as much as I do; the more I shoot, train and learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. The science of shooting is constantly evolving. New rules become old rules, and will continue to as long as we seek to improve our abilities.

I stand there visibly frustrated and defeated, but I’m not letting the day end until I hit this wretched steel target. Suddenly, like he’s just discovered the cure for cancer, my trainer lights up and tells me to count off the six steel targets at 50 yards; he’s going to randomly call out a number and have me shoot the corresponding steel target. I couldn’t hit one target when I was completely focused on it, so what makes him think I can do this? Before I can finish the thought, he yells out, “five!” I take the shot and miss. He then yells out, “one!” And before I can process what happened, I hear it, BING! “Three!” he continues: BING! “Six!” BING!

In that moment I went from not hitting the target at all to hitting it three times in a row, shooting two times faster than my previous shots. What I learned was that I was an instinctive shooter with an overly analytical mind, and that the less time I gave my mind to process what I needed to do, the more I would do what came naturally. I was not only a pretty decent shooter, I was fast. I think I still kind of suck, just not as bad, but the never-ending journey of improving as a shooter is intoxicating and makes the joy and love I have for the pursuit never-ending.  


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