In competitive shooting, we know better than to brush aside the all-important Basic Fundamental of breathing. When I first learned to shoot at the Federal Law Enforcement Academy, we were instructed not to worry about breathing. It is an involuntary body function, we will breathe whether we think about it or not. Yet, what is the first thing we do when we feel nervous, scared or apprehensive? We hold our breaths! I have since learned that in competition, we must take what seems an otherwise involuntary reaction and make it voluntary. We must consciously conduct our body to perform ALL of the Basic Fundamentals of Marksmanship in concert not leaving any of them out. For example, when the slide flies back toward our eyes, we learn to not blink or flinch, but to understand the gun recoils when firing and so we remain visually focused on the sights during this process. Breathing, then, starts with a focused inhale and exhale of varying cadences while the range master is calling the next course of fire and you await your target’s turning. Deep breathing really makes your blood flow which makes your muscles perform. There is nothing like freezing up on the line and, I guarantee, the shooter was forgetting to breathe! The deep breathes and then short ones, before the targets turn, is also a good way to kill time. There is nothing more nerve-wracking then those last seconds before drawing the gun when the target turns. But, when it does, draw in a deep breath. When you get your gun lined up on your target, exhale. If the course of fire is for speed, continue to inhale and exhale with short breathes so as not to disturb your stance or sight picture, but keep breathing. When shooting from distances, like the 50 yard line on the PPC Match 5a, every shot should be aligned with a complete breath: inhale, exhale, squeeeeeeze the trigger. Once I committed to this format, my scores not only increased dramatically, but I also found this to be the exact cadence I needed to use all my time allowed for the course of fire. This truly perfected my precision. The final point on breathing, after you have made it as conscious a Basic as stance, grip, sight alignment, trigger control and follow through, is to remember this: when you are riveted to your front sight as you should be, but everything is starting to look blurry, it is not your glasses. You are forgetting to breathe and you are putting yourself into a faint! Inhale, exhale, squeeeeeeeze.
NRA Firearms Instructor – Nancy Rothschild
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