The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Handgun, Pistol and Revolver topics

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The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Trebor » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:21 am

Most of us here own at least one pistol that we would use for personal protection, either at home or as a carry gun. Most of us practice, at least somewhat, with that pistol. But, how many of us really CHALLENGE ourselves in our practice sessions?

The only way to improve is to demand more from yourself. Don't be satasfied with your current level of skill, but work to improve.

We have to start somewhere, so let's start with basic marksmanship, as that's as good a point as any to work on improving. We can (and should) add in "tactical" considerations, such as movement, to our training sessions, but for right now let's just go back to the absolute basics of precision marksmanship. We'll add in that other stuff later.

Here's the deal: Take your defensive pistol (pick your primary one if you have multiples) and go to the range and work on pure marksmanship skills. Try to shoot that pistol better then you've ever shot it before. Don't be satasfied with "good enough" but work towards improving your accuracy.

This is a precision, slow-fire, marksmanship drill. The goal is to perform every apsect perfectly and produce a nice, tight group on the target. We want the shots to touch each other and we are NOT worried about where they are on the target at this point (that comes later).

Here's how to do it:

Focus on the fundamentals. Break down every part of your technique to it's component parts and make sure you are executing every part perfectly. If you aren't sure about something, review your training materials, look it up on-line, or ask here. (If you have access to an instructor or experienced coach, all the better).

Get a good stance. You want to well balanced with your weight above your knees. Make sure you lean into the gun slightly and don't "Sway back" away from the pistol. You'll probably want to move your strong side leg back just a bit to help with recoil management.

Get a good grip. You can shoot thumb over thumb, high thumb, or thumbs forward. But, make sure you understand why you pick the grip you pick and that you are executing that grip correctly. Do some research on how to grip a pistol on-line or ask for advice here if you aren't sure. Each method has it's proponents and it's advantages, you just have to perform them correctly and then decide what works best for you. Grip the gun FIRMLY. If your hands are shaking, you are holding too hard, so back off a bit.

Get a good sight picture. We're doing pure marksmanship here, so get a perfect sight picture where the top of the front sight is in the notch and even with the top of the rear sight, not the "flash sight picture" you'd use for defensive shooting. You focus sharply on the front sight. The rear sight and the target will both be blurry. Remember that your sights will wobble on the target and accept that and do NOT try to break the shot when it looks perfect. Just line the sights up, accept the wobble zone, and pull the trigger until the shot breaks cleanly. Do it right, and the hole will be within your wobble zone.

AIM AT THE SAME SPOT EVERY TIME! Do NOT change your aim point if your shot is out of the Bullsye. Instead aim at the same spot every time. When you are done you should have a nicely clustered group or even one hole. If the group is out of the bull, we'll work on adjusting the group as a whole later. You may need to adjust your sights, or (more likely) you may need to correct an error in your technique that is pulling your shots off-target.

You need to have a consistent aim point though! If you change where you aim after every shot, or even half way through the string, it is impossible to tell if you were doing exactly the same thing every time. You need to be consistent.

Have the same amount of air in your lungs for each shot. The standard is to exhale "half the air in your lungs" before you break each shot. I like to empty my lungs completely as I can't easily figure out half my lung capacity. Whichever you do, be consistent.

Use PERFECT trigger control to break the shot. Hold the pistol so that the only part of your trigger finger that touches the gun is the part that touches the trigger. Your finger should make contact with the trigger on the pad of your finger. You may need to adjust it slightly depending on how the gun fits you and the weight of the trigger pull, but it should NEVER be further then the first knuckle, and only that far in in extreme circumstances (heavy DA pull or gun that doesn't quite fit).

For perfect trigger pull make good contact with the trigger, accept that the sights will wobble on the target, and maintain that sight picture while you SMOOTHLY pull the trigger straight toward you until the shot breaks. The key is that ONLY your trigger finger moves. The rest of your hand maintains the same pressure on the gun. You do NOT want tighten your whole grip or move any of your other fingers. Just have a firm, consistent grip and move only your trigger finger.

Follow through - This is the forgotten secret of shooting. You need to do everything the same after the shot breaks that you were doing before the shot broke. If you have poor follow through you will pull the pistol off target and ruin the shot.

Here's what to do: Focus sharply on the front sight as you pull the trigger. As the shot breaks, continue to focus on the front sight. Watch the sight go up, and watch it come down. Don't fight the recoil, let the gun and your hands move up and down as a unit.

