Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

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Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by willnewton on Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:34 am

My slow fire scores in the first round are consistently low and groupings are poor.  I battle a pronounced adrenaline-induced shake that does not subside until after about 15-20 shots into the match.

An over abundance of adrenaline will cause muscular shaking, such shaking when cold or terrified or very hungry.

Looking into some biological causes of excess adrenaline in relation to shooting seem to point a lot of fingers at stress and low blood sugar.
  The brain tells the body you are about to perform a strenuous or stressful activity, so in response, your brain tells your kidneys to make adrenaline (epinephrine) and your blood disperses it around the body in prepartion for dealing with the situation. 
  This same adrenaline surge can occur when your blood sugar is low.  The adrenaline is transported to the liver where it participates in breaking down glycogen (stored energy) into glucose (usable fuel).
  Also in a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situation, whether your blood sugar is in a proper state or not, the brain will still send commands for adrenaline during stress because the body's fight or flight response will override the need proper blood sugar balance. 

Now we are getting to the meat of the issue, overriding a biological response that is not totally under voluntary control.  Butterflies in the stomach, stage fright, dumb thumbs, shell shock, or even the perception of time slowing down, such as watching an accident unfold in front of you- there are many names for it and we have all experienced adrenaline in some fashion positive or negative.

Humans are all pretty similar, but some of us may have a response system that is more reactive than others.  Whether this enhanced response is inherited via evolution or learned via environment, causes and effects of adrenaline have never been as apparent to me as when utilizing the ultrafine muscle control needed for Bullseye.

  Practice, repetition, equipment tweaks, competition, and this forum have all worked to improve my scores.  As I progress and eliminate problems, I often find the problem I am trying to solve was caused by a deeper issue.  This leads me to where I am at today, dealing with the realization that my first round SF scores are hurting my overall performance.

Things that have partially worked to combat shaking:

1.  Changing my diet so that I arrive on the line in a proper state of nutrition.  This way my blood sugar level is not low from not eating and is also not crashing from a sugar high that I created an hour earlier because I grabbed whatever snack was available at the gas station on my way to the range.

2.  Warm up shots can help some and helps me get over any shakes sooner, but not completely.

3.  I have tried all kinds of gripping and pistol grips to deal with it, but this type of shaking is beyond a grip issue.

4.  Just getting my brain and body to chill the f#*! out.  Relaxing, deep breathing, eyes closed, positive visualization, detachment from distractions, Zen, etc.  This does not seem to help as much up front, but definitely helps me come down quicker.

5. Acceptance of the shake.  I do this everyday my friend, but accepting it does not make it go away.  Controlled shake in the black, I can deal with.  Erratic shake that can sweep a whole target is a different animal.

6.  Pre-fatiguing, essentially working out that jumpiness earlier in the day by walking or cycling.  Doing something active, but not extremely so.  This is a pretty good one for sure and I am pursuing it further to find the right balance of activity.

So what is my goal?  It is simple enough.  I want the first magazine loaded into my pistol to go from being the worst 5 shots to the best 5.

Can you help a brother out?  What is working for you?
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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by desben on Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:03 am

I think the solution is primarily a mental/attitude one. Why is your body reacting with "a fight or flight" response? It's because your mind it's telling it that it's a stressful situation. It may be that you feel nervous to be competing against others, or your anticipation of the explosion/recoil, or any number of reasons. Do you get the same adrenaline when you practice by yourself?

I used to get nervous when I first started. Then after I had done this 3-4 times, I saw a match was no big deal. The guys next to you don't care about your score. Nobody will judge you. You can relax.

Just once, try going to a match with no expectation of performance. Just go to have fun, spend a day at the range and enjoy the company of your fellow shooters. Still try do shoot your best, look at the sights and squeeze that trigger carefully. But don't expect to shoot above a certain score or anything; that's irrelevant. Just go have fun. See what difference it makes.
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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by Aprilian on Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:26 am

Try adding a string of dry fire in your 3 minute prep time?  Build into that process telling yourself "r..e..l..a..x" before each trigger pull.  

Alternately doing a deep breathing and visualizing exercise before the SF section starts might work.   

The key thing, like your nutrition, is finding what works FOR YOU, there won't be a standard solution for everyone.

Are you drinking caffeine before the match?
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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by willnewton on Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:36 am

desben wrote:Do you get the same adrenaline when you practice by yourself?
I got jumpy just typing about being jumpy, so the answer would be "Yes."

I compete weekly and am not nervous about the competition itself.  I will admit to having some flinch issues when I was getting started, but have improved on that quite a bit over the past six months by working steadily on dry fire, air pistol, ball and dummy exercises, and shooting .45.

