There is very little that is intuitive about successfully shooting a handgun. The same thing applies to good driving, splitting firewood, cooking a pot roast, or any other human endeavor. We all understand that education is required to master a skill but for various reasons many of us believe that shooting is like being left-handed, some are born with it and others are not. I suppose this comes from the informality which imbues marksmanship and guns in general. In the 19th century it was not uncommon for homegrown medicine salesmen to refer to themselves as “Doctor.” Today, every guy who has shot a gun twice is “Instructor.” Consequently, we too often rely on myths, old wives’ tales, and pop culture to form theories about shooting.
If you’re struggling with mastering your handgun take control of your training in the following manner:
- Start over. Accept that you may believe things which are incorrect. Receive formal instruction in handgun operations; I am referring to basic operations not marksmanship. Many shooters, cannot load a semi-automatic pistol while keeping the muzzle pointed downrange. Muzzle control in marksmanship is the next step after muzzle control for safety.
- Learn the fundamentals of marksmanship from someone qualified to teach them. I’m sorry to offend, I know there are many good independent instructors out there but I also know you probably haven’t found one. An NRA instructor course is worthwhile but it does not qualify a shooter to teach. Being a lead instructor requires having spent a lot of time coaching on the firing line in order to understand why shooters miss their intended targets. Being a good shot doesn’t mean one can teach. The instructor has to see errors repeated in many different shooters to understand how corrective action can be applied by a particular shooter. It took me years.
- Record every shot and analyze your results. A right-handed shooter tends to shoot low left for a very specific reason. If you know that reason you can correct the error, and panic and hopelessness disappear.
- Be patient. I am certain that no one expects to fly a plane through a storm the first hour of flight school. Marksmanship is a skill that you can learn and apply as you learn.
My first visit to a gun range was as a teenager. I took my father’s revolver and went as the guest of a range member. I was told by a well-intentioned shooter (who was kind enough to let me shoot his 1911 pistol) that “maybe the .45 isn’t your gun,” and the local gun nut insulted me for not being able to hit a bullseye with my dad’s Colt Python. I learned to shoot the .45 pistol (and handguns in general) because the U.S. Marine Corps knew how to teach. Leaving your shooting education in the hands of unqualified instructors will succeed only in making you give up shooting. For more, read my book, The Perfect Pistol Shot.
Point-shooting or combat shooting, or whatever new name is being used this week, is the current rage among pistol shooters. The love of point-shooting is nothing new, but the disregard for marksmanship is at an all time high. I have nothing against point-shooting. Continue reading
Before getting to a paragraph on sighting, I wish to thank all those readers who have contacted me through firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy the questions and comments, and find the more I communicate with other shooters, the more I learn. I have been asked to recommend instructors, which I find difficult to do because of unfamiliarity with local instructor cadres. I’ve determined to recommend those that I do know to be worthwhile, and leave it to the readers to determine geographic practicalities.
In Florida, Jeff Morelock runs www.MyWeaponsPermit.com and www.BuyYourGunOnline.com I had the pleasure of working with Jeff in Kosovo during the law enforcement phase of that silliness. In addition to walking students through the CCW process, Jeff also provides individually tailored handgun training. I also recommend you check out his prices for firearms and ammo. Morelock is a serious instructor who runs a safe, sane, and practical training program.
Now to sighting. There is some confusion about whether a shooter should fire a handgun with one eye or with both eyes open. Allowing for LEGITIMATE OPTICAL PROBLEMS (rather than laziness), the rule is to use both eyes. Nothing about the human body is perfect, including vision. You may have better than 20/20 vision but visual perception is never perfect because the brain must determine spatial differences. The eye may see the center of the circle but it is an intellectual decision which determines where the shooter will perceive the location of the center. [Remember, in The Perfect Pistol Shot we opt to use crosses instead of bullseyes. Perception is part of the reasoning] We can better determine sight positoning when triangulating vision with two eyes and the front sight. Reason this out for yourself. Hold your thumb out in front of you while you open and close each eye. The thumb will appear to shift because your visual perspective changes with each eye. Two eyes dramtically reduce distortion. Or, in other words, if God wanted you use one eye, you wouldn’t have been given two. Marksmanship is common sense. Rifle shooters are something of a different matter, but scopes and close-relief sights were intended for one eye. Pistol sights were not.
