Shooter Ready

The Way of the Gun

Category: Training

Jerking the trigger: a sight alignment and sight picture problem

I have a problem with how we as shooters, and how firearms instructors, teach the fundamentals of marksmanship to new shooters. Specifically, I have a problem with how instructors stress sight alignment and sight picture, without reconciling these two core fundamentals with trigger control. This issue is compounded exponentially when it comes to pistol marksmanship.

It happens all the time. You’re on the firing line at the local pistol range and someone lands a shot low and left, or maybe just wildly off target. Their shooting buddy looks over their shoulder and says “you jerked the trigger” or “you yanked the trigger” or some variation of the phrase. So you see the trigger jerker reset, try to relax, breathe a little, and rock on.

What we don’t seem to think about is the relationship between these three core fundamentals, and I attribute this to how we teach them to new shooters. There is a relationship between jerking the trigger, and sight alignment and sight picture.

Think about it. When a new shooter is taken up to the firing line one of the key talking points drilled into them by their instructor is the correct sight alignment and sight picture. The front sight must be clear, with the top of the front sight post level with the top of the rear sight, and equal light on either side of the front sight. The perfect, ideal sight picture. The sight picture a new shooter hardly ever sees.

The perfect sight picture that new shooters hardly ever see.

The human body is an amazing piece of biology, but we aren’t machines. Holding an object out at arms length perfectly level and still for some period of time is not humanly possible. There will always be some wiggle, some wobble, some amount of movement that can be seen by the naked eye.

This is the first pitfall of stressing perfect sight alignment and sight picture: it simply does not occur very often due to the biological nature of our body.

The second pitfall is how trigger control is taught to new shooters, or rather, the lack of teaching trigger control to new shooters. “Pull the trigger smoothly and straight to the rear”, “keep pulling till the trigger breaks”, “let the trigger/gun surprise you” or some variation of these phrases, dominates the firearms structor lexicon. None of these phrases is worth a damn to new shooters, and letting the trigger/gun surprise you is just plain foolish. What movement of the trigger finger constitutes a smooth movement? What kind of trigger finger placement should the shooter use? Can or should they pull using the first distal joint only? Can/should the knuckle joint be involved? Can a trigger be pulled straight to the rear? All these questions, and more! The trouble is, these questions are rarely asked, and a lot of instructors I’ve seen on the firing line don’t make mention of these factors.

This creates an unfortunate situation where a new shooter is overwhelmed by the need to consciously maintain the correct sight alignment and sight picture, while manipulating a trigger with a finger that has, heretofore, rarely moved in the biomechanical pattern required to operate a pistol trigger. Like it or not, the mind-muscle connection takes a lengthy period of time to manifest. This typically results in a new shooter rushing to get onto the trigger as soon as the perfect sight alignment and sight picture is obtained, and lo and behold, the shot lands low and left, or just wildly off target. The instructor/shooting buddy remarks “you jerked the trigger”, without breaking down the potential reasons why. The shooter resets, not knowing any better, and the cycle continues.

The relationship between sight alignment, sight picture, and jerking the trigger therefore is simple. Stressing sight alignment and sight picture, while stressing the need for good trigger control without explaining what that actually means, is simply setting a new shooter up for failure. For new shooters reading this: accept the fact that you won’t have the perfect sight alignment and sight picture all the time. In fact you’ll only have it some of the time, at best. Most of the time that front sight will be wobbling around slightly. Don’t worry too much about it. Don’t focus so much on the front sight that you forget to exercise good trigger control. The sights aren’t going anywhere. They won’t mysteriously and spontaneously drift so far off target that paying less attention to the sights and more attention “perfect” trigger pull will result in a miss. The body might not be a machine, but its pretty damn good at keeping still. Focus on your trigger pull instead. It will pay dividends. I’ll talk about trigger control in another post.

As Gun-fu Jedi Master Mike Pannone from CTT Solutions in the USA puts it: “shoot the sights”. When the sights are on target, in the correct alignment, you must decide on your acceptable level of accuracy and balance that with speed and trigger control. And whatever you do, do not let that trigger surprise you, but that’s another topic for another post.

And for anyone out there suspecting it, yes, I am. Just a little.

Obligatory meme. For all the new age internet people.

Stay sharp, stay safe.


Tactical Medicine: The Missing link

The shooting community likes to talk about itself as comprised of responsible citizens, and this is largely true. As shooters we have all undergone background checks, we have passed safety tests, we have met all the requirements and checks and balances put in place. As a highly selective group, we like to see ourselves as better prepared than the average citizen, in most aspects. By and large, we are, however one of these aspects largely overlooked is pre-hospital medical care and training.

In this day and age, responsible citizens are the true first responders to events and incidences, in which lives are potentially at stake. Fantasies of heroically responding to a mass shooting aside, we’ve all seen some kind of traumatic event, whether it is motor vehicle accidents, industrial equipment accidents, falls that result in broken bones sticking through the skin, children putting themselves through plate glass at high velocity, and so on, and so on. It behooves us to be better than the average Joe in the application of tactical medicine. Sadly, few of us are properly qualified, even in basic first aid. This is a critical missing link, and should be rectified at the first available opportunity.

