Thoughts On Follow Through

When firing a shot, the recoil starts as soon as the projectile starts to move through the barrel. Because the pistol is not supported or held right behind the centre of the barrel line, the recoil causes the muzzle of the pistol to move upwards. Therefore, by the time the projectile exits the muzzle, the barrel is NOT in the same position when it was at the time the shooter pressed the trigger. If the shooter stops concentrating and looking at the sights in that fraction of the second when the action of the firing was initiated, he can make mistakes during the time while the firing mechanism completed its work and while the projectile travels through the barrel. While this time is only measurable in milliseconds, the amount of sight misalignment that can occur in this very short time, can still be considerable, without the shooter even recognising the mistake he had made.

It is therefore important and necessary to keep holding the pistol and concentrating on the sight alignment not only till the trigger is released, (activated), but for some time after that, as it is only somewhat later that the projectile actually leaves the barrel of the pistol/rifle. To keep concentrating on the sights longer, to keep them in sharp focus and aligned with each other even as the gun recoils, (as well as maintaining the same degree of muscle tension, grip strength and character and even the trigger pressure) is called the "FOLLOW THROUGH” – for obvious reasons. This is one of the most important elements of our shooting techniques. If you THINK you could see the sights at the moment of firing but the "called" shot is not where you thought it should be, the chances are that you were NOT following through. If you think that you did, then you did not follow through for LONG ENOUGH.

One of the problems with this difficult technique is that most people – perhaps due to the way it is talked about – think of follow through as something that happens AFTER the gun is fired. Thinking about or trying to follow through AFTER the shot fired is too LATE. Follow through is in fact the CONTINUATION of all the actions we do while holding and firing a shot. Follow through is not ONLY a matter of “keep watching the sights”. It is also “keep holding the pistol” as motionless as possible and keep adding pressure on the trigger while concentrating on the sights. This must continue right through the whole effort of firing a shot and beyond, long enough, to ensure that the pistol (rifle) is not pushed out of alignment while the projectile is still in the barrel.

Follow through is necessary in all types of shooting – and in many other sports too – but is particularly important in Free and Air Pistol (and rifle) shooting. This is due to the long barrels (relatively “long” time of the projectile in the barrel) and the relatively relaxed gripping of these guns. The even longer time the .177 pellet spends in the barrel of an air pistol or rifle, due to its low velocity, adds extra importance to follow through.

With experience (and a lot of proper training) the shooter will develop the ability to “call” his/her shots. That is, after firing the shot, the shooter – without looking in the scope – will know where the shot has landed on the target. This ability can develop to an extremely high degree. Really top class shooters are able to call their shots even within the ten ring. “Accurate calling of the shot should be dependent upon the exact recall of a mental image of the sight alignment at the instant of firing. Total awareness of the slightest error in alignment is an absolute requirement of accurate shot calling from a clear visual memory.”

To accurately "call" a shot is only possible with absolute concentration on maintaining the exact relationship between front and rear sights. Developing this ability is one of the basic requirements of good shooting. With regular practice, sooner or later it will happen. When you can call your shots, you can be satisfied that – with some more work – you are on your way to becoming a master shooter