Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bust a Cap

A mountain of shot-up wooden blocks
(Adolf Topperwein)

How much do you trust your spouse?
(Remember William Burroughs ...*)

There are as many ways to shoot guns as there are people who do it, but I'm going to speak mostly to two broad methods of targeting here: Sights and point-shooting.

Non-electronic sights come in various configurations, from the old notch-and-post, to peep, to ghost rings, to glow-in-the dark inserts on the front or back versions. The essence of using them is pretty much the same -- you line up the front and back of the gun to make a sight picture and use that to index the weapon on the target. Electronic sights, using a dot or a laser, are a real advantage, especially to older shooters whose eyes aren't as sharp as they were.

Point-shooting, aka instinctive, snap-shooting, hip-shooting, Quick Skill, Quick Kill, etc. is a method that doesn't use traditional sights. The gun is indexed entire, the shooter watches the target, muscle memory comes into play, and the shot is triggered when the onboard organic computer deems all the elements are in place. The theory is that, once you know how it feels to be on target, if you practice it enough, you can achieve the state without using the sights -- your brain locks it in and knows when to shoot.

Each gun is different, the barrel lengths, weight, size, etc. have to be learned to make it work.

There are schools of shooting, many of them, that offer training in one or the other, and they tend to -- big surprise -- consider that their method is superior. You will hear teachers saying "Front sight! Front sight!" while others shake their heads and offer that you don't need the sights at all.

Both styles have advantages and disadvantages. For speed, point shooters are faster. Go back a few postings and look at Bob Munden popping two balloons so fast it sounds like one shot. Nobody can line up sights that fast. (Well, maybe Barry Allen in his red suit, but then, he can outrun the bullet, too ...)

Daisy, the air rifle maker, put out a system called Quick Skill, which came into being in the 1950's via Bobby Lamar McDaniel, a Georgia tobacco salesman who got good enough at teaching the no-sight shooting to make a living at it. He supposedly taught Floyd Patterson, the boxer, how to do this well enough that Floyd could hit a BB thrown into the air.

That is extremely good shooting.

Later turned into Quick Kill by the Army in Vietnam, the system works remarkably well. You see a similar long gun skill in good skeet and trap shooters, where the shotgun sights are usually rudimentary and a lot of shooters don't use them. There the clay target is, and ... blam.
Tom Knapp, who shoots for Benelli, can toss ten of these into the air and break them all before they hit the ground. Ten.

"Ad" Topperwein, a trick shooter in the early 1900's, rotated several Winchester .22 rifles to shoot at wooden blocks the size of golf balls thrown into the air. Eight hours a day over several days. He shot at 72,000 of these blocks .... and missed nine.

In 1987, John Huffer, using Ruger .22 rifles, shot 40,060 of these same-sized blocks without missing any, over a period of two weeks. Click here to read more about exhibition shooting.

At a distance, with a handgun, the sights are more precise for most people, and they are easier to learn how to use.

A lot of shooters, realizing that it doesn't have to be either/or, use both. Bill Jordan -- No Second Place Winner -- shows four ranges with his .357 Magnum revolver, with the gun held at varying distances from his body -- 0-3 yards, 3-7, 7-15, and goes to the sights at 15-25 yards and beyond.

If you are learning how to use a spetsdöd, you have to learn how to do it without sights, 'cause there ain't any on those little dart guns ...

* In 1951, the beat writer William Burroughs, was living in Mexico with his common-law wife, Joan Vollmers. They were on the run from the law, either in Louisiana or Texas, or both, for a dope charge -- either growing it or distributing it, depending on which story you like. It was not his first brush with the law.

The story has several variations, but most of them tend to agree that Burroughs was partying in a room above a cantina and the subject of shooting came up. He apparently loved guns. The version I like allows as how Burroughs was talking about going to South America and living off the land. Somebody -- Joan according to some -- laughed at the notion of him being able to hit anything, the way he shot. So he allowed that he would, by God, demonstrate how good a shot he was. He had Joan balance a glass on her head -- a bad idea ipso facto, because had he hit it, glass would have spattered everywhere -- and allowed as how he would, like William Tell, shoot it right off!

Burroughs was drunk, and it's not altogether unlikely, stoned. He lined up with his revolver, fired --

And shot Joan dead. Hit her right in the temple.

He was busted. Got out on bail and lit out for parts far away. He was never tried on the charge. He later wrote, among other books, Junkie, and Naked Lunch.


James said...

No talk about shooting is complete without the name of the legendary FBI gunslinger "Jelly" Bryce being invoked. With a recorded draw and fire time of 2/5 of a second, he actually outdrew and killed criminals who had the drop on him.
This is well worth the read :

Steve Perry said...

Oh, yeah, Jelly Bryce. I believe I used that fast-draw composite image of him from Life in a posting three or four years ago. He was something. I figure that's where the Butch and Sundance scene came from, with the "Can I move?"

