Aside from the usual reasons why we sometimes miss targets, like jerking the trigger or anticipating the shot, falling steel targets present their own challenge. Plates, pepper poppers or even swinging steel like those on dueling trees not only lure us in with the wonderful ding they make when struck, they also know just how to distract us.
Take Stage 3 of the USPSA Optics Nationals as an example. In my latest Youtube video I talk my way through shooting this straight forward, 8-round course of fire with 4 big poppers and 4 mini poppers.
It’s so simple! Shoot one array of steel, reload and finish on the other array strong hand only. Yet, when the buzzer sounds one miss on steel can lead to another and another… You get the idea.
Why? Why is it easy to miss falling steel targets? One reason is because we shoot at these targets instead aiming for a specific spot, ideally center. On paper our sights seek out the highest scoring ring, but steel simply needs to fall and that’s when we can get sloppy.
Another reason we miss falling steel is because we trust our ears instead of our eyes and sight picture. I’ve been guilty of hearing that lovely report, assuming that a pepper popper is well on its way to the ground when in reality I’ve only nicked it. That sudden realization that it’s not going to “timber” its way down results in an awkward dance that I call the popper shuffle.
Finally, steel is distracting. Instead of paying attention to the sights settling on the next target, we get drawn in by the movement of falling steel. That little lapse in focus is just enough to cause our sights to move. When we squeeze the trigger the result is a telltale boom with no ding, ping or dong.
If you find yourself missing steel, remember to choose an aiming point, trust your sights and keep your sight picture on target until you call the shot good.