The following information comes from The Elusive Ten by William Reichenbach. The Elusive Ten is also available to purchase in print.
I believe that both kinds of firing are easily acquired if they are approached in the right manner. However, before one starts to take an active interest in these two kinds of firing, I strongly advise (and I know what I am talking about) acquiring a certain proficiency in slow fire first. I consider it positively assinine to rush into things if a solid basis is lacking.
Don’t forget, slow fire is the foundation of everything. In slow fire all the rudimentary elements of shooting are covered and, only after a shooter has reached a certain goal in this kind of firing (whether the goal be set very high or not), will he be able to approach Time- and Rapid-firing with any semblance of promise.
By some quirk, certain pupils seem to make better scores in rapid firing than in slow. (A possible explanation is “a frantic clutch on the gun and a tensed-up condition of the mind”—things which cannot be maintained for any· reasonable length of time.) Their efforts are sporadic and their attitude is as much the fault of the coach as of themselves. Unless a radical resolution changes things from the ground up, these shooters are hopeless. They are facing what the French call a cui de sac. They are spoiled for slow and time-firing, because they are violating all the elementary requirements…and as rapid-fire shooters they have no consistency. In short, as target-shooters they have no future. A good slow-fire shot, if he is interested enough, can acquire proficiency in all kinds of firing because he has the proper foundation. A rapid-fire flash is nothing but a flash in the pan.
There are certain requisites which should be mastered before one attempts to score on the range. Among them “time-rhythm” seems to be the most important one. To be specific, one should be able to fire five shots with equal intervals within a given time period, without resort to the stop-watch. Take, for instance, rapid-fire where the time limit is 10 seconds for every five shots:
Raise your revolver, (This practice should be done with practice shells) aim, and count slowly:
(Each count to cover two seconds) and you will find that at the end of “Twenty-five and,” a period of ten seconds has elapsed.
It would, theoretically, be advisable to start shooting with the whistle. However, such practice tends to key the shooter up too much. It is much safer not to start shooting with the blast of the whistle, but to consider the blast only as an announcement, rather than as a warning signal.
When the starting-whistle blows, calmly start counting “Twenty-one and” and try to have the hammer click every time you get to the chosen syllable “-one” “-two”, etc., like this: (I shall emphasize the syllable)
Get in the habit of firing always at the same syllable.
After you are able to follow the precept automatically, in dry-shooting (without getting flustered any more), you may be considered to have mastered the “time-rhythm” and you are ready for real fire practice.
As this dry practice can be exercised anywhere and any time, the serious pupil will endeavor to keep at it in idle moments. The progress will be astonishing, especially if such practice be adhered to every day, if only for a few minutes.
In time you will not need to count anymore and the time-rhythm will be followed almost mechanically, without effort on your part.
Thus, since no effort is wasted on the timing, and since the rapid cocking of the hammer has, meanwhile, become second nature, your full attention can be centered upon aiming and squeezing.
Even the aiming, by and by, will become automatic, and the only action you cannot mechanize, namely, the squeezing, can be attended to with perfect leisure.
Upon going into practice with sharp shells, it will be found that the recoil (which so far you have more or less disregarded) comes to the fore, and the necessity of maintaining a more pronounced grip becomes more apparent. Your mental and muscular reactions must be studied with a view to finding a grip which will cause the gun, after every shot, to find itself in exactly the same position as before the shot without having to grope for the original grip. The recoil throws the muzzle up, and it has to be brought down again quickly towards the aiming point in a short straight line. However, you have to cock the gun before it can be brought back to the target and this cocking should be done without losing your predetermined rapid-firing grip. In fact, the whole secret of the new grip is that you should not only be able to cock quickly, but it should also embrace all the favorable elements of the slow-fire grip, so that you can get the proper supporting and squeezing actions for accuracy’s sake. Use the recoil to facilitate rapid cooking, but find the universal grip. Constant practice and watchful experimenting cannot be dispensed with. One will find that the lighter recoil of the smaller calibres offers less of a problem than the heavier ones.
There is a grip to fit any calibre, but it is entirely up to the shooter alone to find his own.
As for breathing, it is recommended that you hold your breath for the entire ten seconds when rapid-firing.
In time-firing, where we are allowed twenty seconds, take a fresh breath for every shot.
In order to be able to hold your breath for the period of ten seconds, it will, of course, be necessary, to take in a sufficient amount of air before starting to shoot. However, do not overdo this. Practice will show you the minimum of air you can safely inhale and hold without discomfort.
All in all, in time and rapid-firing, the method of shooting is not very different from that of slow-fire, as described. It may be then that the squeeze is, of necessity, speeded up a little.
But, let me assure you that the moment you start tensing up or pulling the trigger, your targets are not going to be worth looking at.
In conclusion, I think, I should put a rather unorthodox question: Of what use really is “Rapid-Firing”? I do not know whether the question has ever been asked. So far, I have heard no arguments against “Rapid-Firing”, but I wonder.
Suppose, we take the case of a police officer who is engaged in a gun duel with a gangster. (Such a situation would surely be quoted in support of rapid-firing). According to present precepts, the officer is expected to start rapid-firing. It is logical to assume that in this kind of fast firing accuracy must suffer. The chances are that, coupled with the resultant excitement, the accuracy of the officer’s shooting is further greatly reduced and that the officer misses his antagonist entirely. After the last shot has been fired, the officer’s gun will be empty and he is robbed of his most potent weapon until he finds time to reload again. The officer knows that it is necessary to hit his opponent only once in order to demoralize him. But he has to be hit. The value of noisy display is questionable, but a direct hit is a powerful persuader.
Is it not then logical to say that the problem seems to be more one of “getting the drop” and, if necessary, to “hit with the first shot” and then to be ready for further emergency?
If the officer’s training were conducted along these latter lines, the lawless element would entertain the idea of a pistol duel with an officer with a much greater amount of trepidation.
Since, however, Target-Rapid-Firing in its present form is an established institution, we must submit in order to be able to enter target competition at all.
My suggestion for competition, if I were asked about it, would be to replace the present form of rapid fire with the following:
Gun in holster.
Upon command the gun should be drawn and fired once, the shot to hit a rather small target. The gun should then be re-cocked quickly and held up again at “Ready Fire” position, aimed at the same target. The whole action should be timed and the results be judged by “time elapsed” and “value of hit,” the weight of scoring to lie with “time elapsed.”