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  1. #1
    vulrath is offline Junior Member
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    What's the best way to improve my groups?

    Here I have a photo taken with my cell camera after 36 rounds fired at 5 yards from my 9mm SIG P226 (2 18rd mags; I was out to blow off some steam and try out something different with my feet). While I can definitely tell that this stance is working (I seem to go into an athletic stance on reflex when I shoot, and rather than trying to change this, I did some research and found that there is a stance that uses this, and decided to try it), my shots are still all over the board. I have heard several different things to train myself, such as drawing on the target, or taping a playing card to the center of the target, but I haven't had much luck (except for the playing cards thing; I haven't had the chance to try that yet).

    Any pointers from masters to a novice?


  2. #2
    DJ Niner's Avatar
    DJ Niner is offline HGF Forum Moderator
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    I'm not a "master" at anything, but I am an experienced handgun shooter, instructor, and competitor.

    Handgun shooting is all about consistency. Same grip, same sight alignment, same sight picture (sight alignment overlaid on target -- focus on the front sight), and most importantly, good trigger control. Most folks do a good job with everything but trigger control, because it's the hardest part to master. Pad of your finger on the trigger, or maybe, depending on hand and weapon size, the first knuckle. Squeeze straight to the rear with a gentle increase in pressure, so you don't mess-up the sight alignment. Any extra pressure, or spasmodic jerking/slapping, will be transmitted to the frame of the weapon, causing it to move just as the weapon fires. This movement is masked by the recoil, so many folks don't realize they are jerking the trigger, or moving the weapon off target at the last moment. Have you ever miss-counted your shots, and tried to shoot again when the weapon was empty? Did the front sight dip or nosedive? THAT is the result of poor trigger control. When folks see the sights moving around, there is a natural tendency to jerk or grab at the trigger to try to launch the bullet into the center as the sights move past. RESIST this tendency -- you cannot "jerk" shots consistently into the center, or a small group. TRUST that if you squeeze the trigger gently and hold the sights as near to center as you can, the shots will go in a small group in or near to the center of the target.

    Dry fire (practice shooting with an empty weapon) can help with trigger control. Dry fire the weapon until you train yourself to squeeze so carefully that the sights do not move when the hammer/striker falls. Then take that skill to the range, and do it with live ammo (usually a little more difficult). Take your time, don't rush. Competition and self-defense shooters have a little saying -- "You can't miss quick enough to win." Only hits count, so get used to taking the time to get good hits; once you've ingrained the fundamentals, you can speed up and the shots will stay near the center.

    At 5 yards, a good shot should be able to keep all their hits on a playing card; or, if the sights aren't quite perfectly adjusted, at least cover all five shots in a single group with a playing card. Using a small, bright-colored aiming spot on the target might help you shrink your groups a bit, as it forces you to hold the sights in a smaller zone than just the big gray general center of the silhouette. I use fluorescent green or red 1" stickers for this; they're usually sold in the business supplies area of many stores (they're used as price stickers).

    Good luck and good shooting!
    "Placement is power" -- seen in an article by Stephen A. Camp
    (RIP, Mr. Camp; you will be remembered, and missed)

  3. #3
    Bisley's Avatar
    Bisley is offline Senior Member
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    If I'm not shooting a pistol well, I will sit down and shoot from a rested position. I still use my regular combat grip, but support it on the bench. This eliminates some of the normal shake and lets me concentrate on nothing but sight picture and trigger pull. At five yards, any decent pistol will shoot cloverleafs, from a rested position, and if you keep practicing from the bench, till you can do that, you will improve your trigger control a great deal.

    Another aid to marksmanship practice is to just load 3 0r 5 rounds in a magazine, and fire them very slowly and deliberately, at a very small target. If you practice the 'aim small, miss small' philosophy, it will only help your shooting ability, regardless of what type shooting you do.

    If you are always aiming for the imaginary 'dot' in center of the target, it won't make any difference what size the target is.

  4. #4
    zhurdan's Avatar
    zhurdan is offline Senior Member
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    First best thing you can do to improve groups... S L O W D O W N!!!!

    I find the hardest part for novices to get over is that they want to shoot like Todd Jarrett, yet they don't possess the years of experience and training, nor the conceptual knowledge necessary to get even close. That's not a dig on the OP, just what I've seen in my many years of teaching people how to shoot.

    Try this... Some dry fire practice with a twist.
    1. make sure the gun is unloaded. Then check it again, and again.
    2. Take a piece of empty brass and have someone balance it on the front of the slide of your weapon once you're in a firing stance. (please ensure they don't step in front of the gun)
    3. Squeeze the trigger while maintaining a good sight picture.
    4. You should be able to pull the trigger, have the hammer fall and the brass should stay balance on the slide.

