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Three Basic Tips for Better Handgun Marksmanship

By: Spencer Durrant

Handguns are great at close range, but unless you’re using a competition-style piece, your accuracy will dip significantly if you put any sort of distance between yourself and your target.

Some shooters swear one gun is more accurate than the rest. While it’s true, of course, that some people shoot better with one particular pistol, the firearm is far from the only marksmanship variable.

I definitely shoot better with my CZ P-07 than I did with my old Glock 23, but it’s not really the gun’s fault, per say. Rather, my accuracy is affected by how the gun sits in my hand, the bore axis, and trigger. These aspects of the CZ make shooting a more pleasant experience, and in turn, it’s easier for me to implement all the tips and techniques I’ve been taught about shooting handguns.

I’m not a crack shot by any means, but I put a few hundred rounds through my CZ every month. As I’ve worked on my marksmanship, I’ve narrowed down three areas of focus that have helped me improve in a big way:

Sight Focus
A few guys I know say you don’t need sights on a handgun. “Just point the barrel and pull the trigger,” they say.

For a few old cowboys here in the West, that works. But for the rest of us, that advice isn’t helpful.

I’ve had former firearms instructors, ex-military, and current police officers give me tips on using my gun sights. While they all have a preference on sight type, there’s a consensus on one thing: Your brain can’t focus on three things at once. If you try to keep the rear sight, front sight, and target all in focus, you’ll never get a shot off.

Try focusing on keeping only the front sight in focus. The target beyond will be slightly blurry, and that’s fine.

Granted, in a self-defense situation, you probably won’t think about your sights or target, which is why we practice so much. If the worst happens, and you do have to draw a weapon in self-defense, you’ll want to have your eyes trained to pick up that front sight automatically and fire center-mass at your target.

Working the Trigger
While there are several suggestions that could fall under the “trigger tips” umbrella, the most important one for me has involved where the trigger fits on your finger.

A classic mistake shooters often make is fitting the trigger inside the first joint of their finger. The problem with this technique is that if you use the joint of a finger to pull the trigger back, that finger will roll across the entirety of the trigger, causing the gun to wobble slightly from right to left (or vice-versa, if you shoot left-handed).

The only part of your finger that should touch the trigger is the pad. Think of it as leaving a fingerprint on the trigger.

It’s also important not to rush your shot and jerk the trigger. Focus on a slow, smooth, consistent squeeze. A slower trigger pull will decrease how much the barrel wobbles, and you’ll be more accurate.

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Stance
Changing my stance changed my shot patterns significantly. As with all things in the gun world, the best way to position one’s feet is a matter of debate, but the stance I’ve found to work best is a fighting stance. Drop one foot behind the other, as if you’re preparing to box. This balanced positioning helps you better manage recoil and reacquire the target after a shot, thus controlling your groupings at longer distances.

Obviously, there’s plenty more you can do to improve your handgun marksmanship, but these three tips have proven to be the most effective for me. Practice is the best teacher. Spend time on the range, listen to the instruction of experienced fellow shooters, and you’ll improve.

Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. He’s the Managing Editor of The Modern Trout Bum and Owner/CEO of Cutthroat Creative Media. Find him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.