I have been thinking about my dog a lot since my last post.  If I walk up to him and pet him or sit down beside him and read, he remains calm.  BUT if you make a single indication of going for a W-A-L-K, either vocally or just jingling his leash, he will go from cool as a cucumber to Speedy Gonzales in about .5 seconds.

I think that is what is happening when I raise up for shot one.

I thought back to other times I have shot guns. I am not a hunter, but I have been hunting a looong time ago.  I just now remembered the phrase that has been on the tip of my tongue, but I have been unable to recall until now. I think I just realized exactly what is up.

Buck fever.
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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by carykiteboarder on Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:55 am

I was recounting an intense adrenaline experience to my nephew -- an Army Ranger with multiple deployments to Afganistan & Iraq.  His honest and un-sarcastic response was "You can train through that." 

In your context, I believe that means two things:
1) You can diminish (but probably not eliminate) your body's response with repetition.
2) You can learn to perform well despite the symptoms.

The things you articulate sound very reasonable.  Because you state that the symptoms dissipate in a reasonably short time, and are more correlated with start of match, I would focus on stress reducing mental processes.  For example, mentally rehearse how great it feels to execute a slow fire shot in the X-ring while dry-firing prior to your live-fire string. When you make a good shot during those initial slow-fire strings, hit your "record button" and replay those feelings as part of your match preparation.

I hope I never have to "train through" the kind of adrenaline responses my nephew has had.
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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by STEVE SAMELAK on Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:24 pm

The first time I shot a 1500 match my neighbor asked me how I could stay calm & joke around.
I pointed out that the stress doesn't start until the targets start shooting back.
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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by LenV on Tue Feb 14, 2017 1:27 pm

Some serious answers here so its time I inserted my favorite quote from "Red Heat". When Arnold was asked how they handled stress in Russia he replied "Vodka". Not advocating alcohol as the answer but humor and lightning up on yourself can help. There is a lot of catching up on lives, guns and loads on the line before the three minute warning.

Len
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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by CR10X on Tue Feb 14, 2017 5:17 pm

Shooting should not be a stressful sport.

Shooting competition does not require adrenaline, do not create the conditions to promote the production.  Matches are not training.  Do not being any extra baggage to the match (like expectations, numerical goals, etc.).  Do not pick up any new baggage at the match (concern about bad shot, malfunction, somebody showed up with a 1 inch group gun, etc.).  

Make your training HARD, shoot matches RELAXED. Example for training, shoot 11, 12, etc. shots and score points down to calculate your score.  Shoot 6 in rapid sometimes.  Shoot the .45 slow fire first (like 2nd or 3rd day at Perry, etc.) Setup and get ready in 2 minutes for prep period. Stop for 10 minutes and then start shooting again like range cease fire.  Shoot in the wind, rain, etc. Make the training hard.  

There are a couple of kinds of shooters on the line (and a quite a few different types of people, but lets just talk about shooting for now). I generally classify them as squirrels and cats.  The cats seem to relax, just walk around, talk a little, maybe even take a nap.  Squirrels, well, you get the idea.

Don't get dependent on sighter shots or warm up shots.  They won't be available at the bigger matches. 

BREATH, slowly, calmly, and completely.
FOCUS on what you need to do next.
RELAX, enough to feel your heartbeat.
ENJOY the moment.
SEE the sight / dot
SHOOT each shot, one shot or string at a time.

Eventually, you'll realize the shakes, anticipation, whatever you want to call it, disappears.  It's just another great day at the range.

Then you go to Camp Perry.  Stand there waiting to shoot in 15 to 25 MPH, gusting winds, a little rain, in some mud.  Then you start learning a new level of anticipation to be overcome.....

Eventually, every match, no matter where or when will just be another great day at the range.

CR


Last edited by CR10X on Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:53 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Can't keep a complete thought in my head after 10 days of vacation with X number of drinks per day. Gotta get back in training for vacations too.)

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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by willnewton on Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:02 pm

I love all the responses guys.  Thanks.  I want you to know what a relief it was to give a name to my issue.

I spent a bit of time reading some surprisingly good archery blog posts on Buck Fever and realized that I can work through this.  I checked my last eight months of scores again and can directly pick out the buck fever occurrences.

I put a lot of things together and came to a hopeful solution.  I know you have heard of it a billion times.  I know I have, but I only connected it with one thing- SCORES.  I am improving in my scores over time in general, so figured I would implement it a bit later once I had all this other "pointing and shooting" figured out.

What changed?  It was simple.  I needed a tool to deal with buck fever and it was laying out here in the open all along.
Until today, I did not think of a shot plan as a weapon against a biological process!

