Fundamentals of Shooting with a Pistol
This is very simply how you’re engaging with the sight. Be it a red dot, a notch and post, or a magnified optic, you’re going to have to look at it and you’re going to have to use it properly.
This is where the adage ‘focus on the front sight’ come from. The rear sight should be fuzzy, the target should be slightly fuzzy but the front sight should be crystal clear. This allows your mind to completely level the top of the pistol and aim it perfectly at the target.
If you’re using a red dot or a scope, focus on the target and make the reticle slightly fuzzy.
This is how the sights are supposed to be aligned together. On 99% of pistols you’re going to be using a notch and post style sight.
All you have to do is put the post in line with the top of the notch and put an equal amount of light on either side. Most sights will have dots to line up or a line and a dot. Either way, put the post in the middle and shoot. On scope or red dot’s going to vary but you’ll want the reticle to be centered and even as much as possible before you shoot.
This is usually the fundamental that gets people. Trigger control is the hardest fundamental to master because it’s the only physical part of shooting a gun. Shooting is 99% mental, there’s no physical reason you can line up a scope a nail a target at long range. The mental reason is because you’re freaking out from the recoil of the gun.
Guns scare everyone just a little bit when it goes off, everyone! Humans have a fear of sharp loud noises and a gun does exactly that and the reason most people can’t shoot pistols well is because they jerk the trigger and skew the shot. Essentially there’s two steps to a perfect trigger press.
- Take the Slack out of Trigger – The trigger will have tad bit of travel when you first touch it. That is called the “take up” well take up that slack in the trigger. Then press slightly harder and feel the flesh of your finger “take up” and flatten out. That is the first step to a proper trigger press. Even if you’re afraid of the gun, if you take up the trigger calmly you’ll shoot better than if you just jerked it from the very start.
- Smooth Pull directly to the Rear – This is the difficult part of shooting. If you’re having trouble pulling the trigger smoothly the answer is to do it very, very, very slowly. The best shooters can do what is called a “surprise break.” All that means is they pull the trigger so slowly it surprises them when it goes off. This is a great tactic until you master your trigger pull because it’ll allow you to put rounds on target and get used to the trigger. Speed will come in time as your skill picks up.
That is all you have to do to have a perfect pull. In an ideal world, you’ll have pulled the trigger to the rear without disturbing the sights and the shot will go exactly where you intended it to. If not, some other fundamental was disturbed.
Follow through can be called +1 when you’re shooting. All you have to do is make sure you hold the shooting position for a half second after the bullet leaves the gun. You need to hold the position because your mind will make you drop the gun or move the gun while you’re pulling the trigger.
There’s multiple ways to do ensure a proper follow through but the easiest is to do two things. Keep the sights aligned with the bullseye or target after the shot no matter where the shot went, and ease the trigger forward to the rest point without losing hold of it.
Breath Control – sometimes
This is a hokey one. It only applies for those people shooting the smallest of groups and at the greatest of ranges. A great example would be a handgun hunter shooting out to 150 yards or more. The amount your chest moves when you’re breathing can be as much as an inch.
That inch up or down will make it impossible to hold your sight alignment still. The solution, hold your breath while squeezing the trigger. That’s all that’s required. No special rests, no weird equipment just hold your breath for the half second you need to pull the trigger.
If you do it with your breath all the way in or all the way it doesn’t matter as long as you’re completely motionless. If you’d like more advice, the “best” way to go about controlling your breath is to take a normal inhale, then exhale half your breath and hold it until you break the shot. That way you have a little breath in you but your muscles aren’t working to hold in too much air.
- Shooting Low – You’re worrying about where your bullets are going and they’re aligned vertically but all low. That’s because you’re dropping the gun to see the point of impact before the bullet is out of the gun. Stop worrying about where your bullets are going.
- Shooting High – You’re getting nervous and lifting up the gun because you’re afraid of the recoil. Calm down and pull the trigger very slowly and surprise yourself when it goes off.
- Shooting Left or Right – You’re putting too much or too little of your finger onto the blade of the trigger and canting the gun to one side while you’re pulling it rearward. Concentrate on a slow pull rearward and use less, or more finger.
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