Many new shooters, and to be truthful many experienced shooters, get discouraged at the shooting range by targets that look like they were hit by a shotgun blast. The problem is, they don’t know what to do about it.
The best way to correct accuracy issues is to get help from a professional trainer. If you don’t know or can’t afford one, there are a few things you can do to improve your shot grouping.
Make sure the gun fits you
A gun that doesn’t fit your hand well is much more difficult to shoot well, particularly one that is too big. Not only the size of the grip is important, but the weight of the gun and the amount of recoil (kick) as well. A big, heavy gun that noticeably rises with ever shot can be very difficult to control. If this is a problem for you, consider downsizing. Shooting accurate groups is far more impressive than shooting a big, loud, magnum caliber.
Conversely, a very small gun is inherently less accurate because of the shorter barrel. This gives less time for the bullet to develop a stable flight path as well as making for a shorter sight radius. A medium sized gun in a small caliber (.22, .38 or 9mm) is often the best choice for a newer shooter.
Take your time
The vast majority of shooters have accuracy problems while shooting quickly. Take your time and be sure to aim carefully with each shot.
I see a lot of shooters who hold a pistol incorrectly. A proper, consistent grip can go a long way towards improving accuracy. Your hand should be high on the grip in order to line the gun up as closely as possible with the bones in your arm as well as providing maximum grip surface area for your second hand. For a semi-automatic, the top of your hand should press against the beavertail (a small projection at the top of the grip below the hammer) if your gun has one. Be careful on a semi-automatic to not hold too high or your hand will be cut by the slide (slide-bite).
Take a firm grip with your shooting hand and then add your non-shooting hand getting as much contact between your hands and the grip as possible. You want your non-shooting hand to have considerable contact with the grip as opposed to simply closing around your shooting hand.
Grip pressure is important as well. You want firm pressure, but not so much that you get muscle tremors. You also want a little less grip strength with the fingers of your shooting hand so there is not too much tension interfering with a smooth trigger squeeze. A good rule is to apply 40% of the grip pressure with your shooting hand and 60% with your non-shooting hand.
Proper trigger control is one of the most common problems shooters face. The trigger should be smoothly “rolled” to the rear in a continuous motion while disturbing the sight alignment and sight picture as little as possible. For the proper motion, it is helpful to think of a medicine dropper. If you squeeze a medicine dropper hard and fast, it sprays all over the place. However, if you squeeze it slowly and smoothly a perfectly formed drop will fall.
Be careful to not anticipate the shot. You should not know the exact moment the shot will break. Again, a medicine dropper is a good example. The drop slowly gets bigger and bigger until it falls, but you do not know exactly when it will do so. Anticipating the shot (mentally telling yourself to FIRE!) leads to flinching which will ruin your aim.
I also see a lot of people “slapping” the trigger. After each shot their finger flies off the trigger and outside the trigger guard, returning with force to take a swing at the trigger. This leads to a jerky shot.
Don’t forget your follow through! After the gun fires, continue depressing the trigger those last few millimeters until it stops. Like in many other sports, correct follow through will help you be successful because it minimizes unnecessary movements.
Sight alignment and sight picture
This can be a difficult concept for some people.
Proper sight alignment means the top of the front sight is aligned with the top of the rear sight. It should also be centered in the rear sight with an equal amount of light visible on both sides.
Sight picture is aligning the sights with the target. Some people shoot better with the sights splitting the target like a pie, others shoot better with the target sitting on top of the sight alignment like a pumpkin on a fence. Use whichever works best for you.
The front sight is the most important part of the sight picture. The front sight should be in crisp focus with the rear sight and target slightly blurry. Think of it as looking through the rear sight at the front sight.
Like a building, it is important to have a good foundation for your shooting position. You feet should be about shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent. You should lean forward slightly and resist the urge to lean backwards to counterbalance your gun. You want to be stable and balanced. Some people find it more stable to have one foot ahead of the other and their body turned at an angle to the target, similar to a boxing stance. Whichever works best for you is fine as long as you are stable and balanced.
Proper breathing is essential for good accuracy. At an extreme, gasping for breath creates a lot of muscle movement which will disturb your sight alignment and sight picture. You should take slow, controlled breaths. Breath in, let it out slightly, and then hold your breath while squeezing the trigger as you try to minimize the arc of movement of the sights over the target (the movement of the gun). If your trigger squeeze is taking too long and you need to breath simply stop squeezing the trigger, take a few seconds to breath, and then start the process over again.
These are just a few general tips to help improve your accuracy. There is far more to it than just these and as I said earlier, the best solution for poor accuracy is to get help from an experienced trainer.