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Don’t Forget to Breathe - Four Breathing Methods for Shooters

 

I wake up, burrowed in my sleeping bag, and I feel a chill on my nose and cheeks. I open my eyes and see the silhouette, on the tent, made by the moon light through the tree branches. Suddenly the hair on my arms and neck stand on end as I hear a bull elk bugle in the night. My heart rate quickens as I become excited for the day’s hunt.

The morning is spent climbing, hiking, calling, maneuvering, circling, trying to think on a bull elk’s level and outsmart him. I scurry up a hill. I climb closer, hauling my gun as I maneuver over fallen trees. My heart is pounding and my breath is quick as I try to breathe the thin air. I glance over a knoll to see the bull. He is within a hundred yards from me.

The bull elk screams a bugle that makes my already pounding heart jump in my chest. I duck behind the embankment and try to calm my breathing. Now is the time. He is within range. I have to make a good shot.Whether you are shooting a paper target or hunting a live animal, you want to remain steady.

Don’t forget to breathe -

Whether we are at the range shooting targets, or in the field hunting, breathing is important. We want our sight, scope or pin to be on its mark when we pull the trigger.

Education, shooting positions and firearms are all very important to shooters. Breathing is a very important factor as well. We all breathe. From the day we were born we have unconsciously learned to breathe in and out. That natural motion can help or hinder during shooting.

Controlled breathing is a necessity in shooting accuracy. When you breathe in and out your chest rises and falls. This movement can cause your gun barrel or arrow sight to float on its target. Your breathing may cause you to move at the exact moment you pull the trigger to fire.

Sometimes when you are hunting, you get excited and/or the terrain and conditions cause your heart rate to accelerate. Your breathing becomes more rapid and harder to control. If you hold your breath, you may become light headed and your shot may be off target. It is important to practice your breathing techniques as you practice shooting positions at the range.

There are multiple methods of breathing during a shot. The best thing to do is practice them and determine which works best for you. Once you’ve determined your breathing technique, practice it so it becomes instinctive when you are under pressure.

  1. Exhale & Pause - When you are in shooting position, put your cheek against the stock of the gun. Take in a deep breath. Exhale just a portion of that breath, pause briefly and pull the trigger. The pause should allow you to hold your gun barrel and sights in perfect alignment on the target at the very moment the gun fires.
  2. Inhale & Pause – Relax and practice steady breathing. Double check your shooting position. In your rythm of relaxed breathing, inhale. When your lungs are about half full, pause and pull the trigger. The inhale and pause is similar to the exhale and pause method. Your gun barrel and sights should be in perfect alignment on the target at the exact moment the gun fires.
  3. Full exhale – Make sure you are in proper shooting position. Breathe slowly to relax. Focus on your target. As you breathe naturally, and you are at complete exhale, pause when your lungs are empty and squeeze the trigger.
  4. Breathe Naturally – Breathing naturally takes the focus completely off of breathing technique. You do not  pause at all. Focus on your form and your target as you breathe naturally and squeeze the trigger. Sometimes being consciously focused on breathing can increase heart rate and breathing patterns. The natural breathing technique takes the focus off and you begin to unconsciously form a habit of correct shot timing.

When you are pausing, remember just that. It is a pause, not a hold. When a shooter holds their breath, their muscles tighten and their heart rate can change. This will dramatically change the accuracy of a shot.Practice breathing while working on various shooting positions.

While you are practicing, if you become short of breath, stop. Re-group and practice your natural, relaxed breathing. It is important to steady your breath to decrease the amount of movement your body is making. If you are able, step back. Take a deep breath in. Then exhale and then reacquire your target.

These are basic breathing techniques. I have friends who are Olympic shooters. These elite marksmen practice a technique in which they pull their triggers in between heartbeats. These amazing athletes are extremely practiced and in tune with their shooting. Most of us can only aspire to that level of shooting control. 

