Group Therapy

 

shutterstock_39383All across America, interest in the shooting sports is booming. Gun sales set new records month after month, and target-shooting is one of the biggest reasons why people are buying guns, along with competition and self-defense. Safely shooting guns is a very enjoyable activity, which is one big advantage we gun owners have over those who seek to take away our guns. After all, have you ever seen anyone smiling at an “Everytown for Gun Safety” meeting?

Me neither.

Going to the range is fun, but going to the range and doing well is even more fun. It’s like golf: When you play a round of golf, at the very least, you’re spending a pleasant afternoon outside with your friends. But playing a round of golf when you sink a tough putt or knocking one out of the tee box that seems to go on forever makes a pleasant afternoon with friends even better, and just like golf, consistent results are the key to better performance.

Being able to shoot a group is one of the more common ways to measure your shooting skill, especially with pistols. A group is nothing more than a collection of shots, usually around five or so, that are measured to see how close they are together. Shooting a group means you can deliver consistently accurate results with your gun, on-demand. The size of your group (the diameter of the cluster of bullet holes in the target) will vary with skill and distance and improve as you get better, but to start out, I’ve found that three rounds in an eight-inch circle at a target that’s 7 yards away is a standard that just about anyone can accomplish. A target that size, that far way is a good standard for self-defense because it’s about the same size as thoracic cavity on a human being, and putting multiple rounds into that region is one of the better ways to stop a deadly threat to your life.* However, getting shots into a circle that size at that distance, time after time, presents a problem for most inexperienced shooters.

There are gigabytes of information out there on the internet about becoming a better pistol shot, and most of it centers around the concept of “seeing the front sight” of your pistol. This is good, but what does “seeing the front sight” actually mean? It means watching where the front sight of your gun is actually pointing in relationship to the rear sights of your gun, all the way through lining up the shot, pressing the trigger and through the recoil after the shot.

This took me quite a while to understand. I was seeing the front sight as I lined up the shot, but the problem was that I was in too much of a hurry to get the shot off. I would get a good “sight picture,” and the instant I had one, I’d quickly pull the trigger. Because I was in a rush to take a shot while I had my sights on-target, I’d move my trigger finger too sharply and too violently, resulting in my front sight being pulled down and to the left as the hammer fell and the bullet left the barrel, throwing my shots off the center of the target.

This is the very definition of a “trigger jerk” problem, and it’s quite common in inexperienced shooters. We don’t trust that our sights will be on-target when we pull the trigger, so we rush the process and our results suffer. Getting rid of it took me a long, long time and much practice, but once I realized that I needed to have a clear view of what my sights were doing before, during and after the trigger was pressed, I paid more attention to how I was pulling the trigger, and my groups tightened up as is by magic. I started to see my sights and call my shots and I knew which shots were good and which were good, even before I looked at the holes in my target.

Have fun the next time you’re at the pistol range, but also watch what your sights are doing as you pull the trigger. Your gun is telling you what you need to do to be a better shooter: Watch what it is saying to you, and you will improve.


* This is where I put in the usual disclaimer about how I am not a lawyer and you should talk about this with someone who talks about laws for a living rather than someone like me, who talks about photography, beer, and cat memes for a living. 

There are 17 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. michael johnson Inactive
    michael johnson
    @michaeljohnson

    well, I don’t know about you “range shooters” but down here in rural SC, there are a lot of posterior portals with guns who like to wait till the evening’s perfect to start blazing away.  or there is another POWT across the road who likes to get up at dawn on Sunday and blaze away with his handgun.  I have guns, a 1911 colt my father carried in the war…..I was in the army myself so I understand guns and gun ownership.  I also understand peehead scum who think of no one but themselves.

    • #1
  2. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    It’s been almost 50 years, but is “squeeze” no longer the operative term?

    • #2
  3. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    Kevin Creighton: Because I was in a rush to take a shot while I had my sights on-target, I’d move my trigger finger too sharply and too violently, resulting in my front sight being pulled down and to the left as the hammer fell and the bullet left the barrel, throwing my shots off the center of the target.

    Interesting.  My experience with inaccuracy is that I unconsciously anticipate the recoil and firm up my grip and forearms as I pull the trigger.  Since the recoil pushes the gun up and right, my pre-flex pushed the gun down and left.  Focusing in a smooth trigger squeeze helps relieve this.  Nothing to do with a hurry or a sight picture for me.

    • #3
  4. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Basil Fawlty:It’s been almost 50 years, but is “squeeze” no longer the operative term?

    Squeeze tends to instill sympathetic motion in the other muscles of the hand, when all we wanting moving is the index finger. The mental image is taking your just your finger and touching it to your breastbone whilst holding the gun, that helps stop the other fingers from moving.

    • #4
  5. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    I don’t much like going to the range by myself.   Shooting is definitely more fun with a group.   I really enjoy shooting with my sons, or with friends from church.

    There are two groups of ladies at church that are range buddies.

    Shooting is good fun.

    • #5
  6. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    image

    20 yards.  Wilson Combat 1911.  I’ve done better and done worse but I was with my older boy this day and enjoyed out shooting him with a handgun, mostly because I cannot with a rifle.

