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Category Archives: Physical Aspects – Mature Shooter

Physical aspects relating to the older shooter: vision, hearing, grip, stance, endurance and strength among others.

The “Handi-Racker” Review

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

This post provides a brief review of the “Handi-Racker” tool available for sale for $29.99 online (+they do run introductory “specials”) at http://www.handi-racker.com/

Handi Racker

The ability, or lack thereof, to rack the slide to load/unload/clear a round in the chamber of a semiautomatic pistol prevents many people with weak, injured, or arthritic hands from using them. While switching to a revolver may sometimes be of benefit, grip issues while shooting DA (double action) will often persist. To date there are only a couple of manufacturers working to make racking a slide easier or providing an alternative method of loading in the first bullet on the semi automatic. I did a little “surfing” on this issue online and easily found the “Handi-Racker.”

I tested the Handi-Racker, with one of our pistols, a 3″ 1911 Colt Defender. This gun has a very tight 24 lb recoil spring. The Handi-Racker performed easily on the Defender, starting with the hammer down. Normally when racking the slide on this particular gun I cock the hammer back first, which gives me less resistance. I racked it one handed with my left (weak) hand, while taking the picture. While it is easier to use two hands while racking, with your other hand holding the “Handi-Racker” steady. if you are limited to using just one hand, it works really well!

I am pretty impressed.

My husband had been more than a little skeptical when I first purchased this “gadget,” but after watching me easily rack the slides on a variety of our handguns – from a small .380 to the larger 10 mm, he was curious enough to try it out himself.

His assessment, a solid (for him)  “Pretty nice.”

This little device can be placed up against any solid surface like a wall, on a counter or tabletop, or held in your hand to assist in racking the slide on the gun and comes in a variety of sizes nicely color coded:  SMALL (blue/White), MEDIUM (Black/White), LARGE (Gold/Black) , and XLarge (Tan/Green). I purchased the LARGE, which is advertised as

“Fits most duty sized guns like Glocks, Springield X’s, S&W M&P’s, 1911’s and many more!”

It is well constructed from heavy duty plastic material, fits nicely on the slide of the handgun and in my size-small hand.

Their website is very informative, is full of glowing reviews, and gives instructions right on the first page. The card it ships with also provides all you need to get started using it, and even has a code to scan to watch a video.  From the card:

“Handi-Racker was designed to assist people who many have difficulty racking a pistol. It can be used to load or unload rounds, clear jams or field stirpping.

1. Place Handi-Racker on top of muzzle of gun.

2. Push grip towards hard surface till slide is fully racked, then release.”

If I was going to ask for anything more, it would be for somewhere to attach a lanyard, particularly for during shooting practice sessions. While there is a slot about 2/3 of the way lengthwise on the back piece of the block that is used for positioning the front sights  (which I wouldn’t recommend using for ANY other purpose), there is no place to attach a cord. You could use a small pouch or put it in a pocket.

Overall I love the way it works, and it is a wonderful assistive device.

I found an excellent review that also gives a narrative history of the device online:     Average Joe’s Handgun Reviews: Gizmos, Gadgets, and Goodies for Guns

 

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy

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Strengthening your grip.

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

Today’s post discusses strengthening your hands, wrists and fore arms to prepare you for shooting a firearm and is a continuation of “Getting a GRIP” posted in February 2014, a brief excerpt:

“The strength of your grip on the gun is crucial when it comes to managing and controlling your aim while shooting. A weak grip will magnify the impact of recoil and the muzzle of the gun will jump more erratically. This makes “follow through” – which is part of maintaining a good grip following a shot and a big factor in your next shot, extremely challenging. Your hand will also tire more quickly – which cuts down on the amount of practice you want to endure, because it can also hurt! It is very possible that without an adequate grip you may also exacerbate problems you already experience with your hands, wrist and forearm.”

In that post I mentioned there are various types of equipment that can help increase your hand strength, and there is an enormous wealth of information available. But before we get into that, let’s look generally at what you do each day already.

