Looking for advice regarding shooting accuracy

Looking for advice regarding shooting accuracy

This is a discussion on Looking for advice regarding shooting accuracy within the Defensive Carry & Tactical Training forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I have been shooting for accuracy for years. Sporting clays, target rifle and pistol, etc. Now I want to be able to shoot "accurately" but ...

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  1. #1
    Member Array irish51's Avatar
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    Looking for advice regarding shooting accuracy

    I have been shooting for accuracy for years. Sporting clays, target rifle and pistol, etc. Now I want to be able to shoot "accurately" but really just accurately enough. I find that I take too long to acquire a sight picture due to old habits of "precision" shooting. Any suggestions about how to bet away from this mindset?

    Seems like a strange question but hope some of you know what I mean.


  2. #2
    VIP Member Array First Sgt's Avatar
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    First of all, Welcome from South Carolina...

    You will need to "retrain" your target acquisition skills in my opinion....

    Let's put it this way...Consistent, conscious, front sight focus does two things: First, it assures a well placed hit on target, and second, it builds a kinesthetic "feel" for when the gun is on target. After a bit of practice, your PRESENTATION should put the gun on target, and the sights are used to verify alignment, NOT to achieve it. This can be and should be accomplished in a few hundreths of a second. The human eye can discern a straight line very quickly and very accurately...So practice getting that flash sight picture when you present your weapon, put on target and verify alignment on target...PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE will get you out of the "slow precision target acquisition/sight alignment" that you've been used to...

    Just remember, when you fire a shot, you will have two sight pictures. One when you acquire the target and shoot and the next when you acquire for the next shot...JMO
    Sometimes in life you have to stand your ground. It's a hard lesson to learn and even most adults don't get it, but in the end only I can be responsible for my life. If faced with any type of adversity, only I can overcome it. Waiting for someone else to take responsibility is a long fruitless wait.

  3. #3
    Member Array mfcmb's Avatar
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    If you can, take the Combat Focus Shooting class from Rob Pincus. It will be excellent for exactly what you want. He also has a book out that explains everything, but the class makes it real.
    In the heat of the moment, what matters is what your body knows -- not what your mind knows.

  4. #4
    Member Array tactilame's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forums!

    Quote Originally Posted by First Sgt View Post
    After a bit of practice, your PRESENTATION should put the gun on target, and the sights are used to verify alignment, NOT to achieve it.
    ^^ First Sgt hit the nail on the head. You should consider trying draw-and-fire practice, either at home with snap caps or dummy rounds, or with live rounds at a place you're able to do so safely. Obviously with practice (both dry-fire and live-fire), safety should be paramount. I certainly wouldn't practice with live rounds until you've practiced many times with dry-fire and KNOW your finger ain't gonna be on that trigger until the muzzle is pointed at your target. You might already have this stuff down, but I just want to reiterate for safety's sake. I've been shooting guns for a long time, and I've also practiced the safety rules, but when I got into defensive shooting, specifically speed-shooting and drawing, I noticed my trigger finger got a little forgetful, and I had to take extra care to keep it in line.

    I think draw-and-fire forces you to focus on speed accuracy rather than perfect accuracy. At least it does for me. As First Sgt said, you need to get into the habit of focusing on the front sight post, and a good thing to practice would be starting out, weapon holstered, staring at a target. As you draw (there are different ways to draw and I'll leave it up to you to decide) bring the sights (most importantly the front sight) on top of your intended point of impact -- you want the sights to come into alignment with your eyes, rather than bringing your sights mostly up, forming a good sight picture, then moving your eyes and sights to the target. And I personally keep both eyes open. Though it took me a while to get used to it, I want to take every precaution to make sure I don't get tunnel-vision.

    Another thing to consider might be point-shooting or instinctive shooting. I'm only going to touch lightly on this because there is a wealth of both info and opinion on the matter, but I think it's certainly worth considering and researching. It's also helpful to learn (IMO) because not all defensive scenarios are going to call for you fully extending your arms forward with both hands -- some may even call for you to keep the gun as close to your body as possible. But the point I'm getting at is, shooting from a retention position (gun locked in close to the body) may help you in your training as it inherently forces you to forget about your sight picture all together.