Armed with that single change in my thought pattern, I headed straight to the garage with air pistol gear and most importantly, a pencil and notebook.  I did not want to start with anyone's else's plan.  I wanted to document what I needed to do to shoot a single, good shot.

Four hours later I had organized, written, and practiced without pulling the trigger a single time.  I went down my shot plan over and over until I could carry it through once without a pause.  I then loaded the air pistol and using my shot plan, I fired a string of ten of the best shots I have ever fired with the intent of them being the best shots I have ever fired.  It took an hour and half of shooting while working through my shot plan successfully to make those ten shots.  I cannot tell you how many shots I aborted if my brain allowed even the least deviation from the written plan

I did a bit more tweaking and two hours of typing and practice with no trigger pulling, I again loaded and fired two single shots that were even better.  My last shot was an absolutely called 10.  I have shot many "accidental" tens, but have never said to myself, "Do you want to see a 10?  Watch while I shoot this 10." And I did it.

I decided I was heading in the right direction and was pretty tired, but decided to share what worked today.  I am going to keep working on this.  This problem did not surface overnight and won't be cured that fast either.
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Post by willnewton on Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:05 pm

SHOT PLAN

1.  Lay out all necessary equipment and verify the readiness of each piece. Glasses (clean lens, check iris), earmuffs (battery), pistol (cleared with dot set for conditions), magazine, ammo.  Make sure area is tidy and clear.

2.  Pick up the pistol.  Verify good general alignment of body, pistol, and optics to the downrange area and put the pistol down.  Take some good breaths and focus on being comfortable and relaxed.  Stretch a bit.

3.  Pick up the pistol and check the shooting grip.  
   -Verify correct placement and tension of each finger and the palm.
   -Verify trigger finger freedom and generalized placement over trigger.
   -With arm at 45º check general sight alignment.
   -Rest pistol on shooting bench while maintaining a light grip.

4.  Take some good breaths and close your eyes.
   -Visualize sending a wave of relaxation from the feet to the head, loosening any tense area.
   -Visualize smoothly raising your pistol above the center of the paper as you breathe in
   -Visualize lowering it below the center of the paper as you exhale and pause.
  -Visualize perfect sight picture as the shot breaks.

5.  Smoothly lift pistol and check fine alignment of body, pistol, optics, and downrange paper.  
   -Only align with the center of the white paper.  
   -Do not pay attention to the dark area.  
   -Rest the shooting hand on the bench.

6. “This will be your next string of fire...”
   -Take some good breaths and exhale strongly to dump CO2 and oxygenate.
   -Visualize sending a wave of relaxation from the feet to the head, loosening any tense area.  
   -Move or stretch as needed to loosen up, but do not disturb your alignment.

7.  “With 5 rounds, load.”
   -Load the pistol and reaffirm grip placement and tension of each finger and palm.
   -Verify trigger finger freedom and placement on trigger.
   -Verify body orientation and relaxation. Place left hand in pocket.
   -Rest the shooting hand on the bench.

8.  Take in one long breath and as you inhale, close your eyes.
   -Visualize being comfortable.
   -Visualize smoothly raising your pistol above the center of the paper as you breathe in.
   -Visualize completing your aiming process over the white area.
   -Exhale and visualize lowering the aimed pistol so it will align below the dark area and pause
  -Visualize squeezing the trigger while saying, "Sloooooow."
  -Visualize perfect sight picture as the shot breaks.
   -Visualize a pause for the follow through.

9.  Repeat #8 as often as needed until your mind is clear enough to visualize every step of the process without loss of focus.

10.  “Ready on the right.”
      -Relax and be comfortable.
      -Lift the pistol and check basic sight alignment at 45º  
      -Smoothly raise your pistol above the center of the paper as you breathe in.

11.  “Ready on the left.”  
      -Complete your aiming process over the white area.

12.  “Ready on the firing line.”
       -Exhale and begin to build pressure on the trigger.   Lower the aimed pistol so it will align below the dark area and pause at the perfect sight picture.

13.  Squeeze the trigger while sub-vocalizing the word "Sloooooooow."

14.  Disregard all bullet holes and pause for the follow through.

15.  Lower pistol, remove magazine, verify unloaded chamber , clear trigger in a safe direction, lock back slide, insert ECI.

16.  Organize, reload, and repeat as needed to complete follow up shots.


Last edited by willnewton on Fri Feb 17, 2017 2:53 pm; edited 4 times in total (Reason for editing : because it keep getting more refined)
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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by willnewton on Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:18 pm

#10- OMG, the aborts here, millllllllions of them over and over.  I refused to give in.

