Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Detroit Michigan CCW CPL Class - Marksmanship: Applicability and Constituent Elements

Marksmanship is the ability to accurately fire upon and strike a target in a desired spot with a firearm. In practical terms, it is typically thought of in terms of hitting the "bullseye" on a target which has multiple concentric scoring rings. Obviously, it follows that a marksman is a person who has the skill and experience necessary to repetitively hit the "X" on a target silhouette.

How Is Marksmanship Different From Defensive Accuracy?

Although it (i.e. Marksmanship) is usually taught in Personal Protection and Concealed Pistol License (CPL/CCW) Classes - such as those that I offer in Detroit Michigan - it's applicability for persons who are not in law enforcement is typically geared towards hunting, recreational shooting, and the shooting sports.

In contrast, Defensive Accuracy - which is also taught in the aforementioned CPL/CCW Classes - is the preferred style of shooting for victims to use to ward off attacks from predators. In this style of shooting, defenders visualize an 8.5"x11" center-of-mass zone - between the navel and lower chest - and balance accuracy and speed to place shots there until the threat has been neutralized.

The Five Constituent Elements of Markmanship

Marksmanship has five constituent elements that must be simultaneously controlled and executed: Aiming, Breath Control, Hold Control, Trigger Control, and Follow-Through. Each element could be thoroughly explored in a separate post. However, this blog posting will provide a brief overview of each and leave the exercise of further research to the reader for further exploration.

Marksmanship Element 1: Aiming

Aiming is the most important element of marksmanship. The handgun's aligned sights must be both level and centered to generate a good sight picture. A sight picture is nothing more than the super-imposing of an intended target just atop the handgun's aligned front sight.

The handgun's Operator's Guide should be consulted to determine exactly where to aim the shot. Most handguns employ a "6:00" sighting system, whereby the bottom of the intended target, like on a clock, is used as an aiming guide.

Marksmanship Element 2: Breath Control

Breath Control is also an important element of marksmanship. Without proper breathing techniques, a held handgun would oscillate vertically - up and down - along with the shooter's breathing pattern. It should come as no surprise that a handgun should be held as still as possible while shooting.

As such, a shooter should take a deep breath, exhale half of the air, and take the shot while holding his breath. If the shooter's hand starts to tremble, due to a lack of oxygen in his lungs, he should stop holding his breath and start over with a new inhaled supply of air.

Marksmanship Element 3: Hold Control

Further, Hold Control is also an important element of marksmanship. As such, the handgun should fit the shooter's hand like a glove. The handgun should mate up with the shooting hand such that no part of the hand can't make contact with the frame and remain on the handgun during the full firing sequence.

Moreover, a handgun is designed to be operated with one hand. As such, all controls should be comfortably reachable by the shooting hand: trigger, safety, slide release, de-cockers, and magazine release button. A good handgun/hand fit will ensure maximum controllability and aid in accuracy while shooting.

Marksmanship Element 4: Trigger Control

Trigger Control is also an important element of marksmanship. There are two important considerations that must be discussed on the subject of Trigger Control: Trigger Finger Placement and Trigger Pull.

Trigger Finger Placement refers to the exact part of the trigger finger that should make contact with the trigger when the handgun is discharged. Specifically, the exact middle fleshy part of the trigger finger - centered between the tip and the crease that adjoins the next finger segment - is from where the trigger should be pulled.

Pulling the trigger with another part of the trigger finger can induce a torqued pulling motion that can cause the shot to be pulled off its intended course, as designated by the generated sight picture. One common beginner's mistake is to pull the trigger from the crease between the trigger finger's first two segments.

Trigger Pull refers to the exact manner in which the trigger is moved. The trigger finger should pull back the trigger in one complete and smooth "squeezing" motion all the back until the firearm is discharged. Many beginning students either "jerk" unevenly on the trigger or don't pull the trigger all the way in one smooth pull.

Trigger Pull is so important to marksmanship that many Firearms Instructors advocate that their students conduct dry-fire practice with their respective pistols in their spare time. Dry-fire practice is the act of practicing a smooth trigger pull on an unloaded handgun in a ballistically safe area where pistols and ammunition are not normally stored.

Marksmanship Element 5: Follow-Through

Follow-Through is the final element of marksmanship. This element concerns itself with the shooter "following through on his shot" to improve his accuracy. Everyone knows that when a firearm discharges there will some recoil. In other words, the handgun will move as a consequence of it being fired.

The act of following through on a shot is nothing more than the shooter quickly and smoothly bringing the gun's sights back "on target" to its original position before the trigger was pulled.

Conceptually, the act of following through on a shot will improve the shooter's accuracy by getting the fired bullet back on its original path before it clears the barrel. Of course, since handguns have short barrels, especially as compared to long guns, the effect is not maximized as the travelling bullet's path doesn't have much time to be corrected before it exits the muzzle. Thus, longer barreled handguns are more accurate than shorter barreled handguns.

Bottom Line:

Marksmanship is a skill that is demonstrated by a shooter's ability to accurately hit the desired section of an intended target. Real world applications for marksmanship skills, outside of law enforcement and the military, includes activities such as recreational shooting, shooting sports activities, and hunting. Marksmanship has five constituent elements that need to simultaneously addressed: Aiming, Breath Control, Hold Control, Trigger Control, and Follow-Through.

Rick Ector is a National Rifle Association credentialed Firearms Trainer, who provides Michigan CCW Classes training in Detroit for students at his firearms school - Rick's Firearm Academy of Detroit. Ector is a recognized expert in firearm safety and has been featured extensively in the national and local media: Associated Press, UPI, NRAnews, Gun Digest, The Politics Daily, Fox News Detroit, The Detroit News, WJLB, WGPR and the UrbanShooterPodcast.

For more info about Marksmanship and Detroit Michigan CCW Classes, please contact:

Rick's Firearm Academy of Detroit
Phone: 313.733.7404

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