Some of our non-hunters will begin to consider putting away firearms for the winter. This is a good time for foundational cleaning and lubing. It’s also a good time to visit the local gunsmith. Don’t store a weapon in disrepair and forget about it. Get everything ready for Spring before winter storage. For the hardier, Continue reading
Keep your head up when firing. Why? Because you see better when looking straight ahead, it is how the eyes were intended to be placed in relation to objects in view. Peripheral vision serves to attract our attention but does not measure well when compared to direct vision. Another problem with head-down is a change in the distance between the eyes and the sights. When perspective is altered, the information from the eyes to the brain will be altered. You might say that it doesn’t matter because you always keep your head down when firing. The truth is, most head-downers will lift their heads for distance firing, completely altering their sight perspective. Also, even if you are consistent, you still risk not getting the best sight picture available. Bring the gun to the head, not the head to the gun.
After a year and a half on sale, The Perfect Pistol Shot hit #1 in Amazon shooting books, both in paperback and Kindle formats. It has been a pleasant surprise to me that the book continues to do well. I am very grateful to readers who have strayed “off the path” to try a new author. Thank you.
The next paperback instructional book is in the works. Hopefully, released in 2014. The new essay, American Gun Fight is making a little headway, thanks to Amazon readers. It is a response to Stephen King’s recent Kindle piece advocating greater restrictions on firearms ownership. If you don’t know how respond to gun control advocates, who toss-about their own facts, you may enjoy American Gun Fight. It’s currently less than a buck, and about sixty pages. While I’m thinking of prices, the women’s guide to safer dating, What Cops tell their Sisters, is now $0.99. If you’ve know women of dating age, this short book is worth a buck. Much of the material translates well for men who suffered dating relationships gone bad.
We’re at the end of a hot summer, still full of light. Check your front sight tips to make certain you don’t have a bare tip. A front sight tip that shines will give an impression of a low aim on standard black and white targets. The illusion will make you think that you’ve got white above your tip, when it in fact, it is your tip. Of course, you dear reader, having read previous blogs Continue reading
Locked arms are common in shooting. They are also detrimental to accuracy. Locked joints restrict blood flow and cause muscular movement. It is an unusual shooter that locks the arms and doesn’t over-grip the handgun. Test it this way: Hold a sewing needle or pin at eye level, like a pistol sight. Focus on the pin and try to reduce its movement. Try with a locked arm and then with a naturally straight arm. We don’t need muscle beyond what is required to hold a 40 ounce handgun in place in-between shots. Relax, you’ll Continue reading
Recoil management and a stable marksmanship platform begin with posture. No handgun made is capable of moving a human being through force of recoil, except in cases of shooter imbalance. When the feet are at a natural distance apart, and the weight is tending toward the balls of the feet, and the shoulders are forward of the hips, recoil will be limited to muzzle rise, which itself, is greatly diminished by the weight of the shoulder carriage (when forward of the hips). Over-grip and locked arms do Continue reading
Recently, The Perfect Pistol Shot was mentioned in one of the firearm manufacturers’ blogs. A reader asked other bloggers whether they approved of the “light grip” recommended in my book. Generally, they did not. One writer mentioned that his large frame .357 revolver with magnum loads required heavy thumb pressure to keep it in his hand. Another suggested I had written the book to lead astray fellow competitive shooters (I don’t even compete, and I’m not that clever). The point is that most shooters are fully convinced that thumb-pressure is necessary to retain the handgun during shooting. They are wrong.
