There are many brighter, sharper, and more persistent minds than mine pondering (or already having pondered) the things that I mentally masticate and spit out on this blog, and I’ll gladly and repeatedly make no claims of authorship, authoritativeness, originality, or intellectual thoroughness in whatever I write about here. As the title of the blog states, these are things that I churn and cogitate for my own reasons.
With all that out of the way, I had intended to write about the “Quiet Eye” phenomenon as relating to marksmanship, and after weeks and months of thinking and re-thinking I finally got around to doing it. And I’ll start by saying that…
I Really Don’t Know That Much About the “Quiet Eye”
This particular train of thought started its journey when I’d noticed a pattern in what I’d been shooting at various distances with various handguns at equally various targets: brightly colored bullseye stickers, often used to cover up clusters of holes in paper to enable reuse of said target sheet, tended to have tighter groups of shots.
These were made with a S&W Shield 9mm 1.0, all stock parts (including the trigger that everyone seems to hate), the left target at 7 yards, and the right target at 10 yards. Yes, this is a terribad excuse for a “scientific experiment,” as there are so many variable dynamics at play, but I felt that I did better at the longer distance thanks to the eye-catching red sticker.
In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the Orks have an endearing adage claiming that “Da red wunz go fasta!” - i.e., vehicles painted in red have a higher top speed. Being the nerd that I am, I’d immediately thought of the adjusted nugged of wisdom: brightly colored targets are bullet magnets, or in Orky terms, they attract more “dakka.”
Here’s another highly unscientific comparison of two courses of fire at 10 yards with a CZ P-09. There are three bullseyes on the left, but the red sticker sports a bigger ragged hole.
I Should Never Work on a Proper Clinical Trial of Any Kind
The other day at the range with the CZ P-10C…
I managed to shoot the following courses of fire at 15 yards:
20 shots on each bullseye, and the near-ragged hole happened on… yep, that bright red sticker.
This is the sort of observed causality/correlation logical shark-jump that gets people weighed as much as ducks and consequently burned as witches, but to paraphrase a certain shock-headed TV xenologist:
I’m not saying that it’s the red targets, but it’s the red targets.
Finally to the Subject At Hand
After this circuitous path through the twisted rails of time, bullets, and range fees, we arrive at the topic of the quiet eye. I’d shared my highly unscientific observations with fellow gun enthusiasts on a Discord channel, and someone said that I should look (haha) into quiet eye training. This seems to be a relatively recent research area that examines the eye motions of athletes (basketball and skeet shooters) as they do their thing. The quiet eye (QE) is defined as:
The final fixation or tracking gaze that is located on a specific location or object in the task environment within 3° of visual angle (or less) for a minimum of 100 milliseconds (ms). The onset of the QE occurs prior to a critical phase of the movement and the offset occurs when the gaze deviates off the location for a minimum of 100 ms.
Three degrees of visual angle implies a pretty tight focal point, and in the context of pistol marksmanship the points of focus are fairly obvious and intuitive - the front sight post in relation to the rear sights, as well as the target itself in relation to the aligned sights. According to the study of basketball three-point shots the focal points vary depending on the particular phase of the shooting action.
This correlates to the sub-phases of making the shot with a firearm - making the conscious go/no-go decision to shoot, establishing sight alignment, lining up the sight picture, making the trigger press, re-establishing sight alignment and picture, and so on.
Oh, We’ve Been Doing This for Ages, Thanks!
Meanwhile, in the word of kendo (Japanese fencing and not the chain-link kind), the Enzan No Metsuke technique (or waza) involves “looking at the opponent’s eyes with ‘a gaze toward the far mountain,’ taking in not only the opponent’s face but also his or her whole body.” A recent study examined the habits of expert and novice kendo practitioners and concluded that:
Experts, especially Shihan, set their eyes on their opponent’s eyes with a gaze toward the mountains in the distance to utilize their peripheral vision. Additionally, they adopted a visual search strategy that involves fewer fixations of longer duration. These results reveal that the “visual pivot” strategy can be regarded as a behavior of “Enzan no Metsuke.”
I’m Not a Scientist, Nor Do I Play One on TV
At this stage of the thought-train journey I have more questions than answers. Do the red stickers subconsciously promote QE behavior? How does the Enzan No Metsuke technique fit into all this? What are the actual activity phases with relation to QE in pistol marksmanship and what are the corresponding points of focus? I gotta say I like the idea of kendo waza worked into pistol-wrangling (shades of gun-kata from Equilibrium, right?).
It’s an incomplete and ambiguous place to conclude for the time being; however, sometimes the only way out of a rabbit hole is to keep digging. Let’s see where we eventually surface.