Bad practice session -- what do I do?
My wife and I just started shooting this summer. We're still at the point in our development where we're just trying to hit the target consistently. We went to the range today and it just wasn't working for either of us. Neither of us were putting our shots where we thought we were aiming them. We came away feeling like we had wasted our ammo, money, and time. All are in short supply.
I know that everyone will have bad days sometimes, but what's the best way to deal with them? Keep putting rounds down range on a bad day or save your ammo and try again another day? Your input is very welcome.
Beretta Px4 Storm Compact 9mm
there are MANY reasons people have a bad day at the range.... lack of focus, physically or mentally tired, pain, weather blah blah blah.... and none of them is permanent.
this is why we practice.... because we will not always have a good day in life much less the range.
what i do when i have the days that i cant hit a thing is i start from a much closer position and go back thru the basics.... stance, grip, breathing, trigger squeeze. when it starts working good, i increase the distances again incrementally till i am at the range i usually practice at.
if it doesnt come together, i dig out the .22 and a couple of boxes of ammo and blow holes in paper plates.... it can be about just having some fun too.
it will get better another day.
If you quit because it's a bad day, how will you ever have better days?
Originally Posted by ForeverMan
What type of pistol or pistols were you shooting and what caliber? Pistol markmanship is the most challenging of all firearms to master in my opinion. You have a little explosion going off in your hands which can create all types of problems: flinching, pushing, pulling, too little trigger finger, too much trigger finger, pulling high, low, and everywhere else etc... A really big mistake is anticipating recoil which creates flinching and thus pulls your shots off. You really need to try to isolate your trigger finger and maintain an easy straight back pull all the while keeping your sights on target with follow through and don't anticipate the recoil, but easier said than done. Try to settle down and at least try to get a consistent group going whether it be low right, low left, high right, etc... than if you read the link above it should give you a good idea what to work on. Last, but certainly not least is to buy some snap caps and dry fire your pistol with the advice from the link and above. Dry firing practice is invaluable and likewise will save you money on ammunition when things arn't getting any better. Keep practicing.
Last edited by denner; 08-26-2012 at 11:29 PM.
Short answer, from a shooting instructor -- "practicing" bad habits is never a good thing.
If you aren't hitting well, there is a reason for it. Find the reason, address the problem, solve it, and ingrain GOOD habits that will prevent days like this in the future.
Long version: Statistically, most folks don't miss the target because of stance, grip, breath control, shaking, or even sight alignment problems. They miss because of one thing -- poor trigger control. Slapping/jerking the trigger causes a host of problems, most obviously that the excess pressure on the trigger causes the gun to move a tiny bit at the last possible moment, disturbing the sight alignment. You don't usually notice this last-second movement, as the gun bounces in recoil a split-second later, obscuring the problem. If you've ever seen the front sight dip downward just before firing, or if you've ever pulled the trigger on an (unexpectedly) empty gun, and the front sight dipped or moved off to one side -- those are signs of trigger control problems.
Trigger control problem diagnosis and correction: When shooting, if you KNOW the exact moment the gun is going to fire, you aren't squeezing the trigger, you're pulling/jerking/slapping it. When shooting, don't think "Ready, set, Fire!", think "Squeeeeeeze until it fires, watching the sights all the way through the squeeze." Add a little more pressure, a little more, a little more, until "Bang!", the gun fires and surprises you. Yes, I know the sights are moving around on the target as you squeeze; it happens to all of us. Hold them as close to center as possible, and squeeze gently until the weapon fires. If you do that, you will have good hits on target. If you rush the trigger squeeze, jerking or slapping the trigger as the sights swing across center, you WILL miss. THIS IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF SHOOTING A HANDGUN. Especially once you have ingrained bad trigger habits, it is VERY difficult to get back to squeezing properly.
