Carbine Techniques

A co-worker recently bought an AR.  That got me remembering some of the training I’ve received.  This is the copy of the letter of what I sent them.

The information show in the videos below reflect the techniques I use for shooting carbines.  This is information and actually performing these techniques requires a structured “ramp up” type of instruction.
However, the fundamentals can be practiced with dry-fire.  I work on bringing the gun up from low ready getting used to the sights and the gun’s setup.  Also, establishing position and acquiring targets is another skill that benefits from dry-fire.  Nearly all dry fire drills are “target acquisition” and are done without pulling the trigger.
As for working around cover that is something that has to be shown in person.  I haven’t found any good videos to convey the techniques.
Stance and how to hold.
Grip and refinement of stance.
Trigger control.
Todd Jarrett on Prone
From a truck bed
Slings and transitions.  In reality rifles are carried more than they are shot.  This is about Todd not this youtube channel.  I really don’t align with the “student of the gun” mindset.
Around vehicles.  It says “unconventional” but these are now common methods.  The getting in and out of cars if a big one especially with carbines but the pistol techniques apply.
Okay, this is what is actually relevant to us.
How to set up your rifle for real tactical operation.
Some operators.

No Single Shooters Allowed

I have heard of a policy of no single shooters at gun ranges. At Phoenix Gun Range being the only one on the line is coveted and people are waiting when we open in the morning to do this. It is like your own private range when you’re the only one shooting. We do encourage couples but we won’t turn you away if you didn’t bring a date. If you don’t have a license we have to be within arms reach by law so in a sense there is always someone there.

I have heard of people attempting suicide at Canadian ranges and I think this is the reason for the no single shooter rule. Over 80% of gun deaths are due to suicide here in Canada.  This number may be a lot higher because many suicides are just reported as “Accidentally shot while cleaning gun” incidents.  It is clear that to prevent gun deaths efforts should be focused on preventing suicide in general.

Having volunteered for a crisis hotline I know that human connection helps in preventing suicide.  At Phoenix gun range we are very involved with “checking in” with our customers. We ask them if they have any questions, are they having fun and compliment then on their gun safe handling. I think this goes a long way in promoting safe fun use of guns.

We have heard that other ranges are not like this. I think why Phoenix is different starts with the owner, he is openly proud of his range and supportive to his staff. It is like a club where people just drop in to talk. I’ve heard that some people who hang out there so much have been given jobs.

As for non-single shooters. It is usually their girlfriend that shoots better than the guy. That’s a completely different dynamic.

Boundary Crossed

There are a lot of different kinds of people who enjoy shooting guns.  Some of them are real sketchy.

I have yet to come across someone who I thought should be told to leave.  Until last Thursday.

It wasn’t a Gun Culture 2.0, Operator Wannabe, Military or used to shooting in the field hunter type.  It was two older gentlemen.

They were quite reserved and their safety violations were without any drama.  It was their complacency and reckless disregard to safety that crossed my personal boundary.

Regardless, the did not follow range safety rules.  It started with not wearing eye protection.  Then it was not un-casing guns in the booth, not taking loaded weapons out of the booth, and not being able to properly unload a pistol.

This usually doesn’t bother me at all.  I’ve always provided correction to people.  I’ve grabbed barrels, pushed hands downrange, slammed cases out of the booth shut.  I like explaining rules over and over refining my spiel to be concise and clear.  I actually like this part of educating people on safety procedures especially correlating safety to having fun shooting.  Good procedures allow you to relax which makes you shoot better and have fun.

I could not get to these guys.  They didn’t even try the “no I didn’t” denial approach.  I’m not on a control or power trip so they can deny all they want.  I’m cool with that, just be aware and be safe.  There was no awareness.

Nothing sunk in.  My colleagues called me back to these guys when they were walking around with loaded weapons behind the line.

I showed up and one was actively shooting in a different booth he started in.  It was clear he carried his loaded pistol to this booth.  The case was still sitting on the bench.  It’s one thing not to know and another if you are told more than once that guns must be cased if they are not in the booth.

I started talking to him and he didn’t even respond to my questions.  I asked him to unload his pistol.  He dropped the magazine and lay the pistol down with a round in the chamber.  I asked him if his gun was unloaded.  No response.  I picked up his pistol and racked the slide and a round came out.  I set the gun down action open chamber up and told him to put the gun down this way.

I asked if he understood.  No response.  There was no “okay”, no nod, no “I knew that”, nor a “I didn’t know that”.  I couldn’t reach this guy!  I took off my mask and raised my voice just in case he didn’t hear me.  I finally got a response of he was going to leave.

