In my previous post on how to shoot a rifle , I explain at a very high level the factors which affect accurate marksmanship. The most abstract of those factors carry over to the employment of the handgun, but we do not expect the same sort of performance.
With the handgun, we achieve less stability under realistic scenarios, and this results in poorer accuracy. Gone are considerations of cheek weld and the stability provided by multiple points of contact. Our inconsistencies are multiplied, our sight radius is shortened, and our generally heavier bullets move at a generally slower velocity. This makes our job more difficult. In return, however, we gain convenience in carry and deployment, and generally engage targets at a shorter distance.
Because of the nature of the reddit medium, I will not cover here considerations of draw, magazine changes, split times, or other important factors beyond general, fundamental accuracy. I am certain that tips and tricks may be found below in the comments and may cover such things in a later post.
Consideration 1: Trigger control
Trigger control is our primary consideration because it offers the greatest benefit per unit of understanding and practice. Grip and stance will necessarily differ based on the conditions under which we draw. We may be unable to get both hands to the pistol. We may be unable to present the pistol at arm’s length or to acquire our sights. We must be good with the trigger. It applies in all cases.
To begin with, we will actuate (or roll or press but never pull) the trigger with the pad of our index finger, as far toward the fingertip as is practical. With time and practice, you may discover that you drive your trigger finger further through the trigger guard, toward the crease of the knuckle. Some trainers advocate beginning this way. I find that the better leverage, sensitivity and mechanical advantage provided by the fingertip makes learning faster.
Take your pistol in hand now, keeping the muzzle in a safe direction. Drop the magazine and rack the slide to eject the chambered round. Check clear with your pinkie . Drop the slide again. Keep the muzzle in a safe direction. Squeeze the trigger slowly and gradually, noting the point at which the firing pin or striker drops (where the shot would break). Holding the trigger back, rack the slide again. Gradually release the pressure on the trigger until you feel the disconnector reset, and squeeze the trigger again. Repeat this task, exaggerating the slowness with which you manipulate the trigger, and keeping the muzzle in a safe direction. That’s the trigger control you want to see on the range. Bouncing back up off the trigger or jerking it back quickly will push and pull the pistol this way and that and severely limit your ability to get good hits.
(Performing this exercise in live fire is faster and more convenient, as the recoil will serve to reset the trigger for you, among other things.)
Consideration 2: Stance
Canonical 2-handed stances are not universal in the real world. They do, however, serve to isolate the other considerations of marksmanship and therefore make for the most valuable practice. Therefore, most of your dry and live-fire practice time should employ a canonical stance.
In the past when I’ve spoken of canonical handgun stances, I’ve recommended trying Chapman and Weaver as well as Modern Isosceles. I no longer believe that Chapman and Weaver have any practical advantages for shooters outside of Hollywood. You will practice Modern Isosceles, and it will serve you well.
In the Modern Isosceles stance, our torso is square to the target, our arms both project straight out as the long sides of an isosceles triangle, and we keep one foot forward of the other, feet shoulder-width apart. Our shoulders roll forward and up to bring the front sight into alignment with our dominant eye. This is a close analog to a karate fighter or boxer’s normal stance, although we will stand flat-footed.
Consideration 3: Grip
“Hold with 60% of the strength in your right hand, and 40% of the strength in your left hand.” “SQUEEZE THE HELL OUT OF IT IN A CRUSH GRIP JUST LIKE YOU WOULD WITH ADRENALINE” “Put your index finger on the front of the trigger guard!”
These are all silly. I find that the 60/40 thing ends up happening, but it’s not a conscious decision on my part. I have not noticed the crush grip under the stress of competition, but perhaps the stress of mortal peril is different.
Place the web of the hand, between the thumb and index finger, high into the curve of the backstrap. Modern pistols have a nice little curvy place for it to live. The fingers of the strong hand curl around the pistol grip, and the index finger rests (indexes) forward along the frame or slide until we are ready to shoot. The middle finger of the weak hand curls around the fingers of the strong hand just at the base of the trigger guard, and the index finger of the weak hand curls around the bottom of the trigger guard.
The thumbs of both hands point forward. During dry fire practice and slow live fire practice, you might point them away from the pistol in exaggerated fashion in order to keep them clear of the slide release and safety. The thumbs do not contribute to retention or accuracy in any case.
I apologize for the lack of photographs in this post and hope to update it next week. If you believe that I have erred on any point, you may well be correct, and I would appreciate hearing it in the comments.