B.R.A.S.S. – The Basis for Success
What in the heck does sniping have to do with success in business, success in personal efforts and relationships, etc? Well, it’s not sniping itself, it’s the discipline, planning and techniques that snipers use that can help you be successful in life.
In all successful plans or efforts in life, there is a basis…something you base your actions or plans on. Good snipers are known for their focus on a successful mission, patience, planning and “making the shot”, regardless of the distractions or personal dangers involved.
In this first installment, we’re going to talk about the very basic technique that all Marines (and probably most military and law enforcement shooters), as well as the elite snipers use to “make the shot”. It is the acronym B.R.A.S.S. That is easy to remember for shooters, because the shell casing, or back part of the “bullet” that holds the powder is generally made of brass.
It stands for Breathe, Relax, Aim, Slack, Squeeze – B.R.A.S.S. I’m not going to go into an in-depth lesson on shooting, but a general overview of the basics helps form the very basis for the art of success.
When you are shooting, you have to be focused but relaxed, and completely intent on a successful shot – think of the “shot” as what you want to achieve in life. It can be a weight loss plan, a corporate merger, working on a long-term relationship, or anything else you want to do or achieve. We do that by focusing on B.R.A.S.S. – each individual technique in order, to achieve a successful shot.
Breathe: When you first start to take aim at your objective, there can be a lot of adrenaline and nervousness. Stop. Take a long, slow, deep breath, and exhale slowly to relax. Take another breath, and slowly breathe out (most shots take place about half-way through the out-breath, when your heart slows down and you are most relaxed). Even when I was a Firefighter/EMT, when I came upon the scene of a terrible accident or someone having a heart attack, etc., the first thing I did was briefly pause, take a breath, and assess the situation so I could give the most effective treatment for the patient. When your child is driving you crazy and goes over the line, and you know it’s time for punishment – stop. Take a breath and calm yourself (maybe have them sit and think about what they did for a moment) before you decide what punishment fits the misbehavior. When you spot your target (or determine an objective) and begin to take aim – pause for a cleansing breath, calm yourself, and line up the shot.
Relax: Relax into the shot. If you are tight and holding on with a death-grip, the rifle will pick that up, and will be hard to aim. Your heartbeat will transfer to the rifle, your tense muscles will cause the rifle to move and jump around (very slight movements, but that will cause a very large movement at the end of the shot, with your round or “bullet” missing the target). The longer the shot (or bigger the objective you’re trying to achieve) the more distance the round will have to miss the target. Take your breath, let it out to calm yourself, then consciously relax your body into a natural posture; controlled – but free from tension that can cause you to miss your objective entirely.
Aim: The first two techniques are internal. This is where you start to focus on the external. Aim at your target – your objective. With your “iron sights” (the basic shooting technique without a scope), you have to line up your front sight blade (the little sight blade or bulb sticking up on the end of your barrel) so that you can see it between the rear sight blades (the sights at the back end of the barrel, closest to you – shaped like a square “U”). You should be able to see the single front sight blade centered between the two rear sight blades, and the tops of all three sight blades should be even. When you have all them lined up, then you should center them on your target. Lining everything up – at the front of the barrel, the rear of the barrel, and the target down-range takes concentration and focus…and you must stay relaxed, or they will move out of alignment very quickly. This takes a lot of commitment to remaining completely focused on the target with the sight alignment centered on that target.
Slack: Most triggers have “slack”. That means that when you put your finger on the trigger, and begin to gently pull (or “press”) the trigger back, you will feel the first part of the pull that will not have much resistance. The trigger will move back for a very short part of the pull without feeling hard, but you will feel it pick up resistance part-way back as the trigger begins to engage. That initial part of the pull where there is no resistance is called “slack”. Don’t just jerk the trigger back or you will miss the target. You have to take up the slack until you begin to feel the pressure or resistance, before you start to smoothly pull the trigger back far enough to fire the rifle. Some triggers don’t have slack, but you still have to place your finger on the trigger and apply pressure smoothly until you get to the point where the trigger will “break over” or cause the rifle to fire. This is called trigger control, and if you jerk or snap the trigger back…or make a snap decision or don’t have a measured application of your plan, you can easily miss the target or objective.
Squeeze: The final part of the shot. A smooth, controlled pull of the trigger to fire the rifle – a controlled and deliberate application of your plan, a deliberate and purposeful effort to maintain a good relationship, achieve a goal – will give a much higher probability of hitting the target.
Find your target in life, relationships, business, or any other effort. Take a cleansing breath. Relax into the effort to make sure you’re not tense or trying too hard, and so you have the energy to go for the long haul. Take deliberate aim with purpose and focus – consciously controlling all the moving parts that you have control over to align them with your target. Remove all the other distractions by taking up the slack, putting the things you don’t have control over out of your focus, and moving forward. When you have done what you can to line up your plans, relax into it and remove the non-essential from your mind – pull the trigger! Endless re-thinking, trying for a 100% solution, and perfecting your plans don’t get you there. When you’ve done what you can, and are fairly sure of at least a good 80% solution – go for it. You can adjust and refine as you go, but don’t just stand there…do it!
Next week we’ll move past the basics, and get to some sniper-specific advanced techniques, to see why they are so successful in hitting the target – and achieving their goals.