The Mature Woman’s Daily Activities, and Strength and Flexibility

Whether you suffer from arthritis or some other serious medical condition or not, facts are women tend to have a weaker grip than most men, and older women have usually lost some hand strength as they have aged. It takes more regular effort and attention to maintain a healthy body that is flexible, strong and able to endure strenuous activities as we age.  Our generation – the baby boomers – may have rewritten the book on elderly physical fitness, and if you frequent a gym, do “Curves” or other exercise programs, hooray!  You are already well on your way to move into more specific exercise for your hands, wrists and forearms that will make you a great shooter!

But I’m “betting” that the average mature woman does not make working out and weight training the highest priority in her schedule.  I know that I don’t.  It is important, but time is filled with so many demands and so much variety, that often times I neglect working at staying strong and fit.

It is shocking to me how quickly muscle tone starts to decline when I have laid off exercising for what I would consider short periods – maybe a couple of weeks to a month. I get out of “training” usually because of travel, not feeling well, or a need to pay attention to something/somebody else that just “gobbles up” my time. And winter is the biggest challenge for me. We live in very hilly terrain, and the winter snow and ice and fewer daylight hours here in the Northwest take a huge toll on walking and hiking.  That leaves me inside with its lowered activity levels.

If you are like me, many of the hours you used to spend in the kitchen kneading bread, hanging laundry to dry, carrying “tons” of grocery bags to feed the “hungry hordes” , and other weight bearing and hand strengthening activities have diminished or are things of the past.  While I still garden, it is only seasonal exercise, and technology has provided new equipment that no longer has me wringing out mops manually or carting around very heavy vacuums. Progress and an “empty nest” has not served my hand strength well!

Without spending a lot of time at the gym or buying specific equipment, your daily life can provide lots of opportunity to exercise your hands, wrists and forearms. Dexterity can be increased and maintained with various craft activities including knitting and crotchet, embroidering, scrapbooking, gardening, and so on. Unfortunately, the activity I still engage in for the most hours: keyboarding/typing,does not increase my finger and wrist strength or flexibility.

All it takes to make quite a difference, is to spend just a few extra seconds (and repetitions) while you lift that big jug of whatever liquid you just bought at Costco; hold that cast iron pan out in front of you as though you were holding your gun for as long as can without shaking; wrap your hands around that soup can and do a curl or two as you walk from the pantry to the counter; and while you are vacuuming, change hands and redo that bit of the floor a little more than necessary!  It doesn’t take much to start building strength.

I know my hands are stronger after just a remarkably short period of time when I make it part of my daily routine.

On Beyond the Dailies:

Developing shooting specific exercise regimens can make a huge difference in your shooting.  Whether you intend to take up shooting as sport or rely on it for personal and home defense – particularly as you initially enter into shooting make some time to improve grip strength, endurance, and flexibility.

One of the recommended strengthening methods is to “Hold and Dry Fire” your gun, and that will be a subject of another post.  But PLEASE USE:

* * * C * A * U * T * I * O * N * * *    Please read before

DRY FIRING OR HOLDING A PISTOL for exercise. 

Safety First.

Make this your Rule #1    Always assume a gun is loaded until you have checked it out.

I handle guns daily in our business, and EACH TIME I pick up one I check that it is clear and empty, even when I have set it down for a little while in between pictures.  On a semi auto: drop the magazine, pull the slide back and inspect there is no bullet in the chamber or barrel. Some people advocate getting in the habit of using a finger to double check the chamber manually. On a revolver:  Doubleaction:  Swing out the cylinder, rotate the cylinder to check that there are no cartridges. SingleAction: Open the loading gate and rotate the cylinder to check that there are no cartridges.

Optional Rule #2    LOAD “snap caps” EACH TIME you are ready to practice holding and/or dry firing.

