Shooting mistakes are perhaps the single largest cause of frustration amongst shooters. When you don't know what's wrong with your shooting style, seeing your shots miss the target can be enough to cause any shooter to lose confidence in themselves and to lose their passion for shooting. We'll take a look at some of the most common mistakes that plague shooters and offer some advice on how to fix them.
Check out the four mistakes we see shooters make most often.
1. Grip and Thumb Placement
When looking to improve your shooting performance, it's helpful to think of your shot in terms of building blocks—with each element building toward better, more accurate shot placement. With this in mind, your grip and thumb placement should be the most fundamental element of your shot. How you hold the gun sets the stages for everything else that follows, including your trigger control and your aim. When you've got a solid grip, you'll manage recoil more easily and, consequently, your shot groups will be tighter, your aim will reset faster and you'll be able to fire your follow up shots faster. Most grip-related shooting struggles come from either a lack of hand strength or improper form.
How to Fix It:
There are seemingly endless ways that shooters can mess up their grip so, if you believe the problem with your shot stems from an improper grip, the best thing you can do is make sure that you are following each element of proper grip form. What is proper grip form? Armscor pro, Eric Grauffel, explains in this video:
2. Trigger Control and Flinching
Trigger control is a notoriously tricky component of shooting accuracy. There are so many moving parts when it comes to proper trigger control, and ensuring that you are aware of each one as you are taking aim can be a challenge for inexperienced and experienced shooters alike. There are three main problems that people encounter when it comes to trigger control and flinching. Those are Pushing/Snatching, Jerking/Heeling and Finger Placement.
When you pull the trigger, it's important to only apply the force necessary to pull the trigger directly back. Shooters who are pushing/snatching their shots are either pushing their shots to the left by applying too much leftward force to the trigger or snatching their shots to the right by applying too much rightward force to the trigger.
In addition to pushing and snatching, shooters can also flinch or heel their shots. Flinching is the act of anticipating the shot and suddenly jerking the gun just prior to firing, which can push your shots off target. Heeling is the act of applying too much pressure to the grip of the gun just prior to firing, which pushes your shots up.
Perhaps the easiest element of trigger control to correct, your finger placement can have a significant impact on where your shots end up. If you're pulling the trigger too much with the tip of your finger, you will almost certainly push your shots to the left. If you pull the trigger with the inside of your first knuckle, you're likely going to pull your shots to the right.
How to Fix It:
Each of these issues can be corrected by a few simple corrections and a bit of practice. First, ensure that you are pulling the trigger with the pad of your finger. After making this correction, focus on slowly and smoothly pulling the trigger directly backwards. Once you've done that, you can practice the penny drill or the ball and dummy drill. Simply put, the penny drill is a dry fire drill where you balance a penny on the front site of your pistol, take aim and pull the trigger without the penny falling off the site. This will help to train you not to flinch as you pull the trigger. Now, check out this demonstration of the ball and dummy drill from USCCA:
3. Aim and Sight Alignment
Another common firing faux pas can be found in a shooter's aim and sight alignment. In these instances, shooters generally either have a misunderstanding as to what a proper sight picture looks like or simply fail to acquire the proper sight picture before pulling the trigger. This behavior can result in shots that are all over the target.
How to Fix It:
When you're taking aim, it's critical that you have front sight focus. This means that your vision is focused on the front sight of your firearm and not on the target or the rear sight. Once you're focused on the front sight, you shift your attention to aligning the front sight, rear sight and the target. To do this, you center the front sight in the notch of the rear sight—ensuring that the tops of the sights are level with one another. Then, you align the dots on your sight with the horizontal center of the target and the top of your sights with the vertical center of the target.
4. Stance and Balance
Some shooters simply stand in whatever way feels comfortable to them, but this will undoubtedly lead to accuracy issues down the line. Most commonly, shooters with stance issues find themselves off balance—leaning too far forward or backward—when firing. This can impact how solid their stance feels and how accurate their shots are. Knowing this, it's important to understand the theory behind common shooting stances and to pick one that meets your goals.
How to Fix It:
Once you've made your selection, it's important to pay close attention to the proper form of that stance and to practice in it regularly. As you continue to practice in a set shooting stance, your shot will become more stable, and you will gain more confidence in your shooting abilities because you will have corrected the drift.
Shooting mistakes can be frustrating. They move your shots off target, lower your confidence in your shooting ability, and make your time at the range less enjoyable. Once you start paying attention to proper form and technique in your shooting style, the pieces will fall into place, and you'll start to see a noticeable improvement in your shot placement.