Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marksmanship and Life 2 - The Front Sight Post

"God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference."
In life, the best one can hope for is control over one's self and actions.  On the rifle range, the best one can hope for is control over one's rifle and the shot from it's origin to the end edge of the muzzle.

The two main aspects of proper aim with a rifle are sight alignment and sight picture:

Sight Alignment. Sight alignment is the relationship between the front sight post and rear sight aperture and the aiming eye. This relationship is the most critical to aiming and must remain consistent from shot to shot. To achieve correct sight alignment, center the tip of the front sight post vertically and horizontally in the rear sight aperture.

Sight Picture. Sight picture is the placement of the tip of the front sight post in relation to the target while maintaining sight alignment. To achieve correct sight picture, place the tip of the front sight post at the center of the target while maintaining sight alignment.

The human eye can focus clearly on only one object at a time. For accurate shooting, it is important to focus on the tip of the front sight post the second the shot is fired. When the shot is fired, focus must be on the tip of the front sight post; secondary focus will include the rear sight and the target. The rear sight and the target will appear blurry. To stare or fix the vision on the front sight post for longer than a few seconds can distort the image, making it difficult to detect minute errors in sight alignment.

The human mind can only focus clearly on one task at a time.  To properly aim ones will towards a goal one should properly align oneself with the achievement of that goal and focus one's activities only on those things over which one can exert influence.  Truly, one only has control over the bullet until it leaves the rifle, so ones focus should be on  the front sight post at the end of the rifle barrel.  To focus on the rear sight assembly, is to dwell on the ego, and ones aim will drift off target.  To focus only on the target is to lose the present moment, and the task at hand of keeping that 24 inch tube directed where it needs to be.

Two illustrations of what I'm trying to express:
  • While I am certain that making money was surely a goal of Henry Ford, I doubt that he went in to work each day focused on that.   One can see from the results of his life that he went in each day focused on the best way to make as many quality cars as possible, the money was a desirable side effect.
  • If a person is lonely and wants a partner, I think the best way for that person to achieve his/her goal is to focus on being happy first, and then companionship will follow. I have heard it sarcastically said that nothing attracts women like the sweet scent of desperation. It's only when one stops grasping after the fruits of desire and performs ones duty that those fruits are obtained.
The lesson I took from this aspect of shooting was that the best results are achieved when one is concentrating on those things one can directly do, and trust that the rest of the universe will do it's part.  Doesn't always produce success, but I've not found better success with anything else.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Marksmanship and Life 1 - B.R.A.S.S.

It is my experience that one can draw life lessons from almost any field of study, especially when that field involves observable physical effects.  Learning to fire a rifle taught me a number of things that I try to apply to my daily life.  FWIW, I was never a particularly good shot, the martial arts were just not something I could become passionate about - this probably explains my indifference towards professional rasslin.

Breathe, Relax, Aim, Stop, Squeeze, this is what I was taught in boot camp as the way to situate myself when firing a rifle.  The Barrel of an M-16 is about 24 inches long, and that is all the real control you wield over the path the bullet travels.  Being able to successfully direct a 5.56 millimeter piece of metal 500 meters to reach a specific and relatively small target is a really difficult thing to do.  It requires the proper frame of being, the proper aim, the release of effort, and the faith that the effort will reach it's intended destination.  It's a lot like achieving any worthwhile goal in life.

Breath (prana) control is critical to marksmanship because the act of breathing causes the body to move.  Proper breath control will lead to the weapon being fired at the moment of least movement - the pause between breaths when the muscles are at their most relaxed and the weapon's sights are settled at their natural point of aim.

Relax - tension is an enemy of control, and proper aiming requires a calm and relaxed marksman.  One should pause and clear the mind to allow it to focus.

Aim - The human eye can focus clearly on only one object at a time.  Similarly the human mind can only focus on one task at a time.  Even the most powerful computer processor (which we understand much better than the human mind) can only do one task at a time (though it is capable of quickly switching between tasks to present us with the illusion of multi-tasking.)  Proper aim is the most difficult step and my next two posts are devoted to further exploration of this.

Stop - After aiming, one should pause and let ensure that the execution of will (i.e. the shot to be fired) will be directed by the aim, and not by one's ego.

Squeeze - Slowly squeeze the trigger without anticipating the shot.  Anticipation will cause the shot to move up and to one side or the other as your body will naturally brace for the recoil.  One should be surprised by the shot going off.  Similarly in life, if one attends to the tasks at hand without constantly being concerned about the eventual payoff, then one will surely reach the goal aimed at.  Of course this presupposes the one has aimed oneself properly, and taken windage (the actions of other actors) and trajectory (the forces of the natural world) into account.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fair and Just

Is it fair to stab a faultless newborn child with a syringe of vitamin K?  Surely the needle puncture is painful to the child, and it's not like a newborn has had the time yet to do anything deserving that pain.  Of course it's necessary for the health of the child who lacks the intestinal bacteria that would be making this vitamin and we do this to prevent possible bleeding problems until the child has the ability to produce this on their own.  But the infant neither knows nor understand this, and I would bet that if offered the choice, none of them would accept the needle.

I believe that the human rationality is limited, even crippled, by our incomplete information about the universe.  If you trace any line of reasoning back far enough, you will meet a place where it has to be bootstrapped up, not out of logic, but from observation and assumptions about the cause and meaning behind those observations.  These assumptions are nothing more than wild-ass guesses for which we have not yet found a counterexample.  This defines science, and the scientific quest to understand.  Given the vast size of the universe, and the tiny sample size of what we've been able to observe, I have little faith that anything we currently believe to be true will never be shown to be at least a little flawed.

If this is so, then is it reasonable to assume that events we view as unfair with our limited understanding can indicate that:
  • God is unjust,
  • God is uninvolved, or
  • God does not exist.
I think that it is simply the case that we do not understand the purpose, and we do not really need to understand the purpose any more that an infantryman needs to understand all the nuances of the political aims of his country in order to advance those aims on the battlefield.We would dearly like to understand, we want to understand, we wish we understood, but a wish is not a need, and sometimes life is as cruel as a syringe of vitamin K.