Snap caps – what they are, when they are mandatory, and where to get them – will be discussed more fully in a future “Dry Firing Your Handgun” post. But I suggest, especially for the “more mature” ladies, that adding in this step will doubly insure that you have no live ammunition in your gun when you are about to practice: whether holding your pistol for “weight training”, or dry firing it.  I know at times I am more absent minded than I used to be, mostly because I am no longer REQUIRED to be on my toes 24/7 with kids – and have relaxed my work schedule, but also recognize it is a factor of  my aging. While these golden years are very active,  I sure don’t want to EVER have an accidental discharge because I failed to check my pistol. It is my opinion that by instilling the habit of loading in snap caps for dry firing, you are giving yourself just that little extra edge of attention to safety.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Some ideas for exercising:

Some Quotes from a couple of “Forums” on the topic of strengthening your grip:

There are many wonderful sites and forums on line. You don’t have to be a member of a forum to browse there. Each major gun manufactured has a forum online, and shooting enthusiasts have created general and special topic threads as well. For starters, you can enter something like  “strengthening exercises for shooting” in  Bing, Google, Yahoo, Ask….  and you’ll discover many topic threads in many different forums.

Here are a few, mostly “older” quotes on the topic from the forum  “The High Road” which is a marvelous resource and place to learn and share about responsible firearm ownership!

Falconeer      January 23, 2006, 12:26 PM

I always found that, in the absence of actual trigger time, practicing holding the pistol on target would help.
Thanks for the idea. Is this something that would help even sitting down? It would be nice to watch a movie and work on it. I suspect it wouldn’t be quite as good as standing.

Pcf     January 23, 2006, 12:27 PM

You can do these sitting or standing. Open your hand fingers spread apart, palm facing the deck, close palm into a fist, open hand again, repeat, do as quickly as possibly. Do 100 repitions

Jim Watson   January 23, 2006, 11:33 AM

Dryfiring will train the exact muscles employed. Wrist weights and/or an old magazine poured full of lead will help as you get steadier.

mete      January 23, 2006, 11:18 AM

You can get a grip strengthener or use a tennis ball.You can do that excercise with weights on your wrist too.

And an excerpt from “The Ruger Forum” – another great resource:

“When I first made the decision to start carrying I considered many guns and decided on carrying a revolver. I purchased a scandium Smith and Wesson J-frame. Very light and short which made for difficult mastery.

What I wasn’t aware of when I made my choice was the very hard triggers on J-frames.

Between light weight, small grip, short sighting radius, .357 magnum recoil, and the 18 pound double action trigger stoke on the gun when I first got it – I found it a very hard gun to master. I was determined to do so, however. I do pretty darn well now, if I do say so myself. I wouldn’t trade for anything.

One of the prime avenues to my success (along with a laser for dry fire practice at home) was working diligently on strengthening my forearms, my grip, and mostly my trigger finger strength.

I tried several finger strengthening devices and finally settled on a squeeze ball to go with my regular grip exerciser (which I shift around in my hand just as I do with the ball to exercise the fingers individually as well as general hand grip).

Within a few months my shooting improved 100%. Strengthening my trigger finger abilities was the prime help of all my chosen tools.

The LCP was a later purchase. So I don’t know that the improvement would have been as profound with just it as my gun. But there are several similarities between the LCP and a lightweight snub. They are both light weight, have short grips, and a very long hard trigger pull.

It seems to me that the same methods I used with great success for my snub training would be wise for new LCP owners to adopt. I highly recommend that new shooters increase their strength in the above areas (particularly the trigger finger stroke) to keep the gun from wandering around during the trigger stroke.”

Whatever method of strengthening you settle in on, start it as soon as you can.  You don’t need a grand plan or well designed program to make improvements in your strength and dexterity. But you do have to DO IT!

band dumbell exercise trainer gripmaster gripper2 hammer th WristRollers

Happy and Safe Shooting!

— Peggy

 

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Getting a GRIP

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

In this post we’ll try to get a good GRIP  (I am an incurable punster!) on some hand strength and dexterity issues that the new mature woman shooter may face when handling a firearm.

HAND SIZE

I  have very small hands. My husband wears EXTRA Large Men’s gloves, and I shop in the kids section at the feed store when I need leather work gloves!  While some women are blessed – when it comes to shooting in particular – with nice sized hands, a lot of us are working with a distinctly smaller set of digits and grip.

