Fundamentals of Pistol Shooting (Part 5)


The fourth Fundamental of Pistol Shooting is:

Follow Through

Following through can be tricky in more ways than one, even grammatically. The noun form of the word has a hyphen, while the verb form does not.

follow-through (noun)

  1. : the part of the stroke following the striking of a ball
  2. : the act or an instance of following through

follow through (verb)

  1. : to continue a stroke or motion to the end of its arc
  2. : to press on in an activity or process especially to a conclusion

Follow-through is one of the most ignored aspects of shooting well. As the verb definition implies, following through means continuing to keep the gun on target until the shot is concluded. The shot is not concluded until the bullet has left the barrel. Therein lies the issue with not following through. Shooters will frequently move the gun, or themselves, before the bullet has left the barrel. Sometimes the lack of follow-through occurs even before the shot is fired.

The way lack of follow-through occurs can take three forms. Shooters will lift their heads, drop the gun, or pull the gun back close to the body immediately after the gun fires. This is driven by several different motivations.

  1. The desire to see where the bullet hit. That desire is why shooters lift their heads.
  2. They’ve been told to ‘scan and assess’ without being told that scan and assess comes after following through. This is the usual motivation for dropping the gun and is noticeably prevalent during NRA Personal Protection training.
  3. They’ve been taught that after firing their rounds, they have to immediately make ready for physical combat with an aggressor. Preparation for physical contact is the reason for pulling the gun back to the body.

None of these three actions accomplish what they are intended to. They are all counter-productive to both good marksmanship and to their original intent.

In defensive shooting, hits on an adversary are rarely visible the moment after the shot is fired, so lifting the head in an attempt to see the hits accomplishes nothing. When practicing, unless some kind of reactive target is being used, a shooter can’t usually tell where the round has hit on a paper target anyway. This is especially true if the previous hits on the target haven’t been pasted or taped and the target looks like Swiss cheese.

Scan and assess actually should occur in the reverse order, i.e., assess and scan. First, we want to assess the efficacy of our shooting on the initial threat and second, scan for additional threats. Assessment is properly done by looking through the sights to see if the opponent is still continuing the fight. If so, then additional and immediate sighted gunfire is the appropriate response. Note that during the assessment, the trigger finger is still going to be in the trigger guard and on the trigger, ready to instantly fire again, if necessary. Once the assessment determines that the attacker has been “neutralized with bullets,” then the finger comes out of the trigger guard, the pistol is lowered, and a scan for other threats begins.

The desire by an criminal to close with a defender through a hail of bullets is a figbar of the imagination of certain segments of the training community. As the saying goes, “once the bullets start flying, everyone starts moving.” To which should be added, “away from the source of the bullets.” Assuming the fight is continuing, more accuracy will be required as the distance increases. This accuracy refinement is unlikely to be achieved by using a two handed version of the Fairbairn-Sykes “Quarter-hip” position.

A way to practice your follow-through is to count ‘one thousand’ after each shot prior to making any movement such as moving the gun, your head, or taking your finger off the trigger. Also be sure you’re keeping your eyes open during and after the shot. Blinking the eyes at the moment of ignition is far more common than most people know. Either a video camera or a partner to your side can help detect blinking.

There is a good article about how to develop follow-through on the NRA’s website.

The next Part will cover standards and measurement.

Part I

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

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