    Once you can transfer this type of trigger control to live fire practice, your groups will improve vastly.

    (Oh, and as for your target, it's not the sights. If it were the sights, the shots might not be centered, but they'd all be near the same place... you're jerking the trigger)

  5. #5
    vulrath is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks for the tips, guys...I'm going to try to incorporate this into my drills, and see what happens.

    I don't care enough to shoot really fast - I did that the day I got the gun because I had to go to work, but wanted to shoot the new toy before my shift), and I was all over the board. Since then, the photo in the first post is pretty much what has distilled from that. I have been trying slow down, but it isn't exactly working too well, though I'm sure I'll figure something out.

    I figured that I was the problem, not the sights. I'll assume that it's me messing up until the day an expert takes my gun, fires off a magazine, and declares that something's wrong.

    I've also heard that "aim small, hit small" thing before, by the same guy that told me to tape playing cards to my targets. I'm going to try that when I go shoot this weekend.

  6. #6
    SargeTN is offline Junior Member
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    I like zhurdan's exercise that he suggested. Very similar to the "dime washer drill" we do in the army with the M16. Been a while since I've done it but I could probably do it actually firing rounds and still keep the dime on the barrel of an M16.

    Another thing that I learned when I was being certified to instruct the Squad Designated Marksman course that I hadn't heard was when you do squeeze the trigger, hold it for a second and THEN let go. This was taught to me by members of the Army Marksmanship Team (that represents the Army in firing competitions) and I took some of their tips to heart and it really helped after some proper practice to implement them.

  7. #7
    vulrath is offline Junior Member
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    I tried the thing with the brass...For the life of me, I could not get the brass to stay put on the end of the gun before I fired (I couldn't find the balance point). I'm going to try it with coins now and see what happens.

    I think I have my problems narrowed down to my grip (but I could always be wrong; I believe I am holding too tight with my dominant hand and not enough with my support hand, thus causing me to "jerk" my trigger). I'm taking a class in the next few weeks that will hopefully drill some proper sense into my head.

  8. #8
    Baldy's Avatar
    Baldy is offline Senior Member
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    Take a look at this page as it may help you.

    Hand-Guns

    DJ nailed it in his post with trigger control #1. That's the big one. Slapping, jerking, or rolling a trigger will never hit the bullseye on demand.

  9. #9
    recoilguy's Avatar
    recoilguy is offline Senior Member
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    I am no master....I am not sure where your point of aim was, but that is a fairly admirable group for a beginner.. When I first started I had a few flyers almost every time and my groups were not super tight at all.

    Practice is important, the dry fire technique for gaining trigger control is very good. The class you are taking should help a lot. always aim at the same spot so you know what is happening. If yyou are just aiming at the vital box instead of one point that will give you very irraticic results.

    Have fun, this is a fun sport. Don't be too hard on yourself keep practicing, it will come together. Shooting is one of my favorite things to do now.

    Good luck!

    RCG

  10. #10
    Frank45's Avatar
    Frank45 is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baldy View Post
    Take a look at this page as it may help you.

    Hand-Guns

    DJ nailed it in his post with trigger control #1. That's the big one. Slapping, jerking, or rolling a trigger will never hit the bullseye on demand.
    Hey Baldy, thats a very good site you posted. Everything is there on one page. I put it in my favorites in my computer. I only had bits and pieces of what you posted. I am a victim
    of occasional trigger jerk myself.

  11. #11
    Baldy's Avatar
    Baldy is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank45 View Post
    Hey Baldy, thats a very good site you posted. Everything is there on one page. I put it in my favorites in my computer. I only had bits and pieces of what you posted. I am a victim
    of occasional trigger jerk myself.
    I been shooting all my life, but once in awhile in competition I'll still rush a shot or two and drop points. I just dream of being able to shoot like a Todd Jarrett. He is a super nice fellow to talk to also.

  12. #12
    DJ Niner's Avatar
    DJ Niner is offline HGF Forum Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank45 View Post
    ...
    I am a victim of occasional trigger jerk myself.
    Quote Originally Posted by Baldy View Post
    I been shooting all my life, but once in awhile in competition I'll still rush a shot or two and drop points.
    ...
    I'm pretty sure we all do it every now and then. The only two things that separate Normal Joes from the world-class shooters are: how often do you throw that wild shot, and how far from the rest of the group is it? Try to keep the flyers rare and not-too-far-out, that's the only things we can do.

