The “Bannister Effect” will maximize your shooting skills!

On May 6, 1954 a British physician by the name of Roger Bannister was the first human in history to run a mile faster than 4 minutes. This feat is especially significant because prior to Bannister’s run it was theorized by athletes and physicians alike that it was physically impossible for any human being to run a mile faster than four minutes. Yet, a month and a half after Bannister’s record run Australian John Landy did it as well. By the end of 1957, sixteen other runners had broken the four-minute mile barrier.

In the space of about three years the “impossible” had been achieved numerous times by a number of people. Today, a four minute mile, while still exceptional, is not uncommon. The current record stands at 3:43:13.

People that were involved in this sport during the early ’50’s built up an imaginary barrier, but when Bannister proved the barrier didn’t really exist other competitors were able to break it too. I like to call this phenomenon the “Bannister Effect”.

The Bannister Effect applies to the shooting/marksmanship world all too often. The good thing about shooting is we already have our Roger Bannisters. Competition shooters, people who actively compete in organized shooting events, are the best marksmen in the world, period. Their techniques have been developed by free experimentation, without the artificial restrictions of a bureaucracy, and honed through hundreds of thousands of repetitions and practice rounds. They have broken the barriers. If you want to see what a real pro can do with a firearm, just watch G. David Tubb shoot across the course with a Match rifle or Rob Leatham with a iron-sighted 1911 pistol.

I can hear some of you ask already, “Who are these Tubb and Leatham guys?” My point exactly . . . .

The barrier in shooting ability isn’t figuring out what can be done, because competition shooters already did that. The barrier is spreading the word so enough shooters know who the pros are and, more importantly, what they can do. If you aren’t aware of competition shooting and you limit yourself to the same once-a-year sight-in before season starts or occasionally shooting with a few buddies, then you are shooting in a vacuum and will never better yourself.

If you have military or police experience your unit or department may have said you were “qualified.” Your hunting buddies may say you are a “good game shot.” But are you really, truly a competent marksman? Does your technique and ability stack up? Organized shooting events help you find out. By participating with others, you can gauge your abilities by directly comparing scores. More important, by participating in a national organization you and your immediate shooting buddies can go past the limits of your personal experiences and find what the best hunters and shooters are capable of.

The first issue is to find a metric, a system to measure shooting skill. Bannister wasn’t trotting about; he used an established course, running one mile on a properly measured track, with timing done to within one tenth of a second. Current records are measured more precisely still.

Let’s say a hunter finds out about HunterShooter events and learns a system for measuring field marksmanship skill. This is an important first step because we are now translating activity into a number and achieving accurate feedback.

The next step to have something to compare with. On a given Ratio Count Scenario the best Hit Ratio (HR) he and his friends can score is 2300. Now what does that mean? Based on this personal experience he would be justified to claim this is “good”, and could make the assumption that it wouldn’t be possible to go beyond 2500. But that is relative to the limits of his experience. This happens quite often among hunters and gun owners who don’t regularly attend organized shooting events. This artificial barrier, the lack of “Bannister Effect”, holds them back.

However, the active Participant isn’t limited by personal experience. Because of regular participation in a national shooting organization this shooter will be able to find out what kind of performance the very best Participants in the whole country can achieve. There may be marksmen in another part of the country who routinely shoot the same Scenario with HRs in the 3000 range, for example.

The Bannister Effect begins. The imaginary barrier built no longer exists and the shooter can start to go beyond it. What are these other shooters doing different? How are they able to obtain these scores? And, more important, how can you use this information to help yourself?

Of course, this assumes you are ready to put forth the effort to improve. Simply knowing others can run a four-minute mile or shoot 3000 HRs is only the beginning. But it is a crucial starting point.

If you aren’t willing to find out and test your skills in practice or, better yet, in a competitive environment, then your overall shooting experience will suffer and you will never even approach your true potential. Every track star since the 1950’s proves this point.