Many shooters play Devils Advocate and ask if a trauma course for shooters is really necessary? Isn’t basic first aid good enough? Our sport involves inherent risks. The possibility of a high velocity bit of lead and copper punching through flesh rather than paper, is a reality that we should be prepared for. Basic first aid will not train you to the level at which you can respond to a major haemorrhage or penetrating chest wound. For anyone sitting behind their computer screen saying “but if you follow the four firearms safety rules you’ll hardly ever be at risk”: true, but anyone who says they have never had a negligent discharge, or have never been in the vicinity of one, is lying.


Tacmed Basic Trauma Course

Basic emergency medical training should be a skill in which as many shooters as possible are well versed. It should cover the spectrum of basic lifesaving skills, including gunshot and penetrating injuries. Tacmed Australia recognized this missing link, and is now offering courses for shooters and hunters in basic trauma management.

Tacmed’s basic trauma course covers the treatment of major haemorrhages, and penetrating chest injuries. The basic premise of the course is to prepare shooters and hunters to combat the two leading causes of death from gunshot and penetrating wounds: major blood loss, and tension pneumothorax. Major blood loss is pretty simple: you bleed out, go into shock, fall unconscious, and die. Tension pneumothorax is where a penetrating chest injury results in air from the atmosphere entering the chest cavity, and air pressure inside the chest cavity gradually increases as the trapped air cannot escape. This creates a great deal of pressure on the heart and lungs, and eventually, the heart will be unable to beat, and the patient will die.

Tension pneumothorax can be lethal if left unchecked. Chest seals either vented or unvented are the ideal pre-hospital tool to employ for basic trauma management.

So how quickly can you die from blood loss? Very quickly. Assuming the patient is an average male with normal haemoglobin concentration and a normal VO2 max (a measurement of the amount of oxygen the body is able to utilize in one minute) prior to being wounded, that the artery is severed, and that there is no compression on the severed artery, any major arterial bleed will result in death in 2-60 minutes. A life threatening reduction in blood pressure due to major haemorrhage will result in shock, which greatly reduces the body’s capacity to respond, and rapidly leads to unconsciousness. The average response time for paramedics in Australia is between 10-15min. In that amount of time, a person suffering from major arterial bleeding isn’t likely to survive, even if they are rushed to hospital via intensive care paramedics.

Here’s an example of a femoral artery bleed out:


The man is unconscious within 90 seconds, and in the absence of proper medical attention he will be dead shortly thereafter.

Here’s another one:


I can’t find the full length video anymore, but, in the full length video the victim is goes into shock in about 60 seconds, is conscious for around 2 minutes, falls unconscious within 3, and death follows shortly thereafter.

Tacmed’s basic trauma course arms shooters and hunters with the knowledge they need to save someone’s life, or their own life. Recognising when to use a tourniquet, how to use a tourniquet, and how to use a chest seal for penetrating thoracic injuries, is vital to tactical medicine. Students are taught how to burp a penetrating chest wound, in the event that tension pneumothorax occurs. Likewise, wound packing is a vital component to casualty care, and Tacmed covers the essentials of wound packing technique and execution. Most importantly, Tacmed gives students the opportunity to practice hands on applications of theoretical skills.


Mick from Tacmed teaching students how to correctly apply a tourniquet to a dummy.

Despite my reservations about calling things “tactical”, tactical medicine is in fact tactical. It is the capability to use a skillset and tools beyond the basic parameters of their function, in austere environments, extracting maximum performance under duress. It is one of the most critical and noble life skills I can think of.


Training in the proper use of chest seals.

And before you ask, no, a first aid kit won’t do the trick. No, a tampon is not suitable for packing a wound. A tampon can be used to stop small bleeds that occur in two places: the nose, and not the nose. It does not belong anywhere near a gunshot wound, or major trauma. The old standbys of gaffer tape, garbage bags, and a t-shirt, are less effective and don’t always work (try sticking gaffer tape to clammy, sweaty skin, and get it to hold properly, it won’t happen).


Learning how to pack wounds and stem the blood flow.

At the end of the day, it’s a life skill that empowers you, in ways others can only dream of. One of the worst feelings in the world is to be at the scene of a traumatic event and not know what to do. As shooters we pride ourselves on being citizens of a higher calibre, and it behooves us to be exactly that. Get trained guys, I can’t stress this enough. Your life, the life of a loved one, and the life of a total stranger in need, is worth more than the $89.95 a Tacmed Immediate Trauma Kit will cost you. While you’re at it, check out Tacmed’s IFAKs and other kits.


Man down! Simulating a multiple gunshot wound victim with arterial bleeding in both the arm and leg, and possible penetrating chest injury.

Mad kudos to Tacmed Australia for seeing a knowledge gap that needed to be filled. Get trained guys, and fix the missing link.

Stay sharp, stay safe.


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