While this entire website is dedicated to marksmanship tips and techniques we though it would be helpful to provide a list of 10 of the top things regarding fast, accurate shooting that we feel should be at the forefront of each of our minds away from the range, uprange, and downrange:
-As always, safety first. It starts with you. I like to think of it at a conscious decision we make, not something that happens automatically when we flip a switch on our firearm. We each have a higher level of responsibility we are called to every time we handle a weapon. All firearms are always loaded. PERIOD! We all want to live to learn another day. You have heard it a thousand times, but keep the direction in which that muzzle is pointed in the forefront of our minds. It is a laser coming out of that muzzle. And please… keep the finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard unless you are actually pulling the trigger.
2. Situational Awareness
-Being aware of one’s surrounding will not only increase your level of safety while handling weapons, but it can also save your life off the range. Many violent encounters could have been avoided entirely had the victim been aware of the danger present. One interesting way to help develop a high level of situational awareness or improve on it is to try to notice specific things in your surroundings as you move through the environment or at regular intervals it you happen to be sitting in one place. I can’t stress this enough, but some people are just waiting to become victims. A whole heard of antelope could be grazing right besides them, and they won’t notice it until they notice the scent, and look up from texting. Be aware!
3. Focus on Accuracy now because Speed will come in time
-Besides muzzle sweeping people, this is the biggest mistake I see beginners make: Trying to be fast. Let me tell you this, there are times that speed matters, but when we are at the range, with others, and not defending out lives, lets just focus on the building blocks. Master our weapon system, and speed will come later.
4. High Hands
-Specifically true for handguns, this the key factor of Recoil Management. Many shooters are too fast to the target, and don’t establish a firm combat worthy grip on the frame before the draw, beginners especially. Not only is this unsafe (and also maybe from a weapon retention standpoint as well) but it is a bad way to mitigate the recoil of anything more than a .22. Get your hands all the way up, as high as they can go on the frame without putting your hand at risk of getting bit by the slide. As an added bonus this also helps stabilize the weapon when the trigger breaks; most of the time you just have better leverage in the stability department when that trigger we are pulling breaks and the round fires.
5. Tight Hands
-Besides having one’s hands in the wrong place, a common mistake is simply not gripping the firearm tight enough. This makes follow-up shots slower and recoil management go out the window and in extreme cases, may even affect the reliability of semi-autos. Don’t tear a ligament, but squeeze the grip! Some of the fastest shooters out there have the strongest hands. If you feel you need to, buy some grip exercising products. They cost about as much as a small box of ammo, but will save you that much in results downrange.
6. The Front site is your best friend
-Yes there are other methods of shooting (Instinctive, etc.) but for the most part, keeping your eyes focused on the front sight of a handgun is a key to fast, accurate shot-placement as close range. New shooters find themselves spending time “dancing” back and forth between making sure the front is aligned in the rear notch, and that the whole thing is lined up with the target, but the fact is that at close ranges this is, most of the time, a waste of time. Unless there is something out of the ordinary with your grip on the handgun making it point off to one side, your sight picture is already going to be good enough for shots under 8 yards or so, and as long as the grip is good, the gun will most likely return to this position after recoil. Focus on that front sight! You can see that target in the background and have already identified it. At longer ranges, or course, that “Dance” between the front and rear sights, and lining everything up, becomes more necessary but at close ranges “shotgun beading” the front sight will add greatly to your speed. This also helps situational a lot by breaking us out of the “Tunnel Vision” effect that can be present when focusing too much on the target.
7. Trigger Finger Management
-Besides being a key part to safety, Trigger Finger Management is a key part of accurate shot placement. We “squeeze” the trigger; we don’t press or pull or jerk it. You can have the perfect grip, but jerking that trigger is the #1 reason I see shots go astray. Don’t put too much finger on the trigger, but don’t pull it with the tip of your finger eight. I like to use the last third of the pad, right before joint. When squeezing, pull straight back towards the frame, not off to one side. Trigger Finger Management also comes into play after the shot breaks as well. We don’t need to let the trigger forward any more than the point it resets if we intend to fire another shot. I see this all too often; people let the trigger forward all the way and they now have to take up all that slack before firing their second shot. This adds time and slows your speed.
8. You don’t need bells or whistles to defend your family or win a match
-Yes, great gear does make a huge difference but it makes less of a difference than you think. Too many shooter, new and experienced alike, focus on things that will give them an edge; which is fine, but my point here is that many of these “edges” won’t provide much help to a new shooter or those of us that are still mastering some of the basic building blocks listed above, and may even distract from a quality learning experience. The point is that “Great Gear dose NOT a good Shooter make”! The gear will not make a new shooter an expert overnight; there are other factors involved… like practice! Don’t get me wrong, you can’t operate to your fullest potential when using crappy gear, but understand that you don’t have to constantly seek out the best equipment in the world unless you have actually “grow out of” the potential performance level the gear you are using now. Also, gear choice will not “Make or Break” us as much as we may think: a master level shooter will still beat 95% of the average shooters even when handicapped with a “stock” firearm. I also like to think of it this way: It does not matter much whether James Bond picks up a 1911, or a Glock, or still has ammo for his Walther… he will still save the world.
9. Perfect practice makes perfect!
-If we practice every technique we learn correctly, wholeheartedly and in a word… perfectly, we will move faster towards perfection in our technique. But if we fail in this, we not only waist time and become stagnant, but we create something we call “Training Scars”. We all have them. All that muscle memory I built when I was practicing my Tactical Reload technique helped me when I needed to do a tac reload, but when I decided to change to an updated and improved technique, it became a big training scar, that for a few days, actually caused me to add nearly a whole second to my reload! I had to heal and overcome the hours I had spend performing it the “wrong way” and develop enough new muscle memory to reliably perform the new version each time I need to. Also, don’t half-ass anything. If we are practicing, practice correctly. We otherwise risk these training scars. No “oh well, when the times comes I will do it correctly”. Let me tell you something: when the time comes you will be under stress, and in your Body Alarm Response you will resort to doing it the way you have the most practice; so make sure its the correct way.
1o. There is more than one way to do something!
-Segueing into the “correct way of doing something”, there is more that one. This may sound a little obvious, but seriously! Watch the master class shooters in IDPA or IPSC. Each one has a slightly different technique. We are all unique and beautiful. We all have different ways of learning. Whether it is because of our different body mechanics, or different shoe sizes, we all have a way that works best for us in our current level of performance. I hate going to a Tactical Handgunning class and seeing a second rate instructor presenting the curriculum like it is the only way to perform it. Some of the best instructors in the world (Massad Ayoob, Chris Costa and Travis Haley are just a few that come to mind) constantly remind us that what they are teaching is just their technique, and it is one that have come across though years and years of experience, but there are other ways to do it too. I also like how good instructors also explain the thought process behind a technique and that is what we have to understand in the long run; the reason we do it a particular way. A big pare of that is that it “works for us” at our level. If there is a better way to do it out there, and it “works for us” we should be striving to do it that way, but in the mean time remember that there are many ways to accomplish a task safely and effectively.
-Now get out there, try it, and Stay Safe,