Article 2 – 2022 (March)
Australian Shooter Magazine
Question and Answers
Article 2 – 2022 (March)
Question: I have been dabbling in and out of the shooting sports for some years. I am fairly competent with a rifle or shotgun, but my weakness in both disciplines is simply when I miss once I will often miss the next one also. I can have a run of perfect tens and then shoot back to back sevens or I can hit the first fifteen in a round of five stand sporting and then clean miss the whole next stand and still end up with a score of twenty out of twenty-five. Is there any advice you can give me to stop me repeating my mistakes?
Joey Bartlett, Richmond, NSW
Answer: Joey you are certainly not unique. What you are describing is a classic case of the “little man in the head” syndrome. It is a topic I have touched on several times over the past two decades in this column.
Any shooter that says they have never suffered from it at some stage is either lying or they have not shot enough targets as yet to be introduced formally to this bloke. Wait for it. You will meet him, (maybe it’s a “her” for females shooters), soon enough.
The distinguishing feature of this little guy in your head is that he only ever wakes up and starts talking to you when you are all of a sudden under pressure. If you are at the range on your own just shooting practice for fun then the little man has no interest playing with you. This guy only wakes up when your heart starts to beat a little faster. He awakens to a faster heart-rate like you awake each morning to your mobile phone’s alarm beside your bed. Pressure and stress are his alarm.
I used to think these inner voices were there to help you, but they are indeed only alive to distract you either by creating doubt or, even worse, giving you a massive shot of over confidence therefore convincing you that there is no longer any need to prepare yourself with a solid pre-shot routine as you are now that good that the shotgun/rifle will simply do all the work for you without any mental work on your behalf. That will pretty much end your day and as soon as you miss enough to lose your bet or take you out of contention to be receiving any prizes the little guy disappears and leaves you in peace. His work is done. You won’t hear from him again until the next time you set a goal for yourself and are well on your way to achieving it. He tends to get louder the closer you get to that goal.
The only way I know to train yourself to deal with this phenonium is to deal with it head on. Put yourself under pressure at every available opportunity so you get to wake up and have the man in your head speak every time you have a firearm in your control. Coping with pressure is obviously the only way to succeed in this sport and the longer you avoid it the less chance you will ever have of defeating these inner demons.
It is irrelevant what level you are currently competing at. Once you decide to get better you will need to be exposed to stronger competition which indeed brings more pressure as you will be required to be more accurate. Whether it is an Olympic Final or a shoot-off for a ham at a club Christmas event, once people are watching you and keeping score there is an inner desire to do well and this builds stress. The more times you practice a simple pre-shot routine in practice that can be then applied to competition the better you will get. If you follow this hard and fast procedure the little man in your head starts to feel as though he is on the other side of the door talking to you as opposed to feeding instructions directly into your ear drum.
Everybody has to develop their own pre-shot game, but trust me this is as important as gun-fit when the shoot-offs begin. Try to make it simple, for shotgun shooting four to eight seconds before you call for the target to be released is ideal and try to use it every single time you go and practice and in a very short amount of time in will become a habit. If you watch any of the great tennis players serve you will notice that they bounce the ball pretty much the same amount of times before they throw it up in the air and tray and belt it over the net at a couple of hundred kilometres an hour. Great golfers do the same thing each time before they drive or putt. They are in essence just going through their pre-shot routine no differently than any marksman must do.
Good luck with it.