WHAT IS….AND HOW DO YOU BECOME AN INSTINCTIVE SHOOTER?
I’ve had a lot of people ask me that question over the years and the answer is always basically the same, but it’s meaning to each individual is always just a little different. We are all wired just a little differently and so we all see things a little differently and we all react a little differently to what we see. Some of us are fast in reacting to a visual impulse where others are slow or a little slower. If a person is one of those whose reactions are on the slow side, he or she can be taught to respond differently and more rapidly to become to become an instinctive shooter that will also become a more successful shotgun shooter and hunter. There is another benefit to becoming an instinctive shooter. It’s the fact that it’ll transfer to other shooting sports and activities as well.
This is a little story to illustrate what I mean. I’ve been through several combat handgun-training courses that have been taught at some of the premier facilities here in the U. S. They are excellent courses that will teach you how to defend yourself with a handgun in any type of situation on the street or in your home in daylight or night. They have a regimen they put you through to help you pick up your speed and accuracy. They are always pushing you. I actually already had both from shot gunning, but at first wasn’t as fast or as accurate with the handgun, just because I didn’t shoot one much. Half way through each of the courses I was in my element because I was more comfortable with my pistol. When it came down to the finals and testing I was surprising my instructors and myself. I didn’t realize it, but I wasn’t even using the sights on the handguns to take down the targets. I wasn’t bringing the guns up to my eyes to align the sights on the targets, as they wanted me to; I was actually shooting the pistols from my chest area and hitting everything just as though I had the sights aligned with my eyes. That is what you call mental and visual focus and shooting instinctively.
I’ve heard some uninformed people say or suggest there is no such thing as instinctive shooting. Well, they are absolutely wrong and don’t know what they are talking about. I actually feel sorry for them, as they will obviously never become the best shooter they are capable of being. They obviously don’t know how to make themselves or other people perform beyond their present capabilities. The British have been teaching the method for years.
For an instructor, they have to have excellent communication skills that relate to each individual as an individual and not just another student. You cannot communicate to every person in the same way, manor or use the same verbal communication. Just as we all respond differently to visual input, we all respond differently to verbal input. As an example, I once had a student who, no matter what I did or told him, he would continue to measure the target and barrel relationship and shoot late and miss the target. I really became frustrated, not to mention his frustration. Then I finally said: “Don’t think about it, just trust yourself, it’ll happen”. Well, he let it all go and he started smoking targets. Just trust yourself, seemed to be the key words for him to get him out of his shell.
We all have some negative things we do in our habits be it in shooting or something else. Either we were taught them or we subconsciously picked them up by casual observation. Breaking those negative habits is one of the things instinctive shooting is all about. You have to learn to react quickly to become a good instinctive shooter.
For the student, they have to approach the instructor and instruction with a completely open mind and be ready to not only learn, but also except new ideas and methods. Shooters who have a shooting problem don’t normally have the ability to analyze the reasons for the problem in order to correct the situation, nor do they push themselves. It’s the responsibility of the instructor to make the student aggressive and push him to go beyond what he considers his normal abilities. He must also be able to explain what is actually happening to the student that is different than what the student may be seeing and therefore interpreting incorrectly. An instructor really helps in pushing the student to new levels. Most people can’t develop that ability by themselves.
OK, so what is instinctive shooting you ask? It’s the ability to respond to a target and smoke it without any conscious thought. You just react to the visual impulse. You see; you react; you mount and shoot. Those three things can occur in a fraction of a second or over several seconds depending on the presentation.
There are many ways in which you can develop your skills to become a successful instinctive shot gunner, but most them would be best done with an instructor. It’s hard for a person to push himself or herself to shoot faster and trust themselves, because they don’t what to leave their comfort zone. It’s also hard to understand what’s really happening when you’re trying something new and things are happening so fast when your doing it for the first time. That’s why it’s best to work on things like this with an instructor.
On a skeet field you can take the pole with the hoop and lay it down on the ground with the base of the pole at the vertical pipe stand and the hoop facing the high house. You’ll be shooting from station two. Now, you’re really going to have to push yourself. Your goal is to be able to smoke the high house target at or before the hoop. It may seem like an impossible task, but after some misses, you should be able take the target with ease. You should be doing this with a low gun, or a gun at the ready, not pre-mounted at the shoulder. Obviously you’ll need a good puller and someone that can help you make corrections. With practice, you can consistently smoke the target at or before the hoop.
If you have a manual trap machine on a stand with a seat, you want to place it on a hill or ridge so the land falls away in front of you. The reason for this location is so that the trapper can throw anything from a downward flight below the shooters feet to a teal and sliding right and left targets and everything else in between. The shooter should stand in front of and to the left of the trapper by about ten to fifteen feet so that broken clay targets don’t hit him should they break on launch. The trapper should be strong enough so he can manipulate and tilt the trap machine and be able to throw everything from teals, grass skimmers going down hill and sliding hard right and left targets. The shooter doesn’t call pull. When the shooter is ready, he holds the shotgun at the ready and that is the signal that the trapper can throw the single or doubles target at his will with any length of delay. The trapper should always mix it up so the shooter never knows what type of target he’s going to be getting. The shooter is to shoot the targets as fast as possible. A tail wind or crosswind makes the targets even more interesting and difficult for the shooter. The best way to get a shooter to shoot faster if they are always late in shooting or always measuring the target barrel relationship is to put another faster shooter alongside the slow shooter. When the slow shooter looses enough targets to the faster shooter he’s going to get frustrated at not having a chance to shoot. He’s going to start pushing himself so that he’ll eventually start trusting himself. In time, he’ll be shooting at the same time or before the other shooter and breaking targets. I’ve never seen this technique fail yet. So why do you want to get someone to shoot fast you ask? So that they don’t have time to think about what they’re doing, so they just respond to the target and break it. Let their natural instinct or computer do what it does best. It teaches them to trust themselves and not measure or ride the target. It teaches them to mount and shoot rapidly with success.
When people take too much time in shooting it’s usually because they are measuring the target distance from the barrel or bead. Or they look back at the bead and slow their swing down and end up shooting behind the target. They are never sure of what they are seeing or doing. They don’t trust their own ability. What they should be doing is closely watching and studying the target when they have the opportunity to see the first pair. By closely watching and interpreting the targets actions they’ll be able to put the gun barrel into the proper flight path to intercept the target.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong if you don’t trust your natural abilities and respond to the target instinctively. You have to learn to trust your natural abilities because you have one of the most expensive and complex computers under your shooting hat. But you must learn how to program that computer to function properly and to trust and completely understand the visual input and your instinctive reaction to it. Some seem to be born with that innate ability and some of us need to be trained to develop that ability. I truly believe we are all born with that ability, but we’ve never really learned how to use and trust that instinctive ability. It’s a scientific fact we all use only a small part of our brainpower and we should learn how to use more of our capabilities to enjoy shooting and hunting to a greater degree.
Bio on the author:
Jerry Sinkovec is a freelance outdoor and travel writer/photographer who writes for over 45 different publications nationally and internationally. He is also the director of the Instinctive Target Interception Shotgun Shooting School headquartered in Idaho Falls, Idaho and is Browning Endorsed. Other articles on shooting instruction can be seen at his web site: www.itishooting.com or he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org