One of the most common mistakes I observe coming from novice shooters both on the internet and in person is the desire to blame their gun or their sights for inaccuracy issues. Many are puzzled when they switch sights or change to a different gun and still have the same issues. In my experience, the cause of inaccuracy is very rarely the firearm or the sights, but is most often due to user error. Unfortunately, these errors are hard to diagnose without a skilled instructor present to observe and make corrections. This is one of the reasons that it is important to get to a good fundamentals class with a skilled instructor so that you can figure out what is causing you to miss and why it is happening. With that in mind, here are some tips as to what to look for when you miss.
Tip #1: Grip the gun harder
Most new shooters do not grip their guns hard enough. If you have a loose grip, you can end up with an unsupported platform which could cause the gun to malfunction due to a dissipation of energy that should go into the recoil spring, causing the gun not to cycle. If you experience frequent failures to feed, weak grip is a likely culprit.
A loose grip can also cause you to tighten your fingers as you press the trigger, which causes deviation to your weak side. If you see your shots consistently low and to the left for a righty or low and to the right for a lefty, that sympathetic tightening of the fingers is usually the cause. If you grip the gun harder, there won’t be as much tightening possible because your fingers will already be about as tight as they can be, so this usually fixes the issue.
The firearm is a tool, and you should grip it as tight as you would any other tool you are working with, like a wrench or a hammer. If you have a loose grip on other tools, they will slip and cause you to make mistakes, and the same is true of your pistol. My advice is to grip your pistol as tight as you can without your hands shaking.
Tip #2: Stop staging the trigger:
In my Intuitive Defensive Shooting classes, I teach students that the steps for breaking a first shot are to first touch and then press the trigger. This means that as you are extending the gun, you should touch the face of the trigger without taking out any slack, and then smoothly press the trigger to the rear with constant motion until the shot breaks at full extension. Most of the misses that I see in class are on the first shot from the ready position or the holster and most often on smaller or more distant targets that require more deviation control to achieve hits. When shooting at targets with higher precision requirements, students tend to try to exert too much control or try to break a “perfect shot”. They will hold the sights on the target, take the slack out of the trigger, and then try to snatch that last little bit of trigger press while keeping everything perfectly still, which in turn causes them to jerk that last bit and miss. When this happens, I remind them to keep a constant smooth motion all the way through their trigger press and it usually fixes the issue. So, when you practice trigger control, focus on a smooth, consistent motion of the trigger finger all the way until the shot breaks instead of staging and then trying to press the last little bit of travel.
Tip #3: Keep your wrist locked
Another issue that I see most often when people are taking shots at more precise targets is dipping the strong hand wrist. This usually happens in conjunction with staging the trigger and trying to break a “perfect shot” and is sometimes referred to as “anticipating the recoil”. There are several basic drills like “ball and dummy” that can make you realize that you are in fact dipping your wrist, but most internet advice doesn’t dig into why it is happening. The reason it is happening is 100% mental and goes back to the “perfect shot” misnomer. Any given shot doesn’t need to be “perfect”, it just needs to be “good enough” to get the hit. When we start trying to make our sight picture and deviation control “perfect”, that is what causes “recoil anticipation” which is just “anticipating imperfection” in reality. When you learn to accept that your gun is always moving and can never be held 100% still, you learn to control deviation only as much as you need to get a hit. A remedial drill that helps with all 3 of these things is called the “dynamic deviation control” drill. Follow the hyperlink to watch Rob Pincus and Rob Leatham discuss how to run the drill.
So, if you find yourself missing, I can say with about 99% confidence that it’s not your gun, it’s you. In my experience, the 3 tips I laid out are the most frequent solutions based on hundreds of new shooters I’ve worked with over the years. However, as mentioned above, the best way to figure out exactly what is happening is to work with a skilled instructor who can offer corrections after observing what you are doing in a training environment. A lot of it depends on which shots you are missing with and a lot of other factors that are subjective in nature. So get to a class, and you’ll know for sure what you need to fix! Signup for a class with us here.