On the Importance of Follow-Through

Following through simply means completing what we aim to do effectively…
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Following through simply means completing what we aim to do effectively…

Follow-through is important in every endeavor. Many folks hold professional politicians in disdain because politicians have a reputation for not following through with doing what they said they were going to do once they get elected. People like other folks to be consistent—that is, to say what they mean and mean what they say—to follow-through and do what they say they’ll do. Being consistent is important in many venues of life—teaching, socializing and disciplining children, dealing with employees, managing relationships, legislating, governing, enforcing the law, fighting and so on.

 

…we look upon concealed guns as an item of emergency, safety equipment. Always ready, yet, as decent people, we wish never to be compelled by circumstance to use them for their intended purpose.

 

Following through simply means completing what we aim to do effectively—doing whatever we need to do to get the job done. It also means communicating clearly in words and making our actions match our words—walking our talk, and if appropriate, talking our walk. In a stressful situation, such as in a fight, following through requires that we remain at the ready, that we don’t let down our guard and that we don’t quit before the job is completed. Follow-through is a necessity if we are to achieve accuracy and precision in whatever we do, whether we’re communicating with words, fists, knives, swords or bullets. Clint Smith, noted firearm trainer, says we need to learn to “move, shoot and communicate.”

In the gun fighting realm, following through means that after taking a shot, you remain ready to take the next shot. The winning boxer, martial artist and shootist, all follow-through. Losers may make a good shot, but after they often expect the fight to be over. This is not the way to win a fight. That’s often why they lose! We’ll talk more about this shortly.

For us “old geezers,” following through in everything we do is the basis of our old-fashioned values. However, following through isn’t always easy or simple. It takes hard work and thinking through a problem. We, old geezers, haven’t lived this long by being stupid. Follow-through is an important concept especially in today’s society where good values often seem to come up missing. We live in a time when people often do not say what they mean—especially if speaking the truth requires verbalizing opinions, beliefs, attitudes or facts that are considered to be “politically incorrect.”

Tom Givens, master firearm instructor and author, and John Farnam, my good friend and sensei, summed up the language part of the issue well.

Givens: “When asked why you routinely bear arms, albeit concealed, what is your answer? Do you shrewdly couch your response in ostensibly ,inoffensive phrases like, ‘personal security,’ ‘self-protection,’ or ‘accessing the full spectrum of the force continuum?’ I believe it’s time we audaciously call a spade a spade! When asked that same question, my unmistakable and unapologetic response is ever, ‘I carry a gun so I can shoot people!’”

Farnam: “Under some circum-stances, some people need to be shot dead, on the spot! Indeed, there are times when shooting people, while always regrettable, is still acutely necessary in order to prevent the innocent from being hurt. That’s what guns are for, and we carry them constantly, because we cannot know when the pivotal moment will be upon us. I don’t keep a fire extinguisher in my home, because I harbor some secret, pestilent desire to put out fires! On the contrary, it is my sincerest wish that I never see a fire. Still, most regard keeping a fire extinguisher handy to be a reasonable precaution.

Similarly, we look upon concealed guns as an item of emergency, safety equipment. Always ready, yet, as decent people, we wish never to be compelled by circumstance to use them for their intended purpose. We take no pleasure in doing harm, but we have fearlessly confronted the incontrovertible fact that it may well be necessary in order to abrogate an even greater harm” (John Farnam, personal communication).

“Weasel Words:” These two, respected teachers are arguing that we stop worrying about being “politically correct” because it leads us to use the same type of “weasel words” that “weasel politicians” use. Please be advised that I am not saying that all politicians are weasels! I am saying that many politicians use “weasel words” to rationalize or soften the impact of what they are saying so that their real underlying intentions are not apparent.

When we use “weasel words” to explain or justify why we carry a concealed firearm, we are delivering points to the enemy, as Farnam points out, by “pseudo-apologizing for refusing to be the perpetual victims that politicians and the media, at every level, so desperately want us to be. We need to speak clearly, without apology.”

 

Before the passage of thousands of gun control laws, when we were young, our society was a lot more polite.

 

These eloquent spokesmen for the Second Amendment are not advocating the use of language in an effort to be deliberately offensive. They are advocating that we speak clearly—that we “call a spade a spade.” On the other hand, the “enemy,” as they put it, is in the habit of arbitrarily declaring certain words and phrases as offensive, and thus, off limits in polite conversation. We better stop permitting these unethical, moral arbiters from setting our language rules! Quite to the contrary, legally armed citizens, not liberal, anti-gun politicians and leftist activists, promote the “polite society,” as Tom Givens has so well articulated. Before the passage of thousands of gun control laws, when we were young, our society was a lot more polite.

Follow-Through in Shooting

Transitioning from delivering words to shooting bullets, let’s now discuss the importance of follow-through in shooting. Recall the following stark but basic truth: We carry a gun so we can shoot people because in some cases, bad people who would otherwise kill the innocent on the spot need to be shot dead to prevent them from hurting or killing the innocent.

