Diagnosing Poor Shooting
Wondering why you aren’t getting the best groups while shooting? There could be a number of reasons, as a lot can throw off your shooting. Believe it or not, some very subtle errors in technique can pull, push or otherwise get shots off target.
After all, the point of concealed carry training and practice is to keep up with the skills you need to save your bacon if need be.
How do you fix what’s wrong with your target shooting? Let’s get started.
Use A Shooting Rest To Check Sights
The first step is to use a shooting rest to test your handgun sights. You’ll want to start relatively close, maybe 5 yards, so that you can easily see where the shots are landing.
Get some sort of rest, and align the sights in the classic manner. Get the front sight post level with the top of the rear sight over center of the bullseye on the target.
Squeeze one shot. Does it land in the exact middle of the target or very, very close to it? Good! That means your sights are fine, the problem is you.
At this point, we should mention that there’s a difference between zeroing sights for a self-defense pistol you’d conceal and carry, and a target gun. Generally, if your sights are on inside of 20 yards, a defensive pistol is basically good to go. While longer shots may be required, and have been successfully placed by experienced shooters, defensive shootings generally take place up close and personal.
For a target pistol, you’ll want to zero your sights fully at longer ranges, but that’s a topic for another time.
Trigger Control: This Is Probably What’s Messing You Up
One of the most common causes of shooting problems, at least with handguns, is trigger control. How you pull the trigger has almost as much to do with where your bullet lands than how you aim; some insist even more so.
Typically, issues with trigger pull are using too much or too little trigger finger, which is usually caused by what part of the finger you’re using.
The ideal placement is to have the trigger blade just ahead of the distal interphalangeal joint, the last knuckle on the finger before the fingertip. The tip of the finger is too little, using the distal joint itself or placing the trigger behind the distal joint is too much.
The finger has less strength at the tip than at or close to the joint. You will overcompensate and pull shots to the right. If using the distal joint itself or pulling the trigger with the intermediate finger (behind the distal joint) you’ll push shots to the left. With the distal finger, reinforced by the distal joint, your finger can be squeezed to the rear with relative ease.
Need to school up your trigger control? The cure is dry firing. Do dry fire drills until you can squeeze the trigger without moving the gun.
Get A Handgun Grip
Another aspect of diagnosing bad shooting is the handgun grip, or more accurately how you grip the gun.
Usually, the problem that people have is recoil anticipation. You squeeze the pistol in anticipation of the recoil. This will cause you to pull it right, push it left, or wrist it up or down as you’re squeezing the trigger. Usually, you’re tightening the fingers, pushing the gun left, or crushing the grip and pulling right. If you haven’t aligned your wrist and your forearm, that will cause you to wrist the gun up or down.
To see if this is the cause, do some dry firing at the range, right before you start actually shooting. Then fire a few rounds. If you’re pulling or pushing shots, pay attention to your grip. Try focusing on keeping a firm grip but without using a crush grip on the pistol as you shoot. Do your groups tighten up? Then your grip was the culprit.
Remember, you want adequate support for your concealed carry gun to avoid limpwristing, but you also don’t want to torque it so you’re no longer aligned with the target.
Zen And The Art Of Handgun Shooting
Not to get too hippy-dippy, but handgun shooting should involve a certain amount of what you might call “zen,” which is an absorbing, meditative state. You focus on something, something in front of you, and intensely.
When dry firing or at the shooting range, the act of shooting is all in the trigger pull and the grip. The sights, unless they aren’t zeroed, aren’t necessarily going to produce such a huge difference if you’re off a bit at combat distances.
That’s the key bit there: at combat distances. If shooting longer-range with a handgun, the sights do become vastly more important, but this is about shooting practice for concealed carry.
So if you’re having shooting problems, there are two things you need to do. First, is start dry firing more. Get your trigger control and grip sorted by working and refining them at home, where practice costs nothing. Make sure you’re going to the range too.
When shooting, concentrate on the trigger pull and the grip as much as possible. Obviously, place the sights on target as you normally would. However, don’t think about the recoil and don’t worry about the sights. If the sight is on target, and you focus on correct grip and trigger technique, good placement will follow.
Also, slow down. Slow is smooth and smooth is perfect. Don’t take fast, sloppy shots. Start by making slow shot strings with good technique and work your way up to faster strings. As with any skill, start slow and perfect and speed will come with time.