    Last but not least, consider some friendly competition! Based on what you said about your shooting hobbies, I would be amazed if you didn't enjoy it. Defensive shooting competitions are almost always timed, and you'll find that you have a lot less time to focus on a perfect sight picture when seconds (or milliseconds) matter and your adrenaline is pumping.
    "Shoot low boys, they're riding Shetland ponies." -Lewis Grizzard

  5. #5
    Distinguished Member Array kelcarry's Avatar
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    Good thread. When I go target shooting with some friends they pull out their defense firearms, are aiming like they are going to win a gold medal at the olympics and then fire and are proud of their 1 inch hole. I just do not get it!!. It is my defense firearm and if I really need it for defense, I am not going to be aligning sights and taking time to put a 1 inch hole in someone as I ask them to stand still so I can aim very carefully and be absolutely sure my sights are lined up. I look at my target and imagine the 1 or 2 sq ft where body mass would be and if all my shots are there, it means the BG has had a bad day. It is more front sight/point-shoot. I take a 22 to the range and target shoot with all sights aligned but I take my FN5.7X28 to the range to body mass shoot.

  6. #6
    VIP Member Array suntzu's Avatar
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    Target rifle: Even if using a scope I use two eyes open until ready to fire. It keeps stress off of both eyes. You should after time be right on target doing it this way and then close the non-shooting eye and shoot if the reticule is where ya want it or make fine movements till it is right. When I closed my eye I would also ehale ath the same time. It felt natural. I had to spend a lot of time with eye on the glass and this technique helps with eye fatigue.

  7. #7
    Distinguished Member Array Elk Hunter's Avatar
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    You want to aquire the front sight as quickly as possible and in most cases it will be somewhere in the rear sight. Use a timer so you can get an idea of your quickness, I suggest putting 2 shots on target in less than 2 seconds at 5 yards.

    As a precision shooter you know what a proper sight picture looks like, take your time and do the following so you know where you hit when you do not havea perfect sight picture.
    Align the front sight as normal except all the way to the left of your rear sight. Now go to the other side and align the sight all the way to the right side of the rear sight. Now aligh the front sight in the middle but so you can just see the top of the frontsight in the rear sight, repeat except the bottom of the front sight is aligned in your sight picture.

    This gives you an idea of where you hit without a perfect sight picture. By the way it sounds easy to do this, but you will find it difficult not to have a proper sight picture when you squeeze off a round.

  8. #8
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    One of the best drills that I know of for fast target aquisition is a called shot drill. This takes at least two people, though, one (or more) shooter, and one caller. You will need a largish target or piece of paper or even cardboard. On that target draw a number of shapes in various colors. You can even add numbers to the shapes to add difficulty.

    Now, using the technique outlined by First Sgt, once the caller designates a target, i.e. "red, square", the shooter will either draw or present from a ready position, and place a round (or more) on that target. The objective is to get fast, COMBAT ACCURATE hits. If you can time the drill, you can even make it competetive to add more urgency.
    "Mind own business"
    "Always cut cards"

  9. #9
    Member Array irish51's Avatar
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    This is all helpful. Thanks for your input. I think kelcarry nailed where my problem is. It really is breaking a habit acquired from years where small groups were what mattered. Shot drills, front sight acquisition, both eyes open, focus on presentation, and practice, practice, practice (under pressure when possible) seem to be the common ideas in all this.

    On the way to "combat accurate"! Thanks to all.

  10. #10
    Distinguished Member Array claude clay's Avatar
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    learn to aim with your eyes

    you have put a gun between your eyes and the target thousands of times.
    your sub-concious knows what the position of the gun should look like
    in your field of vision if the bullet is to go to the aimed target

    so now i suggest you trust yourself---

    bring the gun up and fire it--said differently;
    fast as the gun is up between your eyes and the target-- the trigger is pulled.

    start with a large IDPA cardboard at 3 paces and have a go at it.
    look COM to start. a box of ammo later you'll be trying headshots.

    good luck
    Arthritis sucks big-big
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    Why do those elected to positions of power than work so hard
    to deny those same opportunities to the same people who empowered them

  11. #11
    Member Array irish51's Avatar
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    Another thread I found useful. Lots of reference material too.

    Point Shooting

    Maybe the precision shooting wasn't so bad after all. Its certainly where most of us start.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Array marcclarke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by irish51 View Post
    I have been shooting for accuracy for years. Sporting clays, target rifle and pistol, etc. Now I want to be able to shoot "accurately" but really just accurately enough. I find that I take too long to acquire a sight picture due to old habits of "precision" shooting. Any suggestions about how to bet away from this mindset?

    Seems like a strange question but hope some of you know what I mean.
    Not a strange question at all. As a long-time target shooter I had to "unlearn" some things as I began taking CCW and self-defense courses.

