It's been a while since I've given an update on my personal shooting journey. I've been meaning to write this post but it just kept getting delayed. An important part of being self-reliant and also a responsible gun owner means making a conscious effort to train, practice, and improve your skills. Back when the husband said he wanted to get a gun for home defense, I knew then it would be important for me to know how to properly and safely use it. Now that I carry, it's even more imperative to keep my skills sharp.
The husband and I try to make it to the range weekly but in all honestly that hasn't happened in a long time. It usually ends up realistically being twice a month but we've had a few personal things going on so it's been more like once a month, if that. I'm not happy about that but c'est la vie. However, when we can't get to the range we do our best to supplement our training with at-home dry fire practice. In the past year, I've been fortunate to take a couple of training classes to help increase my skill level and show where I need to make improvements. However, taking continuous training classes isn't always feasible and can be costly. So I think its important to take formal instruction and then supplement that with your own training.
The last couple of months I've had a few longer periods between my range visits and have noticed that I still tend to get a little anxious upon sending those first few shots down range. I've been easing that anxiety by quickly unloading a few rounds upon stepping up into my lane. Additionally, because shooting is a perishable skill I've noticed that where I thought I had been improving, I have digressed. While my shots on target are still hitting predominantly low left, my groupings are good. The two main areas that I've been focusing on when training have been my grip tension and shooting with both eyes open. Both things seem simple enough but I've noticed over the course of my training that I've settled into a few habits that I'm finding a lot harder to break.
Shooting With Both Eyes Open
When I first learned how to shoot I was taught the fundamentals regarding front sight focus and aligning my sites on target all with my dominate eye open and non-dominate eye closed. I think shooting with one-eye closed is an easy way for people to get the sight alignment and focus down. At first, I didn't seem to have much of an issue shooting with one eye closed. However, I ran into one little issue when I shot my first long-gun. I realized that I was left-eye dominate but a right hand shooter. I was a cross-dominate shooter (find your dominant eye here). This meant I was looking through the scope of a long-gun with my non-dominate eye, the right one. So to fix this, I started adjusting which eye I used to shoot with and starting training my right eye to be the eye that was open while shooting. I'm not sure if this is the way you are supposed to do, it's what I decided to do. While this was a bit awkward at first, I got used to it but noticed that my right eye would fatigue a lot quicker. It wasn't until I attended a training weekend with Dynamis Alliance that I realized I was one of the few that shoots with one eye closed. It wasn't that big of a deal but as I asked around, I was realizing that a lot of people shoot with both eyes open. Heck, even the husband does. The key benefit I learned about shooting with both eyes open is that allows you to have a wider field of view which helps with being more situationally aware.
So for the past month, I've been working on shooting with both eyes open. I started practicing at home as part of my dry-fire routine. At first I would get my sight alignment and focus with my left eye closed and then I would slowly open my left eye concentrating on maintaining the focus on my front sight. After doing this, I started with bringing the gun up to my line of sight and concentrated on acquiring the proper sight picture with both eyes open. At first, I thought it was going to be impossible but honestly after a couple of days it was becoming a little easier. This constant repetition over the course of a few days was proving to work. Once I hit the range to try this out live, it still required a concentrated effort because I naturally wanted to close my left eye. However, after a few rounds I could tell that I was already reprogramming that muscle memory. While this transition to shooting with both eyes open is still in progress, I'm happy that I've taken the time to work through this.
Adjusting Grip Tension & Pressure
Let me preface and say that my grip in terms of hand placement is fine. Grip tension/pressure is more applicable for this issue that I apparently have. For so long I can't believe that I have been gripping my gun too tight. I was always shooting low left of the target and adjustment after adjustment things didn't really improve much. Whenever I would hit the bullseye I would try to remember everything I did in regards to stance, grip, sight picture, etc but I never could and my next shot would be back to low left. I watched videos, read about it online, and incorporated all of the tips I received from instructors. Time and time again my improvement was minimal. It was extremely frustrating and left me feeling a little defeated. However, I kept going to the range despite the results being the same. I would make a few good shots and the husband would say, "Whatever you did for that last shot, do it again." Haha...trust me I tried and failed. I wanted to fix this badly but even in a frustrated state I still was glad that I was going to the range and at least practicing. My thought was that whoever I hit will definitely be seriously injured in the low left of their body. LOL. It wasn't until I was dry firing one day that it occurred to me that I might be gripping my gun too tight. I know that recoil is meant to be absorbed through the arms but for whatever reason I was gripping the gun tightly as well to help absorb it. It was one of those things I was subconsciously doing and a light bulb just went off one day and I realized my grip on my dominate hand was too firm.
As part of dry-fire practice I played around with the pressure I applied on the grip with my dominate hand and when I went to the range it proved to be one of those things that almost immediately fixed my issues. I had been gripping the gun so tightly that it was transmitting movement to the gun when I pulled the trigger. I couldn't believe this "death grip" has been the root cause of my shooting issues. It was really a relief to see improvement. I'm paying close attention now to ensure that my grip pressure is firm but not tight and the only part of my dominate hand that is moving is my trigger finger. It's taken time to get this figured out but I'm feeling confident and eager to continue to work on these things.
What I have found at the range in the last few weeks is that it's taking me a little bit longer to get set and ready to shoot since I have introduced two changes to how I shoot. This is because I'm very aware now of these two items that I'm trying to fix and retraining these habits is taking time. Slow and steady as they say, right?! I've almost got these two techniques down though. Over the next few range sessions I'll will be working on speed and acquiring a faster sight picture. But for now I'm happy with how my progress is moving.
Everyone is at their own pace when it comes to shooting and improving their skills. While it's easy to compare yourself to what you see happening in the lane next to you or even on social media, being self-reliant isn't a competition. So long as you are practicing and training, working at your own pace and comfort level to improve is all that is important.