    • #6
  7. 6foot2inhighheels Member
    6foot2inhighheels
    @6foot2inhighheels

    I don’t get as much time in at the range as I’d like, but I’d love to shoot with Barkha Herman someday, as well as join a Group in LA group, LAtittude, which hosts a monthly event called “Guns and Rosés” (shooting range first, then wine tasting).  We need to do a meetup at a gun range, obviously.

    • #7
  8. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    @kevincreighton

    FYI guys, was at a local gun show yesterday. It was packed as usual.  However I noticed one oddity .  There was no one selling reloading supplies.  I’ve never seen that before.

    ? New ATF rules….

    • #8
  9. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    6foot2inhighheels:I don’t get as much time in at the range as I’d like, but I’d love to shoot with Barkha Herman someday, as well as join a Group in LA group, LAtittude, which hosts a monthly event called “Guns and Rosés” (shooting range first, then wine tasting). We need to do a meetup at a gun range, obviously.

    Me, too!

    • #9
  10. Pony Convertible Inactive
    Pony Convertible
    @PonyConvertible

    One of those lasers that trigger on briefly when you pull the trigger provide excellent feedback on how you pull the trigger.  If the laser on the target looks like a dot, you did it right.  If it looks like a line, you are jerking.  With this instant feedback it is easy to get it right.

    • #10
  11. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Kozak:@kevincreighton

    FYI guys, was at a local gun show yesterday. It was packed as usual. However I noticed one oddity . There was no one selling reloading supplies. I’ve never seen that before.

    ? New ATF rules….

    The most recent panic about the ATF re-writing the rules were sparked by this story on Ammoland, clarifying the rules on flash paper and guncotton.

    Not exactly cutting-edge stuff.

    It’s been debunked (why is it that when we say it’s false, it’s “full of bunk”, but when proven to be wrong, it’s “debunked”? I digress…). The stuff the ATF was looking at was never gun-related in the first place (there is, after all, and “E” at the end of their name, too), and even then, it’s just some routine clarification at happened, not Jade Helm Part Deux.

    image

    • #11
  12. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Pony Convertible:One of those lasers that trigger on briefly when you pull the trigger provide excellent feedback on how you pull the trigger. If the laser on the target looks like a dot, you did it right. If it looks like a line, you are jerking. With this instant feedback it is easy to get it right.

    Yes, yes, a gazillion times yes. Even a cheap-o NC Star rail-mounted laser or the like will show you how your barrel is moving as your pull the trigger.

    Even without the laser, dry-fire is best way to start to tighten up your accuracy, because all it costs you is time.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Great OP, Kevin! We’ve been trying to get to the range every two weeks; just this last week both of us could see what we would call groupings! It was exciting. We use full metal jacket ammo at the range, but we were wondering what is the best ammunition to keep in the gun at home for self-protection.

    • #13
  14. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    My pistol shooting has improved since my first time qualifying on the M1911 back in 1985.  The biggest improvement I made was when someone told me to grip the pistol so that my palm was flat on the side of the grip, no cupping or spaces.

    The second improvement was after reading a book by Massad Ayoob.  He posited that the long held advice to have a firm but not too firm grip was just bad advice.  He recommended always gripping it as hard as you possibly can.  No matter how tired you might be, it will always be gripped as  hard as possible.  Under stress if you don’t grip as hard as you can then you have a greater tendency to be able to twitch or anticipate the round going off.  If you’re using all your strenght every time, you can’t anticipate by gripping even harder.

    It’s weird advice, but my shooting improved immensely after that.

    My conclusion is that grip is everything for shooting if you’re not at the Olympic levels.  Pointing the dang thing is generally easy.

    My last competition with my shooting club, I forgot to bring my 92FS.  I ended up competing with my LCP for the pistol portion.  I came in second.  I think that’s more of a reflection of the other guys’ shooting skills than my proficiency, but it shows me that a good grip is the most important part of shooting.  In my opinion, that is.

    • #14
  15. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Susan Quinn:Great OP, Kevin! We’ve been trying to get to the range every two weeks; just this last week both of us could see what we would call groupings! It was exciting. We use full metal jacket ammo at the range, but we were wondering what is the best ammunition to keep in the gun at home for self-protection.

    I’ve relied on this test from Lucky Gunner for the last year or so, and it’s reason why I went with Federal 124gr HST’s when it came time to buy new carry ammo. In general, for small guns (anything Glock 19 size or below), avoid the +P loads as they are loaded hotter and are unpleasant (at best) to shoot in small guns.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Kevin Creighton: I’ve relied on this test from Lucky Gunner for the last year or so, and it’s reason why I went with Federal 124gr HST’s when it came time to buy new carry ammo. In general, for small guns (anything Glock 19 size or below), avoid the +P loads as they are loaded hotter and are unpleasant (at best) to shoot in small guns.

    Thanks a bunch, Kevin. Ummmm…..I’ll give it to Jerry to look over! ;-)

    • #16
  17. Orion Member
    Orion
    @Orion

    Kozak:@kevincreighton

    FYI guys, was at a local gun show yesterday. It was packed as usual. However I noticed one oddity . There was no one selling reloading supplies. I’ve never seen that before.

    ? New ATF rules….

    Most handloaders (myself included) purchase their supplies online now.

    • #17

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.