Don’t make simple topics complicated

A quote: “If you can’t explain something so that an eight year old could understand it, you don’t really understand it either.” In the shooting community, especially online there are a considerable number of people who like to take extremely simple topics and make them complicated. For example, in the Revolver physics post I intentionally used very simple math to illustrate the topic. The comments on that post are filled with nerds explaining the actual physics of the reaction, which is great and everything but also completely pointless.

Here’s what the average shooter needs to understand out of that post: heavy bullets have a higher POI for a given type of fixed sights than faster, lighter bullets. If you want to know why, the simple answer is because a slow bullet takes longer to leave the barrel, and recoil will have moved the barrel just enough to make a difference. It’s simple, straightforward, and anyone with the most basic understand of guns will get it.

But we love to take a simple concept and make it complicated, because it gives us a chance to flex our egos sound smart on the internet. We do this with shooting a lot as well. Here’s the thing – the act of shooting isn’t complicated. You line up the sights, then press the trigger to the rear without disturbing the sights. Piece of cake.

Things do get a little more complicated when you start introducing other things, like movement, reloads, multiple fast shots, but ultimately they’re still just parts of the fundamentals. Grip, stance, sights. There are no advanced shooting techniques – there are only the fundamentals executed faster and more accurately than the other guy. That’s it. No ninjer secrets to learn from tatted up faux-warriors teaching you their secret brand of kung fu. Here’s a fun fact: every single advancement we’ve had in shooting techniques since Jeff Cooper invented the Modern Technique has come from a better understanding of human kinetics. We went from Weaver to Iso because we learned that the body works better when you’re not using push-pull tension.

Keeping it simple makes the sport more accessible to newbies. Yes, there is a time and place for people with Aspergers to talk about spring rates, material hardness, and how recoil is really just acceleration in two directions, but it’s important to remember your audience. If everyone around you is wearing pocket protectors, by all means break out the graphing calculators. Otherwise, keep it simple and keep it accessible.


  1. I agree with you to an extent Caleb. People do overcomplicate things at times, but another huge problem is that many people in the gun community do not speak precisely. When they do not speak precisely it creates confusion and they have to use additional words to reinforce their points and clarify misunderstandings about earlier points. They may use terminology that is confusing or has connotations that lead people to infer meaning that they do not intend…and then get mad when people misunderstand them. One thing I loved about taking a class from Todd Green was not neccesarily the mechanical instruction on shooting (which was amazing) but how well he taught it. His instruction and corrections on the line were short and precisely articulated. Listen to Mas Ayoob explain something and he gives a accurate and measured response that matches his experience level as a shooter, instructor and court room expert witness. James Yeager on the other hand…

    As to people getting into the weeds on ballistics, as long as people add the caveat that they are using a simplified model, no harm no foul. All the sciences suffer from this phenomena. The real “way things work” is very complicated and filled with math. If you take chemistry for instance, all the chemistry you took in high school or even college (if you were not a chemistry major) was not a truly accurate depiction of how molecules and atoms really behave, they are greatly simplified models that work well enough for the tasks needed at that level. As long as it is clear to people that you are giving a “good enough” explanation I completely agree.

    Good post.

  2. I get what you’re saying about articles for a general audience, but I found the comments to be informative. Someone could read your simple explanation, and then follow it up with a more advanced understanding.

    Dismissing intellectual curiosity as “flexing our egos” or “people with Asperger’s” seems a bit much. Most people I know, when they share that sort of information in a way that isn’t derogatory, are sharing it because they think other people might want to know. Largely because they were excited when they first learned it.

    You make a strong argument for a “would you like to know more?” type of structure, not for ignoring or hiding the more interesting details.

    1. I am mostly just poking a little fun at the gun-nerds out there. Since I wrote most of the post wearing a Millennium Falcon t-shirt, I’m totally allowed to do that.

      I look at gun people like this: there are plenty of James May types out there who deeply care about spring rates, gas pressure, and the mechanical/science aspects of how guns work.

      Then you have your Clarkson types, people like me who don’t really care about all of that and only really care what happens when you put your foot down press the trigger while yelling “POOOOWWWERRRRRR.”

      The last type are your Hammonds, aka the happy medium between the two.

  3. People, men and women can become very good marks people without much except good basic technique and expending a fair amount of ammunition. I did that in the mid 60’s when my Uncle Sam gave me some green cloths and trained me an let me go overseas. I went to Europe in the M-14 Army and shot the crap out of that gun.

    I later learned how to shoot skeet and it is the same thing, learn how to load your gun, learn decent body positions and how to sight/lead and get on target while you stay in the gun. End of story. I own a hand full of guns I know how to shoot but fear the man with one gun because he might know how to use it.

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