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Handgun Shooting Tips

A good shot shoot s every day, or at least several times a week. If circumstances do not permit of practice with a loaded arm, he will content himself with dry-shooting. Whatever the form the practice takes it must be with complete concentration of mind and hand, for it is concentration which brings consistent skill.

The technique of pistol shooting has changed considerably from what it was earlier in the XX century, yet there is far from complete agreement amongst the experts as to how the pistol should be held. It is generally conceded that the grip should be firm, for a tight hold on the butt is necessary to prevent pressure on the trigger from deflecting the aim. This is particularly true of double-action shooting with a revolver. The trigger must be pressed just as steadily as in rifle shooting � in fact, with even greater care, if this is possible. The pressure should be straight back, not to one side or another.

The pistol should be gripped as high as possible, that part of the hand between the first finger and thumb being well to the top of the grip. (Some revolvers have a nasty habit of pinching the skin between the finger and thumb when the hammer comes back, if the hand is held too high). Some experts in double-action shooting recommend that the revolver be turned a little to the right in the hand: others say that all pistols should be held straight. Probably it is best to learn by experience which particular hold suits your style. The size and strength of your hand will determine to some extent what hold to adopt with any particular pistol. Remember all pistols do not behave alike and must be held according to their peculiarities.

While much is said of shooting from the hip and of snap shots taken without using the sights, consistent accuracy can only be achieved by properly aligning the sights. Even in very rapid shooting the sights must be aligned on the target. The expert does this in a minimum of time, getting the shot away by an even pressure of the trigger at just the right moment, without any suggestion of yanking at the trigger as he comes on aim. In deliberate target shooting, the pistol is brought up a little above the target and brought down again, the sights aligned and steadied while the shot is fired.

No one can hold a pistol perfectly steady; it always wavers to some extent, but by dint of practice the amount of movement can be reduced. There is a moment when the swing is at its minimum, and it is then that the shot should be got off easily, without jerk or snatch. The shot should be released within ten seconds of the pistol being raised, or the hand will begin to waver. If he does not steady on the target within this time, the shooter should bring his hand down and rest for a while before coming up and having another try.

When commencing deliberate shooting at a target, the pistol should be taken in the left hand and placed in the right hand in the exact position which has become familiar and found satisfactory. The grip should then not be altered; the pistol should not be put down until all the shots have been fired and the target completed. If you put the gun down while you reload or pause to use a spotting telescope, every change of grip will show in the shots grouped on the card.

The method in rapid shooting is similar, except, of course, that speed is increased. The shots have to be taken in limited time, sometimes very limited, but still aim has to be taken and each shot got away while the sights are in line. Skill at rapid shooting comes after deliberate shooting has been mastered, and is attained by hard practice at increasing speeds but with no less care in taking aim and letting the shot go.

Several factors contribute to inaccuracy in pistol shooting. The inaccuracy of the man who, having no training or practice, misses the target completely is mainly due to snatching at the trigger sufficiently hard to pull the sights out of line. Hold is important because a good hold counteracts the inaccuracies caused by imperfect trigger squeezing. I t also influences the recoil of the pistol and therefore the direction in which the bullet leaves the muzzle. If the grip is low on the butt, the pistol kicks higher than it would otherwise and the shot flies high. If it is high the shot flies low. Similarly, differences of hold can make the bullets group to the left or to the right of the bull. If you want to see the effect of this, experiment with an air-pistol. You will be surprised how many inches difference on the target at ten yards result from a quite moderate change of hold.

Another cause of inaccuracy is the slight but continuous dither of the sights that comes from the impossibility of keeping the hand perfectly steady. Gripping too tightly increases dither. Movement from the elbow is negligible, but movement of the arm about the shoulder causes a swing which, while slower than the dither of the wrist, makes a much more obvious and disconcerting movement of the sights on the target.

Finally, there is the movement of the body as a whole due to the unsteadiness of legs and ankles. It is quite impossible to stand perfectly motionless and, whether using pistol or rifle in the off-hand position, the slow swing of the body must show on the target. By standing with the feet wide apart, movement from left to right can be reduced, but the backward and forward swing remains. If you stand square to the target, the up-and-down swing causes the sights to rise up and down on the target, and the error will show as the stringing of the shots in a vertical line. If you turn sideways to the target and shoot looking over your right shoulder in the old-time duelling style, the shots will tend to string in a line from left to right. The error is reduced to a minimum if the body is turned at an angle of 45 degrees to the target, when the shots will tend to spread from 70'clock to 10'clock, but should form a closer group than with either of the other stances.

On taking up your position at the firing point close your unloaded pistol, then, closing your eyes, bring the pistol up. If when you open your eyes again the pistol is not in line with the target, correct the line by moving your feet, and repeat the process until the pistol comes up on t o the target naturally. You are then ready to shoot and can load, but f or safety keep the barrel in line with the target, and do not move your feet or alter your grip. As you align the sights, let your unoccupied hand relax or rest in the trouser pocket. Then hold your breath with the lungs fairly full, and when the sights are making their least movement on point of aim squeeze off the shot. After the shot has gone do not immediately come down, but wait until the sights have come into line again. This habit assists in ensuring a steady let-off. Then, before looking through the spotting telescope, "call the shot".