Just wrapping my hand around some of the wood grips on some of Gary’s larger pistols is a challenge!  Particularly when it comes to larger revolvers. He’s outfitted them with grips that make it easier for his big mitts!

The new Gen 4 GLOCKs come with extra back straps to increase the grip size – which to me is a crazy idea.  There are constant reminders when handling firearms that men designed guns primarily for men. And men’s hands are normally larger than a woman’s.  Second DUH ! for this post.

HAND STRENGTH

So….  if you start with not being able to wrap your hand comfortably around the firearm, the issue of having appropriate hand strength is magnified.  I like to think of my husband trying to grip and apply pressure if the grips on his gun were proportionately larger!

That may be one of the most important considerations in finding a gun that fits you well. You can change out grips on most handguns to fit you better.  You should be able to comfortably wrap your fingers on the grip, and ideally to be able to reach the mechanical safety, external hammer, magazine ejector with one hand.

On semi-automatics, particularly on some of the shorter barrels that are popular to carry, racking the slide can also require a lot of grip and hand strength. These shorties generally use stronger springs to assist in cycling the slide/barrel that must travel a shorter distance than their longer barreled cousins. There are some techniques that can be utilized to help those with weaker grips/smaller hands to accomplish racking the slide, and that’s the topic of another post.

The strength of your grip on the gun is crucial when it comes to managing and controlling your aim while shooting. A weak grip will magnify the impact of recoil and the muzzle of the gun will jump more erratically. This makes “follow through” – which is part of maintaining a good grip following a shot and a big factor in your next shot, extremely challenging. Your hand will also tire more quickly – which cuts down on the amount of practice you want to endure, because it can also hurt! It is very possible that without an adequate grip you may also exacerbate problems you already experience with your hands, wrist and forearm.

While firing some “blow back” design lower caliber semi-automatics, I have experienced misfeeding of ammunition from the magazine in a 22lr gun due to an insufficient grip. I visualize this as the energy in the recoil is used by the gun to reload from the magazine, and that weak grip has redirected a good deal of that energy while the gun is flying around uncontrolled by the firmer grip! Not sure of the mechanical accuracy of my visualization, but I do know it’s very frustrating having the gun jam up.

“Flinching” and “anticipation” of recoil – which after you fire the first shot and realize it has quite a “bite”, often causes you to pull your shots to the left or right with subsequent shots, depending on how you react- by pushing or pulling to compensate/prevent for the expected hammering to come. Overcompensating for a weak grip by tightening your grip as you pull the trigger also can play havoc with your aim.

The amount of strength and dexterity needed to pull the trigger – both the pounds of pressure required and the distance the trigger must travel is another strength and dexterity issue for the small handed woman. This is a particular issue with the “hammerless” revolver models that are “double action only” and have a hard trigger pull. Accuracy of your shot is dependent on a good trigger pull.

Improving your hand strength

As in most of life, where there is a will, there is a way to improve hand strength. There are many exercises and aids on the market to improve hand strength and coordination.  Just “Bing”, “Google” “Ask” hand strengthening and you’ll get a ton of ideas. My son gave me a wonderful little squeeze ball that I keep next to my keyboard and work it while I am waiting for uploads and downloads! – and it doubles as a paperweight while not in my hand!

I am also a proponent of getting proper nutrition with diet and using supplements for general joint and muscle health. Make sure to tell your health professional if you go that route

HEALTH and INJURIES affecting GRIP

Arthritis, carpal tunnel, osteoporosis, are just a few challenges commonly encountered as we age. Other things that affect the ability to grip a pistol include numbness and loss of sensitivity in the fingers.  Diabetes and circulatory problems can cause numbness in the extremities. It can be very difficult to grip properly with numbed or swollen hands.

As older women, we’ve had a lot more years to accumulate injuries- particularly repetitive stress- and if we escaped immediate and strong opposition from our bodies for these insults to it, the “piper” comes to collect as we have aged. Carpal tunnel can be eased using a wrist and hand brace. Arthritis that is the result of injury to the joints is more unforgiving, but by steadily working with the mobility and flexibility that you have you can successfully overcome many of the barriers facing you.

