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Becoming a Better
Handgun Shooter

By Dan S. Defense

Observing shooters in a range is interesting. You can see what gear they opted buy. The type of handgun, ammunition and holster can also tell quite a bit about the shooter. But the most interesting part is watching them put their gear to use by shooting. It's fascinating to see how many bullets go down range but how few hit the target in a meaningful manner. The act of shooting is fairly straightforward but hitting what you aim at is not so easy.

This observation spurred this article about becoming better shooters. We'll look at a few simple techniques that are sure to increase your efficiency as a shooter. If you are willing to invest ten minutes reading this and a few hours practicing, I'll be willing to bet that you'll surprise yourself and be happy with the ratio of time investment to results.

With that said, let's look at three easy steps needed to improve your shooting:

Determine your dominant eye:

One of your eyes is dominant and we need to ascertain which one it is, since that's the eye that will align the sights with the target. Many people assume that right handed people have a dominant right eye and that left handed people have a dominant left eye. While it is true in many cases, it isn't always the cases and many folks are cross dominant, which means a right handed person has a dominant left eye.

The way to see which eye is dominant is simple. Hold out and straighten both hands. Form a triangle with each hands thumb and finger. Stare through the center and align it against some object. Now, close the right eye and see if the object "moved" and then repeat with the left eye. The sight picture that didn't change or changed only slightly will be the one presented by your dominant eye.


When you pull the trigger of a handgun you set off a small explosion which propels a projectile out of the barrel. The byproduct of that explosion is recoil. You need to have sufficient hold on the handgun to keep the sights aligned with the target. This is where the grip comes into play.

There are many different types of "shooting grip" methods. For example: thumbs up, thumbs forward and the varying pressure grip which tells you to apply 60% left hand / 40% right hand (lower on trigger finger). They all try to solve the same problem-getting maximum hold on the handgun. I'd submit that the best grip is the one that offers the largest surface coverage ratio of hands to gun. I'd also submit that in a gunfight or the excitement of competition, you won't be able to adjust your left/right pressure in a fine way since your fine motor skills will be out of order.

The solution? Grip the gun as hard as you can with both hands, applying pretty even pressure without them shaking. Then to get the most coverage, use the thumbs forward grip since it will truly cover the largest surface area. Try this with an unloaded gun and practice until you sense that you have a stable platform.

Trigger control:

The last thing you do before sending the projectile toward the target is pressing the trigger. This is where most people make mistakes that affect accuracy. They know the gun will go bang when they pull the trigger. They know the recoil is going to hit them. They know it and the fear it. Thus when most people pull the trigger, they anticipate the recoil and jerk the trigger and with it the gun. That leads to missing the intended target and reinforcement of bad habits.

This problem is more sever with people who opted to start shooting with large caliber handguns, because anything other than a 44 Magnum is a girl's gun. To remedy the problem takes more time with those folks and less time with new shooters.

The solution starts with lots of dry fire. Verify the handgun is empty and unloaded. Verify again and keep the muzzle pointed at a safe direction. Then you can start by slowly pulling the trigger until it release (breaks) and then doing so again, while watching the front sight for "jerking".

Do this until it stays in place. If you have a friend that can assist, and then take an empty shell (45 ACP works best) and place it on the front sigh. Then pull the trigger and have your friend pull the slide back for you and replace the empty shell. Do so until the shell consistently stays put. Then go to the range with a 22 caliber until you master the skill. Then and only then, can you move up the caliber scale back to what you normally shoot.

By following these simple steps, every person who's willing to invest a few hours of practice, will see clear improvements in shooting. There's no magic here or luck--just hard work and some basic understanding of what happens when you fire a handgun. If you like this article let me know and I'll add additional steps in future.

Until next time, stay safe by staying alert!

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