In our journey to becoming perfect shooters, we can practice shooting positions, techniques and of course, breathing.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

Shooting: One-Eyed or Two? - Firearms Practice

 

When responding to a stimulus, 80% of sensory input derives from the visual sense. This process requires the use of both sides of the brain in order function. Both the left and right hemispheres of the brain share the information acquired through visual input. When shooting one-eyed, shooters don’t get the full picture. As a matter of fact, without the use of both eyes, many visual functions are limited. Many shooters initially learn to shoot with one eye and it is a habit that is hard to break. The benefits of shooting two-eyed, however, make learning this skill worthwhile.

Drawbacks of Shooting One-Eyed

Should I shoot with one eye or two eyes?

There are many disadvantages to shooting with one eye. For those who carry concealed, they do so for self-defense or defense of others. Closing one eye negatively impacts the visual system. Visual acuity decreases, as does depth perception, balance, and spatial orientation. These are important tasks that must not be sacrificed during serious situations.

Shooting with one eye will decrease the speed and efficiency of information processing. This means that it takes longer for the brain to process the information needed to react. In critical situations, our brain cycles through a process known as the OODA loop(Observe, Orient, Decide, Act).

Shooting with two eyes is a hard habit to break.
Photo by: Sara Ahrens

This is important for threat assessment and reaction time. In addition, after addressing a target, the shooter needs to determine the effectiveness of their actions, and identify the existence of other threats.

Benefits of Shooting Two-Eyed

Shooting with both eyes openShooting with both eyes aids survival. Research has found that both eyes will remain open during a shooting. This is instinctive and cannot be controlled. Therefore, it would be advantageous to learn to shoot with both eyes before being faced with a deadly force situation.

 

 

Shooting with both eyes open has many benefits.
Photo by: Michael Ahrens

Even though it’s instinctive, practicing the skill increases success rates. The eyes are complicated organs. They are offset, each interpreting visual stimuli from a slightly different perspective. Each eye takes in visual stimulus, and the information from each eye is transmitted from separate sides of the brain to the other. Field of vision occurs when both eyes converge. This convergence allows us to see in three dimensions, determine distances and speed, allow for spatial orientation, and assists with balance.

Our visual sensitivity and hand-eye coordination increases when binocular vision is employed. Visual sensitivity is the ability to respond to physiological changes. This sensitivity provides the shooter with the ability to respond to changes in the environment. It is more than twice as great using both eyes (duh, right?). The shooter will experience an increase in efficiency in hand-eye coordination, also known as visual-motor task.

When addressing a target less than three feet it is virtually impossible to determine distance. So determining distances up to 25 during a shooting situation can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Distances beyond three feet can be judged only by visual cues, which require moving the head back and forth. Individuals with monocular vision are often unable to drive because of being unable to determine distances, they are seven times as likely to be involved in accidents than other motorists.

The use of two eyes in low light situations can increase one’s success when addressing a target. Many shooting situations occur in low light situations. The eye contains cones and rods. The rods are dominant in bright lighting conditions, where as rods are dominant in low light conditions. The rods are what allow the eye to see detail. The more lighting decreases, the more prominent the cones are in the eyes. This diminishes details that may be necessary for determining whether or not an object presents a threat. Using two eyes while shooting or even assessing a threat, allows for more light to enter the eye. This additional lighting increases our ability to see more details, thus decreasing the OODA loop.

One Eye Or Two? Survey Says...TWO!

Learning to shoot with two eyes has many benefits

Shooting with both eyes open is a skill worthy of learning
Photo by: Michael Ahrens

Clearly the research indicates that the benefits of learning to shoot with two eyes have a significant positive impact during shooting situations. Shooting with two eyes will improve hand-eye coordination; allow shooters to determine speed and distance of a threat. It allows for spatial orientation and allows us to maintain balance. In addition, it increases our field of vision and shortens our OODA loop in low light situations. Since it has been proven that shooters will leave their eyes open in a shooting situation it is best to practice the skill before it is needed. And although this was probably not the intent of an old adage - it certainly applies; two eyes are better than one.

 

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

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