The Call to Shoot. Revisited.

When asked about the location of the true mind, Chinul replied:
“It never leaves the profound calm of the immediate.”

“It is not what you do, but what you stop doing that matters.”
-Nisargadatta Maharaj

Error-free action is the result of being continuously aware.

Rather than the the goal of shooting being to hit the target, the goal should be to know where the bullet will hit the target as the shot fired. To know that is “calling the shot.”

SHOT CALLING

For consistent success, the most important skill you must master – and repeat for every shot you fire – is shot calling. To call the shot means to know where the bullet will hit the target at the instant the shot fired. 

To call the shot you must remember the “sight picture,” as the shot fires.

SIGHT PICTURE

Sight picture is the relationship of the pistol’s sights on the target.

The sights are aligned and aimed at the center of the target. With the sights properly adjusted, the bullet will strike the target at the top of the front sight.

To call the shot, you must see and remember where the sight alignment was on the target at the instant the shot fired. You must remember the last thing you saw – the sight picture – as the sights lifted in recoil.

Sight picture is taught as what you see before the gun fires. Sight picture is better understood as what you saw as the gun fired – as the front sight lifts out of the rear notch in recoil. 

Trying to fire the shot when you see a perfect sight picture often results in a miss. Because the tendency is to jerk the trigger back rather than pulling it smoothly through.

You may never see a perfect sight picture as the shot fired. That doesn’t matter. Because shooting off hand, the pistol will always be moving around. Accept the movement, and call the shot.

To learn to accept the movement, imagine your pistol is locked down in a bench vise. Your friend is downrange, hidden safely behind a thick steel wall. He holds a stick with a target attached to the end of it, and slowly moves the target around. Your finger is on the trigger and you are looking through the sights at the moving target. To call the shot, remember where the sight picture was on the target when the shot fired.

What you must see to call the shot on any target will vary with the target’s size and distance.

Some targets are hit or miss, like a beer can or a steel plate. For targets with scoring zones, like USPSA or Bullseye targets, the target is the target’s maximum scoring zone. The target is the A-zone in the body of the USPSA target.

Below are basic examples of what you should see, with a nine-inch paper plate as the target.

What you must see, know, and remember at:

5 yards: A rough sight picture on the target. Sometimes called a flash sight picture.

10 yards: A more refined, but not necessarily perfect sight alignment inside the target. You are aware of the sights but not necessarily clearly or stopped.

15 yards: A clear focus on the front sight, with the sight alignment slightly paused or stopped in the center of the target.

25 yards: Same as above but with a more known, paused feeling added to a perfect, stopped sight picture, with your focus on the front sight.

50 yards: Same as above but with an even more known, paused, and stopped feeling added to a now razor sharp front sight focus.

The bottom line with shot calling is that you must know, at the instant the shot fires, where the bullet will hit the target. Of course, you cannot know that if you blinked.

BLINKING

To consistently shoot a pistol quickly and accurately at any reasonable distance, it is essential that you do not blink as the shot fires. Firearm instruction, unfortunately, seldom includes the importance of keeping your eyes open as the shot fires.

Imagine you are holding a lit firecracker in a pair of pliers at arms length in front of your face. You will blink when the firecracker explodes. This natural reaction must be reversed.

Have a friend stand beside you and watch your aiming eye while you are shooting. After he confirms you are not blinking, continue shooting and as each shot fires, remember the calm feeling in your face and aiming eye. Now summon that feeling on your own to know you are not blinking.

You don’t need a target to learn what you must see to call the shot. Without a target, aim into the berm or backstop. Be aware of the calm feeling in your face and eye and fire some shots into the berm. If you don’t blink, you will remember the sight picture for each shot. Keep this in mind each time a target is behind your sights.

The subtle desire to hit the target can be a hindrance to doing so. Shift the focus from wanting to hit the target to calling each shot and rapid progress will be your reward.

When asked about the location of the true mind, Chinul replied:
“It never leaves the profound calm of the immediate.”

Chinul is reminding us to be fully present during any activity. He’s also saying not to get too excited. As the calm witness of what is happening, effortlessly, perfection happens.

“It is not what you do, but what you stop doing that matters.”
-Nisargadatta Maharaj

I think Maharaj had us in mind when he told us to stop blinking when the shot fires.

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Each Monday, I’ll post a new topic in one of two categories. One will be on shooting, and the other will be on living, or: “how I learned to live from what I learned by competing.” 

Thanks for coming in. 

Posted in On Shooting