Are you on target?

So you have just recently purchased your first firearm and on your recent visit to the range you are finding that your shots are a little off target. Even the most experienced shooters, from time to time, have to analyze and assess their performance and correct any issues they may have. So let’s go through the steps to getting on target. First item of consideration is Sight Alignment (see figure 1).

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Figure 1

Please note the proper sight alignment. The front sight and rear sights are “equally” aligned. The front sight is not elevated, depressed (lowered) right or left - it is perfectly aligned on both vertical and horizontal planes. This is where you want your sight to be. After sight alignment, the next item of importance is your Focus (see figure 2).

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Figure 2

This is one of the steps that tends to cause the most problems for new firearms owners. When many new firearm enthusiasts are told to focus on their front sight and that their rear sights and target should be blurred, this seems unusual to say the least. How can they hit a target that is blurry? A target that they cannot see? Now, it may on the outset seem counter-intuitive but after the front sights have been properly aligned - as per figure one - focusing on the front sight and where it is pointed partially determines bullet placement. So if sight alignment is good and front sight focus is good, the new shooter is well on their way to better target placement. So, after correct sight alignment and correct focus, the next most important item for accurate target placement is the Trigger Control (see figure 3)

Figure 3

The trick here is to center the first pad of your index finger on the trigger. Not left of center and not right of center. Place the trigger directly in the center of the first pad of your index finger and after your finger is placed centered on the trigger, pull the trigger straight back slowly (at first). Once this step has been perfected, the next step is to understand how breath control (figure 4) affects accuracy.

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Figure 4

Now you do not want to hold your breath like you are diving underwater since this will cause your body to involuntarily shake imperceptibly thus sending your bullet off target. You want to take advantage of your body’s natural respiratory pause. Where is the “Natural respiratory pause?” Well, it is at the end of your typical exhalation breath. It is not a forced action. So at that pause before you begin inhaling is where you want to pull the trigger. Again do not hold your breath naturally as this can cause inaccurate shot placement. Once this step has been mastered, the next important step is the Follow Through (Figure 5).

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Figure 5

As demonstrated in figure 5,  after smoothly and deliberately squeezing the trigger, keep the trigger depressed after your shot and while maintaining a proper sight alignment and sight picture, slowly release the trigger pressure allowing it to reset with a “Click” and squeeze the trigger in a slow and deliberate manner for additional shots  and follow the previous steps. 

Practice each of these steps slowly and deliberately. Think of this slow and deliberate practice as the tai chi or more accurately the kata or shooting. By the way, these steps also work for long guns since the principles are the same. If you practice these steps slowly and deliberately - while practicing gun safety and not rushing - you will find your accuracy will increase in a little while. Below is a diagram that can help to diagnose any shooting inconsistencies faster.

Figure 6