About 40 years ago while at work at a newspaper, a freak accident resulted in an exacto knife plunging neatly through my right index finger. The nerve damage causes me to have a total loss of sensation in over half the finger, and a heightened sensation in the parts of it.  My luck – it’s my dominant shooting hand, and the dead  half is crucial to feeling the trigger!  I actually began to shoot left handed until I felt more confident with a gun, and have now more or less successfully returned to my stronger hand, and can shoot better with it now.

Modifications for Shooting

Medical science is doing wonders with restorative therapies that help to keep us active, but the primary factor is still the desire and need of the person involved.  I have seen women with significant arthritis and joint problems go through my husband’s classes, and because they felt a need to succeed in learning to shoot for self defense, they made it work. Both with modification of technique and correct fitting of the gun.

One of the guns I have used is a Beretta Bobcat, chambered in a 22lr. It is popular among a lot of people with arthritis because it has a popup feature that allows the shooter to manually load the first cartridge through an opening in the top of the slide, rather than having to rack the gun to load that first bullet.

I read an article the other day that “poo poo”-d the idea of gun manufacturers making modifications to handguns to accommodate the arthritic shooter.  The author contended that if you weren’t in good enough shape to shoot the gun as it had been built, you had no business touching the handgun.  I imagine that – as in many areas of life – time will mellow that writer’s outlook as he/she begins to experience some of the effects of added years!  (and yes, I wouldn’t mind being around to watch that!!! )

While there is obviously a point that disability should be recognized as being greater than the desire to participate in an activity like shooting, we – the aging baby boomer generation – do not accept it as an immutable rule of life. When there is a practical, safe way to accomplish that goal, we will work with that!

Happy and Safe Shooting!

— Peggy

 

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“Eyes and Ears” and the Mature Shooter – Part 2

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

This is Part 2 of the discussion of the most common shooting instruction/order given at ranges and shooting classes –  “Eyes and Ears.”

This post is “aimed” at the mature woman who is just getting into shooting.  For those who have been shooting for a long time, you already know and understand the volume and concussive force of a gunshot.

Literature and articles on the internet stress over and over that just ONE unprotected exposure can cause permanent damage to your hearing.  By “our age” we have been exposed to a lot of noise pollution, whether from running equipment, or being around a loud environment.  When visiting a gun range there is the mandatory “Eyes and Ears” instruction, but when you are hunting or “plinking” or at a non-range setting, it is all up to you to follow that rule. Here is a quote from an article on “HealthyHearing”

Effects of Firearm Noise on Hearing

According to Michael Stewart, Ph.D., professor of Audiology at Central Michigan University and Chair of the National Hearing Conservation’s Prevention of Noise Induced Hearing Loss from Firearm Exposure Committee, the loudness of firearm noise ranges from 140 to over 170 dB SPL and is dependent upon the type of gun being shot, length of barrel, size of bore, muzzle break, acoustic environment and amount of gun powder.

No matter the gun’s specs, firearm noise is dangerously loud. The following are effects firearm noise can have on hearing:

  • Temporary or permanent hearing loss in one or both ears – gunblast ear is often worse (if you are a right-handed shooter, it would be your unshielded left ear)
  • Hearing loss may occur gradually, suddenly or both
  • Ringing in ears, also known as tinnitus – may or may not be permanent
  • High frequency hearing loss – ability to hear sounds such as consonants is reduced and is often not  noticed initially

If you have hearing aids, the same rule of thumb applies as corrective lenses for your eyes.  WEAR THEM. You need to be able to hear instructions and warnings and monitor your environment while shooting.

Check with your audiologist to see if your inside the ear aids are sufficient as hearing protection while shooting. Some hearing aids are molded to your ear and are programmable and will screen/filter out anything above 100 – 120 decibels …  but your particular aids may not be fitted or designed to provide protection,  but function simply for amplification.  While they won’t be able to transmit the sound of the gunshot, they also won’t protect you. This applies especially to behind the ear styles.

