I’ve continued to chip away at the snapshot, specifically the presentation, in the few days since the last article on snapshooting. I experienced some difficulties, and was able to address them by making change that feels quite a bit different, but would probably not be outwardly noticeable.
The easiest way I can illustrate this is through a discussion of the axis point of the rifle during presentation. The most obvious axis point of the rifle to move from its angle at port arms to a nearly horizontal position is probably somewhere between the location at the center of the two hands holding it and its balance point. That’s where it would be the most natural way to move it in terms of feel by the way the rifle balances.
The axis of the rifle's rotation is the red dot. A big swing, while raising it up. It does work, but you get the problems of wasted motion, a lot of parts moving simultaneously, and a moment of obstructed vision.
I discussed the problem with that type of movement in the previous snapshooting article. I’ll sum it up again. If the rifle is rotated around the obvious axis point, that axis also needs to be raised up for the sight to meet the eye. The raising of the rifle and the rotation of the rifle tend to occur simultaneously. This causes just a bit of excessive net movement of the rifle. What is more of a problem is that the rifle rises into and above the line of site which obstructs the target and disrupts the visual continuity of the process.
Another problem with using the obvious axis is that the muzzle position in port arms is a good reference point of where the rifle will point when its presented to the target. It’s like a pointer. All the movement that is created when rotating around that obvious axis detracts from the usefulness of that pointer.
What I did in the last article to make the presentation a little more efficient was essentially move the axis of rotation forward to approximately the location of the support hand. This improved things quite a bit. During this movement the support hand has the feeling of moving forward to point in at the target, while the firing hand compensates to keep it on track while placing the butt to the shoulder and obtaining a firing grip.
The primary feeling here is of the support hand, specifically the base of the index finger, driving the index to target.
While the hands move the rifle, I had to learn the feeling of getting the cheekweld established immediately. Something that Colorado Pete said about a year ago in a discussion about snapshooting stuck with me:
“Speaking of snapshots...when I took Col. Cooper's General Rifle course at the Whittington Center back in '99, we had a retirement-age gentleman from New England with us. On the man-against-man steel shoot-off at the close of the course, he showed off what must have been his lifetime of grouse-shotgunning skill. The first target was a large steel at about 50 yards or so. His rifle went off when the buttplate hit his shoulder, so consistently that it seemed as if the trigger was in the buttplate. And he did not miss.”
Finding that instant cheekweld had been a problem, so I decided to mould myself using his analogy of the trigger being in the buttplate as a model. I started breaking the dry fire shot right when the butt reached the shoulder. If I didn’t have a sight picture I knew I didn’t get my cheekweld fast enough. Sometimes an obvious deficiency is the quickest path to noticing the problem and rectifying it without too much fuss or thought.
I believe it was this shift from a kinesthetic approach to a visual one that broke this particular barrier for me. Shooting is such a visual activity. I seem to favor kinesthetic learning. Sometimes one needs to shift from their primary learning style to make progress.
What I was finding is that there are so many moving parts in this movement that it’s rather difficult to get them all to terminate in a consistent point in a proper firing position. I started examining the presentation with a little more logical analysis. I knew that I had simplified the movement, but not completely.
I figured out that the muzzle is already pretty much at the height that it needs to end up in. That makes the muzzle the most logical place to use as an axis to rotate the rest of the rifle around. This gives the support hand pretty much nothing to do except to maintain the muzzle at an eye level height. This gives the firing hand only one job, which is to move the rifle to its proper position.
The photo oversimplifies the movement a little bit in comparison to the other photos, but that is how the change feels in comparison to the others.
As I said before, this is a very subtle change. The results, in my opinion, have been more dramatic. I use the muzzle as a guide to address my body to the target. To say it another way, the rifle is held in the normal, comfortable port arms position, and the body is rotated left or right without altering the way the rifle is held until the muzzle is just below the target. The eyes remain on the target. The safety is turned off, and the sight comes up to the eye, replacing the muzzle as the visual marker. The finger should be on the trigger at the time the sights are on the target.
This is a lot easier than trying to get everything to move all at once and land in the right spot. I’m finding a lot greater consistency and ease of movement, and that the sight is coming up a lot closer to my intended point of aim. Those are good things.
Thank you for reading.