The Problem: You are trying your hand at Precision Pistol Shooting and have decided to get some coaching from a good shooter at your club. One thing that is constantly repeated is to hold the pistol perfectly still on the target and slowly squeeze the trigger until the gun fires as a surprise for each shot. Another of the better shooters tells you without a good solid hold all the rest of your efforts to hit the target anywhere near the center are futile. You wonder if there is any way to practice hold, so your shots will hit the target more closely than they currently do, which is all over the place.
The Solution: I’m sure your coaches are well meaning in trying to help you with your precision-pistol shooting, but their suggestions are less helpful than you think they may be.
Let’s establish a few facts that are irrefutable to help you to attenuate your movement and provide a few tips that will improve your shot groups on target.
First, as long as you have a heartbeat, your body will be in motion. It may not be much, but it will always be there. You can minimize your motion by training and conditioning the muscles you use to hold the gun on the target by simply finding the body position or stance that requires the least amount of muscle tension to stabilize the gun. This is accomplished by using the skeletal system to support as much of the weight that you carry as possible (in conjunction with as much muscle relaxation as you can get by with) while still keeping the gun pointed in front of you—as if you were pointing at the center of the target. Once that position can be regularly repeated, practice holding the gun with the arm extended in front of you as if you were shooting a target in 10-second intervals with a 30-second rest period in between each extension of the arm. By increasing the hold time from 10 to 15 seconds and longer, once you are comfortable with doing each hold period 10 times in a row, you will be conditioning the muscles to stabilize the gun on the target without strain or tiring during the firing cycle. Muscle tension causes movement. Muscle relaxation equates to minimal movement. Your grip on the gun should be little more than it takes to swing a golf club or baseball bat, or drive a nail with a hammer. The tendency is to grip the gun tighter and tighter to force the gun to be still but applying too much grip pressure increases muscle tension. This, in turn, induces motion to the gun—among other things—that degrade accuracy. A firm grip that can be applied consistently and repeatably is the objective in shooting consecutive accurate shots. These hold exercises should be done without concerning yourself with the sights or the trigger. Concentrate on bone support and minimizing muscle tension, which together will determine your natural point-of-aim.
A handy tool to help track your muzzle stability is the Mantis X Firearms Training System. It mounts on the gun and, when combined with your smartphone, will track your pattern of movement allowing you to track your improvements as you practice hold. It also records any movement of the pistol induced by pulling the trigger to fire a shot either dry or in live fire. It’s a good diagnostic tool to find and help correct deficiencies in shot delivery.
I’ll offer a few tips that go along with practicing hold once a consistent technique is developed.
Learning to maintain sight alignment through the exit of the bullet from the muzzle is essential to making an accurate shot. This can be done dry using the Wall Drill (which I originally discussed in the February, 2014 issue) or with live-fire by keeping the eye on the sights while pulling the trigger through the release of the hammer by the sear. A good mental game to do this is to pull the front sight through the rear-sight notch, while maintaining alignment, with the trigger as it moves to release the shot. This combines your mental, visual and physical efforts into a single task necessary to fire an accurate shot. This can be validated in live fire by seeing the smoke, flash and blast surrounding the front sight each time the gun discharges and the bullet exits the muzzle.
Another tip to help with your hold is to turn the target around and hold on the center of the back side of the target backer. Shoot for group and adjust the sights to hit the center of the backer. Eventually you will have to turn the target around, but by that time your hold and technique of shot delivery will have shown success and built confidence to a level that will have your coaches asking you for help to improve their game.
All you have to do is stabilize the gun on the target and fire the shot without changing that stability. It’s as simple as that.