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Old February 28, 2012, 09:37 PM   #1
warbirdlover
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Correct breathing

How many have been trained in how to breath while shooting? You know, inhale, exhale most of it, hold and aim while squeezing yada yada. Just curious. Aiming and breathing hold true no matter if you are shooting rifle, pistol or compound bow. It works the same on all.



I used to shoot competitive archery for over 20 years. I took two Wisconsin state championships and was in fourth place after the first (of five) day shooting the NFAA National tournament. Unfortunately (on the second day shooting in the second "foursome") I forget to set my sight on the 80 yard walkup and blew an arrow (5 points) over the bale and dropped down to 17th place (out of 800 of the best archers in the country). I did manage to get my name in the record books by shooting a perfect animal round the last day. There are many others tied for that record.

What I learned from talking to the best was there is a certain number of seconds where you are your steadiest. If shooting a bow (or a gun offhand) go through the breathing where you are holding your breath and start counting seconds in your mind and note when your sight seems to settle down and be the solidest. Do this a few times and you'll learn how many seconds is right for you. If you hold too long you start wandering again. It works.

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Old February 28, 2012, 09:51 PM   #2
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Yep. One of the 8 steady hold factors that were taught back in the day and it is still mentioned in current army training (FM 23-9 - Rifle Marksmanship).

When I instruct at the unit and to advanced rifle team members and SOTIC, that topic is front and center. Keep your blood oxygenated, hold while firing and breath between shots. The brain requires much of the O2 in your blood and a lack of it reduces your visual acuity, ability to concentrate and induces muscular tremors. None of these is conducive to good marksmanship.

A concurrent thread on shooter's physical conditioning touches on the subject too.
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Old February 28, 2012, 09:59 PM   #3
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Breath control is taught in the NRA courses. It is always taught to inhale and then exhale a bit. Some people hold their breath on the inhale and do well. If their method works for them, I don't suggest changing it.
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Old February 29, 2012, 12:01 AM   #4
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How about holding and counting to see how many seconds it takes to be at your steadiest and how many it takes when you start moving again? Anyone ever try this?
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Old February 29, 2012, 12:11 AM   #5
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Breath normal, not to worry, you'll stop the instant you squeeze the trigger.

If you are concentrating on breathing this way or that way, you're not concentrating on your front sight (or cross hairs) and trigger control.

One less thing to worry about.
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Old February 29, 2012, 12:23 AM   #6
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To add to what kraigwy has said, it's important to clear your mind before shooting. I volunteer at a youth shooting league and kids being kids have 3 million things going through their head when they are learning to shoot. I encourage them to clear their mind as much as possible and feel as though they are there with no one else watching. In watching, when I notice kids have calmed down, this promotes proper breathing. When teaching the basics, I try to keep it simple so everything compounds. Clear mind leads to proper breathing, and once proper breathing is attained, we move on to natural POA.
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Old February 29, 2012, 12:24 AM   #7
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I can't remember who taught me or if I read it but three deep breaths in, exhale half of the last one, sights on target, squeeze. I've never tried holding and counting but I'll try next time I'm at the range.
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Old February 29, 2012, 12:53 AM   #8
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This seems to be a reoccuring theme lately...Kraigwy has it right, don't worry about it. You as an individual have a natural instant when you are steadiest. this will come to you with practice. I have said before and still stand behind it...Don't take these breathing and pulse control methods as gospel. As Kraig said you will spend all your time worrying about your breathing and not enough on the actual shot. Rounds down range.
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Old February 29, 2012, 01:12 AM   #9
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When I first started I found 3 to 5 seconds was good, after 8 I might as well put the gun down and start over. 50+ years later part of that still holds true but I'm not counting seconds in my head anymore. If I haven't gotten it off before I see a jump in my sight movement there is a problem with my gun or my target and I'm putting it down anyway.
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Old February 29, 2012, 01:19 AM   #10
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I used to hold my breath and sometimes still do, but I've found that taking in a breath, pausing for a half second, then very slowly exhaling gives me a few extra seconds of steadiness.

Kinda' like swimming under water, you can go further if you exhale slowly than you can if you hold your breath.
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Old February 29, 2012, 01:39 AM   #11
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The natural respretory pause is a good time to shoot. Depending on health and aerobic capability, this can be up to nine seconds according to the gurus at the AMU. It is natural and comfortable.

As Old Grump notes, if you start to feel uncomfortable and need to breathe, do so and then continue to your shot once you have re-oxygenated. One of the hardest habits to break is the feeling that once you line up to fire, you need to fire. Unless it's a trophy buck about to bolt or you're in combat; relax, breathe and start the process again.

