Monthly Archives: May 2010

Does precision shooting improve your davening?

An advanced concept in precision marksmanship is exploiting the human body’s ability to perform better when given a routine and rhythm. Routine and rhythm are subconscious activities, and the body preforms subconscious acts much better than conscious ones. You can’t dance well if you are consciously guiding your feet with every step. But if you develop a feel for the music’s rhythm, have practiced the steps, and just let your feet go where they want to go, you’ll move with a swan’s grace.

The same for precision shooting. Top shooters develop a “shot plan” which is followed for each shot. The shot plan is a checklist, written or mental, that is followed each and every shot, involving a combination of planned thoughts and physical actions. If you’ve ever watched professional baseball, you’ve seen batters go through something similar, adjusting gloves, helmets, feet, etc. the same way each and every time they step to the plate. Golfers are the same in this way too. The shooter moves with a rhythm, and to the observer his/her actions look the same each and every shot. Internally, the shooter begins to develop a sense of rhythm and timing between the separate phases of a shot, such that the sequence becomes automatic. Great shooters sense when their routine and rhythm is off, abort the shot, and start over.

To “daven” or “davening” is the Yiddish word for praying. Davening connotes recitation of the daily or weekly liturgy–routine Hebrew prayers which many Jews end up learning more or less by heart (even if they don’t understand all of the Hebrew).

Revolver vs. Semi-Auto Pistol for Defense of the Jewish Home

I’ve blogged before about my views that a revolver is a superior choice for most folks if they are choosing just one firearm for home defense. I recently had a discussion with a nice Jewish boy, who was considering which first gun to buy for home defense of his young family. Based on his Internet research, he had resolved to purchase a .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol.

I asked the following questions:

Q: Will the gun be kept in a safe?
A: Yes, a quick-access safe.

Q: Will it be kept with a loaded magazine inserted?
A: No.

Q: Will it be kept with a chambered round?
A: No.

Q: Do you expect that your wife will be able to use it if you are not home?
A: Yes.

Q: How frequently will you and your wife practice?
A: Him, “hopefully” every few months. Her, once or twice a year.

The biggest flaw in his plan, I explained, was that it was unnecessarily risky to assume that his wife, who would practice the least, would be able to load the magazine and chamber a round under stress. Moreover, that she would be able to avoid and deal with a malfunctioning semi-auto. The truth was, I had my doubts about his capabilities as well.

His response was to insist that the task of readying the weapon was “easy”, based on his dozen or so trips to the range to shoot with others. My response was that many things are easy when we’re calm, but stress makes us forget things and loose fine motor control. In times of danger, we need things to be as simple as possible, or else we need to train very hard to develop automatic habits that will function under stress.

I offered my experiences from competition with semi-autos, where under stress, there will inevitably be a competitor who forgets to take off the safety, load his magazine, chamber the first round, etc. Having recently made the transition to shooting a semi-automatic rifle in competition, I make mistakes all the time. In Service Rifle competition, during the rapid-fire stage, time is limited but not critical, so when I practice I don’t worry much about magazine changes. The result of not practicing is that at least once every other match I swap magazines during a rapid-fire string and forget to release the bolt. Only after pulling the trigger and realizing nothing went bang do I fix the mistake.

The nice Jewish boy pretended to listen, but I could see all of this was in one ear and out the other. He’d been seduced by the image of the semi-auto. In his mind, revolvers were old-fashioned relics, not far removed from revolutionary war muskets. He admitted he had never handled a revolver, but felt it was important to have the superior capacity of the semi-auto. I was going to ask him why, given that nearly all private self-defense incidents require only 1 or 2 shots, the capacity of the semi-auto outweighed all the advantages of a revolver. Instead, I just wished him luck on his purchase.

When I offered advice on how to find the best deal, only then did the nice Jewish boy listen carefully, and actually took notes!

Eight Israelis Entered into ISSF World Cup USA, 22 – 31 May 2010

The ISSF World Cup will take place this month at Fort Benning. Eight Israelis are set to compete:
Name M/W DOB Event(s)
COHEN Adi W 6 FEB 1989 10m Air Rifle Women
50m Rifle 3 Positions Women
KAN-DAGAN Yael W 17 JUL 1982 10m Air Rifle Women
50m Rifle 3 Positions Women
RIKHTER Sergy M 23 APR 1989 50m Rifle Prone Men
50m Rifle 3 Positions Men
10m Air Rifle Men
SIMKOVITCH Gil M 13 JAN 1982 50m Rifle 3 Positions Men
50m Rifle Prone Men
STARIK Guy M 3 MAY 1965 50m Rifle Prone Men
STERNBERG Ella W 7 DEC 1985 10m Air Rifle Women
50m Rifle 3 Positions Women
TAL Chen W 29 SEP 1987 10m Air Rifle Women
MQS 50m Rifle 3 Positions Women
TZUR Anat W 17 OCT 1986 50m Rifle 3 Positions Women

Mazal tov to all of the Israeli shooters, enjoy your stay in the US and keep ‘em in the 10-ring!

Israeli Firearms for the Jewish Marksman?

Friends are sometimes surprised that I do not own any Israeli firearms. I am not particularly knowledgeable about Israeli firearms. But I will share what little I know that may be a helpful starting point for some who might be drawn to the idea of owning one.

