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All 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?
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.