Today’s article is going to cover the “accuracy vs. precision” dilemma from two VERY different angles…first, teaching kids to shoot and second, training for self-defense situations.
Let’s start with teaching kids to shoot…
I was helping out with a dads and sons shooting event from our church a couple of weekends ago and it highlighted a very important lesson in firearms training…which comes first, precision or accuracy?
If you’re fuzzy on the difference, a precise 5 shot group would all go through the same hole, regardless of where that hole is on the paper.
An accurate 5 shot group would have an average center point right on the bullseye, but the shots might be spread out 6-8” away from each other.
An accurate AND precise group would drill shot after shot on top of one another in the center of the bullseye.
One of the things that happened with the boys was that they were competing with each other from the start…even when we were trying to discourage it.
Some of the guns had traditional notch and post or peep sights. Some were sighted in and others weren’t.
Still one other rifle was an AR style .22 with a raised red dot sight that was 2″ above the boreline of the rifle.
We made a point at the before they started shooting to tell them to focus on aiming for the center of the bullseye with every shot, regardless of where their previous shots had hit.
For the most part, if you always aim at the same spot, a tight group means you’ve got your fundamentals dialed in and a loose group means that you don’t.
It’s way easier to make correct adjustments to the sights when you’re adjusting based on multiple shots in a tight group.
If you shoot a tight group that’s not on the bullseye, it’s usually safe to adjust the sights to move the group to the bullseye.
But if you’re continually chasing your shots, trying to adjust based on where your last shot hit, you never know whether your misses are due to an issue with shooting fundamentals or misaligned sights.
In the case of the outing with the boys, it was interesting to see their competitive nature kick in.
On the first round, some were fine having 6” groups at 10 feet as long as they got 1 shot in the “x”. Others were fine having a 1” group that was 2” low (because of the mechanical sight offset on the AR). The first group thought they were performing better because they hit the “x”.
But when it was time for the 2nd round, the first group still had wide groups and the second group aimed 2” high and got all of their hits in the bullseye.
I see this with adults shooting rifles and pistols as well. They’ll chase their holes all around the paper, blaming loose groups on the gun and the sights without taking the time to shoot a precise group.
When they calm down, trust the sights, and keep aiming at the same spot, they usually find out that the gun and sights are fine and putting rounds right where they are supposed to be going.
One of the big lessons here is the importance of trust, confidence, and emotion in shooting performance. If you trust your weapon, have confidence in your ability, and deaden your emotions as much as possible while shooting, it becomes a mechanical, predictable process. Flinch goes away, mashing the trigger goes away, and, amazingly enough…shots start going where they’re supposed to. And THAT’s something you can get emotional about.
(more on this process here: http://www.dryfiretrainingcards.com/insight/ )
Ironically, earlier this week, I was meeting with Larry Yatch on my way back from Backup Gun Nationals and had a similar conversation on practicing “combat accurate” shooting, or 8” groups, vs. training to be able to shoot precise 1 hole groups.
One of the arguments against practicing to shoot one hole groups is that you won’t have time to do this under stress.
That’s a fine argument, but it’s one dimensional, and conflicts with the very training that teaches it.
Oftentimes, the same training that teaches that 8” groups in training are adequate teach that you should fire 2 rounds to center-of-mass and, if that doesn’t stop the threat, to shoot one round to the head.
The problem is, movement, stress, speed, and unstable shooting positions will cause your shot groups in a surprise self-defense situation to be AT LEAST twice as big as your groups in practice.
If you’re training to an acceptable standard of 8” groups, it’s fair to expect that your groups in an extreme stress situation will be 16” or more. The average skull is 6-7” wide. How likely do you think it is that you’ll hit your intended target? Will you get lucky and have any misses lodge harmlessly in a stud in a wall or might the bullet hit something more important?
If only it was that simple.
Let’s say that your first 2 shots to the body hit their mark (Nationwide law enforcement hit averages are 15%, so it could easily take 13 rounds to get your “2 hits to the body” if you’re practicing 8” groups).
The only reason you’d shift your aim from the body to the head is if the first 2 hits didn’t stop the threat and he was still advancing on you and STILL posed a lethal force threat. There’s a pretty good chance that if 2 hits didn’t stop him, he’s either drugged, drunk, or deranged.
Think about that for a second. Shooting 2 & 1 drills, failure drills, or Mozambiques on paper is one thing, but if it really happens, it’s because someone who is a lethal threat to you just absorbed 2 rounds to the chest without stopping. That would be an “Oh crap” moment. Are they wearing body armor? Are they a zombie? Did you even hit them?
