Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday, I told you about the instinct shooting program started by Lucky McDaniel in 1954. Today, I want to show you how well that program works and who has taken it over the years.

The technique
What the training does is teach you how to mount a BB gun (put it up to your shoulder and cheek) the same way every time. This takes some time to learn, but you immediately start shooting at targets tossed in the air. The way you hold the gun and the way you lean into the shot are important. You learn to ignore the front of the gun and to look, instead, at the moving target. You’re supposed to look above the target when you shoot, and both eyes are kept open. There’s no squeezing of the trigger, either. You pull it deliberately when the shot is lined up.

Size doesn’t matter
The teacher stands next to the student and the targets are thrown out from the student and up to a 75-degree angle from the horizontal. The first target is a 3″ aluminum disk. When the student consistently hits this target, they go to a 2″ disk, then a 1″ disk and on down in size until the student is hitting Alka Seltzer tablets on every throw. The time it takes to get to that point varies with each person, but it ranges from one hour to an hour and a half. If you want to continue, you’ll move on to shooting aspirins…and, finally, BBs! According to Lucky, the size of the target doesn’t matter.

Moving on
There’s also a moving ground target and some stationary targets. The student can progress to .22 rimfire and shotgun if desired. Lucky also taught instinct shooting with handguns. Once the student was shooting by instinct with a BB gun, he could quickly adapt to any new gun and target situation. According to Lucky, the fact that the student could see the BB in flight made the the BB gun the best instinct trainer.

Lucky trained over 100,000 shooters, including those at Fort Benning, but a list of his celebrity students is very revealing. There isn’t room for a complete list, but it includes former President Eisenhower, Mickey Mantle, Audie Murphy, Mark Trail cartoonist Ed Dodd, Edsel and Henry Ford II, John Wayne, Grizzly Adams, members of the British Royal Family, the entire Chicago White Sox team (1959) and the entire Cincinnati Reds team (1961). But there was one celebrity student who stood out from even these notables.

Lucky trained World Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson to shoot his way. A major part of Mike Jennings’ book (Instinct Shooting) is devoted to the training of this one student, whom Lucky considered to be one of his best. A skilled athlete, Patterson had perfect coordination and quick reflexes that made him a natural shooter. In return, Patterson said that he felt the training helped him focus on his target better than ever. Shortly after this training, Patterson met Amateur World Heavyweight Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher and dropped him in round six. Rademacher later came out with an instinct shooting set that featured Parris BB guns and a trap that threw plastic “clay” pigeons. The set didn’t sell well, but Crosman’s 1100 Trapmaster trap is an exact copy! So, somehow, Rademacher must have seen something of benefit in the training, as well.

Since Lucky passed away in the 1990s, a number of other instinct shooting trainers have come onto the scene. Exhibition shooter Chief AJ is perhaps the most notable today, even having Daisy make special BB guns with longer stocks and his name on them. This is a fascinating niche within airguns, and a wealth of material and history await the serious collector.