Quite a few sources recommend doubling up hearing protection when inside the ear protection/aids are worn by wearing the “Muff” style, especially is you are already experiencing hearing loss to avoid further damage.

Happy and Safe Shooting!

—  Peggy

 

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“Eyes and Ears” and the Mature Shooter – Part 1

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

 

This fairly lengthy post looks at the “Eyes” part of the most common shooting instruction/order given at ranges and shooting classes –  “Eyes and Ears.”

Vision is the primary factor in accurate and safe shooting.

Big “duh” there, right? Obviously.

As we age, changes occur in our eyesight and we must adapt in many areas of our life, and shooting is no exception.

If you have been shooting for many years, the assumption is you have already made appropriate modifications to your shooting and aiming style in response to the gradual changes you’ve experienced over time.

If you have experienced more sudden changes – like an accident or stroke that affects your vision, or been prescribed new medications that affect your vision – your training over the years will serve you well and you have the experience to make appropriate adjustments in your shooting.

You know what you need to accomplish when you pull the trigger, and you already know you must modify for many factors contributing to how well you perform.

The new mature shooter, however, is at a disadvantage.  She is just beginning to learn about a sight picture, what the sights are and do, how to align and adjust them. Then she must integrate the other elements of shooting – grip, breath control, stance, etc –  When a visual problem, impairment or challenge is present, it can be daunting and discouraging.

Corrective Lenses 

As already stated, it is a no brainer that you must be able to see the target in order to aim, and hit it accurately. You also must be able to see what is beyond that target in order to safely shoot.

I have seen quite a few seniors new to shooting remove prescription glasses and replace them with standard, non corrective shooting glasses when they go out on the range for their first shooting experience.

I suspect some of this is due to being new to the sport and trying to follow the directive to wear protective eyewear and not thinking any more about it. Having protective eyewear is mandatory, but in my experience it is not typical for instructors to go past the “Eyes and Ears” directive, and pay more attention to having good vision as well.

While certainly not true of every mature novice shooter, it’s been my experience some seniors also exhibit a long standing habit of “looking the part” with an emphasis on showing confidence while doing it. Another less kind way of saying it: they are used to “faking it” and have gotten good at it and usually get away with it.

An instructor would not suspect there was a vision challenge for the mature student now wearing “eyes”, and she would likely not bring it to his/her attention either.  Sometimes difficulty in achieving results after aiming and firing will prompt the student to tell the instructor they need corrective lenses, but not always. Depends on the need to be seen as competent and the coping strategies the elder shooter has brought to play.  Instructors are trained to work a wide variety of issues that could cause the aiming problem, but to date I have not heard VISION being one of the main checkpoints, and emphasis is given on refining the technique, which usually does help to a degree.

Safe shooting requires being able to see the target and what is beyond. It is possible to develop more accurate shooting with compensation and a lifetime of guesswork, but if your vision impairment affects your distance, focusing, peripheral vision, not wearing corrective lenses becomes a safety issue.  If your vision requires correction to drive or perform other daily tasks, then you will require corrective lenses while shooting.

SO—- When you are new to shooting, keep your prescription glasses on. If you can, use or get a second pair and dedicate that to your practice/target shooting.  The lenses on eyewear used in shooting are exposed to lots of dust, residues, and prone to being scratched just from the nature of the environment.

There are protective shooting glasses styles to wear over prescription glasses, from goggles to clip on shields. If you intend to engage in shooting sports regularly, you may opt for prescription shooting glasses.

Reading the Fine Print

One of the hallmarks of hitting middle age is often the subject of humor and embarassment –  it goes by many names and jibes. The correct term for it is “presbyopia.” Not being aware of its affects on the process of learning to shoot can be a serious issue for the aging shooter.

Following is a definition of presbyopia from “WebMD”:

 “Presbyopia is part of the natural aging process of the eye, and can be easily corrected. Technically, presbyopia is the loss of the eye’s ability to change its focus to see objects that are near. It is not a disease. It’s as natural as wrinkles, and it affects everyone at some point in life. Presbyopia generally starts to appear around age 40.