When the front sight comes back down from the recoil, place it EXACTLY on the same aim point you had for the first shot. Then smoothly pull the trigger again.

DO NOT LOOK FOR THE BULLET HOLES! That will mess you up quicker then anything. If you look for the bullet holes after each shot, you'll start lowering the gun before the bullet leaves the barrel, and you will pull the shots low. I see it all the time. Do not look for the bullet holes! Just put the front sight on the same aim point and prepare to pull the trigger again.

You can also use short trigger reset to shorten the trigger travel distance. This makes it easier to smoothly pull the trigger as you don't have to pull it as far. You can find your trigger reset point with some dry-fire practice. With an EMPTY gun (double check) rack the slide to cock the pistol. Then pull the trigger all the way to the rear and HOLD IT THERE. Do not let up on the trigger. While continuing to hold the triger all the way back, work the slide with your other hand to recock the pistol. Once it is cocked, slowly ease up on the trigger until you hear and feel a "click". This is the trigger reset point and it is much closer then fully releasing the trigger. Once you find that reset point, pull the trigger smoothly again from that point until the pistol dry-fires. The hold the trigger back, recock, and ease up on the trigger until you find that reset point again. Then repeat until you have it down.

By using short trigger reset you minimize trigger travel distance and make it easier to pull the trigger without pulling the whole gun off target. This improves accuracy. It also makes it easier to shoot faster for follow-up shots.

Ok, that's the how, now here's the "what" of the challenge.

Step 1. Dry fire at home - Practice your technique for at least two days running before your range trip. (Double check the gun is unloaded and there is no ammo in the room.) Do five minutes of dry-fire (at least 15 reps) each day for at least two days. You want to pull the trigger without pulling the gun off target at all.

Step 2. At the range

Set up at about 5 yards. Use a blank piece of paper or the back of a standard range target. With a pen draw a small 1" or so dot as a "aiming point" on the target. You are to aim at EXACTLY this spot every time. Don't worry about actually hitting it. (This is less distracting then a standard bullseye target).

Get into a perfect stance and do five reps of dry-fire immediately before you load and shoot. Do five perfect trigger pulls. The gun should be rock solid each time the hammer falls or stiker flies forward. Practice your breathing (let the air out of your lungs) for every shot.

Then load up five rounds and fire five perfect, slow fire, shots. Use short trigger reset each time, but take your time actually shooting. Remember to exhale half (or all, whatever) of the air out of your lungs for every shot. Be consistent.

Check your target, put up a clean target if needed, and repeat. Fire five dry fire shots before you load up for every string of five live fire shots. If you start pulling the gun down during the dry-fire, start over. If you start flinching during the live fire, do more dry fire.

If you can, change your target after every five shot string. When you are done post your best target here. This isn't a postal match, so we aren't scoring them, it's just to see how we're doing.

No go do it!

Copyright 2009 - Robert Reed
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Last edited by Trebor on Thu Sep 17, 2009 3:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Pirate Punch » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:41 am

Definitely need to work on this myself...

Thanks for all your great posts, I'll print this out and keep it in my range bag :mrgreen:
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Haji » Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:23 am

You're trying to snake Dave's high paying Arbiter job, aren't you? :wink:
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by DannusMaximus » Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:23 am

You're on a roll, Trebor. Great post.

Thanks to you, DavePal, TDW, Matt E., Macabee, Istvan, et al for the good advice you give on these boards. Lots of fluff on the interwebsz about gun stuff. I'm becoming more and more convinced that ZS is the place to go for info about getting the best out of my firearms. Lots of guys (and gals) with real world experience, and lots of non-ninjas (like myself) fiddling with gear and techniques to see what works. This is a great clearinghouse.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Dave_M » Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:47 am

Awesome post.

This is the kind of stuff I want to see more of in this forum. Far too many AR v AK threads and far too few threads about the real nuts and bolts.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Absintheur » Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:49 am

When I was shooting Action Pistol I would penalize myself 1 dollar for every shot outside of the X-Ring and 5 bucks for every shot outside the 10-Ring. This money went to charity so it was a win win as far as I am concerned. My dad did the same thing but Mom got the money. Point is it made practice worth something and made misses really count.

I got my Glenn out today, first time in a few years, and spent a couple hours at the range, my left hand cost me 22 bucks on the practical event which I will be shooting in competition in about 10 days (Sunday after this one). I will be spending a hour or two a night in dry fire practice between now and then as well as a couple more trips to the range.

