The ability to fire a handgun accurately is crucial to survival, not only yours, but that of innocent bystanders. Since many individuals opt to carry handguns for the purposes of self-defense, accuracy is also important in achieving that end. You may want to use lethal force in certain circumstances, but it isn’t always called for. In those situations, taking any life should not be an accident. While you want to protect yourself, disarming or disabling another individual may be the best choice, and that requires more accuracy than luck.
It’s important to note that in cases of self-defense, accuracy on the firing range is only a small part of successfully defending yourself or others. Techniques used to hone range accuracy are simply not enough when it comes down to a situation in which tension, natural panic responses, and high levels of distraction all come together. When you practice for accuracy on the range, you should use techniques that can be drawn upon in the field, which will enable you to take aim and hit your target precisely where you want, though it may be another person or animal in motion. Below, we’ll cover three easy methods to center your focus, find your mark, and keep your aim accurate.
This exercise can be done without the use of ammunition, since it is primarily a focus exercise. Dry firing is an accuracy exercise that is performed without live ammunition, and helps you to learn how to accurately cycle through without losing your lock on a target. It will also help you to grasp the appropriate way to squeeze the trigger, tailoring the right amount of pressure with the pad of your index finger, and watching your sights to make sure they don’t flinch once you pull that trigger. There is a lot of controversy around this topic about the wear dry firing can cause on a gun, and if you have any concerns, do yourself a favor and just buy some snap caps.
First, ensure that your gun is completely empty of ammunition, and if applicable, so is your clip. Plastic practice bullets can be purchased to enhance the realism of the exercise without endangering anyone or wasting expensive bullets. Once you’ve ascertained that you’re not using a weapon loaded with live ammunition, and that you are in a safe place for practicing, line up your sights with your chosen target. Walls make excellent backing for targets, since they do not move and provide context for your eye. Go through the motions of firing a shot, gently squeezing your trigger with just enough force to discharge the weapon, were it loaded. This is where the plastic practice bullets come in handy, since they act as ordinary projectiles, without the powerful force.
This drill is intended to break the pattern that training can often instill. Because the use of a weapon is a skill, it does require practice with targets, and you can often train yourself into a rut. When you fire one, two, or multiple shots repeatedly during practice, your body and brain become accustomed to the pattern. Should you be called upon to break that pattern in a real life circumstance, your brain may balk and you will lose precious seconds as well as accuracy with additional shots.
With a holstered weapon, approach your target—these drills should be conducted at a 15 to 20 foot range. Pull your weapon and fire the instant your front sight covers your target. Replace your weapon in the holster and repeat with varying numbers of shots each time. The ready up drill is intended to strengthen your reflexive confidence in the front sighting of your weapon. It is a trained reflex, and will take time to hone.
Ball and Dummy
Often, when your weapon is discharged, you may find that you automatically flinch. This can throw off your aim considerably for the next shot. Because we are learning creatures, when we practice with handguns, we anticipate the discharge of the weapon and prepare to flinch, which can also disrupt accuracy. Ball and dummy exercises were used when police were issued service revolvers. The premise is one of changing a pattern in order to disrupt a reflexive flinch.
Load your handgun with several bullets, leaving empty chambers if you are practicing with a revolver or pistol. Experts do recommend that you use what is known as “snappier” ammunition—.38 Special or .357 Magnum—to train yourself to accept the surprise when the firearm discharges. Cycle through your ammunition, focusing on breathing, sights, and applying proper pressure to the trigger with each shot motion, whether the chamber contains a bullet or not. This will improve your accuracy and help you to develop a smooth, focused shot that will allow you to make more of your shots count in the field.
Handgun accuracy is important for a number of reasons. We’ve covered why accuracy in the practice range matters—expense of ammunition, training reflexes, and helping you to avoid pattern ruts with the action of firing a static number of shots. But it’s even more important in the field where targets are often moving, there are a host of distractions, and stress is often at a . Accuracy can mean the difference between success and failure for small game hunting, life and death in a matter of self-defense, or causing necessary harm versus unnecessary death in an adversarial setting. Precision and accuracy with your handgun are a part of mastery of a refined skill, something you can’t afford to neglect.
Author: Greg Mills with www.gungods.net. A blog all about guns, ammo and the second amendment.
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7 thoughts on “3 Easy Tips to Improve Your Handgun Accuracy”
Nice article. There was a great article in SWAT magazine this month about getting out of the range so you can practice in real life conditions. Not to mention the ability to shoot on the move or practice drawing and addressing threats. I like to throw in shooting from my weak side as well, just in case my strong side is incapable of shooting.
I throw a ringer in my girlfriend 9 mm clip, I will put a snap cap round in at some point in the mag, and she will have to clear it in order to keep firing. She hate when I do it but one has to be able to clear a jam in real life so why not on the range too
Very nice Greg. A lot of teaching in few works. Please write more.
It is so hard to ‘trick’ yourself. I always recommend anyone with an autoloader to find a coach to load for them. The way I teach, we usually go two days on one box of pistol ammo. After the flinch is controlled, I have the shooter intentionally try different finger/trigger alignment/placements to demonstrate what happens when the trigger is not eased straight back along the vertical bore plane. I then recheck flinch as initially before turning to the effects of hand hold variations in both the dominant and weak hand placement. In most cases after a couple of six hour days a dramatic increase in precision happens. After about a month of letting the instructed shoot on their own, I return to the flinch test and only after demonstrating that it has been defeated, do I begin teaching double tap chest/head combos, multiple targets, and drawing from the holster. Of the latter, I spend no little time on how to holster for often an inexperienced shooter will lose sight of the pistol muzzle and actually point it to the rear sometimes putting an unwitting coach in jeopardy.
Pistols teach so much and mastering one goes far toward making a rifleman.
I’ll throw in my wonder method for removing flinch, and it’s fun too. I go to the local range and I rent a long barrel .44 Magnum. I then “shoot ’til I can’t shoot no more”, or about 100 rounds. Shooting .40 after that feels like a .22, and 9mm feels like something is wrong with the gun. Flinch is absolutely cured up for about 6 months after that. Still, I do all of the rest of these regularly. Dry fire: 100 “emptys” every 2 weeks. Tap, Rack, Bang’s every fourth time at the range for at least 2 hours, with my son loading the mags as fast as he can, us switching off between shooter and loader (Ball and Dummy is your name for it). While we can’t do a holster draw at most ranges in my area, we practice that heavily every few months as well with no rounds.
Hey Brad M and Panhandle Rancher, glad you liked the article. You can read more of what I write at my blog http://www.gungods.net. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
Very interesting tips on improving your aim. I had never thought about dry firing or using plastic plastic bullets as a way to practice going through the motions. The last time I shot a hand gun I fell into the trap of flinching after each shot. Perhaps these exercises will help me improve the next time.
This is some really good information about gun accuracy. I liked your tip about using dry fire method to improve your skills. It does seem like it would be smart to see if there is a certain type of ammo that you can use for your gun that is more accurate.