To recap: As great and wonderful as target and competition shooting truly are, training only for sport shooting leaves some dangerous holes in the fabric of what’s needed for self defense. If you carry a gun, you need to know and practice a great deal more than the NRA fundamentals. Part two continued the theme, with specifics regarding breath and hold control.
Trigger control and follow through are the last items on the fundamentals list. There are not as many differences between what is required for pin point target accuracy and good shooting in an emergency – except that having these habits cemented in your muscle memory is even more important if you are fighting for your life or that of someone you love.
First, trigger control means having the following absolute safety rule become as much a part of your body and soul as possible.
ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
In addition, the trigger finger must remain outside the trigger guard, preferably resting on the gun frame just above. There are a number of very important reasons for this:
You must shoot only intentionally! Many reflexes, automatic actions of your muscles and nerve endings in response to various stimulation, can so easily cause you to jerk or pull the trigger, even if you don’t consciously intend to fire… but that can’t happen if you don’t have your finger on the trigger when that stimulation occurs.
You must be sure of your target and what is beyond it before you take any sort of aim. Since your judgment and reflexes will be impaired in an emergency, you must have the automatic barrier of trigger discipline between your finger and a mistake that would endanger an innocent life. Religious dedication to practicing safe trigger finger placement, each and every time you handle a gun, is the only way to arrive at this “muscle memory” necessity.
To place your shots effectively, you obviously must have full control of the gun, and control of the trigger is possibly the most important. Practice a smooth, clean pull of the trigger toward you, as taught in the NRA basic pistol class. Practice it always, often and with every gun you handle. Practice until you can -almost – pull that trigger without moving the muzzle of the gun. I say “almost” because it is nearly impossible to do this totally, even at bench rest or with the gun hand supported otherwise. But target shooters can get mighty close, and there is no reason not to. Shot placement is essential to self defense. A hit of any kind with a .22lr beats a clean miss with a .45… every single time. Good trigger control helps give you those hits.
Follow through increases your effectiveness considerably, as well as making subsequent shots more likely to hit the target. Simply stated, you must hold the trigger back after firing, even if it is only for a second or two. This prevents unnecessary movement of the barrel while the cartridge fires. It also allows your hand or hands to compensate for the recoil and get ready to fire the next shot – or determine if another shot is required. There is little benefit in firing again and again, as fast as you can release and pull the trigger. Remember that the adrenalin surge will most certainly make that possible, but your brain needs those seconds to regain control of your body and emotions. As with finger discipline, follow through can only be assured by serious practice, each and every time you shoot.
1. Review the fundamentals of shooting and how you practice them. Are you training for the right thing?
2. Do you understand the basic physiological response of the human body to severe stress, and the problems they present to effective self defense?
3. Do you think that appropriate training and conditioning can overcome the stress response enough to allow effective self defense? How can you determine what you need to do in order to be ready… as ready as possible?
Ok, I confess, that’s more like homework than a quiz, but I challenge everyone reading this to consider all these things.
Next time we’ll explore the self defense mindset, and touch on some of the ways target and competition shooting just might be teaching you bad habits that may get in the way of survival in an attack.