Even with diligent practice and equipment selection, some of us may find that we’re still missing our targets if we’ve neglected one critical fundamental of accurate shooting: follow-through. It can happen to anyone, novice or pro. Here are six tips to ensure that your follow-through process keeps you on target every time you squeeze the trigger or release an arrow.
1. Focus, the Crucial Element to Shooting Accurately:
Once the trigger is squeezed, a chain reaction of mechanical events is begun. The primer is struck and the powder inside the case is then ignited which pushes the projectile out from the case and down the barrel. While all of this is happening, this is the critical time for the shooter to concentrate on keeping his or her eye on the target without moving that firearm. With the shot, the first reaction you may notice is that your front sight, red dot or crosshair moves up in response to the recoil and then back down in the vicinity of that object. If we're able to keep that firearm from moving, we are home free if our aim was correct for the range and our sights properly adjusted. During many years of shotgun and handgun competition, I noticed that lack of follow-through was most common in the shotgun sports, such as skeet and sporting clays. If you're ever coaching someone and therefore focusing on their body reaction to squeezing the trigger, you'll notice a lot of unconscious body movement, which is causing them to miss. In reality, this happens to all shooters in all disciplines. Years ago on a Wyoming varmint hunt, a friend was spotting for me on a long shot in which I used a tripod. Problem was, when I squeezed the trigger, I missed. My spotter immediately put his hand on my head stating something like "keep your head on the stock." I knew what I did; it was obvious and his immediate comment brought home a lesson: After years of shooting, we all get lax or lose concentration just that one time and as we squeeze, pick up our head to see the hit. Here are some tips to help you control this natural reaction.
2. Contemplating Recoil:
Big bore firearms do recoil! To control this when firing a handgun we need to have used the proper isometric tension on the grip and extended arms. Being afraid of recoil and anticipating such force against us, we tend to grip harder which results in a shaky sight picture, and likely a miss. With a shotgun or rifle the reaction is all the same.
3. Shifting your Focus to See the Target Hit:
Here is where we all get into trouble. The good news is that after shooting a lot, you'll get to know when you've done it. At the skeet range, I have squeezed on what I always thought of as an easy target, got lax and picked up my head to see it break. But in reality, due to not following-through or being lucky, it did not. I seldom did this but seldom is still too much! When getting on the pad, say to yourself "FOLLOW-THROUGH."
4. Shot Two if Needed:
This includes reacquiring your sight picture on the target and if you're using a revolver, retracting the hammer and being ready to again squeeze the trigger. The only way to get good at this is to practice and with that second shot, approach it as you did the first. This is why I have revolvers in .22 LR similar to what I use to hunt big game, so I can practice with less expensive ammo.
When hunting we usually only get that one shot so we must make it count. Once you've decided to fire, shift focus to securing the firearm and slowly squeeze, without jerking the trigger. Then with the bang, continue to hold it steady for another second or two while keeping your focus on the target. What also helps? Good ear protection, since for many it is the loud report that contributes to our body movement at the shot.
5. Watch Me:
Even after years of shooting, at times we do it all wrong as per trigger squeeze, moving the firearm at the shot as well as our stance. This is why even seasoned shooters can benefit from a coach or spotter to watch us and call out our bad habits occasionally. It quickly becomes a positive wake-up call not to slack off and move. At the range back home, I watch my wife shoot (and vice versa) and we then critique each other. We look forward to doing this since such an immediate analysis is quite helpful and we always try to beat each other.
6. Test Yourself, Try a Laser:
As long as I have been shooting, I was aware that flinching as well as ignoring follow-through contributes to misses. Yet, it wasn’t until I began to shoot handguns and rifles equipped with Crimson Trace Laser sights did I actually “see” the results of not staying on target after the shot. This concept was also stressed by my old hunting buddy Mike Faw on a shooting seminar we attended. Mike also stressed that while using a firearm so equipped, you will see with the first shot why practicing with one can be beneficial. When using a laser, the red or green dot is on the target and when you fire, you are looking at what you want to hit which is when you see just how steady you were before, during and after the shot. Just due to this practical visual experience, most tend to shoot a little better.
7. If Using Open Sights, Then What:
The key is to follow all of what was stated as per a scope or red dot. This is why when using open sights, concentrating on the front sight is so critical. Take deer hunting, for example: If the deer is within yards, and your revolver's front sight is on him where you need to be, that will likely result in a hit if you point and fire again. To practice this, use your finger by quickly lifting your hand and pointing to whatever you were looking at of which your finger should now be on.