by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

See – I didn’t forget about this. I just let a little time elapse. Today, I’m going to talk about taking your score up from the high 400s to the mid-500s. There are only two things you’ll need to do that. When you examine them closely, you’ll discover they’re two parts of the same thing.

How did I get here?
Let’s review your 10-meter progress to this point. When you started shooting 10-meter pistol, your score for 60 shots ranged between the high 300s and the low to mid-400s. You were all over the place, and often threw shots into the white. Go look at a target here if you forget what one looks like. Better yet, buy a couple hundred because you’re not getting into the 500s without them.

After a period of regular practice, your scores were always in the 400s, and sometimes above 450. By then you were getting critical of your trigger and you had the sights adjusted to a fair-thee-well – unless you’re like old Ed. Old Ed was a shooter who shot 10-meter with us every Monday night. He shot in the mid-400s, but he was consistently a little low and left. After watching him for a couple weeks, I asked him about it. Turns out, he’d put his pistol in a bench vice and sighted it in that way. He knew he was shooting low and left, but in the vise the gun was drilling the center.

Several months later, I convinced Ed to adjust his sights. Lo and behold, he shot a 520 that evening! I don’t know what that did to his bench vise’s score, but who cares? It never showed up to any of our matches, while Ed was a regular. Believe it or not, there comes a point in almost every shooter’s life when a simple sight adjustment will add points to his score. Maybe not 30-40 points, but take what you can get.

Breaking 500
Breaking 500 is usually a tough nut for most shooters. But, after adjusting your sights, the one thing that’ll add more points than any other is the front sight. By which I mean learning to concentrate on the front sight to the exclusion of almost everything else. At this point in the game, you’ve mastered the grip, mount (raising the gun before shooting) (Part 2 and Part 3) stance (Part 1)…and you’ve found the best pellet. From this point until you are averaging 550, the front sight will add all your points. Non-target shooters cannot understand this, and world champions talk about little else. Let’s see why.

A perfect diagnostic
When you concentrate on the front sight to the exclusion of almost everything else, you start to notice little things that were previously below the radar. Things like how the pistol pulls slightly to the left just before the second stage of the trigger breaks (yep – gotta get a gun with a better trigger). You notice when the front sight starts diving below the bull and nothing you do with your arm can hold it up (holding the gun on target too long). And you start getting real good at calling your shots – as in, “That was a nine at 9 o’clock.” You used to be happy about just knowing which way the pellet went; now you’re scoring the target that’s too far away to see clearly. “Oh my gosh, I just flipped at 8! What’s wrong with me?”

A month ago, you went down to the target like a gold panner – anxious to see what you had. Now you go down having scored your five or ten shots to within one point – all without being able to see them from the firing line.

Then, a day comes when you CAN see all your shots, because they all touch and they’re all inside the nine-ring. Now you start to put pressure on those around you who see the same thing. You’re averaging 525 points out of 600, and you finally grasp the importance of the front sight. Now you’ll have to practice daily to get the next 25 points.

Practice make nearly perfect
Daily practice consists of a routine of at least 100 dry-fire shots followed by a full 60-shot match. Your score floats upward five points at a time until it starts bumping into the number 550. As you practice, you realize that all you’re doing is becoming more intimately familiar with that all-important front sight. It now dawns on you that practice has revealed that the front sight may be the secret to shooting, which is what I meant by these two things being the same.

What I’m not saying, but what is happening just the same, is that your stance is now perfect. You can no longer stand any way but the right way, with the right amount of tension in both legs. Your grip and raising of the pistol are perfect, as well. You start shooting perfect scores of 50 with five shots – and believe me when I say that the first time you do it will be no less of a celebration than a golfer’s hole-in-one or a 300 game in bowling. As you approach an average of 550, you’ll shoot a lot of 50s – many more than any golfer ever shot holes-in-one.

Now, grasshopper, this is as far as I can take you from my own experience, because I never had a 550 average. My best score in practice was 545 and in a match 537. I got to the place I’m now describing, but I never went on. However, I do know how to go beyond 550, because several world champions and Olympians have written descriptions of the journey. Maybe I’ll tell you how to do it next time, though I must warn you, it does sound very strange and new-age.