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A handgun is one of the most challenging firearms to shoot with speed and accuracy. The shorter barrel and sight radius make it more challenging to hit your target. Plus, supporting a handgun is more difficult than supporting a rifle or shotgun, so every action with a handgun must be precise, from your stance to your trigger pull. There is very little margin for error. While speed-loaders, high-quality holsters, and other gear can certainly improve performance, they won’t do much good if you don’t master certain fundamentals.
We’ve detailed six steps you can take to improve your proficiency with a handgun. Of course, safety is paramount. Shooting in a controlled environment, understanding your individual firearm, general firearm safety, and following proper protocols should go without saying. With those things established, follow these steps to improve your speed and accuracy while target shooting with a handgun.
1. Stabilize Your Stance
Your accuracy is directly related to your stability from feet to hands. The two most common beginner stances are the “isosceles” and “weaver.” For the isosceles, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, in line with one another. With your knees slightly bent, hinge forward at the hips and avoid arching or rounding your back. This will push your butt out while keeping your center of gravity balanced over your feet.CMP BianchiCup2018 X-Ring TeamUSA Isoceles
The weaver stance is essentially the same, but you place your feet at a 45-degree angle. Right-handed shooters will step their right foot back, while left-handed shooters should step back with their left foot. The slight bend in the knees, the neutral spine position, and the hinge at the hips will stay the same. Practice with both stances to see which feels more natural.
2. Manage the Recoil
Recoil is an example of Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Shooting a smaller handgun will cause the shooter to feel more recoil than a rifle of a similar caliber. Your stance will help absorb impact from the recoil, but it has to travel down your arms first.
To manage the recoil, extend your arms, but be sure not to lock them. This will give you the flexibility and opportunity to absorb the kick without losing your balance. Managing the recoil will not only help you shoot more accurately, but it will also allow you to shoot faster. If you limit how much the recoil affects your stance and the position of the gun barrel, you’ll be able to reset more easily and quickly for the next shot.
3. Perfect Your Grip
Your grip is perhaps the number-one aspect you must work on to be an accurate shooter, and it can be surprisingly hard to get right. First, make sure your gun fits your hands. People with smaller hands will want a single-stack magazine, and they should opt for a sub-compact model. If you can’t wrap your hands around the frame of the gun and connect your thumbs, you’ll have a loose grip and a lot of kick.
Right-handed shooters will pick up the gun with their right hand, pointer finger up alongside barrel (off the trigger!). Your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky wrap around the grip. Keep your right thumb up for now. Your left hand is the support hand. Securely place the heel of your left hand along the bare part of the grip, connecting your thumbs and wrapping the other fingers of your left hand around your right fingers.
Really push in—you want to make this is as vise-like as possible to absorb and control the recoil. This is a very active grip, pressing in from all sides. Your support hand is bracing back, and your shooting hand can feel like it’s pushing forward. At the same time, your hands are pushing from either side to keep the gun steady left to right.
4. Practice Lining up Your Sights Quickly
Getting your sights lined up quickly is the next step in improving speed and accuracy. Many handguns have open sights—a square rear notch and a single blade in the front. You’ll want to focus on the single blade in the front, keeping it in line and centered between the notch in the back. Line up your sight with the center of your target, staying focused on the front sight and not the target itself.
This can be practiced anywhere with an unloaded gun and should be done in conjunction with practicing your correct stance and grip.
5. Control Trigger Pull
Each trigger action will feel different—this is a matter of practice and control. Relax, don’t anticipate the noise and recoil, and make sure to gently squeeze the trigger as opposed to a jerky pull. Think about your hand coming together to fluidly bring the trigger in, as opposed to just your trigger finger pulling backward. Once you practice the slow squeeze, speeding up will come naturally.
6. Work on Follow-Through to Improve Speed
After your grip, stance, sight alignment, and trigger pull feel ready, make sure your follow-through is also solid. This means resetting yourself with all of the above after each shot and getting your sights lined up so you can shoot again with the same accuracy. If you get used to resetting your sight picture after each shot, you will eventually be able to track the sights as the shots are being fired to more quickly align them with the target.
Sure, it’s going to take some time. Like any other activity that requires skill, you have to put in the hours to see substantial gains. But, if you follow these six tips, your muscle memory will improve, and everything will begin to come naturally. Eventually, when you go to the range, that feeling of frustration will be replaced with a real sense of pride.
Written by Matcha for Go Gear Direct.