It’s simple, yet powerful. Since its founding, The Range Complex (TRC) has built its reputation for honing the marksmanship skills of SOF (Special Operations Forces) Instructors on a single, essential tenet: Brilliance in the Basics.
This concept of pursuing perfection through relentless practice of the fundamentals under increasing stress originated in the operator training course of Delta Force (1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta), and it remains the underpinning of every course taught at TRC. In the following story, three veteran TRC instructors— with different backgrounds, tactical/shooting experience and perspectives—explain how getting back to basics can take your shooting to the next level.
1. Regardless of the weapon (pistol or rifle), you must have solid fundamentals if you expect to progress as a shooter. Distance, speed and accuracy will come with mastery of the fundamentals.
2. In regard to your stance, it’s critical to establish a solid base, because your foundation is essential. You should have a strong, aggressive stance that allows for better control of the gun. This also allows you to better manage recoil, because your body will be slightly forward of vertical.
3. With your grip, control the weapon without adding torque, because that creates side-to-side impact. Keep your hand placement high on the gun, and remember that you will have better control if your hands are closest to the axis of recoil.
4. When using the clamshell grip, the majority of your strength comes from your support hand, and this allows for the isolated press of the trigger.
5. You must have a consistent, repeatable sight picture. Make sure the iron sights are flush across the top and equally light on the sides. If you’re using a red dot, keep the dot in the center of the sight.
6. Whether the trigger is light or heavy, you need a smooth, consistent pull straight to the rear. Take any slack out of the trigger as the gun is presented to the target, and never break finger contact with the trigger. Begin applying pressure to the trigger once you have fine tuned the sight alignment and controlled your breathing. Once you start applying pressure to the trigger, continue to press until the gun fires. Don’t start and then stop the squeeze every time the sight moves around on the target. Accept the wobble, and continue the squeeze.
7. Present straight to the target. All other movement is excessive, wastes time and can add torque.
8. Follow through properly. Maintain focus on your sight throughout the shot until the round impacts. If your focus shifts from the sight, you tend to move the weapon, and your accuracy suffers.
9. Dry-firing is essential to becoming a better shooter. It allows you to identify a lot of problems without the distraction of live fire. However, you should limit your dry fire sessions to a reasonable time limit that allows you the maximum concentration; once you start getting distracted, take a break. Strive for perfection each time.
10. For most shooters, range time is precious, so make sure it counts. When you go to the range, have a plan for what you want to achieve during that session. I have a plan long before I go to the range. I may work on accuracy, trigger control or speed. My training and all the drills I do for that particular day support the goals I am trying to achieve.
11. When working on accuracy, I normally practice at 25 yards on an NRA B-8 bull’s-eye target. (These are the inexpensive, easy-to-find, 25-yard timed and Rapid Official NRA targets.) First, I do 10 shots in five minutes and then score it; then, five shots in 20 seconds twice; and then five shots in 10 seconds twice.
12. For speed, I do what’s called the “Bill drill,” which is six shots on a single IPSC target, fired as quickly as possible while keeping all the shots in the “A” zone. Do this while using a timer, shooting as fast as possible until you start losing accuracy. This helps develop trigger speed, sight tracking, trigger manipulation and recoil management.
“Diagnose misses and hits, striving to always correct or simply improve every action to be more efficient or more perfect.”
13. It is important to employ proper technique and engage in perfect practice. Remember: Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect. When you are practicing a technique or drill, make sure you’re doing it correctly, even if it means you have to slow down to what you think is a crawl. As you perfect a skill,
you’ll be able to increase your speed or accuracy, depending on what you are working on that day.
14. Get competent instruction from a reputable instructor. Most people don’t realize what they don’t know, and it is very hard for them to self-diagnose their flaws or mistakes. Plus, they can’t see past the results of their behavior and don’t fully understand or know how to correct the behavior that produces the results.
15. Apply an outcomes-based training methodology that allows you to achieve quantitative and measureable results. In other words, have measurable goals and metrics so you can measure your progress. Focus on the sub-tasks (fundamentals), and the overall task (shooting) will improve. Break down the complex task of tactical shooting into smaller, less-complicated tasks. For example, decrease the time on a three-target transition drill. Start with a single shot from the ready position with a rifle or from the holster with a pistol. Do this until you are able to consistently deliver the single shot to the “A” zone until just short of your “point of failure” (when you have lost accuracy). During a six-shot string, do two shots on a single target in the A zone, maintaining accuracy. This will give you your split time. Then, move on to three targets, using an aggressive transition between targets. This is nothing more than a crawl, walk, run process. You must focus on accuracy by executing all the fundamentals; this is a constant endeavor. You can then focus on your ability to place one well-aimed shot at speed and progressively chain other skills together, such as multiple shots, target transition and movement. After that, start incorporating stress into your training.
“Distance, speed and accuracy will come with mastery of the fundamentals.”
16. Another example of the outcomes-based training is to make sure you see the sights as you would see a movie. Most people view their sights in snapshots, meaning that they see a snapshot of the sights prior to the shot and then see the snapshot of the sight post-shot (follow-through). When firing at a target, you should see the sights in absolute detail—from the initial sight picture through the follow-on sight picture. You can then decide to use, or not use, that sight picture. It’s important that every shot fired be a conscious decision, not simply a conditioned response.
17. Consistency breeds accuracy. Once you understand the fundamentals, you must execute them on their base level consistently so they are ingrained on the subconscious level. Only then can you use your conscious mind to problem-solve and process stimuli to make decisions.
18. Be accountable for every shot, and learn from every shot. There is never a free or meaningless shot. Diagnose misses and hits, striving to always correct or simply improve every action to be more efficient or more perfect.
19. Proper sight alignment at 7 yards on a B-8 bull’s-eye target may be acquiring the front post somewhere in the rear notch. With proper sight alignment at 25 yards on a B-8 bull’s-eye target, you should align the front post in the center of the rear notch, with the leading edge of the top of the front post level with the leading edge of the top of the rear notch. There should be equal light on both sides of the front post. The speed at which you can deliver each shot on demand is relative to the speed at which you can achieve an acceptable sight picture.
20. Constantly push your limits so you know the threshold of your individual failure points. Know at what point the “wheels fall off” and at what point you are always 100 percent.
Eddie spent 23 years in the U.S. Army and 17 years assigned to the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment—Delta (SFOD-D)—in which he served in numerous leadership positions. He also served as liaison officer (O-7 level) in combat, working with all branches of the military, and OGA in the Middle East, Latin America, the Balkans and Asia. Eddie was awarded two Bronze Stars (Valor), along with four other valor awards.
Greg spent 22 years in the U.S. Army, including 14 as a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU), training soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and civilians in tactical and competitive marksmanship. He was a platoon sergeant for action shooting and service pistol teams. He developed and implemented rifle and pistol marksmanship training plans for the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Coalition Forces (CF). Greg is a U.S. Army Distinguished Pistol Shot and has been a High Master competitor in NRA pistol competitions for 11 years.
Alan is a 17-year law enforcement veteran, 14 of which were on SWAT, including 10 years as SWAT instructor. He’s skilled in developing instructional blocks and conducting hostage/barricade operations, high-risk entries, vehicle assaults, CQB, hostage rescue operations, explosive breaching, weapons deployment/marksmanship, active shooter response, high-risk open air apprehensions, and tactical athlete development and training.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2016 print issue of World of Firepower. Because of the sensitive nature of their other work, these three TRC instructors requested that only their first names be used in this article.