Editor’s Note: The following is a syndicated article by author Kevin Michalowski that first appeared in USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine Volume 12, Issue 7, October 2015 under the title, “Float the Dot. Shoot the Shot.”
There are two elements of accurate shooting that cannot be argued: You must point the muzzle at the target, and you must operate the trigger without adding any additional movement to the muzzle.
That’s it. We could make it more complicated, but let’s not. Those two rules come from a pretty solid source — George Harris and the folks at the SIG Sauer Academy. Harris is co-founder of the academy and author of the SIG Principles, the elements used as the basis for training at the world-renowned shooting school.
“SIG,” said Harris recently, “stands for ‘Simple Is Good.’”
And, at the academy, instructors provide simple, objective-based training that allows you to improve your skill level regardless of your starting point upon arrival.
There is one mantra that I heard over and over during my week-long instructor-training course: Float the dot. Shoot the shot.
I heard it over and over because after I figured out how important it was, I would constantly repeat it under my breath, especially when we were on the 25-yard line, shooting the 8-inch circle.
“Float the dot. Shoot the shot.”
So where did this simple yet profound statement come from?
“This simple, easy-to-remember phrase comes from a lengthy process,” said Steve Gilcreast, senior instructor and training manager at the SIG Sauer Academy. “We first start with a simple concept: muzzle management and trigger finger discipline. This concept is the basis for firearms safety. The simple concept also relates to success with the pistol. Muzzle management means that you point the muzzle at the intended target and trigger finger discipline refers to manipulating the trigger without adding additional motion to the muzzle. Maintain those two things and you will hit your target. You can’t argue these points.”
In order to ensure that your muzzle is pointed at the target, you must use your sights. Holding a correct sight picture on target is a noble goal, but we all know that everyone shakes. No one can hold perfectly still. No matter what you do, there will be movement.
“Floating the dot indicates there will be some acceptable movement of the sights on the target,” said Gilcreast, who has been on staff at the SIG Sauer Academy full time since 2011. “Additionally, I simply need you to focus on the front sight dot on the center of the target. After you’ve achieved that visual dot on the center of your target, you can then manipulate the trigger to shoot the shot without moving the dot off the intended target.”
Gilcreast said this simple term continues to remind instructors and shooters of how simple shooting a pistol really is. This concept also reinforces the SIG principle of focusing on only what is necessary to be successful. It is only when training becomes overly complicated that it becomes difficult.
The idea and terminology were originally used for older shooters who were having trouble focusing on the front sight and establishing a good sight picture. The system worked so well and was so easy to teach that it very quickly became a standard training method for everyone on the firing line at the SIG Sauer Academy.
“Originally the idea of just simply focusing on the center front sight dot was used with aged-eye shooters who had difficulty seeing the sights,” Gilcreast said. “Eventually we realized this simple idea worked for every shooter and simplified the visual process of aligning the sights and acquiring an acceptable sight picture.”
As I mentioned earlier, it’s tough to argue with self-evident realities, and reality-based training is the name of the game at SIG. For instance: The goal is for the bullet to hit the target. If the muzzle is pointed at the target when the shot is fired, the bullet will hit the target. The objective then is to point the muzzle at the target (for that you need to use the sights) and operate the trigger without moving the muzzle off the target. Simple.
“We provide objective-based training that utilizes a shooter’s natural abilities,” Gilcreast said. “In everything we do, we demonstrate options and provide multiple techniques or methods of meeting an objective. This gives folks the freedom to try new things to meet an objective that best fits their abilities. We then continue to demonstrate ways to refine, develop and become more efficient at those techniques.”
Additionally, Gilcreast said this same concept could be utilized with red-dot sights. Simply put, whether it’s iron sights or a red-dot sight, shooters can use the same methods, terminology and natural abilities to simplify the shooting process and have immediate success.
After you have embraced the concept of floating the dot, you must work to effectively shoot the shot.
Trigger control is a matter of manipulating the trigger smoothly to keep the sight on target. Some instructors say you should “press” the trigger; others say you should “squeeze” the trigger. The objective-based training system at the SIG Sauer Academy doesn’t provide such a rigid definition. Shooters are instructed to “operate” the trigger, and instructors provide suggestions about subtle changes in grip pressure and finger positions until the shooter is comfortable and consistent in achieving the objective.
“In my opinion, the ‘shoot the shot’ portion of this phrase refers to trigger control. For many reasons, trigger control can be the most difficult for folks to master. Understanding the mechanics and psychology behind proper trigger control is critical and very perishable,” Gilcreast said. “That’s why we encourage people to continue to practice utilizing this phrase as a reminder.”
Clearly the instructors want — and the shooter needs — smooth trigger operation to keep the sights on target while taking the shot, but short of that simple instruction, the objective, not the minutia of the technique, is the most important element. The goal is to hit the target. To that end, all you need to do is “float the dot, and shoot the shot.”
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