Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Error Analysis and Correction

Error Analysis and Correction One of the things that I 'frequently' encounter when I'm conducting "Introduction to USPSA" classes is that ... well, frankly, not everyone who shows up for the class is a good pistol shooter. Not that this is a MAJOR problem; most folks interested in competitive shooting have (in my experience) been shooting the same pistol for several years. They're aware of their idiosyncrasies, and they're constantly working to correct the things they do which are 'not helpful'.

Still, it's a problem which occurs 'frequently'. Specifically: a student seems to be doing everything right, but all of his hits are to the left. Or left/low. Or to the right, or .. well, you know. When your misses are consistently grouped in the same not-in-the-A-zone place, it's a sure sign that you've picked up some bad habits. Either that, or nobody has told you how to cultivate "good habits" in pistol shooting. Usually, the problems lie in one (or more) of three areas:
  1.  Grip
  2. Finger-on-the-trigger placement
  3. Jerking the Trigger (or anticipating recoil)
I've always been aware that there are charts available for those who would learn; these charts divide a target into a 360-degree image, based on quadrant.  If your hits (or misses!) are consistently in the 270 degree quadrant, for example, and if you're a right handed shooter, it suggests that your trigger finger is not sufficiently 'into' (on) the trigger .. so you're pushing your pistol to the left.  Conversely, if the hits are consistently in the 90 degree quadrant, you're probably PULLING your pistol to the right.

Simple, isn't it?

When I see a shooter hitting to the left, I can just recommend that he make sure that the fullness of the first-joint finger-pad of his trigger finger be centered on the trigger, and that he make a conscious effort to pull the trigger toward his dominant eye.

In point of fact, if he is hitting to the RIGHT: the advice is the same.  The only difference is, he's either "PUSHING" or "PULLING" his shots, because of trigger-finger placement.  He needs to find the sweet-spot, and then make a habit of always using the same finger placement.

Easy, huh?

But what if he is consistently hitting high, or low?  I'm thinking it's his Grip, but I'm not always sure exactly what advice to offer!

In an ideal world, I wouldn't have to worry about correcting these minor technical thingies. Everyone I meet should be a crack shot, and all I would have to do is to make sure he knows the rules of competition and understand how targets are scored.  Right?


The original 'deal' with my agreement to teach this class, was that every student who couldn't demonstrate proficiency with a handgun (in both accuracy and safe gun-handling) would be required to attend and pass a course in "Basic Handgun".  This is a course which is offered by my home club, the Albany Rifle and Pistolc Club (ARPC).  My mentor was going to interview every candidate for the class,  and 'new shooters' would be "Strongly Encouraged" to take the Basic class.

It didn't work out that way .. and yes, I'm aware (for long-time/frequent readers of this blog), I've mentioned this before.

In the actual event, everyone who thinks this is a good way to learn to shoot a pistol, shows up here, first.  They sign up for the monthly class the week before .. or the night before ... and I never know what I'm getting.  I don't know what they do or do not know about shooting a pistol, or whether they can shoot out the eye of a Franklin Dime at 20 paces OR they don't know whether their pistol has a safety.  (Yes, this has actually happened.)

It would be very nice if the people who sign up to learn how to shoot a pistol COMPETITIVELY can be expected to know how to shoot a pistol COMPETENTLY.  Or even, just SAFELY.

Yes, I am venting.  Sorry .. I'll try to be less critical in the future.  Maybe next week, eh?

Well, it's obvious  that I find myself spending more time teaching basic gun-handling skills, and accuracy skills, than safety and competitive skills .. and I'm sometimes frustrated.  I'm thinking it would be great if I could glance at a target and tell a student: "you're jerking the trigger", or "You have the trigger finger too deep on the trigger" or " .... not deep enough", or whatever.

Lucky me, I found a place which provides a diagram, showing exactly which 'errors' result in shot-displacement based on where the bullet hits .. which suggests how to correct the errors.

... actually, this is for a right-handed shooter.  (The left-handed shooter problems are the mirror image.)  And the 'finger not on the trigger correctly" zone is for a shooter who has his finger not-deep-enough on the trigger; he's pushing the shot.  If he has his finger too deep on the trigger, he's pulling the shot and the hits are in the 90 degree arc, rather than the 270 degree arc (pushing the shot).  For those of you who are perhaps more experienced, you already know that.  Sorry if I appear too pedantic at times, but that's just me.

So .. it appears that I need to develop another visual aid, which incorporates the information available here.  I don't mind, of course; it's just that I already have visual aids which summarize the "Seven Deadly Sins of IPSC" and  "IPSC Range Commands" and "Scoring Zones" and "Power Factor Calculation".  There comes a point where the visual aids become a distraction, rather than a helpful mnemomic.

Doesn't matter, really.  I'll make a duplicate of the chart, and it's up to the student to learn from it.

And yes, I will accept the challenge of teaching my students to not only shoot competitively, but to shoot accurately.

The only problem is, I have only one hour to teach the "classroom" issues, and two hours to teach the "Live Fire Exercise".  Instead of being a three-hour course, it should be at least four .. probably five .. hours of instruction.  When I took my certification course in 1983, that's what it was then.

Maybe I should change the structure of the class?  I don't know.

What do YOU think?