Sometimes, I train folks who are missing the target a lot and can't make the connection between the importance of trigger control and good shooting. To get the point through to them, I have them just hold the handgun on-target, keeping the sights as close to center as possible. Then, as they hold the gun, I squeeze the trigger for them, and when the shot is fired, the hole appears near the center of the target (Warning! Two people running the same gun is tricky, and done improperly, can be dangerous -- do not attempt!). The point of this drill is, they are doing everything (stance, grip, sight alignment, breath control) EXCEPT pressing the trigger, and when I do it correctly for them, they get good hits. This demonstrates exactly where the problem lies, and once I give them the tools and direction to fix it, and they usually improve quickly.
Once you are getting good centered hits, you can gradually speed-up the process, BUT IT DOES NOT CHANGE! The speed at which you execute the trigger press/squeeze does not change the character of the motion; gentle, controlled squeeze/press, straight to the rear, so you don't mess-up the sight alignment. Famous instructor Jeff Cooper called it the "compressed surprise break"; you compress (reduce) the time it takes to squeeze/press the trigger, but it still surprises you when the gun finally fires. This surprise also takes care of anticipating the recoil; if you know the gun is about to fire (because you're pulling/jerking), you will involuntarily push into the gun, trying to "beat" the recoil, and usually push the gun off-target. If you are not exactly sure when it will fire, you CAN'T push the gun off-target prior to the shot. You may well jump in surprise AFTER the gun fires, but that's okay; by the time you jump in REACTION to the noise/recoil, the bullet is already in the target. You'll quickly get used to the surprise release, and then you can work on shooting more quickly, but still with good control and solid center hits.
"Placement is power" -- seen in an article by Stephen A. Camp
(RIP, Mr. Camp; you will be remembered, and missed)
All good advice, above, in my opinion.
We all get sloppy, from time to time, and the less experience you have, the worse and more frequent these episodes seem to be. You just have to get back to basic fundamentals, and don't move on to more difficult things (like speed) until you are satisfied with each element of the fundamentals. I had about a 3 session slump, once, when I started trying to master subcompact type pistols. Rather than accept the poor performance as the best you can do, you have to backtrack to the place where you are doing something right, and build back up from there.
I'm not a professional instructor, but I do occasionally introduce an inexperienced shooter to the basics, before turning them over to a pro to teach them the harder (and more fun) stuff. This is all about marksmanship, which requires patience and consistency, rather than lots of repetition. Repetition is worthless, until your mechanics are correct - firing 200 rounds with bad habits simply reinforces the bad habits.
I like to start a new handgunner out with a full sized .22 pistol, in my case, a CZ-75B with the Kadet .22 conversion. I concentrate on getting them to use a combat grip that locks the pistol in your hands like a vise, while leaving the trigger finger pretty much independent of the actual grip. Beyond that, follow through is the most important thing. This is what separates the real shooters from the 'spray and pray' types, and has to do with the trigger control DJ Niner stresses. I tell new shooters to pretend they are shooting a wire guided missile, and that they have to direct the bullet to the target after it leaves the barrel. This is where you learn the concentration that will keep you from flinching and yanking the shot off target.
This is not hard with a .22, and when the new shooter is consistently hitting the bulls eye at increasingly longer ranges, I convert the CZ-75 Kadet to the 9mm configuration. With practice rounds, this introduces a little bit of recoil, but not enough to prevent a smooth transition. The same thing can be accomplished without the .22 step, if you discipline yourself not to move on till you more or less master each step. Also, load only 3 or 5 rounds in the magazine, and take your time with each shot. Strive for smoothness, not speed, and don't worry about following shots until you are consistently hitting on the first one.
Last of all, aim small, miss small. This may seem old fashioned, but it works. I start all my range sessions with slow-fire marksmanship drills, and if they don't go well, I don't move on to speed until they are going well. Often, I never even get to the speed drills, if I am especially rusty, but I figure there is no point in continuing poor performance into the next level, because that will only yield another poor performance.
Two things that I always stress to new shooters is noise and sight alignment.
I believe that noise anticipation is worse than recoil anticipation. For that reason, I want to protect my ears before I even hear someone shoot. A nice muffled thump is a pleasant part of the shooting experience.
One often hears about focusing on the front sight. The reason is that a lens (eye or camera) can only focus on one thing at a time. So the front sight, being the middle of the sight picture, becomes the only logical focus point.