Some real life situations or employment may preclude such an approach at times, but for sport shooting in most of the various venues you should be able to do it. Don't count, that just distracts you and as noted above, factors such as stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, breathing, trigger pull and follow through should be on your mind for each shot.

Bottom line? Don't breath while you pull the trigger. It will usually cause a vertical error to the shot or a vertically strung group on target if consistantly done while shooting. Your body should be as stationary as possible when the shot breaks.

Another point about breathing not mentioned yet is to use it to refine your elevation when shooting from a prone or sitting position. For a normally proportioned shooter, inhaling a fuller lung of air will lower your sight in reference to a target and exhaling will usually elevate your sight. Once you breath a full cycle to oxygenate, exhale some or inhale more to bring your sight on to the target in the vertical plane, then hold and shoot.
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Old February 29, 2012, 01:53 AM   #12
Darren Roberts
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Quote:
Bottom line? Don't breath while you pull the trigger.
That is such an individual statement. I know many very accurate shooters, as well as myself, who fire during exhalation. I find it easier because I am used to firing on the move where I am looking for the very edge of my target to enter my sight window.
Shooting from bench I apply the same theory as I breath I fire as soon as the target enters the window. Practice will get your timing down and allow for consistency.
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Old February 29, 2012, 10:21 AM   #13
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Quote:
I can't remember who taught me or if I read it but three deep breaths in, exhale half of the last one, sights on target, squeeze. I've never tried holding and counting but I'll try next time I'm at the range.
When you find the number of seconds that is best just practice a few times and you won't have to think about it anymore. I agree on not thinking but learning breathing and the counting will become second nature. And it will help.
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Old February 29, 2012, 12:13 PM   #14
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I think it was an Appleseed instructor (not sure if it's they're regular course or just the instructor's opinion) who addressed this by recommending exhaling fully, pausing, and firing...so not a forced exhalation, just the natural pause at the bottom. His reasoning what that such a state is more easily and closely repeatable (rather than trying to exhale partway, pause, then shoot), thus being more consistent with your NPOA.

I've rather taken to that approach, even with precision pistol shooting, and have been having decent success with it.
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Old February 29, 2012, 03:37 PM   #15
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Absolutely. We shoot long range (relative newbs- but learning)...

Finding your own respiratory pause is critical for optimal accuracy.

Once I get that down, time to work on the heartbeat...

http://www.gunslot.com/videos/shooti...een-heartbeats
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Old February 29, 2012, 04:31 PM   #16
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUEzzVi4YKA

As Tobnpr noted.

Your supposed to breath at the bottom of your natural respiratory cycle, something not easily done. Takes some practice. Mainly try and be consistent where ever you decide to break the trigger in your cycle. I like to get a normal cycle going and then exaggerate it a little bit, which is incorrect but my respiratory pause between cycles is very brief and my trigger pull has gotten to where it's slow.
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Old March 1, 2012, 04:23 PM   #17
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OD doctors (ophthalmologist) will tell you that the human eye starts loosing visual acuity (sharpness of vision) after 15 to 20 seconds after one stops breathing; holds their breath, whatever. That happens when eyes are starved of oxygen. So, It makes sense to get one's well aimed shots off when two thing are happening. One's gonna help the eyes.

First, your breathing has to stop. When the lungs expand and contract, they move the body around and nobody holds perfectly still. So take in then exhale a few deep breaths to get the oxygen in your blood up over normal levels. Then hold your breath. This will keep your eyes visual acuity as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel for 15 seconds or so.

Second, although you've stopped breathing, your other muscle that expands and contracts is still moving your body around, but not nearly as much. It's your heartbeat. Don't stop it. You want to see what you do. Heartbeat causes a sort of double figure 8 movement of ones aiming point around the target's center. It's the smallest in prone, a bit larger in kneeling, a lot larger in sitting and the biggest in offhand/standing. If you sling up in prone with a scoped rifle then aim at a target, the movement of the reticule on the target is virtually identical to the waveforms on an EKG machine at the hospital. Shouldering a rifle as it rests atop something on a bench top will help, but if it's held against your shoulder, your heartbeat will still move the aiming point around a little bit.

So, breathe deep a few times, then hold your breath and finally take up the slack in the trigger and squeeze slowly until it goes off. Then hold still until the bullet's left the barrel (this is called "follow through"). If the shot doesn't break within 15 seconds of cutting off your breath, start all over again. Unless it's an emergency then just jerk the trigger back and shoot the darned thing.