    The first time I took a CCW course the instructor (a former state police academy head) took us all out to the range. He told us all to fire one round into the blank target (just a piece of butcher's paper) and then use that as our aiming mark. We started at 2 yards, and slowly worked out way back to 15 yards. At each distance we were to continue firing 5 rounds at our original aiming point. Most people were having significant difficulty just hitting the paper. My group could be easily covered by a quarter (I was shooting my HK P7M8 that day). The instructor would inspect our targets at each range, then back us up to a greater distance and repeat the process. He kept giving me funny looks.

    Later that day, the instructor took me aside and gave me some advice that I really took to heart. He said, "You are a significantly better target shooter than I am. If you and I were in a gunfight, you would lose. Do you know why?" I admitted my ignorance. He said, "Because you would take too long." I sputtered and huffed and puffed, and asked what he meant. He explained, "In target shooting, it is the guy with the highest score and the most Xs at the end of the match that wins the match. In a gun fight it is the guy who gets the first solid hit that wins the gunfight; there is no score and there are no Xs."

    I struck up a friendship with the instructor and ended up taking several more classes from him. I learned quite a bit, and I unlearned quite a bit more.

    In a gun fight, it is the guy who gets a hit into a pie-plate sized vital zone (the torso, between the bottom of the sternum and the clavicle, where the heart, lungs, and major arteries are, plus the spine itself). More bluntly phrased, it is the guy who gets a solid hit on the other guy's spinal column that wins the gun fight. Typical gun fight distances are from nose-touching-nose to fingertip-touching-fingertip out to maybe 7 yards. This is vastly different from a 10 meter air pistol match or an NRA Bullseye match.

    Pistol matches take from tens of minutes to all day. Pistol matches are non-violent, well structured, well ordered, well-run by the range master, and completely predictable. Gunfights are immensely violent, utterly unstructured, completely disordered, and utterly unpredictable. The average gunfight (if there is such a thing) takes under 3 seconds from start to finish, usually involves the winner firing 2 or three rounds, and usually takes place at arm's length or less. At a pistol match you have hearing protection and eye protection. In a gun fight you have no hearing protection and no eye protection, so a gun fight is hugely loud (you will probably have ringing ears or even permanent hearing damage) and you will very probably get powder and hot gasses into your eyes from the bad guy shooting at you (and hopefully missing). During a gun fight you will most likely be (at least temporarily) deafened and probably partially blinded.

    In a pistol match you stand still, get your stance set up just right, hold your handgun in your weak hand and put it into the web of your strong hand for the perfect grip, hold your handgun in your strong hand, tuck you off hand in your pants' pocket or maybe your belt, and you hold still while you carefully aim and then fire. In a gun fight you are madly running for your life (literally, as by "getting off the X" you greatly decrease your odds of being hit by your attackers' fire), firing as you run, you are probably using two hands on your handgun, and you may be firing with your weak hand if you have taken a bullet in the hand or forearm of your strong hand.

    In a pistol match the X ring is round and vertical stringing is highly undesirable. In a gun fight, your primary target is the spinal column to get a central nervous system hit and stop the attack. In a gun fight, vertical stringing is actually desirable. I encourage you to run some searches on a technique called "The Zipper", where you start landing rounds just above the belt buckle, and let the recoil and muzzle rise bring the point of aim up the attacker's spine, terminating with one or more shots to the neck and then the cranium if the attacker hasn't stopped his/her attack yet.

    In a pistol match, "rapid fire" usually means some number of shots in some number of seconds, maybe 5 shots in 15 seconds (or such). In a gun fight, one wants to get off multiple shots within the first second of the gun fight. A beginner using a semi-automatic pistol can reasonably get off 2 shots per second. With a bit of training to "ride the link" an intermediate shooter can easily get off 4 semi-aimed shots per second. With practice an advanced shooter can get off 6 semi-aimed shots in a second. The guys who are really good can get up around 8 shots per second. (For reference, the intrinsic cyclic rate of a Glock 9mm pistol is about 30 rounds per second.) Remember what I said about a gun fight being immensely violent and tremendously loud?

    For me, the hardest part to unlearn was aiming and sight alignment. In a gun fight at distances under 7 yards, simply getting the front sight onto the attacker is good enough. (If you don't believe me, take out your high-school trigonometry textbook and your calculator and figure out the angles; I did. Or go to the range with a human-sized target and see where the bullets hit if your front sight is on the target and anywhere in the rear notch; I did.) There is no need to get the front sight properly aligned in the rear notch, with the top of the front sight aligned with the top of the rear notch and equal amounts of daylight on either side of the front sight within the rear notch. That is far too precise and way too slow. Remember what my instructor said about my being way too slow? Yes, that.