"I'm better when I move ..."

Ed said...

...and then there were the Archers - Howard Hill for one -shooting apples off heads. Wonder if a string or limb ever gave way during a shoot - ouch.

on the fast draw shoots on balloons - the shooter is pretty close - is it the muzzle blast popping the balloons or are they actually that accurate with that speed? I know they are very accurate with other shots done but the blast seems to come into play on the balloons even on the horseback shoots too.

Anonymous said...

Two things here about William Burroughs.

1. Well…Should not mix intoxicants and firearms…Ever.

2. To set the record straight

William Tell …was arrested…on orders from a guy named Gessler. Tell received the punishment of being forced to shoot an apple off the head of his son, Walter, or else both would be executed. Tell had been promised freedom if he successfully shot the apple.
On 18 November 1307, Tell split the fruit with a single bolt from his crossbow, without mishap. When Gessler queried him about the purpose of a second bolt in his quiver, Tell answered that if he had killed his son, he would have turned the crossbow on Gessler himself….

jks9199 said...

Lots of folks use both primary styles of shooting, depending on range. I'm addressing handguns particularly here.

At the range of many police or civilian shootings (7 to 10 yards), point shooting, even without the highest level of precision, is more than adequate to put rounds into center mass. As you move to 15 yards, you start needing to aim more. At 25 yards... I'm skeptical that a true point shooter can hit the target. Not saying it can't be done -- but you're going to have to prove it to me.

What I suspect is happening in those instances where someone appears to be point shooting at longer ranges is that they've trained and practiced enough that they acquire that sight image so fast that it doesn't appear that they're aiming. Long guns are different... One quick way to teach a person to shoot a shotgun, with surprising accuracy out to about 15 yards is to simply have them point with the front/support hand finger...

Steve Perry said...

Not the muzzle blast -- they use hard wax bullets. Cowboy action shooters buy these commercially and reload them. I used to make my own out of caked paraffin, using the primer alone for power.

At contact distance, blanks are dangerous, and even out to ten feet or so, the wads can sting, but the wads aren't accurate and the blast won't reliably pop balloons at that range, so the wax.

Bill Jordan could pull his revolver from his duty leather and hit a stop plate K-zone in just under a third of a second, when he was in his fifties. The timer only stopped when impacted by a wax bullet.

Jordan didn't like blanks. He was fond of saying that nobody in the history of gunfighting was ever killed by a loud noise ...

Dan Gambiera said...

My personal favorite from a few years back (Darwin Award Honorable Mention) In a press release the neurosurgeon announced that there was "no evidence of further brain damage)

[UPI,Portland, OR] Doctors at Portland's University Hospital said Wednesday an Oregon man shot through the skull by a hunting arrow is lucky to be alive, and will be released soon from the hospital. Tony Roberts, 25, lost his right eye last weekend during an initiation into a men's rafting club, Mountain Men Anonymous, in Grants Pass,Ore. A friend tried to shoot a beer can off his head, but the arrow entered Roberts' right eye. Doctors said had the arrow gone 1 millimeter to the left, a major blood vessel would have cut and Roberts would have died instantly. Neurosurgeon Dr. Johnny Delashaw at the University Hospital in Portland said the arrow went through 8 to 10 inches of brain, with the tip protruding at the rear of his skull, yet somehow managed to miss all major blood vessels. Delashaw also said had Robert tried to pull the arrow out on his own he surely would have killed himself. Roberts admitted afterwards he and his friends had been drinking that afternoon. Said Roberts, "I feel so dumb about this." (I would feel 'dumb' too if that much of my brain had been skewered - KEB) No charges have been filed but the Josephine County district attorney's office said the initiation stunt is under investigation.

Ed said...

This last Wednesday night I saw on The Outdoor Channel Shooting USA's Impossible Shots - Gil 'Cisko' Guerra shoot 6 balloons in - if I recall correctly - a little under one and a half seconds - maybe a little over one second - and the balloons were pretty far apart on a tall stand. Using a single action revolver.

Steve Perry said...

I've seen Cisco shoot. Even posted a link to one of his vids here, I think, doing that multiple balloon demo with the balloons in a big steel rack.

There is a bit of at trick to this one. Even though he uses wax bullets, accuracy doesn't have to be dead-on. If you hit the stee frame,l the bullet will fragment and the spatter will pop the balloon next to it. Gives a somewhat larger K-zone for the demo.

He'd hit a man-sized target all day long at that range, but at that speed, pinpoint accuracy ain't gonna happen.

Point-shooting is faster. Sights are more precise. You can be off a hair at seven meters and an inch left or right won't matter. But at a longer distance, that inch gets magnified, and the farther away, the wider you are apt to be. Aim small, miss small. Go for the fish's eye ...

Ed said...

Those guys are fast for sure and practice does pay. I've seen a fastdraw rig that has the metal deflector at the bottom of the holster - I wonder how many toes found other places to be before someone came up with that?