Last edited by Bart B.; March 1, 2012 at 04:28 PM.
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Old March 1, 2012, 07:09 PM   #18
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And you'll find most people are "steadiest" after holding for 12-15 seconds....
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Old March 1, 2012, 07:39 PM   #19
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I use breathing control in many disciplines, but it started in Martial arts 40 some years ago. I breath heavy to get O2'ed, but breath out when starting my technique, shooting or punching! Some hear this for the first time, and think something is wrong ... hehehehehe
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Old March 1, 2012, 07:44 PM   #20
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I just stop breathing at the moment of just before the shot. I concentrate more on the trigger if anything. I am a very relaxed shooter, and that benefits me.

I know what they train you to do in the army, and its a good technique, but I cheat.... from the years of shooting I developed the habit of knowing which way the sights or reticle falls as I breath out. I believe its called chasing. I start the trigger squeeze at a certain point, and pause my breath at another point. It's usually rock solid on my desired location at that point and the trigger pull is complete. No fighting the weapon and its all natural.

This allows me to abort the shot and fall back on the 'army' method if I have a case of buck fever, or whatever.

It is hard to explain, especially on a phone. In most cases its like I bring the sighting device in a tight clockwise circle up and around the point of aim then it naturally falls to the point of aim. It's very quick and accurate. It is more a control of the rifle.
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Old March 1, 2012, 09:50 PM   #21
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I follow what c.j. stated and it works well for me. I picked it up at an Appleseed course too.

Two months ago, I attended a 4 day precision rifle shooting course.....the instructor, a sniper by trade, taught us using the same method. I was glad to see the consistency. In fact, he was all about consistency....shot to shot to shot.

As to using your breathing to set elevation, I find that a failure for me. For those that use natural point of aim, how could you possibly obtain NPOA with your eyes closed (yes, it is a great way to verify you got it) when you are relying on stopping some place, mid-exhale, to have a perfect sight alignment and sight picture. Want to practice it? Achieve NPOA....close your eyes, go through a breathing cycle...(eyes still closed), pause....break the shot.....breath, pause....break the shot....repeat until you have fired 5 rounds. Open your eyes, check your target. If you have NPOA, you will have a nice tight group. It works....they teach it at Appleseed. If you can do the above while stopping part way through the exhale cycle for each shot and get a tight 5 shot group, you are awesome....and I mean that.

If consistency is key to good shooting, and I believe it is....the only consistent point I can repeatedly find in my breathing cycle is at the bottom of the exhale cycle. I can't breath out X% and pause to shoot....how do I find X% each and every time? Where is the consistency?

Obviously different folks have different styles.....and one size panty hose doesn't fit all. I find it easier to coach a new shooter using the basic techniques taught at an Appleseed shoot. It works for me and those I've helped. YMMV
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Old March 2, 2012, 12:14 AM   #22
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Download a copy of the Olympic shooter's guide from their website (if its still there)...
of course, it helps to have excellent physical condition first...as the average guy isn't going to benefit quite as much from all the techniques
as someone who is in Lance Armstrong kinda shape.

If you weren't already in a martial art that taught proper breathing techniques to you when you were pre-18...
it'll be more difficult to pick up...the older you are, the harder your head

But it sure doesn't hurt to try to learn it anyway
Every little bit helps!!
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Old March 2, 2012, 08:29 AM   #23
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So, breathe deep a few times, then hold your breath and finally take up the slack in the trigger and squeeze slowly until it goes off
This goes against everything I've ever read (or done) as to correct breathing technique.

Respiratory pause- between breaths when the lungs are empty- not holding your breath with lungs full of air.

Quote:
Controlling your breathing goes along with trigger press. The breathing cycle includes inhaling and exhaling, with a natural pause after the lungs are emptied. Break the shot during that pause, when your body is still. The amount of time you have to accomplish this task depends on your level of physical fitness and can range anywhere from a couple of seconds to as many as 8 or 10. If you try to hold your breath for too long, your body will start to become starved for oxygen, your vision will deteriorate and your stability will wane. The pause in breathing should be natural, not forced.

http://www.shootingillustrated.com/i...on-rifle-work/
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Old March 2, 2012, 09:35 AM   #24
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tobnpr says this about my comment: "So, breathe deep a few times, then hold your breath and finally take up the slack in the trigger and squeeze slowly until it goes off"
Quote:
This goes against everything I've ever read (or done) as to correct breathing technique.
Ask a bunch of competitors classified at the top of their shooting discipline who win the matches and sometimes set the records.

For heaven's sake; don't listen to me just because I'm one of them.

And now you've read it; shouldn't say you've never read it hereafter.
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Old March 2, 2012, 09:52 AM   #25
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To the OPs question---I'd say it certainly matters less when shooting a pistol; mostly due to the short distances. But, for me, when I'm shooting long range controling my breathing seems to help.
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