Hand-in-the-pocket/bullseye shooters


July 22, 2011, 02:31 PM
I see a lot of photos, mostly old photos, of competition shooters in a one-handed dueling stance with the weakside hand stuffed into their pants pocket. It always struck me as odd-looking and I cannot see the benefit of the hand in the pocket. Can someone educate me as to what the purpose was/is of the hand in the pocket?

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July 22, 2011, 03:22 PM
I do not ... at all! claim to be any kind of bullseye shooter and have no clue as to why people do it.

But I do try it at the range at times and what I found is that when I am trying to be that precise .... any kind of movement in my body sends the sights all over the place. So I figure people stuff the hand in the pocket so that the arm moving can't sway them even the tiniest bit. So I figure the pocket ... hold ... thingie just stops your arms from moving around all willy nilly out of habit, a tic, or whatever.

It'll be interesting to hear what a bullseye shooter says about it.

July 22, 2011, 03:40 PM
That was largely it. You'll also see a lot of shooters (especially military) shooting with the support hand (well... the NOT support hand) clenched and tucked behind their backs.

Just part of a very ritualized form of competition.

July 22, 2011, 04:21 PM
Imagine you're at Camp Perry shooting the nationals. The firing line isn't protected from the wind at all. If you just let your off hand dangle the wind will start to swing it, and therefore will swing you a little bit. So you put it somewhere - in your pocket is popular, as is with your thumb hooked behind your belt buckle.

451 Detonics
July 22, 2011, 04:23 PM
What you are seeing more of today is the offhand and arm held across the chest and lightly clenched. This tightens up the chest muscles and adds addition support to the firing arm.

July 22, 2011, 06:04 PM
A guy that shoots WAY better than me and that had competed in some serous bullseye competition said it was for two reasons. First is to get it out of the way so wind doesn't blow it around as mentioned. The second was to tense the free arm in some way. Much like the lightly clenched across the chest. Such tricks as in the pocket and pushing lightly against the hip or behind the back or hooked over the belt have the benifit of producing the same physical body position each time as well as putting the hand in a place where it could lightly press against the rest of the body.

Pete D.
July 22, 2011, 08:25 PM

Belt buckle. Brian Zins - nine time national pistol champion.

The definitive study of the physiology of this is A.A. Yur'yev's "Competitive Shooting"

July 22, 2011, 09:54 PM
The definitive study of the physiology of this is A.A. Yur'yev's "Competitive Shooting"
I highly recommend this book also...and I'm certainly not a bullseye shooter

Standing Wolf
July 23, 2011, 01:56 PM
Off hand in the pocket is traditional. There's nothing wrong with it; since then, however, we've noticed people tend to be bilaterally symmetric, which is to say: what one hand does, the other tends to do. Zins in the photograph above is locking both shoulders and enhancing his right-hand grip by tensing his left hand and anchoring it at his belt.

Does it help a lot? Probably not, but it you're trying for that extra-last tie-breaking X, every least last advantage helps.

July 23, 2011, 03:26 PM
You've got to put your hand somewhere that is both consistent and out of the way. I tend to put mine in the belt, midway between pocket and belt buckle.

Beat Trash
July 23, 2011, 03:30 PM
The way I was taught to shoot Bullseye was with off hand in pocket. You raised your shooting arm in a vertical plain. If you were not on target, you pivoted your entire body by leaving your right foot in place (right hand shooter) and pivoting left foot to the right or left to align your body. You never just moved the gun to the right or left.

The off hand in the pocket was traditional. It also helped me keep things aligned and balanced.

July 24, 2011, 02:41 PM
The more I think about it the more I suspect that it's all about positioning your body in an identical manner each time. For something as subtle as bullseye shooting even a slightly altered arm angle could affect the final impact point as suggested by Beat Trash just above this post.

July 24, 2011, 05:05 PM
Bullseye is about repetitive consistency.

You are trying to do the exact same thing every time.

Even muscle tone (how hard you grip, what tension your muscles have) affects how the gun recoils and where the shots hit.

A clearly defined and practiced place for your off hand is just part of it.

July 26, 2011, 02:58 PM
Regarding where to put your off-hand when shooting Bullseye, (then) Captain Charles Askins, Jr., an accomplished Bullseye shooter if there ever was one, had this to say in his book The Art of Handgun Shooting (first published in 1939):

"...Shove the left hand in front trousers pocket, do not place it on the hip. When the left arm is stiffly bent akimbo and the hand is drapped on the hip the left shoulder is raised slightly and immediately muscles are tensed in the arm and the shoulder. Remember! We are determined not to bring into play a single muscle not needed in actually firing the handgun..."

Another renowned Bullseye shooter, WilliamC. Joyner, in his 1973 article Fundamentals of Pistol Marksmanship advised:

"...I prefer to place my free hand in my side pocket. Some shooters, especially those with long arms, can perform best by just letting their free arm and hand hang naturally at the side. The object is to entirely forget about it. It must be relaxed and forgotten. An instructor can easily spot a student who is not relaxed by the attitude of the free arm..."

The United States Army Marksmanship Unit's Advanced Pistol Guide advocates:

"...It is necessary to properly position the non-shooting arm and hand. The non-shooting hand should be inserted into a side pocket in a relaxed manner, or you may hook the thumb over the waist belt. In relaxation of the non-shooting arm and shoulder, the non-shooting arm must not be allowed to hang loose. Any wind or recoiling of the body during firing will cause the non-shooting arm to swing, transferring that movement to the body..."

Slightly different approaches trying to accomplish the same thing it seems.

July 26, 2011, 03:45 PM
And when your group is off to one side, move your feet to align yourself with the target.

Do NOT change your arm position.

And yes, I used to shoot a lot of 3-gun Bullseye.

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