Israel does not produce any “match” grade firearms designed for precision target shooting competition. It is true that Israel produces a few sniper rifles, and I suppose the adventurous might try to obtain a semi-automatic version and use it in an NRA High Power match, but I don’t know if anyone has tried this.

As far as I know, Israel is best known for producing combat-oriented firearms. If one is inclined to own a carbine

American Jewish Marksmanship and the IDF – Mike Hartman

I recently blogged about the fact that competitive marksmanship is a martial art. The soldier who can shoot his enemy from the longest distance wins.

Apparently, the IDF owes much of its modern marksmanship approach to an American Jew, Mike Hartman. From this 1998 article:

A 29-year-old captain who recently assumed the helm of the IDF’s Sniper School, Hartman formerly headed the army’s Marksmanship School, which he reorganized from scratch. He was “in charge of shooting for the whole Israeli army,” he recalls.

“Every bullet that’s shot in the army is [fired the way] I taught someone to do.”

This is no small feat for any immigrant, especially an American who left the California beaches 10 years ago in search of himself and wound up in an IDF uniform.

Hartman, who had never used a rifle until he came to Israel, turned out to be a crack shot. When he joined the army a decade ago his bullets hit in a small grouping on the target and shocked the staff. His commanders would bring people just to watch this neophyte shoot. Hartman has won the IDF shooting championship six times.

Historically, Israeli soldiers have been notoriously bad shots. The first time the vast majority of Israeli youth shoot a weapon is during basic training.

“When I was in basic training we did only two days of shooting training,” says Hartman.

“Now there is a schedule for every step in the army. There is a list of exercises that every soldier must do,” Hartman adds.

Recruits now have a total of 42 lessons in seven weeks of training and are recording a stunning 86.9 percent accuracy rate on the range.

“When I started we were around 5 to 7 percent. We would hit the target five out of every 100 shots fired. And now we are close to 90 hits out of 100.

“We are by far the army that shoots the best in the world,” Hartman continues. “What the army has realized…is that a soldier is not a soldier if he doesn’t know how to shoot.”

Four years ago, when Hartman took over the Marksmanship School, “no one in the IDF thought marksmanship was important.”

The first thing he did in his campaign to improve marksmanship was to create an awareness of the need for proper, orderly training. Then he designed a course of instruction that he believed would turn the soldiers into professionals.

“My field is motivation. If you are not motivated to shoot you are not going to hit the target, even if you know what to do. You have to want to hit the target.

“I try not to offend anyone, but I’m in a position where I have to go to high-ranking officers and tell them they’ve been doing a lot of stuff wrong. Tell them to wake up and smell the coffee. We’re doing things better now,” he says.

I found a slightly different story about Hartman here (Google cache):

Mike Hartman was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and raised in Beverly Hills. At 18 he moved to Israel and for the past six years has been Israel’s national shooting champion. Now 27 and a lieutenant in the IDF, he heads the army’s marksmanship unit and trains the shooting instructors.

“I love the army and I love my work,” he says. “I wake up every morning with a smile on my face. They think I’m a little crazy, but I couldn’t be happier.”

Hartman joined the IDF through hesder, a program for yeshiva students who also do army service. He spoke virtually no Hebrew when he had his first meeting with his commanding officer, who was skeptical when this brash California kid said he wanted to be an IDF sniper. “The guy didn’t know what to do with me, but they tested me and saw I was good,” Hartmen says. He had been practicing with a BB gun in the backyard since he was six, but until the recruitment test had never shot a real gun.

In June 1994 Hartman participated in a shooting contest in Switzerland with soldiers from 15 countries. “The target was 10 meters away and we had to hit it with a Crossbow dart gun. I can’t stand to watch people shoot wrong, so I kept stepping in and helping the others aim. The other Israelis were throwing things at me! I was last up and was really nervous. I knew that if I lost, my friends would be mad at me for helping the other guys.” Hartman got the only bullseye. Hartman has already left his mark on the IDF, revamping the many programs used to train soldiers to shoot. Next fall he’ll return to university at the IDF’s expense to earn a BA in philosophy. “I love everything to do with the mind,” he says. “I meditate, for concentration. I think that’s why I’m the best shot in the army – I know how to concentrate.”

“I give everything I have to the army, but the internal satisfaction I get back is tremendous,” he says. “I feel I’m giving something to this country. I could have been a rich lawyer in Beverly Hills. Instead, I’m doing something with my life.” (From _Jerusalem Post_ Magazine, 13 Oct 95)

Regarding his contributions to Jewish Marksmanship, Hartman says:

“I’m not upset that I didn’t go back home and become a lawyer. I may not be as rich. I don’t have a house or property; I don’t even have a girlfriend,” he says. “But the inner satisfaction…If I can save one life with what I teach, then maybe that is why I am in this world.”

We American Jews live in the best country in the world with respect to access and freedoms to learn how to handle firearms. We owe it to our fellow Jews to continue the tradition begun by Mike Hartman. Competitive shooting is a safe, fun, relaxing, and constructive hobby that may one day save lives. Our Jewish presence in American gun clubs and marksmanship competitions also sends a message to our fellow Americans that we share their beliefs in freedom and liberty.