The legally armed citizen, senior or otherwise, must be prepared to follow-through with every action he takes from the moment he encounters a grave threat that raises his level of readiness from “code yellow” to “code orange.” Unfortunately, a predatory threat won’t just go away if we do nothing. This is not the time to “give peace a chance.”

Working up the force continuum is follow-through. The law requires that we meet force with a little more than like-force. However, if an attacker escalates his level of force, we must be prepared to immediately escalate our level of force in legitimate self-defense.

The late, Colonel Jeff Cooper, pointed out in his classic book, Principles of Personal Defense, that the best defense against a vicious attack is a more vicious, explosive and overwhelming, offensive counter-attack followed through to the very end with the attacker being down, disabled, and out of the fight.

If we have to shoot, following through with the shot means that we must maintain our aim for a fraction of a second or more after the sear releases the hammer or striker, to allow time for the bullet to follow-through and exit the barrel.

The surprise break: The “surprise break” is a concept that is germane here. It is a concept frequently used with beginning shooters that is too often misunderstood. It does not simply mean being surprised by the shot. After all, you knew before you fired the gun that said gun was going to fire when you pressed the trigger!

“Surprise break” means continuing to apply all of the shooting fundamentals (combat grip and stance, front sight focus, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control) throughout the break of the shot. In order to place an accurate shot, you simply must continue to maintain your concentration on sight alignment right after the shot is fired. In addition to giving the bullet enough time to exit the barrel, what this also does is to make the breaking of the shot a surprise. The reason that this is very important is because it prevents your anticipating the shot which will mess up your marksmanship by making you disturb your sight alignment and flinch or jerk the trigger.

 

You cannot follow-through with your shooting without a reliable gun.

 

Diagnosing Lack of Follow-Through

I first learned this from my friend and teacher, master firearm instructor and author, Louis Awerbuck, who is the director of the Yavapai Firearms Academy, and a senior instructor at Gunsite, Arizona. Awerbuck is an expert at diagnosing students’ marksmanship problems. He hit mine right on the head and helped me correct them.

When I trained with Louis, he diagnosed the first of my shooting problems as a lack of thorough follow-through. I was dropping my shots because I wasn’t giving the bullet a chance to exit the barrel after the gun fired.

It takes a little more than a fraction of a second for the bullet to exit the barrel after the round is detonated. If you fire at the target and don’t hold the gun on target long enough after the gun fires, the bullet will be sent on an awry trajectory and this is what I was doing.

Louis suggested the following remedial strategy which is a variant of the “Rule of +1:” After taking one shot, stay on target and prep the trigger as if you are going to take another shot. Thus, one shot means remaining ready to take a second—two shots means remaining ready to take a third—and so on. One shot means two sight pictures—before and after. Two shots mean three sight pictures—before the first shot, before the second shot and after the second shot. Three shots mean four sight pictures and so on.

What Louis explained is that you actually fool your brain (your subconscious shooter) into thinking that you are going to take another shot (one more than you actually take). Not only does this give the bullet the time it needs to exit the barrel, but it also keeps you, the shooter, at the ready to take the next shot if necessary.

The “act of recovery:” After I started doing this, I no longer found myself dropping my shots! Following through after the shot is the act of recovery! It is the act of letting the pistol return in recoil to your original holding position from which you aimed your shot. Erik Lawrence, firearm trainer and author, points out, “As soon as the shot breaks, you must immediately resume the sequence of applying the fundamentals for the next shot (manage recoil, re-acquire another sight picture, reset the sear, letting the trigger out just far enough to reset the sear, which allows the pistol to be able to fire again), and prep the trigger (learn how far the trigger can be pressed to the rear before it will fire) for a follow-up shot if needed.” (Erik Lawrence, Tactical Pistol Shooting, p. 63).

Even if only one shot is taken from the concealed carry gun, the trigger is reset and prepped in follow-up for a second shot.

Even if only one shot is taken, the trigger is reset and prepped in follow-up for a second shot. This entails re-acquiring a second sight picture even if the follow-up shot isn’t taken. Sequence here is shown “dry” with an unloaded Glock 19.

“Surgical Speed Shooting”

Andy Stanford of Options for Personal Security (OPS) and master firearm trainer and author, in his book, Surgical Speed Shooting, points out that “To shoot accurately at the maximum rate of fire, you must be ready to apply the final pressure to the trigger at the instant the sights settle back on the target.” (p. 69).

To accomplish this, you must keep your finger on the trigger at all times while you are in the act of shooting. As the handgun is recoiling, keeping your finger on the trigger, you must ride the trigger forward to its reset point (i.e., the point at which you can pull the trigger again and fire the gun) and then press it again to let off another shot. On most semi-auto’s, especially Glock handguns, you will feel and hear a click at the point of reset. However, semi-auto’s will vary in how far forward you have to let the trigger go to reset, and in the audibility of “the click” as opposed to “the bang.”

Truth be told, this constant readiness to follow-through is a necessity for accurate marksmanship irrespective of shooting speed, as Louis Awerbuck pointed out to me. Stanford discusses in his book, “Whatever the action type of your gun, one key to accurate rapid fire is to keep the trigger busy. Instead of the traditional recipe of ‘aim then fire’—which often results in the shooter jerking the trigger in an attempt to take a snapshot of a good sight picture—correct the alignment of weapon and target while you are pressing/stroking the trigger.” (Stanford, 2001, pp. 71).