Presbyopia is often confused with farsightedness, but the two are different. Presbyopia occurs when the natural lens in the eye loses flexibility. Farsightedness occurs as a result of the natural shape of the eyeball, which causes light rays to bend incorrectly once they have entered the eye.”

Aiming a gun and safe shooting involves alternatively focusing on both near (sights) and far (the target) distances, as well as keeping apprised of what is around you and past the target. A person cannot focus on more than one thing at the same time, and must alternate their focus often and readjust quickly. We are also taught to make the front sight the clear focal point when learning to attain a proper sight picture and alignment before pulling the trigger.  Adjustments required to do this are much easier for the younger shooter.  It is more challenging for the older person to achieve a good consistent sight picture and alignment, and also see and factor in surroundings.

I’m not saying you CAN’T do it.  YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY DO IT!  With corrective lenses, reading glasses, and— Practice. Practice. Practice. Keep at it and you’ll develop and refine the process, and with time become quicker and more proficient at it.

Reading the Teensy Print

As important as hitting the target is, an even more basic factor of safe shooting is knowing that you are matching the correct ammunition with the gun you are shooting.

At basic pistol classes you are taught to look in FOUR places to make sure you are matching the correct ammunition for the gun you are shooting.

You are taught the importance of matching the ammunition to your gun because every factor from size, configuration, caliber, as well as load is involved in the successful and safe shooting of your gun. This is not something to quickly skim over.

  • The owners manual should be read for your specific gun, and it will tell you what bullet and loads are correct.
  • The factory packed ammunition box will have all the information you need on it. (reloaded ammunition requires even more vigilance, whether you reload or someone else you buy from reloads)
  • The gun is marked, most typically on the barrel.
  • And finally, the bullet itself is marked.

If you have ever looked at the printing on the bottom of a bullet, it is more than tiny.

It is eensy teensy weensy!

If you are unfamiliar with ammunition, telling a 40 cal from a 9 mm, or 38 special from a 357 magnum just from the general size or the fact that you can physically put it into the gun may be courting trouble- big time.  It’s important to take time to learn about the ammunition, not just the gun.

The marking / engraving / stamping on the gun itself can be challenging to read even without a visual impairment. It might not be well defined, not be very deep, or very clearly stamped.

Bottom Line: If you need to, take the time necessary, get out the reading glasses or higher powered magnifier, and ask questions! Verify what ammunition you are working with and get verification from someone else if you are having trouble reading what is stamped/engraved. And do it BEFORE you load your magazine or gun.

BE SURE, BE SAFE, don’t ever just guess.

This is not an issue to be shy or embarassed about.

Eye Health

Along with the “my arms are too short” syndrome of presbyopia, there are other conditions that can affect a senior’s vision, more often than younger shooters. Some of these include: developing or undiagnosed cataracts, narrowed visual fields (tunnel vision) from glaucoma, blind spots from detaching/frayed retina, fluctuating vision from diabetes or medications, dry or runny or irritated eyes, and even increased “floaters”  in the vision.

If you are a mature person just getting into shooting, I would suggest you take special care to make sure that your eyes are healthy and functioning to the best of their ability. Seek appropriate professional assistance as needed for correction and treatment of any and all eye problems and conditions.

Another comment on Eye Health: If you have recently had eye surgery – for cataracts, implanting of lenses, lasix, etc. make sure your eye professional knows you intend to start shooting.  Not only for the more obvious environmental factors of the grit and conditions your eyes will be exposed to, but also for the jolting that will occur from firing a handgun.

Eye Dominance

Another part of being able to hit a target is how your eyes work together. When trying to establish a sight picture, you will experience the target “jumping around” or appearing doubled. You need to learn how to work your eyes for coordination when to shooting.

With eye aging and health problems, as so many other physical aspects, seniors can exhibit a greater tendency for eye dominance problems than a younger person. This problem occurs in varying degrees which can fluctuate over time.

For instance, a person who has had a right eye dominance for most of their life, might gradually or suddenly develop a vision problem as they age. The stronger eye will take over – usually automatically without any conscious effort. That person may need to adjust for whichever eye is currently dominant for shooting.

