Follow through is one of the least talked about and probably least trained fundamentals of shooting. I suspect that is because it is hardest in the situations when it is needed most like when the scenario requires that the firearm or the shooter to move quickly from target to target. People, for the most part, don’t like to train skills in which they don’t excel. There are certainly times when it is easy to get that second sight picture (slow fire target shooting) and there are times when you can get away with being a little sloppy with follow through (large targets, short distances) but there are times when poorly executed follow through are the difference between a hit and miss.
I was recently on the range with a group of buddies who were doing some drills that were designed to get you into and out of shooting positions quickly. The drills involved the physical stress of movement along with a dash of mental stress from competition and the ever unkind shooting timer. One friend, a police officer and an excellent shooter, was gutting it out in spite of intense pain stemming from a battle with gout. He and his gout taught us all a lesson.
The particular drill in question was set up with a C-zone steel about 75 yards down range from 2 shooting positions that were about 20 yards apart. The shooter started at the first shooting position with 13 rounds in the carbine, fired one shot standing, one shot prone, one shot standing, and then sprinted to the second shooting position to complete the same shooting sequence (standing, prone, standing). Then they sprinted back to the first position to complete the same shooting sequence a third time for a total of 9 shots. All misses were to be cleaned up and any round of the original 13 that was brought back reduced the overall time by 5 seconds (a potential total of 20 seconds in bonus time to reward accuracy).
The results of the drill were extremely interesting. Only one participant shot the drill clean. Of those who had at least one miss, no shooter missed the first standing shot at any station. No shooter missed the prone shot at any station. All of the misses came on the third shot at a station. These were the shots directly before the shooter was required to sprint – a shot were follow through is imperative. I don’t know about you, but I shoot better when I am not running and run better when I am not shooting. If you start your sprint before you follow through at these distances, it is a great recipe for a miss.
The one shooter who shot it cleanly was the one who was slowed slightly by their pain. He had no choice but to slow down a bit and that little bit of extra time spent willing his foot to move after each shot served him well. I should also point out that, while he was slower, he wasn’t that slow. The fastest unadjusted times averaged around 43 seconds. His unadjusted time was less than 2 seconds slower than that at 45 seconds. I am sure some will say 2 seconds is a long time in a gun fight but missing is no help either.
It is tempting to look at these results and say that you should slow down to get hits but that is not my intention in writing this article and that is not my advice to you. It is certainly true that getting your hits are easier when you slow down but it is better to go as fast as you can properly apply the fundamentals of shooting, like follow through. These skills can only be learned in full speed training.
I learn something every time I go to this range. This time, it took a man with gout to remind me that:
- Follow through is important.
- I am not discussing/training follow through enough and you probably aren’t either.