The act of firing a shot isn’t complete until the sights have come back on target after recoil and the shooter is prepping the trigger for the next shot. This reset-prep process each time you fire the gun needs to become ingrained as a reflexive habit—a subconscious muscle memory thing. The conscious part of the sequence is your brain commanding you to continue firing or cease firing. If the command is to cease fire, your finger needs to come off the trigger and go into the register position along the frame of the handgun. If the command is to continue firing, your finger must stay on the trigger.

360 Degree Awareness

Concealed carry gun: New full-sized Beretta 92 18-round magazine.

New full-sized Beretta 92 18-round magazine.

Follow-through also means continually maintaining your awareness of your 360 degree environment. If there are multiple targets/threats, you better be aware and ready to engage them.

Stanford of OPS explains in his Surgical Speed Shooting book, after shooting a string, and taking down your adversary (even if it is a square paper target!), we should get into the habit of taking the following steps:

1. Stay on target with the trigger prepped for a moment to keep yourself from dropping your guard too soon. If the threat is stopped…

2. Take your finger out of the trigger guard and lower your weapon to an appropriate combat ready position.

3. Assess the situation to ensure that your adversary is really out of the fight and then…

4. Scan a full 360 degrees for additional threats. Do this by turning your head to the right, to the right rear, and then to the left, and to the left rear. This also will break your tunnel vision on your adversary.

5. Remember the “Rule of +1:” If there is one threat, there’s probably two, and if there’s two…

6. Reload your handgun during any lull in the action while moving to cover or while behind cover, so you are prepared to resume fighting if the need arises.

7. Call for help.

Follow-Through Begins With the “Heart” of the Auto-Loader

Concealed carry gun: Mec-Gar magazines are the best and most reliable.

Mec-Gar magazines are the best and most reliable.

You cannot follow-through with your shooting without a reliable gun. However, for an auto-loading firearm, the magazine is the “heart” of the gun. The magazine contains the cartridges that are fed into the chamber for ignition and firing. If the magazine is unreliable, the live rounds in the charged magazine will not feed and the gun won’t fire, unless there already is a round chambered. The gun will jam.

The bottom line is that you cannot afford to waste your time or jeopardize your life with unreliable or faulty magazines. Even if you do everything right, if your equipment is sub-par, you may end up in the hole. In addition, you should always carry at least one spare magazine on you with your semi-automatic pistol.

After testing many factory and aftermarket pistol magazines, I have come to the conclusion that the most reliable magazines are made by an Italian company named, Mec-Gar. Mec-Gar is the largest supplier of magazines that actually work to military, law enforcement and other government agencies worldwide. In fact, it is no surprise that their magazines come standard with the firearms of more than 50 prominent manufacturers. I personally have never had a feed failure with any Mec-Gar magazine in my collection of Ruger’s, Walther PPK’s, Sig’s, Smith’s, Beretta’s or Taurus auto-loader’s. In addition, the fit and finish of Mec-Gar’s affordable magazines are first-rate.

Mec-Gar magazines are sold by many vendors for good reason. If you are interested in finding out whether Mec-Gar offers spare magazines for your auto-loader, log onto www.Mec-Gar.com.

Recently, Mec-Gar introduced a new 18-round magazine for the 9mm Beretta 92 full-sized series. After running over 300 rounds through the two magazines the company sent me for test and evaluation, I found them to function flawlessly. I think they will prove to be very popular.


REFERENCES:

Cooper, Jeff. (2006). Principles of Personal Defense (Second Edition). Boulder, CO: Paladin Press.
Lawrence, Erik. (2005). Tactical Pistol Shooting: Your Guide to Tactics that Work. Gun Digest Books. 800-258-0929.
Stanford, Andy. (2001). Surgical Speed Shooting: How To Achieve High-Speed Marksmanship In A Gunfight. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press.

 

SOURCES:

Mec-Gar USA, INC.
Hurley Farms Industrial Park
115 Hurley Road # 6G
Oxford, CT 06478
(203) 262-1525
www.Mec-Gar.com
Options for Personal Security (OPS)
P.O. Box 489
Sebring, FL33871
877-636-4677
www.OptionsforPersonalSecurity.com

 

[ Bruce N. Eimer, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, NRA Certified Firearms Instructor, Florida and Utah Concealed Firearms Instructor, and a Professional Writer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a co-owner of Personal Defense Solutions, LLC, Bruce offers individual shooting instruction and teaches concealed carry and handgun safety classes that prepare people to apply for the Florida Non-Resident Concealed Carry Permit which is honored by 28 states. ]

 

For more information, he can be reached by phone at 215-938-7283 or by e-mail at: Dr.Bruce@PersonalDefenseSolutions.net

For a schedule of upcoming classes, you can log on to the PDS website: www.PersonalDefenseSolutions.net

Bruce is also the co-author of the “Essential Guide to Handguns: Firearm Instruction for Personal Defense and Protection.”


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