Breath Control: Pistol

Breathing is an integral part of your life. If you are unable to breathe for a short period of time, then you’ll lose consciousness. Any time longer and you can run into some very serious problems (i.e. brain damage or death.) As such, your body is tuned to monitor your breathing and maintain the breathing cycle. Here’s some thoughts on breathing while you shoot pistol:

  • Breathing causes movement. As such, your minimum arc of movement will be exaggerated while you’re breathing. Consequently, you cannot shoot and breathe simultaneously.
  • Your eyes need oxygen to see the target properly. Your body will fight for air as it uses up its supply. The symptoms of oxygen deprivation adversely affect your control over your hold and your sight alignment and picture. You need to have oxygen in your system to shoot well.
  • Since the two statements are at odds with each other, you need to reach a compromise between shooting and breathing. You need to make sure that you have lots of oxygen in your system; such that, you can pause breathing long enough to get your shot to break within your minimum arc of movement. Here’s one method for slow-fire shooting:
    1. Once you are in position and ready to fire, take two or three slow, deep breaths. This makes sure that your system is fully oxygenated. Make sure that you do not hyperventilate by breathing fast and shallow.
    2. As you raise the pistol, breathe slowly in (inhale).
    3. As you settle into your shooting position, you exhale a quarter or half breath. This keeps some oxygen in your lungs.  At this point, you’re at a natural respiratory pause between breathing in and out. Your body is accustomed to a pause at this stage.
    4. During this pause, perfect your sight picture and initiate your trigger squeeze.
    5. Complete your follow through after the shot, and then exhale as you lower your pistol.
    6. After the shot, ensure normal breathing takes place.
  • Rapid Fire events would use the above sequence, as five shots are being delivered in under 10 seconds.
  • In Timed Phases (five shots in 20 seconds), I would recommend a short, shallow breath between the third and fourth shot. Holding your breath for a full 20 seconds is not how people breathe and I suspect that your body will start signaling you to breathe. This will undoubtedly affect your shooting. Of course, having exceptional aerobic capacity will extend your respiratory pause and eliminate the need for this brief inhalation.
  • Take time to ensure that you have deep breaths during the match. Over the course of a 60 shot air or free pistol match, you will have held your breath a lot, resulting in mild case of hypoxia. This will affect your system as the match progresses. Good aerobic capacity will reduce the impact and making sure to breathe will help too.
  • Taking three deep breaths prior to shooting can also work effectively as a “calming” or relaxing technique. Incorporate this into your mental training.
  • With practice, your breathing routine can be coordinated to help you anticipate the START command from the ATTENTION command.

Breathing is important to shooting. It must not interfere with your minimum arc of movement. Develop a routine, follow the pattern faithfully and this will become natural when you shoot.