“Victory comes to the one who fires the largest number of well-aimed shots against his opponent in the shortest time…Shooting at random over the ground occupied by the enemy accomplishes nothing.”
WWII War Department translation of The German Squad in Combat.
The fundamentals of marksmanship are simple: align the sights on the target and then press the trigger without disrupting the sight picture. That said, it is important to follow through and make sure that your great shot is not disrupted.
In marksmanship follow through, we recover from recoil, re-acquire a sight picture and reset the trigger. What happens after the bullet leaves the barrel is as important as firing the shot.
Follow through is critical for consistency. If you move before the bullet comes out of the barrel you will disturb the alignment of the sights. This is the opposite of recoil anticipation, which normally throws a right-hand shooter’s shots low and left. Some shooters immediately bring their head up off the sights after the shot to see the target. This can lead to dropping the arms and tilting the wrists so the barrel points upward. This takes a great shot picture and makes shots go high.
If you are shooting a paper target, that is where things stop. If you are facing someone trying to hurt you or some one you love, that this is only half of the process. The second half of the sequence is the tactical follow through.
In a fight, we must be prepared to fire another round, and another. We don’t know how many hits will be required to stop the threat; after every shot we get ready to shoot again. If you hope to follow through tactically in a fight, you will have to practice it on the range. In tactical follow through, we check the target asking, “Is he down? Do I need to shoot again?” If he goes down, follow him down, pointing the gun at the threat. Making sure it is no longer a threat before you look elsewhere.
Breathe deeply. You have probably been holding your breath for 20 seconds. This effects the eyes and the brain. If he is down, scan a full 360 degrees, looking one way or the other coming back to the original threat if there is no other. Keep your head up and your gun down out of your field of vision. Don’t be that guy and point your gun at everyone around you. Look for bad guys, good guys, innocent bystanders and cover.
Scanning is critical. When you face a threat, your eyes and mind focus on it. Everything else is pushed aside. This is a great survival feature when you are fighting one saber tooth tiger. It is not so great when you face a pack of feral humans. FBI statistics say that 80% of assaults on officers involved more than one subject. As one of my cop buddies says, “every asshole has a buddy.” Someone may be upset you shot their buddy. They may want to hurt you.
Once the first threat is down, you need to look for others. Consider moving to a better position or just moving in case someone else wants to shoot you. Look at your gun. Is it jammed? Clear it. If you shot, you probably shot more than you think you did. Consider a tactical reload.
This is a good time to de-cock or work a safety if your gun has such a device. Once all is right with the world, you can holster. Do it reluctantly. I have seen people practice drills where the pistol goes back in the holster faster than it came out. Practice it on the range and you will see it it the street. There is no reason to holster fast.
If you think about follow through, if you train follow through, it will be there for you when you need it. You don’t want to miss the surprised look on the face of the bad guy sneeaking up behind you as you show him your gun.
(Featured Image Credit: pistolrange.com)