Also, I added range commands at what I thought were good spots, but did not use them during my session. I would not have my plan bound by an audible timeline.

Notice that trigger words "target" or concepts of aiming "at the black" or for a "high score" are not there.  The word for target is just "white paper" with "dark areas" somewhere "downrange".  

I am aiming at white paper and then lower that aiming point below the dark area.  

To combat the root cause of buck fever, my shot plan reflects a spirit of shooting at the back of the paper.  I figured you can combat the stress of shooting at a target by removing the target from the equation and shooting anyway- so why can't your shot plan be a reflection of that?  I also inserted lots of pauses and breathing and visualization to SLOW THINGS DOWN.

I would like to thank Willie Trowell for hosting the Bullseye fundamentals class last night and having us shoot at the back of the targets. It provided a key concept I needed to hack my brain.  Dry firing at a blank wall is something I do often.  Live firing at a blank target is something I have never practiced because I have limited range access and always focus on targets and scores when I am there.  In hindsight, why have I never live fired an air pistol at the back of a target? Rolling Eyes
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Post by Magload on Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:50 pm

OMG if this is what it takes to shoot a competitive score I am going back to golf, or at least IDPA.  I will say you put a lot of thought into that list but as slow as this old mind of mine thinks I would never have time to finish a match.  Don
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Post by orpheoet on Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:42 pm

Realizing that all the crap going on between my ears had nothing to do with 'point gun, pull trigger' was a bit of a turning point. I can make that first target into the most momentous event, or realize I shoot 1 bullet at a time. I try to focus on the shot. Like you as recently as last summer I had terrible first targets. Terrible shakes, AND a wrist flip to the left that would come from nowhere. I just had to let it go. 1 shot. Thats all I'm doing.
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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by willnewton on Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:11 pm

Magload wrote:OMG if this is what it takes to shoot a competitive score I am going back to golf, or at least IDPA.  I will say you put a lot of thought into that list but as slow as this old mind of mine thinks I would never have time to finish a match.  Don
Hah!  Don, I would not take what I went through today as a requirement to be competitive.  I just had to do it this way to show myself how something impossible can become possible.  Since I made the impossible happen several times over today, now all I have to work on is closing the gap between those intervals.

I could write a similar plan for brushing my teeth, but thankfully, I can walk up to the sink, brush my teeth with little attention, and walk away.  That entire process is internalized, the details are forgotten, the act occurs with near perfect boredom and 100% success.

In simplest terms, all I am trying to do is raise my pistol shooting skills to the same level of skill that I can brush my teeth at.

@Orpheoet-High five!  There is hope for me yet.
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Post by davekp on Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:46 am

As you have learned, developing and following a shot plan is essential. The goal should be perfect execution of the shot plan, one shot at a time. When executed properly, an X will result.
Your score is just a demonstration of how well you are executing the process.

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Post by rreid on Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:13 pm

Get a copy of Lanny Bassham's book With Winning in Mind.  Read it at least a couple times.
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Post by Oleg G on Thu Feb 16, 2017 4:27 pm

willienewton,
I like your shot process. It is much more detailed than mine is at the moment. I will borrow from yours, if you don't mind Smile
P.S. I hope you realize that you are missing steps 4 and 15. Smile

Regards,
Oleg.
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Post by Aprilian on Thu Feb 16, 2017 5:51 pm

Oleg G wrote:willienewton,
I like your shot process. It is much more detailed than mine is at the moment. I will borrow from yours, if you don't mind Smile
P.S. I hope you realize that you are missing steps 4 and 15. Smile

Regards,
Oleg.
Oleg,  Everyone needs to keep secrets!

Willie,  How about this for a  training exercise?   Run up and down the stairs and get your heart pumping, then pick up the empty gun.   Don't do anything in your shot process until you have got your concentration focused and are breathing normally.  If you start your shot process and it doesn't feel right, go back to beginning.   It will train you to drop the excitement level quickly.  Then when it happens in a match, your body and mind will be trained to quickly reduce the adrenaline.
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Post by willnewton on Thu Feb 16, 2017 7:30 pm

@Oleg Fixed that numbering.  I had changed a few steps and didn't correct.  Anyone can use any of this if it helps.

@Aprilian- Earlier this week I was pedaling my bike indoors on a roller, then coasting and dry firing.  It's also fun to pedal and try to hold a bead on something.

I was also given a book recommendation "Inner Tennis".  I downloaded and started reading it.  It is definitely showing me what is going on in my head.  All I have to say is, the truth hurts! It is pretty much on the money in my case. So far, so good.

