Air­gun Stu­dent

Air­gun Stu­dent, Nay­lor Ball, faces the harsh re­al­i­ties of im­prov­ing his re­sults

Airgun World - - Contents -

Nay­lor Ball re­calls the ba­sics, and dis­cov­ers that the old adage ‘pa­tience is a virtue’ is very true!

Very soon af­ter start­ing my self-con­structed, learn­ing to shoot course, I came to a ma­jor re­al­i­sa­tion; this whole process wasn’t go­ing to be as easy as I thought it would be. In fact, as I look back on more than a year’s worth of ded­i­cated train­ing, I can hon­estly say that not one part of it has taken me to where I want to be, with­out some sort of has­sle or other.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a chal­lenge and the harder some­thing is to mas­ter, the more sat­is­fac­tion I get from be­com­ing bet­ter at it. It’s just that I re­ally didn’t see some of my chal­lenges com­ing, and that meant I had to think on the fly and find so­lu­tions for my­self. The chal­lenges and their so­lu­tions were en­tirely sep­a­rate, but grad­u­ally a re­al­i­sa­tion emerged that cov­ered ev­ery­thing; it’s not the na­ture of the chal­lenges, but the way you take them on that de­cides the out­come. Please let me ex­plain through my per­sonal ex­am­ples.

BE­ING PA­TIENT

Like most of my gen­er­a­tion, I pre­fer things to hap­pen fast, and that def­i­nitely ap­plied to my learn­ing to shoot bet­ter. I thought I was rea­son­ably good be­fore I started, so be­com­ing an ex­pert would be a mat­ter of time, and not much of it, ei­ther. How to­tally, ut­terly wrong that was. Just a week into my train­ing, af­ter I’d failed to un­der­stand fully the need and ap­pli­ca­tion of trig­ger tech­nique and fol­low-through, I learned my first fun­da­men­tal les­son. That was to be re­al­is­tic about the whole learn­ing thing and to ac­cept that the tech­niques I was try­ing to learn would take me months, pos­si­bly years, to mas­ter. Even if I man­aged to be­come an ex­pert, I’d be re­fin­ing and main­tain­ing those tech­niques – all of them – for the rest of my shoot­ing life.

This was a mas­sive re­al­i­sa­tion for me and it set me on the right course for the rest of my train­ing. Af­ter all, the core skills I was try­ing

“Look at your own shoot­ing chain and study ev­ery link”

to learn would be the foun­da­tion of my shoot­ing, so of course they’ll take time to in­stall. Les­son well and truly learned.

PER­FEC­TION ISN’T AN OP­TION

I’m a bit of a per­fec­tion­ist, so I fought against the next ma­jor les­son for some time be­fore ac­cept­ing it. Yet, the in­escapable fact is, per­fec­tion just isn’t avail­able on any­thing like a per­ma­nent ba­sis. We may get ev­ery­thing just right for one shot, or may 10 con­sec­u­tive shots, but there’s so much go­ing on be­tween us and our tar­get, and so much else that we can’t to­tally con­trol no mat­ter how hard we work, that shots will al­ways do what we don’t want them to do.

For in­stance, the wind can mess up any shot, as can a slightly im­per­fect pel­let or a me­chan­i­cal mal­func­tion. We can’t to­tally con­trol these things, and plenty of oth­ers, but we can do our best to re­duce their ef­fect, and that takes me straight on to the next ma­jor les­son.

RE­DUCE THE VARI­ABLES

As stated, ev­ery­thing to­tally be­yond our con­trol can mess up ev­ery­thing we try to do, but that must never stop us re­duc­ing the ef­fects of such things. We can’t make our own pel­lets, but we can at least sort out the best ones from the bent ones. We can’t turn off the wind, but we can cer­tainly train hard when it’s windy and learn to gauge its ef­fect on our pel­lets. We can also shorten our ranges if we’re hunt­ing in the wind, and we can call off the shot al­to­gether if we’re not sure of a clean kill. Not shoot­ing when it’s best to show res­traint is a gen­uine skill.

As far as me­chan­i­cal prob­lems go, again, we don’t make the guns but we can keep them main­tained to the best of our abil­ity and this will re­duce the chances of them let­ting us down. Ba­si­cally, the les­son here is ‘ac­cept that per­fec­tion isn’t an op­tion – but don’t let that stop you go­ing for it.’

BE PRE­PARED TO CHANGE

The next les­son was an­other mas­sive one, be­cause chang­ing the way we’ve al­ways done things is of­ten so dif­fi­cult that we tend to stick with what feels com­fort­able, rather than switch­ing to what works best. My stand­ing shoot­ing is the per­fect ex­am­ple of this. For the best part of a decade, I taught my­self to shoot from the stand­ing stance us­ing a tech­nique more suited to a shot­gun; lean­ing for­ward, ri­fle out in front, sup­ported en­tirely by mus­cle­power. Chang­ing that style to the more de­lib­er­ate, tar­get-style tech­nique I now use took me months of hard train­ing. Grad­u­ally, and I mean very grad­u­ally, shoot­ing the ‘new way’ be­came nor­mal for me and now it feels like I’ve al­ways shot like that. There’s an­other les­son there, too, which is ‘do some­thing of­ten enough – and it will be­come es­tab­lished.’

CHAIN RE­AC­TION

My fi­nal fun­da­men­tal les­son is that ev­ery­thing I do in shoot­ing is in­ter­con­nected. Tech­nique is a chain and it’s al­ways let down by its weak­est link. All the hard work and train­ing in the world means noth­ing if you haven’t both­ered to find the best pel­lets for your ri­fle. The most skil­ful shooter on the planet won’t per­form to the max’ if he/she is skid­ding around in train­ers, or shiv­er­ing in a T-shirt when con­di­tions de­mand a warm coat. Sim­ple, ba­sic links in the long per­for­mance chain, but we break them at our peril.

Look at your own shoot­ing chain and study ev­ery link. Strengthen each one as much as hu­manly pos­si­ble, then work as hard as you can on the weak­est link of all – your­self. As I said, it’s not about the chal­lenges that face us, but how we face those chal­lenges – and it al­ways will be. I

I was shocked at how long it took for me to ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of trig­ger tech­nique and fol­low-through.

Ev­ery skill and ev­ery stance takes a life­time to per­fect. We have to ac­cept this.

It’s not the chal­lenges you face, but how you face your chal­lenges!

Sim­ple fact; if it’s too windy to take longer shots - you have to get closer.

So much be­tween you and your tar­get is be­yond com­plete con­trol.

Choose the right ones and look af­ter them bet­ter than this!

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