I do this for all practice varying how things are scored by the type of target used. But it does give one incentive not to randomly blast away.

Will add the cash to my normal pledge this Sunday.... :D
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by whisk.e.rebellion » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:12 pm

Thanks, Trebor. Very good stuff.

When shooting by myself, it's kind of hard to tell if I'm flinching or anticipating the recoil when doing live fire. In addition to your practice methods, I'm thinking about having someone else load my magazines and having him/her randomly insert dummy rounds/snap caps so I can see if I'm flinching during live fire.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by mk_ultra » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:16 pm

I am very glad you brought up shooting to trigger re-set . I think that far too shooters know how to do this .

I have always been a competent pistol shooter , but only very recently did I begin to learn how to shoot to re-set . The results have been nothing short of amazing .

My groups have tightened up , but most importantly , I am able to maintain a much tighter and consistent sight picture , which make follow ups fast and on target .

Great post again Trebor . :D
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Matt E. » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:39 pm

Good post.

There are no such thing as "advanced shooting techniques". There are only basic techniques executed to a high standard.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Trebor » Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:32 pm

Thanks for the "good post" comments guys. Now go out and shoot this!

Go out and put forth your best effort. Concentrate on what you are doing and focus on each of the fundamentals. At 5 yards you should have one ragged hole. Once you get that, move the target back a bit.

Let's see the targets!
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Rednex » Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:36 pm

This may be a dumb question but i will ask it anyways.

When you say to dry fire the pistol do you reccomend useing "snap caps" in it?
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Dave_M » Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:42 pm

Rednex wrote:This may be a dumb question but i will ask it anyways.

When you say to dry fire the pistol do you reccomend useing "snap caps" in it?
Depends on the pistol. With most modern automatics you don't need them. However, some models (Sig P228, XD for example) you should really use snap caps to prevent breakage.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Bluito23 » Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:28 pm

The real basics of shooting, rifle, pistol or shotgun are pretty simple.

Sight Alignment and Trigger Control are what its all about. Does not matter what you shoot, how big or small a caliber. Nothing changes.

The best article for marksmanship skills is the article written by Bill Blakenship titled "Sight Alignment and Trigger Control."

Read it, learn it, and love it, and pass it on to others.

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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Trebor » Sun Sep 13, 2009 4:44 am

Bump for Jeriah.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by zengunfighter » Tue Sep 15, 2009 11:03 pm

Good post. I agree with what you say. The basics are critical. 'Advanced' or 'tactical' is just being able to do the basics while interesting things are going on.


Here is my take on the sights and trigger thing;

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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Grey dog » Thu Sep 17, 2009 9:26 am

Excellent post. Some forums seem to get so many comments about 7 yards being all anyone wants to practice, and precise shots being too hard. We should all try to improve, no matter where you are experience or skill level wise.

If some are happy with a very basic level of function with their pistols, and don't want to excell or progress past that point, fine, but they are handicapping themselves.

One comment I saw recently was regarding an incident in NO after Katrina. Someone had seen several thugs breaking into a womans house with ill intent(rape-murder). The bad guys were armed with shotguns, the observers had pistols. They stood by and did nothing, afraid because they merely had pistols. Whoever wrote of it seemed to accept that as a valid perspective. That was nauseating to me. In my book a decent pistol far outranges a shotgun for reach and usefulness. Hits @ 200 and 300 yards with a pistol is by no means impossible, (some can shoot farther pretty well) 100 isn't tough. The Bullseye shooters shoot 50 yards, one handed. It's all about applying the basics, only to a finer degree. A well rounded shooter should be literate in a wide variety of shooting skills. Running small game, airborn targets, longer range, all are within the reach of anyone serious about mastering them. Deciding that you can do something is the first step. Focussing on the basics, and working to constantly learn and improve is what makes it happen.


Ed McGivern, Elmer Keith, Bill Jordan, are good reading. I forgot the name of the guy, but he also wrote a book about his experience exhibition shooting, and felt it wasnt out of reach of anyone with the desire and will, to learn most of what he did.

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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Oneswunk » Thu Sep 17, 2009 11:32 am

Great post Trebor. Will shoot this sunday,do you mind if I print this and post it at my range?
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Trebor » Thu Sep 17, 2009 3:39 pm

1.S.1.K wrote:Great post Trebor. Will shoot this sunday,do you mind if I print this and post it at my range?
Sure.