    Well, that and work on the mental aspect; "good shooting" starts out between the shooter's ears. Ya gotta BELIEVE you can do it!
    However, it IS easier to keep your head under control when you're not slinging shots all over the county.
    "Placement is power" -- seen in an article by Stephen A. Camp
    (RIP, Mr. Camp; you will be remembered, and missed)

  13. #13
    SargeTN is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by DJ Niner View Post
    I'm pretty sure we all do it every now and then. The only two things that separate Normal Joes from the world-class shooters are: how often do you throw that wild shot, and how far from the rest of the group is it? Try to keep the flyers rare and not-too-far-out, that's the only things we can do.

    Well, that and work on the mental aspect; "good shooting" starts out between the shooter's ears. Ya gotta BELIEVE you can do it!
    However, it IS easier to keep your head under control when you're not slinging shots all over the county.
    DJ Niner you touched on something right there that most people don't realize. It's not always the physical. Just like with any other sport, the mental aspect is a large part of it. As a QB in HS, I initially learned that. Figured out that if I kept my head up and realized it wasn't the end of the world when I missed a pass or two or even got picked. I learned later on that it applied to shooting. When I was in basic training one of my drill sergeants noticed that while I was a great shot (got asked more than once where I learned to shoot), I tended to get down on myself when I missed a shot. Took me a while to overcome that. Once I did though I got improved on already great scores.

  14. #14
    vulrath is offline Junior Member
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    Recoilguy, I always aim center mass, so in this case it would be dead center on the hit box on the target. As silly as it may sound, I am a "weekend warrior" and play airsoft competitively (now let the flame war begin, lol - I usually keep quiet about that at the range for a reason, since most "real steel" shooters think we're a bunch of kids playing with toy guns and aren't worth the time of day), and from the start I got it drilled into my head that the easiest way to hit someone is to aim for the largest target (IE the center of the chest).

    I decided to do some dry-fire exercises today (lol, can't afford to go to the range this week), and I have noticed that when I fire in DA mode, the gun stays perfectly level. On the other hand, when I try the same exercise in SA mode, I notice I'm jerking the trigger, and a lot at that. I've just come to the conclusion that there is probably a whole lot that I'm doing wrong, and that taking this class will at the very least show me what I'm doing wrong (if not also show me how to fix it).

    On the mental aspect, I do agree that the shooter's head is where a "good" shot starts, but it doesn't hurt to get all of your other ducks in a row as well. I will each and every shot to be on target, and while I'm consistent, I am also usually not on target (though lately I've been doing much better since I backed things up a bit and started shooting at 2.5yds, then 3, then 3.5, and so on as I gained confidence at each distance).

    And by the way, I wrote "master", but I meant "more experienced than I am." I have a little bit of a habit of using words that will technically work for the situation, but there are better words for the job, and doing this late at night. It's too late for me to edit that out, but I can at least tell you what I actually meant.

  15. #15
    HK Dan is offline Member
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    I am a Master class shooter, and I coach people all the time. (consider my own horn tooted)

    Without watching you shoot it's tough to tell exactly what you're doing, but generally for a right handed shooter, hit tot he left or low/left indicate poor trigger control. This could be as simple as manipulating your finger's position on the trigger (an eighth in more out out less may solve it). It could be that you are gripping too hard not with the whole hand but with your pinky.

    Try this--make a fist and clench it down hard. Now move your trigger finger. Like a rusty hinge, right? Now, relax the pinky and keep the other two clenched down hard. Move the trigger finger (the light bulb should be coming on now) LOL. It's EASY!

    My suggestions are these--first, ease up on the pinky pressure and try it. If there is no joy, then run your finger into the trigger about 1/8" further than you usually do. Try it. It that doesn't work, pull it back out 1/8".

    Lastly--STOP thinking of it as a trigger pull. It's a trigger press, like pressing a button. You press straight back. At five yards with that gun you should have one hole in the target. Literally one hole, something you can cover with a quarter or a 50 cent piece.

    Dan

    Ps--Many of us look over the gun to see where the bullet hits. Sometimes we do that before the gun fires, throwing the shot off, usually high, but it's not a certainty. You may be doing that, or blinking as the gun goes off. Shoot with Nancy Pelosi eyes for one mag and see what happens--if you squint you're 90% of the way to "blind" when the gun goes off. Then concentrate on what the sights do in recoil. Do they go up/right, up/left, or straight up? Does the gun stay up until you push it back down, or snap back naturally onto target? If you wind up with one of these conditions you have grip issues--PM and I'll walk ya through the fix(es). <g>

    Dan

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