Also, as Bisley pointed out, aim small and miss small. I don't target shoot at silhouettes. I shoot at the postage stamp sized sticky note that I put in the middle of the silhouette.
Put a bad day behind you and out of your mind, refocus on your fundamentals, basics and get ready for the next trip.......JJ
His wife and he will be crackshot's in no time!
Originally Posted by DJ Niner
Most all of what has been posted in response to the OP's opening post have been good comments and should be taken as such by the OP. I have been part of the gun culture for over 44 years and if nothing else, I can tell you that I never stop learning new things. Some are so-so, some are to be avoided, some are variations on a theme, and some are valuable lessons. And one of the things I have found is what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. However, there are certain fundamental basics which have been proven to work across the board. In no particular order, they are;
Hold (sometimes called grip).
Sight picture (includes target acquisition and sight alignment).
This does not even take into account the gun one is using (how it feels and rests in the hand), using one or both eyes (you should use both eyes), breathing, or a number of other factors.
Trigger control. This one's been handled quite well already, so I will only add that your best friend is to do a substantial amount of what I like to refer to as trigger discipline with an empty gun in the comfort of your home. This is more than just dry firing. I encompasses the entire spectrum, less the firing of live ammunition, of trigger control. Your goal is to get to a point where you can consistently and deliberately pull that trigger the same way every time. Now this "same way" needs to be the right way and even though you are not firing live rounds when doing this, you'd be amazed at how helpful it is.
Hold. The proper hold on a handgun (talking semi-auto's here) is paramount. Ignore most all TV and movie depictions as they are almost never correct. LEARN THE PROPER HOLD ON YOUR GUN. This is incredibly important. It literally affects everything else when firing your pistol. Maintain a firm grip but don't squeeze the gun. You will know that your grip is firm enough when you rapid fire the gun and the muzzle just rises a little then comes right back to its original point. If you fire the gun and your support hand separates a little during recoil, your grip is not firm enough.
Stance. There has been a change from the Weaver stance to the isosceles stance. The Weaver stance still has a place, but you will find instructors teach the isosceles stance as the one to use. Lean into your target a little (actually more than just a little), with your weak foot forward a little bit. Make sure your arms are straight and locked with the gun at the "point" of the triangle made by your arms and body. What you are trying to obtain is a deliberate, aggressive "punch out" of that gun to the target in preparation of firing the weapon.
Sight picture. I mentioned target acquisition and sight alignment with this topic for good reason. Identifying and acquiring your target is the first move you make. Aligning your sights then completes your sight picture and once you have done this, you are ready to fire. Practice this at home with an unloaded gun as part of your trigger discipline practice until you are blue in the face (manner of speaking). Know what those sights are suppose to look like when you present them to a target. It goes without saying that you keep the front sight in focus and keep both of your eyes open.
Your goal in all of this is to be able to shoot a 5-shot group into the same ragged hole at 21 feet. Start at 9 feet and when you can do this, move out to 12 feet. Then to 15 feet. You might have a flyer or two but don't worry about that. Practice until you can pretty much enlarge the hole started with your first round in your group. It is doable.
I go to the range every two weeks with a neighbor friend. We don't use conventional targets at all. We use index card (3x5 and 4x6) stapled vertical and horizontal, 9" paper plates, 8 1/2 x 11 printer paper with different shapes drawn on it, the Dot Torture Test, and just about anything else we can come up with. We even do tic-tac-toe drills. We practice our draw, use targets holders that are timed to turn and present then turn 90 degrees away from us, and a host of other drills. Last week, was a good day for me. Some days are not as good for whatever reason.
Stay with it, watch some videos from accomplished instructors ("Magpul Art of Dynamic Handgun" is a very good one), and continue to practice. You'll get there. You may not reach the realm of expert exhibition shooter, but that's probably not your goal. But the feeling you'll get knowing you can draw and fire your handgun and hit your target is worth the time, effort, and cost of your time on the range.
you have trigger finger control issues
only one knuckle is to be moving
bet you have all fingers moving and pulling the shot off
ie milking the grip
one handgun class should fix that or practice practice practice
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