Corrective surgery can leave a person with “monovision” intentionally or during the healing process when one eye regresses more than the other. Monovision is where one eye works better close up for near objects, and the other is better for distance. You may have learned to shift focus to accomodate or use that new condition, and that is the same skill a shooter develops when aiming a gun.

Again, take time to check it out while you are learning, and monitor it occasionally over time as another factor to consider in obtaining and improving your ability to get a more accurate sight picture and alignment as you continue to advance with shooting

A simple quick check of eye dominance follows, taken from an “About.com” article:

  1. Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing away.
  2. Bring your hands together, forming a small hole by crossing the thumbs and fore fingers.
  3. Choose a small object about 15-20 feet away from you. With both eyes open, focus on the object as you look through the small hole.
  4. Close one eye and then the other. When you close one eye, the object will be stationary. When you close the other eye, the object should disappear from the hole or jump to one side.
  5. If the object does not move when you cover one eye, then that eye is dominant. The eye that sees the object and does not move is the dominant eye

If you are “cross dominant” –  it means you are shooting with your right hand dominant while your left eye is dominant, or vice versa. Various issues with accuracy arise from cross dominance when you are attempting to develop a sight picture and align the sights.

No matter if you have a clearly dominant eye or are cross dominant, the best recommended technique is to shoot with both eyes open. There is lively discussion on the pros and cons of leaving one eye or both eyes open to focus when aiming a handgun.

Probably the most compelling argument for making an effort to learn to keep both eyes open is forming the habit while practicing so it translates into real life if a situation develops where you need to fire defensely.

The rationale for keeping both eyes open is sound. Both eyes open allows for depth perception and better peripheral vision, helping to transition from one target to the next more effectively and keep attention on your surroundings.

If you are having difficulty keeping both eyes open, rather than closing one eye, a common tip is to tape/opaque  the lens of your protective glasses over the non dominant eye. This helps you keep BOTH EYES open and eliminates the struggle of shifting focus from eye to eye. It also minimizes the time and distraction of regaining focus, along with the changes for light adjustment your pupil goes through when you open the eye you had closed.

Bottom line, you need to develop a style that will allow you to adapt to your own unique challenges and help you become an accurate and safe shooter. Once you have settled in to a habit, it will be harder to break than if you work on establishing good practices from the start.

I am right handed and right eye dominant. I had corrective lasix surgery over a decade ago which resulted in an unintentional “up close and personal” experience of monovision as my eyes healed. My left eye has better distance vision, and my right eye is slightly near sighted. I tried taping off a lens, but found it interfered with my ability to focus on the far away target! I find there are days that I shoot better if I close my left eye while gaining a sight picture, and other days when I can more successfully leave both open.  I haven’t given up trying to shoot with both eyes open as my ultimate goal, so I just keep working at it.

Eye Protection

When at a range or in a class, you should and will undoubtedly hear “Eyes and Ears” continually yelled or reminded prior to commencing range live firing. This applies universally to all age groups who shoot. Proper eye protection is of supreme importance.

Firing a handgun – whether revolver or semi auto – involves projectiles. The bullet is the most commonly one thought of. But the action of firing a bullet involves controlled explosion. Gasses, minute pieces of slivered or molten metal, bullet casings, and potential for catastrophic failure of the gun and casing make eye protection mandatory.

There are many eye protection solutions available off the shelf at retail sporting goods stores and online.  They come in a wide variety of material, tinting, shapes, and prices. We’ve already discussed prescription lenses and wearing them while shooting. If you are dependent on reading glasses for up close work, you can get protective bifocal reading glasses in a variety of tints and styles off-the-shelf at Cabelas and online at many sporting goods stores and sites.

Your vision is precious, necessary, and fragile. No need to foolishly take chances by not always wearing eye protection while practicing.

Coming nextpost:  Part 2  of “Eyes and Ears” and the Mature Shooter   where we’ll talk about EARS!

Happy and Safe Shooting!

—  Peggy

 
 

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