Friday, January 28, 2011

...which 'Fundamentals' are most fundamental?

Depending when and where you learned to shoot, you might be familiar with “the Shooting Fundamentals,” or at least some version of them.  We NRA Instructors not long ago received a “new, improved” list to teach in NRA sponsored classes.  So how could the ‘fundamentals’ change?

The act of shooting seems simple.  Ask anyone whos seen guns used in a movie, on TV or in a video game.  Everyone thinks they can do it before they even see a real gun for the first time.  But they’re often stymied by unexpected sensations of shooting to the point that they are often unsafe to themselves and others.

The thing most people say the first time they handle a “real gun” is, “It’s heavy.”  Even small pistols and revolvers seem to be heavier than they look.  This becomes an issue when they first realize that holding this several pound chunk of material steady at arm’s length might be a problem.  The next shock is how loud and sharp the sound of a shooting firearm is.  For some it is absolutely unbearable.  For almost all it is painful and the physical damage to hearing is well documented.

Teaching people to shoot is, at first, largely about helping them overcome these unexpected sensations, and then teaching them to manipulate the device to make it do what they want.  In that sense, it’s a lot like teaching the use of any other tool.

The NRA ‘Shooting Fundamentals’ up until recently were:  1) Position, 2) Grip, 4) Breath Control, 5) Trigger Squeeze and 6) Follow through.

NRA instructional materials distributed after 2010 revise this list by treating position and grip as separate introductory topics, the addressing the following five shooting fundamentals:  1) Aiming, 2) Hold Control, 3) Breath Control, 4) Trigger Control and 5) Follow through.

With my military training in ‘delivering blocks of instructions,’ and having taught 91 NRA classes over the past 10 years, the large majority to persons new to shooting, I have my presentation pretty well memorized.  But despite the fact that I’ve had to relearn some of the material, I am glad  that this change came along because it pushed me to reexamine how I am communicating the same basic information to new shooters.

I remain convinced, however, that the same basic tasks are before one who would make use of a firearm, and that either of these lists of fundamentals is equally useful in conveying the information needed to perform those tasks safely and well.  Both facilitate the shooter reaching an understanding of what is happening physilogically and psychologically--which is how the fundamentals address the act of shooting.  Also, remember that effective hearing protection makes the learning process and the practice it takes to get shooting skills down much more comfortable.

Friday, January 14, 2011

...the "men's Barbie"

When you get into guns and shooting, you typically start out cheap—less than $500 for your first handgun.  After you’ve been shooting for a while, you realize that you need to get a rifle—handguns just won’t get it for ‘serious work.’  If you start out cheap in rifles, you will be looking at the $100 to $250 military surplus rifles: Mausers, Mosin-Nagant’s, Arisakas, etc.  But when you take the next step and want to try hunting, you realize you have to upgrade to the more expensive American made rifles to have the accuracy for a quick clean game kill—Remingtons, Savages, Winchesters, etc.

But after a lot of range time, you come to realize that a few highly accurate rounds are not as effective as a lot of quasi-accurate rounds.  If you’re cheap this means you’re headed for the SKS. the AK, or the FAL.  But then, when you finally become a shooting sophisticate, you graduate to the ultimate, the AR.

When you buy your first AR, you realize that you’re now one of the big boys.  You can lay out $750 to $1000 on a single gun at a single time.  This usually means you are not married, or have a unique marital relationship of some type that other shooters can only view with envy.  Either that or your divorce is imminent. 

You quickly realize that the ARs you can buy all over the place are not wildly different from the M4 or the M16 you used back in your military days.  You suddenly wish you’d paid better attention back during basic training, but quickly come to understand that this thing isn’t that complicated.  Heck, you can master it in a couple of short practice sessions with no more of a reference than youTube!

But then, you fall into the trap.  Ever watched in amazement when you buy your daughter a doll for $19.95 and wind up spending hundreds on “outfits, dream houses, convertibles, swimming pools, etc., etc. ad nauseum?”  Well guess what, it’s about to happen to you!

And by the way, I think it’s all because of marketing.  What good red blooded American man would put a flashlight on his rifle?  How about a sissy laser or some kind of screwy short stock?  One who was convinced by the Bernays inspired ‘marketeers’ who convince us that we need to add to the efficient, adequate, useful design that the AR is.  There are so many options—16” bbl, 20” bbl, shorter or longer—stock type, sight type, flash hider or muzzle brake, grip style, action type (impingement vs. piston), etc., etc.

All that having been said, my AR has a 16” barrel, with an M4 profile, just like the guys fighting hajii in Iraq and Afghanistan are using, although it mounts one of those super cool flip-up MagPul rear sights so I can also clip on a rifle scope in case I ever decide to try long range shots.  It has a standard A2 stock.  I did put in a 2-stage Rock River trigger to make it easier to shoot without making too many mistakes.  Not very sexy, I know, when you could add an adjustable stock (so you can use it with body armor), a flip up front sight (which you don’t need if you’re using a scope), a laser or holographic sight (which the military seems to just love and a lot of people can use to shoot better), and or even a bayonet.  C’mon.  Who thinks if you have a rifle like this you’re ever gonna have to bayonet the enemy???

AR's are fun for guys because there are hundreds of variations you can make to your gun.  You can even buy the basic part, the so-called 'lower' with your favorite inscription engraved on the side of it.  You can get it with a personalize serial number.  I mean, you have more choices than your daughter ever dreamed of with Barbie!