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General Principles Of Target Practice

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

in technique.

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.