Target Shooting Advice For Novices

Discussion in 'Target Shooting' started by draye, Feb 2, 2012.

  1. draye

    draye New Member

    Hi all,

    I am new to handgun shooting. I am fairly skilled with long guns, both shotgun and rifle, but have never really shot a handgun, except in impromptu scenarios with my buddies.

    Recently, I purchased a couple of S&W 22A’s for my wife and I and we joined a local shooting league. Mine has the 5 ½” barrel and hers has the 4” barrel. Both guns have open sights with adjustable rears. She’s a small women and the balance of the short barrel felt better to her. She has virtually no experience in shooting of any kind.

    With that bit of background, I need some advice regarding technique and expected results. We shoot weekly at a distance of 50’ at an indoor range rented by the hour by the gun club. Targets have a 4” black circle, 8” outer ring on 12” square paper. We shoot 3 segments, 10 rounds per segment. They are Slow-Fire (10 rounds/10 min), Timed-Fire (5 rounds/20 seconds, reload, repeat) and Rapid-Fire (5 rounds/10 seconds, reload, repeat). A perfect score would be 30 rounds in the 10 circle for a total of 300. We are in our 3rd week of shooting. My cousin and his daughter routinely shoot scores from 210 to 250, and they are by no means the best.

    To be honest, I am disappointed in my performance (shooting scores of 100 to 150). My wife has been shooting scores less than that. We are both in our 50’s. I seem to score better on the timed and rapid fire, while my wife seems to do better on the slow timed portion. I have bore sighted both guns at 50’ (the sight rail is part of the barrel and the barrel is removable).

    I guess the questions I have are:

    Should a different technique be used to sight in the pistols? (It is cold now, up in north and no outdoor open shoot ranges are open and if they were, methodical sighting in 20 degree weather would not be enjoyable)

    Should we be sticking to open sights or go to some sort of optics, such as red dots or scopes?

    If the guns are sighted properly, should a person stick with open sights and work on technique?

    My original intent here was to get us more proficient with handguns and to eventually acquire our Carry Permits. Which is why, I thought, maybe learning to shoot accurately with open sights would be better. Sorry this is bit long, but I wanted to give pertinent background information.

    Any thoughts, advice and ideas would be welcomed. I am a firm believer in taking advice from people who have ‘been there, done that’!

    Thanks, in advance!
  2. Glock Doctor

    Glock Doctor New Member

    Wow, you actually bore sighted a pistol! (I started shooting when I was 9; and I’ve never bore sighted a pistol in my entire long life. Yes, I’ve had to make horizontal adjustments in the rear sight; but, in the vertical plane all I’ve ever done is find out where a pistol is shooting with whatever ammunition and adjust my sight picture accordingly.

    It’s been many years since I actually fired a postal match such as the one you describe. Over the last several decades everything I’ve fired has been CQB pistol combat simulations. 50 feet means that you’re shooting at 16 1/2 yards. That’s fairly close for target work, and fairly far for self-defense combat shooting.

    (You can go ahead and apply for your CCW licenses; most of the people who hold carry permits in my home state use pistols that are way too small for practical self-defense work; and they don’t shoot these little pistols anywhere near as well as you’re doing right now.) :wink:

    Let’s go over some of the more likely things you might be doing wrong: First, how’s your arm strength? Can you hold a pistol steady for, say, 30 seconds? If not tie a loaded food can to your gun wrist and practice several times a day while you’re holding onto your pistol at home.

    Second, how are your nerves? Do either you or your wife exhibit any hand or arm shaking? Last time I broke my gun wrist I wrapped it in an ACE elastic bandage for a few months after I started shooting again. If you were to brace both wrists across a shooting bag or a rolled up old blanket (inside of a protective towel) would your scores improve? If so, me thinks you need a little more physical exercise.

    Third, are you either deliberately or accidentally aiming at THE WHOLE TARGET? Postal shooting requires, ‘thinking small’ to a more significant degree than, say, IDPA or USPSA match shooting does. (Which might be a better way for you to go if training for a CCW is what you’re primarily interested in doing.)

    Let me, now, go over some of the pistol shooting basics with you: (Ready?) All great pistol shooting starts with taking and maintaining a proper grip on the weapon. Pressure is applied from the front of the frame to the back of the frame in exactly the same way as if you were squeezing a pack of loose playing cards while you are holding them by the edges and, again, from front to back.