There are numerous cases of people taking multiple shots to the head and staying in the fight:
-Shots to the sinus cavity deflecting down through the jaw.
-Shots hitting the jaw and deflecting.
-Shots (particularly .40 caliber) deflecting off of the brow/forehead.
-Shots hitting the head, scalping around the head, and continuing on at the back of the head. (I’ve read of multiple instances of this and personally touched the holes in the helmet and scars on the head of Dr. Kunkel from Weeping Water, NE)
-Shots to parts of the brain that aren’t critical at that time due to the attacker’s mental state.
It means that your shot to the head doesn’t JUST need to hit the head, it needs to hit the brain. And maybe not even JUST the brain, but the medulla oblongata, which is about the size of a walnut, or another critical part of the brain that will cause a drugged, drunk, or deranged attacker who’s already been shot twice to actually stop being a threat.
All of a sudden, the ability to shoot 8” groups in practice or 16” groups in combat doesn’t quite cut it.
The root of the problem is 2-fold.
First, a handgun is a HORRIBLE tool for quickly stopping a lethal force threat. The bullet moves too slow to cause a temporary wound channel and it’s more unstable to aim than a rifle. In fact, most defensive handgun calibers are illegal for hunting deer—because they’re so ineffective.
But they’re still the most effective self-defense tool that most people can carry on an everyday basis.
Second, shooting is emotional and as your emotions increase, your group size will increase.
One of the reasons why it’s important to be able to shoot one hole groups is that it forces you to master patience and control your emotions, and a lot of problems that shooters have are the result of a lack of patience and emotions driving the shooting process. Let me explain…
A lot of the time, pie shaped groups straight down from where you’re aiming are the result of anticipatory flinch. Regardless of how tough and macho you are, your brain “fears” the recoil or “fears” losing control and tries to push the muzzle down at the exact instant that the shot is released. Low, pie shaped groups are proof that this doesn’t work.
There are a lot of times when you start squeezing the trigger, but the shot doesn’t happen fast enough for your brain. It WANTS the hit of dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin—the sweet reward that happens when the shot goes off. And, in the case of a self-defense shooting, it wants the emotional discomfort from the cortisol to stop.
Add to that, if you’re holding your breath, your sight picture will start to get blurry.
Add more to it, you start focusing on the target rather than your sights and you realize how much you’re wobbling around…and that the wobble is increasing.
Finally, your brain can’t handle the suspense anymore and makes the trigger finger jerk and finish the job…throwing your shots to the left (if you’re a right handed shooter).
Shooting one hole groups is proof positive that you CAN control your emotions and patience when shooting. And the more you practice the discipline of controlling your emotions and patience, the better you get at it.
And the better you get at it, the more likely that you’ll be able to control your emotions and patience under the extreme stress of a surprise attack and shoot fast, tight groups…even at speed, while moving and from unstable positions.
It doesn’t mean that you need to try to shoot 1 hole groups under stress…or that you will be able to, even if you try. But if you shoot half as well in combat as you do in practice, I’d think you’d want to practice shooting as precisely as possible in practice.
Which ties in, not so coincidentally, with the release this week of Dry Fire Fit. Dry Fire Fit is designed to get you comfortable finding your sights and engaging targets in a 360 degree environment from dynamic and unstable shooting positions like what you’re likely to encounter in a real-life self-defense situation.
The more your training can mimic the realities of a surprise self-defense situation…or even go beyond the challenges of a surprise self-defense situation, the better you’ll perform if you’re ever put in that situation.
DryFireFit is a set of 50+ dry fire drills designed to help you put fast accurate rounds on target in extreme stress situations.
How? By getting you comfortable with the movement, unstable and unconventional positions, and 360 degree environment you’ll be operating in if a surprise self-defense situation happens.
If you develop the muscle memory to quickly get your sights lined up now…when stress is low…regardless of your orientation, you’ll be operating in more familiar territory in a self-defense situation.
Laying in bed, shooting under a table/car, drawing, recovering, and shooting after getting knocked to the ground, fighting to your gun, and using your gun as an impact weapon if it malfunctions are just 7 of the 50+ drills that you’ll be doing in Dry Fire Fit.
These are all situations that happen in real life, situations that you CAN’T train for on a normal live fire range, but you CAN practice in the comfort of your living room with Dry Fire Fit. and Learn more now and get special pre-release pricing by clicking >HERE< today.