October 19, 2012
No Instruction Is Sometimes the Best Instruction
By David E. Petzal
Before we get around to shooting, let us for a moment reflect on how far we have fallen by remembering Bess Truman, First Lady and wife of Harry Truman. Mrs. Truman’s predecessor was Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the Hillary Clinton of her time in terms of popularity and influence. Unlike Eleanor, however, Bess Truman detested Washington, politics, and in particular the press. During her time as First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt had held a weekly press conference, and so when Bess Truman got the job, she was asked when she would hold hers.
“There aren’t going to be any press conferences,” said Mrs. Truman, and she meant it. During Harry Truman’s eight years in the Oval Office, she held only one, which consisted of written questions submitted in advance, and of which many were answered, “No comment.”
Much of the time, Bess Truman did not even live in Washington. Imagine that today.
But let us now reflect on shooting technique, because there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, and, the conventional wisdom has it, if you shoot the right way you will hit, and if you shoot the wrong way you will miss. Mostly this is true. When I shot Sporting Clays a little while back I saw some truly dreadful gunnery, and it was happening because the shooters responsible were doing everything wrong.
However, there are people who can do everything wrong and hit. A young man with whom I was talking yesterday told me about the first time he shot skeet. He had never picked up a shotgun before, and he broke 22. Immediately he was descended upon by a mob of onlookers who gave him all sorts of advice. Place your feet differently. Lean into the gun. And on, and on.
The result was that, on the next round, he hit 5 because he was thinking about what he had to do instead of just about breaking the birds, and thinking while you’re shooting is fatal. He’s never broken 22 since, or even come close.
When I was a kid, I played on a baseball team with a kid who held the bat with both arms straight back. I’ve never seen anyone with a stance like that. There was no way he could get his wrists and forearms into the swing, but he pounded the hell out of the ball anyway. No one messed with him, and as far as I know he is sending baseballs so far that there should be pilots on board.
If you see someone who’s breaking all the rules and shooting well anyway, leave them alone. Who cares if their form is good? A hit is a hit.