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GUNS Magazine May 2010 - Page 8

HANDGUNS • MASSAD AYOOB • FoLLoW-THRoUGH How much does a handgun shooter really need? ollow-through is a basic concept of precision shooting, but can F be dispensed with, to at least some degree, when the firing gets fast and furious. When I was a kid studying marksmanship—a study continuing to this day—follow-through was one of the Commandments written in stone. Not quite up there with “focus on the front sight” and “don’t jerk your trigger,” but about one tier down along with “breath control” and such. “Follow-through” means when the sear releases and the cartridge in the chamber discharges, the shooter should in essence keep everything as it was. That is, don’t let the index finger spring off the trigger. Don’t let the other digits relax their grasp on the gun. Don’t lose the sight picture, because you may want to bring it back down on target. In the early days, follow-through was all the more important, because of the lock time factor. Lock time is what elapses between when the sear releases, and the shot goes off. It is the time it takes the hammer to fall, or the striker to snap forward and impact the cartridge’s primer. In addition to lock time, we have to consider the dwell time of the bullet as it travels down the barrel. This was important with guns of the past. The time from sear-break to ignition to bullet departure from the muzzle was longer with, say, a caplock black powder musket than with a modern semiautomatic pistol. It was longer still with the preceding flintlock because the cocking piece had to strike the frizzen and generate a spark, which in turn would ignite the priming powder in the pan, and then ignition had to travel to the main powder charge, burn, and finally start the ball on its way down the barrel. Watch a shooter with a flintlock, and you’ll see a distinct lapse between “the flash in the pan” and the muzzle blast signaling the projectile taking flight. And it was longer still with the earlier matchlocks. To the shooter making the shot, it seems like an achingly long interval, and follow-through absolutely must be maintained, or you can move the barrel enough between sear release and the shot to turn what would have been a center hit into a wide miss. I’ve heard people who should know better claim with modern arms and ammunition, the shooter should still practice follow-through to keep the barrel from changing its orientation before the bullet leaves the muzzle. I have to respectfully disagree. Lock time and dwell time in modern arms are so brief the bullet is already on its way before the shooter can fully realize the shot has been fired. Reaction time to an anticipated stimulus, such as an intended gunshot fired by oneself, averages around a quarter of a second. Some people (usually younger people) with very fast reaction time can get down in the .15 to .17 second range of FormernationalchampJuliegoloski-golubstrafestargetsrighttoleftwithherS&WM&P9.Note hershootingstance(above).Here,withherlasttwospentcasingsstillintheair,shedeliberately eschewsfollow-throughandisbreakingherholdtobeginhersprinttonextfiringstation(below). Sceneis’09IDPANationalsintulsa,Oklahoma. 8 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MAY 2010

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