For service caliber firearms (including traditional pistol caliber magnums) all that is needed to hold onto the weapon is the web of the shooting hand and the trigger finger. I routinely demonstrated this during my law enforcement classes using a S&W 686 with magnum loads and various semi-autos with hot ammo. While instructing in the Marine Corps, I demonstrated web-trigger finger with the .45 ACP. Do I advocate shooting a handgun with the web of the hand and the trigger finger? Of course not. The other three fingers are necessary to retain the weapon in place in-between shots, but a death-grip is not required. Neither are the thumbs which cause downward torquing with many shooters.
Some shooters will say they have large hunting revolvers that produce rifle class energy and recoil, requiring a heavy two-handed “squeeze.” Friends, if you cannot accurately shoot your handgun, get a rifle, and if you are squeezing your revolver beyond what is necessary for retention, your handgun is displacing that excess pressure through movement. That is a scientific certainty.
Your handgun is not your master unless you make it so. There are shooters who adore having mega-caliber handguns in order to take to the range twice a year and publicly complain (boast) about recoil. Certainly, there is a limit to the energy that can be accurately controlled in a handgun. But it is the shooter who chooses the firearm and who is responsible for where the rounds travel. The “my-gun-is-my-personality” crowd is the same group who for decades swore the .45 ACP “kicked like a mule,” and “couldn’t hit the broad-side of a barn.” Marksmanship is based on fact, not voodoo and fables. Let’s keep the Continue reading
It’s time to check magazines, again. Magazines require periodical unloading. When left alone the top round can be displaced and even point downward, preventing feeding. If you carry magazines for duty, reload at least weekly. If you store magazines at home check them weekly and reload monthly. You can visually inspect the top round at any time, though that is not enough to ensure good seating forever. Metal fatigues. If you have extra magazines rotate them. Keeping a magazine loaded will eventually weaken the spring to the point of uselessness. Everybody has an excuse to ignore their magazines. It’s your life and a pistol is only as good as the magazine you put in it. Keep them clean , dry, and strong.
Again, thanks for the warm welcome toward the Practical Tactical series. I don’t intend to offer them as a set, at least for now. The current arrangement allows readers to choose handgun, shotgun, or rifle, as desired for three bucks. That seems about right to me.
Firearm manufacturers are still struggling to adjust to demand. It may be worthwhile for buyers to broaden their view a little bit when hunting for a new gun. A nice revolver is worth having for any shooter willing to legitimately train for tactical reloads. Though, honestly, (I know this is gun-nut blasphemy) you will likely never have to execute a tactical reload even in an actual shooting. Take the revolver. They’re easier to learn and easier to clear from a bad round.
There is currently a run on reloading equipment. A lot of you have the old manual hand loading sets gathering dust at home. Those are likely to become valuable in the next couple of months. Likewise, watch for a run on black powder guns and gear.
Shooting tip: Despite my constant nagging and begging, readers insist on using practice targets without an aiming point appearing smaller than the front sight tip. If you insist on aiming Continue reading
Generally, when starting out or doing maintenance marksmanship training it is advisable to fire from 3-5 yards. This allows you to work on accuracy without problems from indoor range lighting or outdoor wind. When learning to fire at distances, start close and move incrementally to greater distances. The goal is to train yourself to believe that the ammunition does the work and the handgun is as reliable as your computer. You don’t shoot “harder” at distances, and you don’t shoot differently. The only problems unique to distance are wind, lighting, and vision. Everything else is a mechanical function and requires nothing more from the shooter than when firing at close range. So take it in small steps from 3 yards and learn wind, lighting and bullet Continue reading
This afternoon an old friend of mine, who I knew to be an excellent shot in the Marine Corps, told me he had problems with sighting now that he wore glasses. I think that is a common complaint. The goal is a crystal clear front sight with a blurred rear sight and target for marksmanship. If you can’t do that with your eye glasses, try a couple pairs of reading glasses at different magnifications. You can buy them in drug stores or dollar stores. You may otherwise need a “shooter’s prescription” for eye glasses . I have noticed that an adjustment period with any type of glasses helps with sighting. Tell your eye doctor what you need to accomplish. Be patient, a lot of shooters with bad eye sight Continue reading