Thoughts On Breath Control

In conventional marksmanship, breath control is a cornerstone fundamental. In combat handgun shooting, not so much. Is that as it should be?

A reader writes to ask about breath control related to handgun shooting. Editor Jeff John assigns me to write it. (Yes, readers can ask. Feel free!)

The answer is, the importance of breath control varies with the need for precision, and with the balance between precision and speed. As a young puppy of a shooter decades ago, I was told emphatically that breath control was one of the cornerstones of good shooting. When we breathe, our chests expand or contract. When the chest moves, we have to remember that “the chest bone is connected to the shoulder bone, and the shoulder bone is connected to the arm bone,” as it were. Thus, the act of breathing moves the extended gun arm. You see it particularly in 1-handed shooting, such as standard American bull’s-eye and the Olympic pistol disciplines.

We were taught to take a deep breath, let out a third to a half of it, and hold the rest as we focused on sight picture and trigger press. Five to 10 seconds was considered the sweet spot before the body was going to want more oxygen. I’ve been told on good authority that holding the breath too long can interfere with visual acuity.

Some of the Olympic coaches supposedly worked on techniques to allow their shooters to press their triggers in between heartbeats, since a high magnification scope on rifle or pistol will allow the shooter to see his reticle move very slightly with each beat of the heart. That level of control is beyond most of us.
Story By: Massad Ayoob

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