I also shot our weekly comp tonight.  Slow fire was interesting, I started calm and relaxed, then triggered myself on shot 3 by realizing how calm I was.  It took me a while to see what I had just done and to finally remember I needed to do next.

I engaged the shot plan.  I got my mind back on track, and the shakes contained quicker than normal.  The overall level of agitation was much less.

I did not magically score better, but I will take the three calm shots as a good sign.  I have not started off that calmly, ever. I will take the quick acting power of the shot plan as a good sign too. Because of my plan, I was able to get back control and only had a minor adrenaline kick vs. the rocket rides I have had before.

Next week, maybe I will have 4 or 5 calm shots, then 7-8 the week after that.  We'll see, I am optimistic.
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Post by Rob Kovach on Fri Feb 17, 2017 11:37 am

You nailed it Will.  I used to have the same problem.  The key is singular focus on the shot process and dryfiring.

I didn't see your breathing technique on your shot process.  I have a pronounced deep breath after each command and I shoot with empty lungs.  Breathing deeply was a big help for me.  Brian Zins noticed that I didn't have breathing in my process and it changed my world.
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Post by willnewton on Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:19 pm

Thanks for the encouragement!

On the breathing topic, I went back to check and make sure we were looking at the same plan, since steps 2,4,6,8 all mention breathing.  Smile

You may be expecting one at step 10, since it is the lift step, but that pre-shot breath is done at step 8.  The visualization  doesn't take long to do and can be done while breathing in at step 8.
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Post by carykiteboarder on Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:51 pm

Will,
One very minor point on your shot process.  When you "-Visualize a bullet hole appearing in the center of the paper."  , I suggest you modify that to something like "Visualize perfect sight picture as the shot breaks." The subtlety is to keep your focus on the front sight. If the sight picture is perfect when the gun goes bang, you've done your job.  If you mentally visualize the bullet hole appearing in the center, you might be subconsciously training yourself to look at the center of the paper.  That might lead to losing your focus on the front sight before the shot breaks and that's BAD.  For "visualization", try to have it be what you will actually see.  

I'm not an expert on this topic so this would be a good time to read "Chapter 6 Rehearsal: The Most Versatile Mental Tool" of With Winning In Mind (Lanny Bassham).  Specifically, he prefers the term "rehearsal" over "visualization".  As with everything else in this sport, whatever works for you is right.
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Post by willnewton on Fri Feb 17, 2017 3:10 pm

Thanks, I made that change.  I am glad you brought that up.  I was not a big fan of the phrase "seeing the bullet hole" because holes are what I am getting away from, but went with what I had.  If sight picture is the goal, then the hole will be where it needs to be without worry.

OK, it is official, you are the 3rd person to recommend that book!  I am going to be the 4th one.  I downloaded it this morning and gave it my first read through of what I can tell will be many re-readings.

It has affected the shot plan already.  You may notice the triggering word is "Sloooow" instead of "Squeeeze" now.  That is direct from the book.  I know how to squeeze a trigger.  I just need to remember to take my time doing it.

I have a lot of community theater background and that chapter did resonate with me.  Six weeks of rehearsal and memorization of lines and movement lead up to a final performance.  All of that training has to be ingrained beforehand or you absolutely cannot deliver a natural performance.

When the curtain opens, you cannot be the guy practicing to be the character.  You have to BECOME the character you have spent all that time practicing to be.
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Post by davekp on Fri Feb 17, 2017 7:14 pm

I think you should not operate the trigger in a sloooow manner.
This can lead to starting and stopping of the trigger. Once you commit to taking the shot keep it moving.
Also, you will need a faster, but controlled trigger operation for rapid fire.
Lanny is a rifle shooter, and their techniques can differ from a pistol shooter.

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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

Post by willnewton on Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:23 pm

I do understand your point, but I know my own bad habits.  One day I hope my trigger control is good enough that I can switch from "Slooow" to "Squeeeze".  The first day I lose a point for triggering too slow will be a happy one.  

In my mind, the slowing is not about the triggering as much as it is about slowing down the mental reactivity and physical oscillation in the sight picture.  Inside my head, I am "Slooow-ing" down time.

 I shot my highest scoring 10-meter AP target ever today using "Slooow".  I only sent one shot out the black.  It was the only shot I did not think or say "Slooow" while triggering.

5,8,8,8,9,9,9,9,9,10=84,1-X
NEVER shot an X with my AP.  I shot two today.
84 may not be Olympic Gold or even expert scores, but I was shooting low 70's just five days ago!
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willnewton

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Re: Need a hand dealing with adrenaline-here is the info I have so far.

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