Please add:

Copyright 2009 - Robert Reed

Trebor1415@hotmail.com

EDIT; Never mind, I added it to the first post.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Oneswunk » Thu Sep 17, 2009 4:03 pm

Sounds good. It will be nice to share a drill that can actually be shot at my over ruled range.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by RickOShea » Sat Sep 19, 2009 3:45 pm

"Five shots, five yards, one ragged hole", noooo problem I thought....... Image . Well f*** me sideways! That was harder than I thought :( ...... 230gr. Gold Dots out of the pistol I carry 90% of the time and practice with the most..... So I have no excuses but to practice BETTER. Great thread, by the way.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Jeriah » Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:02 am

Trebor wrote:Bump for Jeriah.
Thanks!

Hey, I had an idea that I thought I'd bounce off of you, but mostly just to remind myself to try it and see how it works. I can't keep a pistol at home due to Chicago's gun laws, but Steph has a cheap, cheesy old BB pistol, a low-power spring job that isn't much use for anything. But, I'm thinking that maybe it could be a good alternative for dry-fire practice, since I can at least work on my grip, sight picture, and proper trigger squeeze.

There are a lot of things that won't be the same, obviously; it's a 1:1 1911 replica (sorta) so the grip isn't exactly the same as my Sig, and the trigger is totally different. Nevertheless, I think I can use to to work on some of the fundamentals, and then next time I hit the range, I'll do some dry fire practice at the range, see how it compares.

Thoughts on this? I don't think it'll be so different as to enforce bad habits, and might help build good ones if I do it right...am I wrong?
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by siglite » Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:08 am

Most of my practice with my defensive pistols consists of drills. Lots of drills. Speed reloads. Shooting while moving. Emergency reloads. Getting off the line left. Getting off the line right. Engaging multiple targets while moving, firing from retention etc... etc... You've seen it all.

However, I start and end EVERY range session with one magazine, shooting as tight a group as I possibly can. Slowfire. Working on perfect sight alignment and picture with every shot. Working on making sure my grip is perfect. Working on a smooth trigger press. I find this does two things. First, it forces me to get back to those fundamentals. Secondly, it tends to humble me. I see my groups, and I know what competition smallbore and other precision pistol shooters do week to week. And my groups are nowhere close to that. It shows me just how bad of a shot I really am.

IMO, humility regarding ones own skills is one of the most important aspects of shooting that we can develop.

No matter how good you are, you can get better. And you generally don't have to look far to find proof of that concept.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by Tperkins » Tue Oct 27, 2009 5:57 pm

Bump for goodness. I was at the range the other day with my dad and a sheriff friend of his, I was practicing with his Glock 19 w/ lasergrips and his G23. Its amazing how changing weapons and the fact I havent been at the range in the while can make one's grouping and accuracy. Out of 100 rounds (50 each), I only got about 15 center mass hits, with the rest being way low and left. About the time we finished I had finally got to where I was realizing what I was doing wrong and started to correct it, mainly gripping with my non-shooting hand too much, stiffening my shooting arm to much, and looking up after each shot to see where it went, obviously killing my sight picture. Also, as cool as the lasergrips were on the G19, I think I would much rather have a front rail laser, if at all.

What suprised me about this range trip was the last time I was out at the range (probably 2 months ago) I was using a rented Kimber 1911 fullsize, and was getting 2 inch groups at 30 feet easy, where I could barely hold a 5 inch group with the Glocks at about 35-40 feet. I ended up with about, out of 30 rounds at 30ft with the Kimber, all but maybe 4 hit main center mass, with about half of those hitting dead center chest. The 4 others hit (1) groin, (2) side, and (1) miss between arm and body (silhouette target) It just suprised me I did so horribly at the range compared to the last time, but I will be sure to think over this all, memorize it, try it with the .177 air pistol I have (Unless we get the police turn in Glock 19 at cabelas I've been looking at, since no pistol ownership to anyone under 18 it's a shared deal.) and work on this next time at the range which probably wont be for a couple months again. I think thats the biggest problem, because whatever I practice at the range, I'll be rusty on in the few months it takes me to get back to the range. The range here has a $20 range fee for an hour, so it's $40 for my dad and I to get out to the range for an hour before we've even shot anything. $16 for a box of 50 9mm would be fine to do every other weekend or something, but when you add range fees its damn expensive.
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Re: The Pistol Challenge - Demand more from yourself!

Post by GUNMAN556 » Tue Oct 27, 2009 7:45 pm

bump for an excellent post! I try to do this everytime I practice (which is almost daily unless its raining or snowing) Im training to start shooting comps.

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