    The fastest way to acquire your sights it to hold your front sight up so the blade of the front sight is actually somewhat elevated above the top of the rear sight. This means you will shoot a bit high, but at close distances it does not matter (remember, a hit anywhere on the spine or cranium stops the fight). If you use the "Zipper" technique working from low to high and firing as fast as you can run the trigger ("ride the link") your primary concern is getting the group centered left-to-right, on the spinal column.

    To win a pistol match you shoot 10s and Xs, slowly and deliberately, with good sight alignment, good trigger control, controlled breathing, etc.. To win a gun fight you get the first shot into the attacker's torso while running for your life as fast as you can. A standard 9" paper desert plate is an excellent practice target for a gun fight. You want to get as many shots onto that pie plate as rapidly as possible (and I do mean multiple shots within one second). You keep shooting your attacker, as rapidly as possible, hitting that pie-plate-sized vital zone, until your attacker goes down. There are no extra points for hitting the center of the pie-plate. The pie-plate does not have an "X" ring. The pie plate does not have any scoring rings at all. Anywhere on the pie plate is just as good as anywhere else on the pie plate. Taking more time to get more precise sight alignment just slows you down and gets you killed; remember, the other guy is shooting as fast as he can aiming for a pie-plate-sized zone on your torso while all this is going on.

    This exercise is somewhat like the famous joke about the two hikers who come upon an aggressive bear. They both run away, and then one hiker stops to put on his running shoes. The other hiker wants to know why he is doing that. The hiker with the now-fleeter shoes replies, "I don't have to outrun the bear; I just have to outrun you."

    In a pistol match, you are trying to shoot all 10s and all Xs. You are trying to outrun the bear (metaphorically speaking). In a gun fight you are just trying to outshoot the other guy as rapidly as you can. That is all. No 10 rings, no X rings, no scores, no trophies, no ribbons, no medals, no getting your picture in The Rifleman. You are just trying to outshoot one guy, or maybe one guy and his buddies. You just have to be better (faster) than he/they are; you don't get any extra points for how much you beat them by. (That, by the way, was the second-hardest concept for me to unlearn as I transitioned from target shooting to self-defense shooting.)

    Assuming that the OP is an accomplished target shooter, my strongest suggestion is to get an electronic shot timer (if the OP does not already have one). A shot timer is an electronic gizmo that waits a random time and then beeps, and then times your shots via its built-in microphone. A shot timer tells you how long it took to get your first hit on that pie-plate-sized practice target. A shot timer tells you long it took to get multiple shots onto that pie-plate-sized practice target. A shot timer will help you unlearn all that get-you-killed-in-a-real-gunfight slow and precise sight alignment stuff and squeeze the trigger until it breaks stuff and whittle your technique down to "good enough" to hit that pie plate and no more. A shot timer is completely emotionless; it does not care that you took unnecessary extra time to line up your sights and center-punch that 9-inch pie-plate-sized target; it just tells you how long you took.

    My second suggestion is to get some self-defense handgun training, where you are running while shooting (rather than standing rooted in the stall on a static firing range).
    Azchief and Paymeister like this.

  13. #13
    Member Array irish51's Avatar
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    I am exactly where you were at that first ccw course. It's about adopting a different mindset and building new muscle memory through practice. Unfortunately, no range near me allows for rapid fire. I am going to check out a group that shoots IDPA "style" nearby twice a month. Great advice and greatly appreciated!

  14. #14
    Member Array irish51's Avatar
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    "Would it not be wise, therefore, to
    face facts squarely and set to work to find out how
    best to develop instinctive aiming to the point of
    getting results under combat conditions ?"

    SHOOTING TO LIVE
    WITH THE ONE-HAND GUN
    by
    CAPTAIN WILLIAM FAIRBARN
    AND
    CAPTAIN ERIC ANTHONY SYKES
    Paladin Press
    1987

    This appears to have been originally published in 1942 and draws on the authors experience in training US and British commando and special intelligence forces in the period leading up to the American involvement in WWII.

    http://www.specops.pl/vortal/download/files/shooting_to_live.pdf

  15. #15
    Senior Member Array HK Dan's Avatar
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    Combat Focus Shooting with Pincus would be a great start, and Rob will show you exactly how to do what you're asking about. He may call you names, yell at you, tell you you're an ass clown, but by God by the time you're done you'll be shooting to your potential.

    If you don't want to do that, go shoot some IDPA and USPSA. If you want to polace, you'll teach yourself to shoot quickly and with minimal sight interaction.
    "What does Marcellus Wallace LOOK like?"

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