Shooting is visual. I truly believe that the key to shooting any firearm well, but especially a pistol, is by making a visual connection with the gun. I say that assuming the shooter’s fundamentals and mechanics are solid. If a shooter can put sights on a target and squeeze the trigger without moving the sights, then he or she has the required stored data to perform at a higher level.
We sometimes get so focused on mechanics and gear that we forget to do the one thing that matters most: SEE THE GUN. I could write volumes on the subject of seeing and processing information while you’re shooting and how it will allow you as a shooter to do what you need to do and do it easily.
I’ll start with one simple exercise that I use at the beginning of every class to get folks’ eyes plugged into the gun, their heads wrapped around some of the amazing things we can do as human machines, and how easy it is for us to use those tools as shooters. To start, I’ll say that as I understand it, we have two visual tools to bring information into the supercomputer (our brain) that will allow it to perform some amazing tasks for us. Those tools are focus and awareness.
Focus is what we use to read. Your eyes see letters and your mind translates them into words and therefore information. We as shooters need to see the rear sight, the front sight, and the target that way (not with camera-type focus where one thing is sharp and clear and everything else is blurry). Awareness is basically our peripheral vision that allows us to keep the world as big as it is while we are shooting. To perform the Vision Quest, you’ll need one target 10 yards away. I use 8.5x11 copy paper centered on a USPSA target. Put sights on the target and pay attention to the small details of sight alignment and placement. Shoot 5-10 rounds in succession with about 0.5 seconds between shots. Don’t shoot this exercise like a bullseye drill. Grip your gun as though you were shooting faster. When the gun fires, the front sight will lift out of the rear notch; in awareness you can see the direction and distance it goes—straight up through the head of the target or upward at an angle.
The front sight will go at least to the head of the target and probably higher based on your recoil mechanics. It should return back into the rear notch quickly. When it returns, note again the small details in sight alignment and placement. Continue this for about 20-30 reps and you should be comfortably seeing the details of how the sights look before the gun fires, seeing where the front sight goes during recoil, and how the sights recover after recoil.
What you just watched was your pistol cycling, which takes around 60 milliseconds! That’s pretty fast, but your eyes and your mind are faster. Continue the exercise and start noting how the brass comes out of the gun as you’re tracking your sights. This is visual exercise for awareness—letting the world be as big as it is while you’re shooting. Later I’ll share some more exercises to help your vision drive the performance we all want and can easily attain with good fundamentals and processing.