    It’s not commonly known among the general shooting public that there are two ways in which to aim a pistol: The first way is by eye; and the second way is by controlling the pistol with your grip. How do you control a pistol with your grip? You find that one spot on the backstrap that allows you to slightly raise the muzzle whenever you apply light pressure to it. Whenever I shoot fast - and I shoot very fast - I’ll control the entire pistol by watching the front sight and controlling that, ‘sweet spot’ on the pistol’s backstrap.

    If you loose control of a pistol’s backstrap then you will loose control of the entire pistol. This loss of control might be slight, or it might be gross; but, whatever the loss, it will show up on the target. After you’ve got your grip on the pistol under control it’s time to pay attention to the front sight picture. So, what’s that rear sight really for? If it’s properly centered then it is no more than a, ‘nest’ for the front sight to rest in. I’ve got over 50 years of shooting experience that teach:


    If you’re not aiming off the top of the front sight blade then both your hold and your concentration will be such that your shots are going to disperse around the target. Because you’re doing postal shooting I have to imagine somebody has talked about proper breathing while aiming with you. Yes? Here are the basics: Don’t eat for one hour prior to starting a match. Teach yourself to fire during an exhalation rather than during an inhalation; and fire on the, ‘half-exhalation’. (With a pistol you can do it either way; but, right now, you’re not ready for inhalation firing.)

    Now it’s time to talk about trigger pull. This is a little tricky. It’s tricky because I’ve been shooting long enough to know that no two triggers are pulled in exactly the same way. If you’re past both types of flinching, it’s usually the horizontal dispersion that tells you how you’re pulling the trigger as well as exactly what adjustment in trigger pull you’re going to have to make. If you’re not past flinching problems then flinching is what you’re going to have to work on first; and the best way to do this is by dry-firing. (Something you really can’t do a lot of with a 22LR pistol.)

    Whenever I talk about pulling a trigger I’m usually talking about a rifle. Pistol triggers are better thought of as being, ‘tapped’ or, ‘pressed’ - almost always in a slightly downward direction and straight back into the frame. Again different pistols are fired in different ways. (‘Pistol’ is a generic term for ALL handguns - OK.) I’m going to break this down for you based on how I fire my own pistols.

    On a full-size semiautomatic I place my finger on the trigger by bisecting the pad in front of my trigger finger’s distal joint. On a compact-size frame I’ll take more of a bite on the trigger and make contact with the trigger’s face more closely to the distal joint. (This is exactly the same way a double-action revolver should be fired.) In my experience trigger pull - ‘press’, or ‘tap’ on a pistol - is a very personal thing. No two shooters are going to do it quite the same way. You are going to have to find out what is most comfortable as well as what works best for you.

    There are certain advantages to be obtained by using a (red dot) laser sight; however, right now, I’m going to encourage you to stay with conventional iron sights. The following charts are for right-handed pistol shooters. Simply reverse them if you’re left-handed - OK. ... schart.jpg ... llmtw9.jpg

    Here’s a couple of self-defense pistol shooting associations you might enjoy being part of. (Did me a world of good!)

  3. draye

    draye New Member

    Thx for the excellent advice.

    We have been been shooting for (8) weeks now, plus a few trips to the outdoor range, have had some nice weather here.

    Both of our scores have been steadily improving, somebody said practice, practice, practice....then practice some more. I think that's what we need.

    I have taken your basic techniques advice and will work on improving them.

    Thx again. I appreciate your in depth reply :D
  4. Firearm

    Firearm New Member

    This is my first post. Lots of great advice here, thanks! :)
  5. bruce741

    bruce741 New Member

    Let me, now, go over some of the pistol shooting basics with you: (Ready?) All great pistol shooting starts with taking and maintaining a proper grip on the weapon. Pressure is applied from the front of the frame to the back of the frame in exactly the same way as if you were squeezing a pack of loose playing cards while you are holding them by the edges and, again, from front to back.
  6. Road Rat

    Road Rat Member

  7. ScottEdvin

    ScottEdvin New Member

    Both 9mm and .45 are pretty accurate, 9mm is a little easier to be accurate with while shooting at combat speed, simply because it has less recoil and perfect for the beginner. It is also important to join firearm training class to learn shooting from different guns.

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