I had no intention of asking them to leave.  A colleague came up to them and told them they violated numerous safety rules and needed to leave.

I can only guess at what they were thinking.  Maybe it was the “I know better than you, I’m older than you and have owned this gun longer than you have been alive” mindset.

The sad part is this is how tragic gun accidents happen.


Automatic Skills and Neutral Stance

Another day RO’ing at the local range and a fellow shooter who is D class was practicing with his son.

At last qualifier I listened to his scores.  He was shooting alpha-delta or alpha mike pretty consistently.  I thought he was rushing the second shots.  Then I took a look at his shooting the next stage.

First he was defaulting to his semi-weaver stance.  He was also consciously pulling through the double action on his shadow.

I approached him and asked him to try a bill-drill with an isosceles stance.  I got him to think about being neutral and just watching the front sight.  He started the fist few shots at a slow pace but then he busted sub .20 splits.  A light bulb came on.

Then I asked him to do a one-shot draw.  He did okay but hoiked it to the left.

I told him to do it again but this time have is conscious pay attention to hitting the grip and just getting the sights on target.  It went smoothly and fast.  Dead center alpha.

I pointed out that he can pull a double action shot automatically and that getting a good grip and having the front sight on the target is what his conscious mind should pay attention to.  I said “You can pull a double action shot automatically, just tell your subconscious to make the gun go bang”.

I had to RO someone else and I was hearing him shoot some consistent bill drills.

I will follow up with him to see how this is integrating with his shooting.


Quiet Eye: Aim Small Miss Small

“Quiet eye” is something that I’ve been studying in the field of visual attention and gaze control.  Quiet eye is also the “aim small miss small” approach but this is applies mostly to visual attention not gaze control.
The research shows that elite performers don’t look around as much and their eyes rest on the objective sooner than near-elite performers.  What this suggests, among action shooters, is that a higher level of performance is obtained from getting the eyes on the next target sooner .
These studies chose athletes with the same physical abilities so any differences in performance had to be in something other than their physical conditioning.  The idea of “shooting faster” especially with splits does not give much improvement, which we have seen a lot of.  It is where we spend the most time is where we can gain the most.  Remember when Dean first started training us and there’d be a shooter with really quick splits but transitions took an eternity?  That seems so long ago!  Our splits and transitions are as fast as distinguished masters so we must refine other skills to increase performance.
“Waiting for the sights to arrive” is a desired condition I go for with transitions which take way longer than splits.  I believe this promotes “quiet eye” and as a side effect we start to “feel” like we’re going slow.  We are keeping “ahead of the gun” which means we can anticipate what is going to happen.
Anticipation can be approached in two different ways.  We can hand it off to the subconscious by not acting on it or we can interrupt the flow and consciously intervene.  Something like calling a bad shot and sending another can be a conscious decision.  I think it is best when the shot is called and the decision is “send another” and then it goes back to the subconscious to actually break the shot.
So when we transition we consciously look for the edge of the down zero.  We tell our subconscious send the shot any time after the sights cross that perf.  For the second shot we don’t have the feeling of actually stopping on the down zero and we just slow down waiting for the subconscious to send the next shot consciously keeping it on the down zero. This is a classic A-I-O-I situation.  Visual attention is at work here and the two conscious targets are the two sides of the down zero.  This is called a tactical task where diverse information is processed.
Another quiet eye related technique is keeping the gun closer to the central vision or “keeping the gun up” and looking at the edge of cover.  These promote fewer saccades, moving the eyes around, which means that the final targeting can be completed sooner allowing the shot to happen sooner.
From my reference: “Chunking occurs in memory when diverse pieces of information are consolidated into meaningful concepts, ideas, or sequences of thought or actions.  Because elite athletes have richer knowledge structures, they are able to orient their gaze to the center of the display and use their peripheral vision to control and monitor the action.  Other have referred to this location as visual pivot.”
In other words when coming round cover you look at the spot on the edge of cover at the same level that the targets will appear, visual pivot.  Your eyes can quickly lock onto the target and since we’re keeping the gun up the sights arrive quickly.

Age as an Excuse

I really don’t think age is a valid reason for not shooting as well as someone younger.  If you are not young and have personal and professional commitments having less time to work on your skills is a valid reason for your current level of performance.  It becomes more important to be honest about one’s performance if time is the obstacle to improvement.  This is a function of priority and a time management not an issue of skill or ability.

