In the past I’ve talked about the importance of practicing slow enough and close enough to the target that you are able to put every shot inside an 8-inch vital zone. Now, I’m not talking about something that a person can do once in a while — I’m talking about virtually every time, on demand. Once that can be accomplished, it is time to speed things up a bit.
The challenge for the shooter is that the faster one goes, the more the basics of marksmanship fall by the wayside. One has a greater tendency to shoot before the front sight is where it needs to be. There's also a greater tendency to jerk the trigger instead of pressing it. When we talk about speeding up our shooting, we are talking about compressing the time it takes to accomplish the basic marksmanship skills. The need for marksmanship basics always exists, regardless of how fast we go. When your target looks like it was shot with a shotgun load of buckshot, the only recourse is to slow down and go back to the basics.
And then there is the shooter who fires, let’s say, six shots and they are all in a nice little, tight group right in the center of the vital zone. This person has got the basics down, but could be speeding things up. In fact, in a gunfight that grouping is less useful. Shots that are spread slightly, yet well within the vital zone, have the ability to impact more areas on the attacker and, thus, stop the attack more quickly.
It’s only when we can deliver fast, effective hits, all within the vital zone, that we can move back and work at greater distance. And, as we increase the distance, we again slow down and work on the basics of marksmanship. We speed up again only when we are putting our shots where they belong. We also find that we can shoot pretty fast up close, but have to slow down the farther away we are from our target.
One might argue that this approach calls for more precision work than is needed in a gunfight. However, nothing builds confidence in one’s ability like being able to place shots precisely. And confidence founded upon actual ability is a wonderful thing. It also minimizes the possibility of stray shots that might impact unintended targets. It also minimizes the number of shots needed to neutralize a threat.
Being able to shoot — I mean really shoot well — is the foundation upon which the combat mind set can be built.