Suggestive Shooting…

It was not too long ago I was offered an opportunity to open a new facility with my current company.  The plan is for a largest facility in our network, with state of the art automation, and industry leading processing.  This new location was 45 miles further than my current drive so my prized pickup truck which gets 13.9 miles per gallon would have to be parked in favor of something with better fuel economy.  After doing some searching I landed on a Toyota Camry XSE which is a little sporty but would realize 33 MPG on the highway.  It was at this point in time when I did not recall seeing many Camrys out on the road.  After I made my purchase, I was driving down I 75 in Atlanta and I saw one.. two.. ten.. twenty Camrys in a 10 mile stretch of interstate.  Were they not there before or did I not notice them?  I think the answer is they were always there but the power of suggestion unconsciously made me aware to look for similar Camrys on the interstate.


Last night I concluded a training session with a new student.  This student is a fellow Grand Master in Rimfire Rifle Open (RFRO) and Pistol Caliber Carbine Open (PCCO).  After doing some analysis of his match scores and times we setup Outer Limits to gain the most improvement.  I shared with him at the beginning of the session everyone has a “Shooting Tendency” and we would find out what his was, identify it, embrace it, and make improvements.  Being a top tier shooter his Shooting Tendency was a little bit more difficult to figure out, but through observation and discussion he was able to put into words what I was seeing.  On the first plate all of his shots were within a 1” circle 2/3rds up the plate.  After the first stage worth of shooting I had him put a round on the far plate dead center.  I did this because sometimes people would sight their guns in at 10 yards not realizing the bullet was still climbing.  As he fired the test round it was a bullseye on plate #2.


My next observation was he was missing the back right plate (the 18” x 24”).  After watching his shots several were just off the left side at 9 O’Clock.  His Shooting Tendency is he was not pulling the trigger when he needed to.  It was a slight delay from when his eyes saw the dot on the plate to when this message went to his brain, to when the brain sent a message to his trigger finger to pull the trigger.  It was very interesting to watch in person.


The interesting part of the training session was when I told him I would shoot the stage and it was an exercise of knowing where your Targeted Edge Dial was and when to turn it.  My first string was at my 85% at 3.55 seconds.  I then told him I would turn my dial to shoot a 3.25-3.3.  Sure enough, I shot a 3.27 but something interesting happened.  I missed the back right plate in the same exact location he had.  Right off the plate at 9 O’Clock. I told him I was going to name this, maybe after him, but I wanted to write this up for some time, so here I am.  I then loaded my next magazine and said I would back my dial back to a 3.50 second run.  This next string was 3.58 seconds and you would not believe it; I missed the back right plate in the same exact spot.  I would wager a paycheck you could cover his misses and my two misses with a quarter.

This phenomenon is Suggestive Shooting.  We consciously tell ourselves not to do something and our subconscious overrides our actions while shooting.  Some other examples of this are:

  • I always don’t shoot well if I start on Smoke and Hope.
  • I won’t shoot well if I don’t practice once a month.
  • I won’t shoot well at a larger match because I have not shot a major match in 3 months.
  • Hey Steve, why do you shoot pendulum that way, aren’t you afraid of missing plate #3? No, because I have not missed plate #3 in a year.  Then I proceed to miss plate #3 in the next Three out of Five strings.
  • I will shoot well if I only shoot one gun per session.
  • You have a squad that is not shooting well at a major match after a long break due to COVID 19 and you tell yourself to shoot your match and then you go to the shooters box and lose your fundamentals of shooting on the first string.
  • Etc


Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they told you not to say something or a word and at a later point you say it anyway.  Then you are dumbfounded you said what you were not supposed to say?  You work hard at consciously telling yourself not to do something and your subscious does it anyway.  There is not a magic pill that I have found.  It is something you have to be aware of and find strategies to mitigate Suggestive Shooting.


See you out on the range soon!


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