General Principles Of Target Practice
Categories: PRACTICE MARCH OR "HIKE"
Military Handbooks: The Plattsburg Manual
The most thrilling experience you will have at a training camp will
probably come when you step up to the firing line on the target range to
fire your first shot. The great majority of new men grow pale, become
nervous, lose their calm and poise, while they are on the firing line.
This is a fact, not a theory. And this loss of nerve is not confined to
the new man. Any shot, however old and experienced, will tell you that
he fully understands what we have just described.
To become a good shot, we must solve a mental condition that corresponds
in a way to that of beginners in golf. And we must master some details
We should know something about the machine (rifle) we are to operate. We
must know what the sights are and how to use them. We should know how
those men most successful in the science and art of shooting hold the
rifle under different conditions, how they adjust their slings, how they
prepare (blacken) their sights and care for their rifles, what practice
and preparation they take, and what bits of advice they have to offer.
The primitive man had no means of accurately aiming his crude devices to
throw stones. But in this day and age we have. The modern rifle is one
of the most perfect pieces of scientific machinery in the world. Very
shortly after you arrive in camp your captain will explain to you its
sights and how they are adjusted. lie has a sighting bar for that
purpose. It will take you only a few minutes to grasp the subject when
you have a rifle in your hands, and your instructor is pointing out and
explaining just what you should know. On paper it seems to be hard.
Now you will want to learn how to load your piece (rifle), work your
bolt, and squeeze the trigger. Simple as these points may seem, you will
have something to learn after you have been at it ten years. Practise!
practise! practise! Sit on your bunk and work your bolt ten thousand
times before you go on the range. Get in the habit of doing it quickly.
Learn to keep your piece at your shoulder while you pull the bolt back
and push it home. Learn to make the fewest possible motions of your body
in working it. To pull a bolt back and push it forward seems to be a
simple thing to do. It is simple. But when you are actually firing at
the target, experience tells you that you will have more trouble and a
greater collection of hard luck stories to amuse your friends with than
you ever imagined possible, unless you have had plenty of practice.
To squeeze a trigger seems to be a simple thing to do. It is simple. But
after you have been squeezing triggers for twenty years you will have
something more to learn about it. Ninety-five per cent. of the failures
on the target range in the training camps come from not squeezing the
trigger properly. You can't learn how to squeeze it on paper. You have
got to practise. Every time you work your bolt, squeeze your trigger.
Get in some extra squeezes. You will find that your whole muscular and
nervous system will need to be coordinated and harmonized. After you
have been long about it you will find an extreme delicacy in its
operation. You will find that it requires a great deal more than a
finger. All the muscles of your hand and arm will be required. We cannot
overemphasize the importance of squeezing your trigger. When you learn
to do this without jumping (flinching), without moving an eyelash, you
are making progress and are prepared for more advanced work.
Why do you suppose we have gallery practice, i.e., practice with a
greatly reduced charge of powder? Simply to determine and correct your
errors. We assume that you have normal sight and that you are in fair
physical condition. Suppose that you make a perfect score. What
conditions must you fulfil? 1st, You must aim in exactly the same way
every time. 2d, At the instant of firing your body must be in perfect
repose. 3d, You must squeeze your trigger properly (without a jerk).
You could not aim exactly the same way every time unless you understood
your sights and unless you could see them plainly. You will be told to
blacken them. Many forget and fail to do this. They do not fully realize
that the sights are much easier to see when blackened, and that
therefore the chances of hitting the bull's-eye are much greater.
There`s no more luck in shooting than there is in solving a problem in
geometry, or in a game of billiards. It`s all practice, nerve, and
Your body cannot be in repose at the instant you fire unless you have
your sling properly adjusted, unless you are reasonably comfortable (not
constrained), and unless you, temporarily, stop breathing. Your body
must be, for an instant, a vise. Any trivial thing such as a puff of
wind, a jerk of the trigger, or a noise near you, will ordinarily change
your hold and throw you off the bull's-eye.
Suppose you are making a poor score. What is the trouble? In the first
place don't blame it on the rifle or the ammunition. Assume full
responsibility yourself. You are the responsible party. Practise a great
deal and see if you can locate the fault. If you cannot, your captain
will assist you.
When we go from gallery practice to the target range, where we fire the
service rifle with the service charge, we find a great difference in the
recoil of the rifle and in the sound. The good Lord has made our muscles
and nervous system to react automatically at danger or anything
connected with it. That is probably why we shudder and close our eyes
when a door is slammed very near to us. But sound, unless we get too
close, does not hurt any one, and we should steel our nerves to
remember that fact when we are firing. We also know that there is going
to be a certain amount of recoil of the rifle. But if you will hold your
sling as you have been instructed, if you will provide yourself with
proper elbow and shoulder padding, the authors of this text assure you
that you will experience no pain or harm from the recoil. It is their
judgment that if you are healthy and can see and will go on the range
with your jaws set to fire with anything like your gallery practice
coolness, and calmness, you will qualify. Your greatest stumbling block
will be your rapid fire. This is where you fire a definite number of
shots in a limited time. And this is where you will experience the
extreme amount of nervousness.
When you return from firing your first score at rapid fire, and have had
time to think calmly over your actions, you will probably realize that
your nerves were pitched up in G and that you did a number of foolish
things. You should realize that you are not an exceptional man.
Ninety-nine out of every hundred normal, virile men are more or less
nervous when they first step up for rapid fire. Practice and will power
are the correctives.
Let us suppose that you have ten shots to fire in two minutes. If you
fire your ten shots in one minute it is plain that you return unused one
minute given to you. This minute may have been of great use to you in
getting closer to the bull's-eye. If you fire at the rate of ten shots
in three minutes, it is plain that when your two minutes shall have
expired you have missed the opportunity of firing four times at the
Get one of your bunkies to go back of your tent and time you. Then swap
about and you hold the watch for him. Try to make of yourself a machine
that finishes the ten shots just before the time expires.
And here is a little rule of thumb we want you to bear constantly in
mind while you are having rapid fire: Load your piece quickly, but aim
and squeeze your trigger deliberately. Keep cool.
The best shot in the company is the man who practises the most.