You don’t have to like your current level of performance even if it is because of the lack of time.  This is actually beneficial for motivation and working to use time more efficiently.  I’ve seen too many people they are “okay” with their shooting and say “they are in it for fun” after totally botching a whole match.  Those statements scream self-image protection and avoidance of the problem.  It ultimately blocks any improvement.

Sure, some people don’t care about competition and just enjoy shooting their guns.  I’m not this type of person and I believe there are a lot of people who would be the same if they could see through their self-imposed limitations.  Once we recognize in what ways we limit ourselves we can be honest with our performance and truly enjoy shooting.


Flinching: The Blink

BE says in his book “If you can’t keep your eyes open when you shoot, there’s honestly not much you can accomplish until that ability is acquired.”

So, the trick is how to keep the eyes open.

For me it is the same old solution is “dry-fire” but that is a lame answer that isn’t specific enough.  It’s just like asking what it takes to fix a car and saying “tools”.

The “white wall” drill is the first on my list.  Aim at a blank wall and watch the light on either side of the post and pay really close attention to what is happening to the sights.  All concentration on what the sights are doing.

Then there is group shooting.  Watching what the sights do for at least three shots at a time.  I usually do this at a distance where I can’t easily see the holes so I’m not tempted to check what I am doing.

Up to now this helps slow fire.  Not blinking to track the sights is more important with faster splits.

Bill drills into the berm helps analyze my grip.  I have what I expect the sights to do and what actually happens.  I start off with two shots then three.  The final test is six shots.

I almost becomes unnecessary to do it on paper to know that I’m not blinking.  However, Bill drills at different distances gives information on proper tempo and necessary sight picture to hit alphas but I consider this different skill.

Temporal Pressure

I think this terms covers any kind of time pressure, the urgency of a defensive shooting situation, match pressure and also training pressure.

Pressure creates stress by definition whether it’s in shooting or in engineering.

Stress causes arousal.  In the cases we’re talking about arousal creates fear and anxiety.

It is how we deal with fear and anxiety that is what we train for.

Actually getting out to train is another pressure.  The stress is different.  It is more of a distraction to current tasks.  The “should I be doing something else” voice in our heads.  We go internally and start running simulations in our heads.  If we are well trained we are able to make decisions.

This kind of decision making also presents itself in a defensive shooting situation also.  Lanny Bassham calls it the anticipatory phase.  His context is in competitive shooting but I think this also applied so defensive.  How well have we prepared?

Flinch: A Control Loop Explanation

Flinch is a general term.  I’m working on breaking down the different kinds of involuntary actions when shooting.

Take a look at Mel Gibson in lethal weapon shooting his Beretta and you’ll see a massive flinch.  He blinks really hard.  This is one thing that I consider a flinch.  He’s only shooting blanks, I don’t want to see him doing live fire.

I also see a lot of shooters anticipate recoil pushing the gun down an instant before it goes off.

There is a an open and closed control loop description of what is going on.  When we do things slow enough we can see what we’re doing and correct for them.  When things happen really fast there isn’t enough time for us to adjust what our body is doing.  Something that happens quicker than around .15 seconds is usually too fast to consciously react.  The body’s nervous system sensing and controlling.  For elite sprinters that start with the sound of a gun there is a minimum time after the shot of the gun that the sprinters have take to react.  This is to eliminate anticipation of the sound.

Reaction time does a lot in flinching.  Because the body can’t react fast enough our subconscious anticipates the recoil and starts to push the gun down.

Allowing the gun to recoil and the sights to rise is a good exercise.  Group shooting is a drill to help.  It also helps overall accuracy and form.

Putting on the gas flinch can start up again.  This is where bill drills help.  Bill drills into the berm can aid in relaxing.

Milking the shots.  I see a lot of people shooting low and left, for right handed shooters low right for left handed.  I believe it is called milking because the shooter is tensing up the whole shooting hand when triggering.

Accuracy: Slot Machine Mentality

Some shooters have the slot machine mentality towards matches or even shooting in general.  They throw their bullets down range and have an expectation of a jackpot.  Maybe next time they’ll shoot well.

I think sometimes there is an element of luck like clipping a no shoot. But that is different from protecting one’s ego from consistent less than desired performance.

This concept of luck is also at work when people rush.  “Turning on the gas” or rushing breeds cutting corners like not actually aiming the gun.  It is accuracy by luck, a ready fire aim approach or “shooting by Braille”.

I’d rather save my ammo and use my time wisely rather spray and pray.