tHE PERFECT PISTOL SHOT
My new series of quick reference guides for the defensive shooter will be soon be available on Kindle. The first is PRACTICAL TACTICAL HANDGUN and it should be on Amazon within the week. The series format is realistic, stripped down to the essentials e-books priced at 2.99. The target audience is the experienced shooter looking to improve tactical skills. The series will include handgun, shotgun, and rifle.
Accuracy is always paramount but not always easily done. Firing in even a slight wind can be difficult particularly at distances that require perfection in sight alignment. Body motion (back and forth) will cause a pitching (up and down) of the handgun. Eliminate most body sway by ensuring a natural break in the knees. The legs should be naturally straight but not ever hyper-extended and locked. Likewise, you don't need Rambo squats to fire a pistol. The principle here is a simple one; locked knees force the ankles to prevent swaying and the ankles don't have the leverage to complete the task. A natural knee will move you, so to speak, from standing in the wind to a double-kneed kneeling position by moving the pivot point from the ankles to the knees. The difference in both pistol and rifle shooting is remarkable. So don't lock your knees when wind buffets your body and causes you to sway. Know that locked knees actually compound the effect of wind.
Go to your local range and watch shooters firing at paper targets. You will notice that the majority of shooters are firing low and left. Some are low-left in the black and some are low-left at the corner of the target paper, but many shooters fire low and to the left. Why? Because most shooters are right handed and most shooters over-grip their handguns. Left handers tend to go low-right, but it's all the same. If you apply more pressure to the grip than is necessary to retain the weapon between shots, the excess pressure will become a torguing motion to the support side, and it will twist downward because that is the natural motion for the human wrist. So ligthen up.
Of course, if you were properly sighting you would see the front sight tip tip low and to the suport side before you fired.
Early next year I will be releasing some new material on Kindle targeted toward personal defense. I wish all readers a very merry Christmas.
Rapid-fire speed depends on recoil recovery between shots. Handgun recoil, at least in all but the most extreme examples, is insufficient to raise the arms. By placing the shoulder carriage slightly forward of the hips, the effects of recoil will be practically eliminated and rapid-fire speed dramatically increased.
After you have spent some firing-line time beside shooters, offering instruction and correction, certain "rules" make themselves apparent. It is fair to say that men generally find it more natural to handle a firearm. That is easily seen. It is equally true that women are generally easier to teach. Every man in this country thinks he's a firearms expert. Men who have never owned or fired a handgun want "nines", "magnums", "forty-fives", and so forth. Women don't care. If you tell a female police officer that she should not over-grip her weapon, she'll say "okay." Say it to a male cop and he'll say, "I read an article about the Israeli Self Defense Force, and they say...."
Firearms mean something to men at a visceral level, that's obvious. Unfortunately, that emotion has been extremely harmful to marksmanship, tactical and gun safety training. Men want to believe that a .45 round will knock a man down and a shotgun round will send a man flying. So over the decades men have invented, well, "old wives tales" about firearms that are destructive to those who believe them. Countless men entered the service believing that firing a 1911 pistol would bring tears to their eyes. In the fifties they thought they needed leather gloves to fire magnum revolvers. Its almost as if America has a man-gun cult with tis own superstitions, blasphemies, and incantations.
Women think of a gun like they think of a car or a computer, and they are exactly right. Emotionalizing firearms and shooting creates shooter problems. Firearms are simply mechanical devices that respond to exact input from their operator. The sooner a student accepts the mundane quality of firearms, the quicker he will find firearm mastery.
Regulating the breathing process is essential for best accuracy. Obviously, there are times when a shooter may be gasping for air after extreme exertion. In any case we need to minimize the effects of the chest and shoulders rising and falling with each breath. Many shooters have difficulty determining if they have disruptive breathing during training and practice. Of course, if the shooter watches the front sight with proper fanaticism the rising and falling of the upper body will be seen on the front sight tip. Nonetheless, here's a quick way to determine the effectiveness of your breathing control.
When you finish firing a slow-fire round, or slow-fire string, pay attention to whether you inhale greater than you normally would. This includes anything from a sigh to a gasp. A small sigh after firing means you held you breath too long. A gasp is worse. Remember, we want to breath as normally as possibly (read the breathing chapter in The Perfect Pistol Shot) and with as little disruption to the handgun's stability as possible. Any physical manifestation of exhausted breath after firing means you stayed too long, depleted the body of oxygen, and caused excessive movement.
Watch for the shooter's sigh.
When aiming your handgun all points of your body should face in the same direction. In the bladed stance your body should be some degrees off from the line of your pistol sights. In the natural shooting position, all body points will mirror the sight-line. Either position requires that all body points agree in direction. Body points are feet, knees, hips, shoulders, and head. Check to see if you twist your body while in your firing stance. Muscular tension is a physical force against perfect sigting. Check yourself in front of a mirror.
Some years ago I taught handgun operations to federal security contractors working for the DEA. That agency insisted on contractors carrying the magnificent HK USP pistol. The USP is a wonderful firearm but it is too large to be the sole issued handgun for a force that includes smaller men, and women. The U.S. Army leanred that lesson after adopting the large-framed Beretta 92F. A Sig Sauer was offered as an alternative for military law enforcement shooters with smaller hands. The perfect handgun is a bad choice when it doesn't fit its shooter's hand. Here's a few things to look for in checking the fit of your handgun:
Placing the backstrap of your hand squarely in the web between your thumb and forefinger (don't slide your hand, you will alter grip and recoil mangement), are you able to place the first joint of the trigger-finger on the trigger of your revolver? Can you place the pad of your trigger-finger on the trigger of your pistol? Can you dry fire your weapon without moving your finger or hand? The finger is weaker when stretcehed than when naturally extended. Too large a handgun can cause poor and even unsafe trigger control. Some shooters may notice the trigger-finger "bunches-up" and the trigger press forces the finger to point into the trigger. In that case, the weapon is too small.
Another test is for the pistol is the ability to lock the slide in the rearward position by using the shooting hand to engage the slide lever. You cannot safely manipulate the slide and the lever simultaneously with the non-shooting hand. Remember the shooter has to perform these tasks in the dark and under duress with defensive and hunting weapons; the effort needed should be light.
The good news is there is no perfect handgun but there are many excellent choices. There is no reason to carry a wepon that doesn't fit your hand.
The trigger is not a light switch, it is a mechanical lever. This mechanical lever is not rigidly affixed to the handgun.
Make a completely safe weapon and pinch the width of the trigger with your thumb and forefinger. You will notice the trigger can be moved side-to-side. Why does that matter to the marksman? If the trigger is not deliberately brought to the rear in straight rearward movement, the shooter will negatively influence sight alignment during trigger press. Dry fire is the easy cure for a wandering trigger press.
Lesson: Gently pressing the trigger is not enough for good marksmanship.
Albert League is a former Marine Corps and law enforcement firearm instructor who consults on a variety of security topics. He is the founder of the Practics firearms defense system and author of the Practics book series.(www.practicsusa.com)