Skills Check: Hold Control Drill

Get back to the essential basics of solid muzzle alignment.

posted on April 4, 2023
gunsight on target

One of the most critical, but underrated, skills in shooting is what the NRA calls “Hold Control.” In a nutshell, it is your ability to hold your handgun so that the muzzle is oriented with (aimed in at) the target while you’re pressing off one or more rounds.

The importance of this fundamental skill cannot be overly stressed. To have an efficient presentation with a great trigger press minus the skill to keep the sights aligned with your intended target often results in a miss.

Our drill this month trains you to keep your muzzle in alignment with the target before, during and after the press, thereby increasing your hit factor by reducing the probability of a miss.

Here’s the Drill
Set up either a paper or steel target with a designated center-mass (A-zone) at the 15-yard line. Aim in at the A-zone of the target. For those shooters seeking a greater challenge, draw a line across the middle of the A-zone with a black marker creating an upper half and target only that upper half.

Employing your sights, set them at the visual center of your intended target. Move your trigger finger to lightly touch the surface of the trigger and “check your hold”—are your sights still within an acceptable “arc of wobble?” If not, adjust your hold accordingly. 

Next, bring the trigger to the wall. Remain cognizant of “painting” the space scribed by your acceptable arc of wobble with your sight picture. Much like coloring in between the lines of a coloring book with a crayon, visualize your sight picture as the crayon tip.

Continue with a precise trigger press and all the while “stay painted” and remain consciously aware of your painting. Continue the painting process throughout the break and especially after the break, including trigger reset.

After resetting the trigger, let a little slack out of the trigger and repeat the same exact process four more times for a total of five perfect hits landing in the visual center of your intended target A-zone.

The purpose of this drill is to bring muzzle stability to alignment and press off shots while maintaining both that stability and alignment. If you change your grip pressure at any time between shots, or should you fail to paint the target with your sight picture at any time throughout delivery of the five rounds, you will change your alignment.

By maintaining muzzle stability and sight alignment (painting within the margins of an acceptable arc of wobble with your sight picture like a crayon) before, during and after the press is what establishes an appropriate hold that will create a higher probability of success and lower probability of failure.

Over time, your consciousness of the painting process will become so familiar that instead of thinking about it, you sort of just feel that it’s right. Given more practice, even the feeling of it drops into your subconscious. At that point you will be subconsciously maintaining hold control, freeing up your conscious mind to process other important visual information.

However, if you find yourself missing a lot, get back to the basics. Build your consistency of good shot placement and stay painted.


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