Wednesday, May 29, 2024

How to Shoot Better 3: Training with the Handgun

By Sanjay Soni

Sanjay Soni, Managing Director, Hughes Precision Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd.

Drill 6: Chase the Shot

This is a fun drill that Caylen has his students do in pairs, in order to focus on sight alignment and you guessed it, trigger control.

Hang a blank piece of cardboard on the target stand at 5 yards.

Begin Drill 6:

  1. Each shooter starts with the same amount of ammo in the magazine.
  2. The first shooter fires and makes a hole in the target.
  3. The second shooter must now aim at the hole and touch the shot of the first shooter.
  4. If the shooter touches the first hole, that person now fires a shot to establish the new aiming point.
  5. This continues until the shooters are out of ammo.

End Drill

A final tip that Caylen offered relates to the grip. Most shooters do not grip the handgun hard enough. This really becomes apparent as shooters begin to go faster. If you notice shots beginning to go low, you can likely attribute it to not enough grip pressure.

As you begin shooting fast, if your grip is not hard enough, the trigger begins to act as a fulcrum and as the trigger is slapped the muzzle drops and your shots go low.

Tip: grip the gun hard. Really hard, through your entire shot string.

Drill 7: Half and Half Drill

This is a live-fire drill that I discussed with Kyle Lamb, owner of Viking Tactics. Shoot this drill with a standard silhouette target.

With a handgun the drill is conducted in the following manner:

  • 20 yards, 10 rounds, 12 second par time
  • 10 yards, 10 rounds, 6 second par time
  • 5 yard, 10 rounds, 3 second par time

You will need a timer for this drill.

Begin Drill 7:

  • Set your par time to the appropriate range you are shooting at. If you’re shooting alone, program the timer for a random start signal.
  • The drill is fired from Position Three, meaning the gun is out of the holster and you have a proper two-handed grip.
  • When the timer sounds, you press the gun to the target and fire ten rounds.
  • Move up half the distance, reset the time for half the time and fire ten rounds, and so on.

End Drill

Every round inside the “A” zone on a silhouette target counts 10 points. For rounds outside the “A” zone, we subtract 10 points. The shooter also loses 10 points for every round fired beyond the par time.

I shot this drill with a Sig 22 LR and a Springfield Sub-Compact 40 S&W, just to see how I could perform.

First, when that buzzer sounds, all you think about is getting the rounds off before the time is up. The first couple of runs my shots were high on the target, meaning I was squeezing the trigger before my sights we fully realigned on my target. I found that after a few runs, I could get my shots off in the time allowed, but not necessarily keep them all in the “A” zone.

Kyle reinforced that trigger manipulation is critical in this drill. With a proper grip, the shooter should see the front sight lift off the target and come back on the target after recoil. The biggest challenge is trigger squeeze.

Drill 8: Triple Nipple Drill

This is another drill that Kyle uses to induce stress and force shooters to really think and concentrate on the trigger as they run the drill.

Here we will use the same “A” zone on the silhouette target as our scoring ring.

Begin Drill 8:

  1. 15 yards, 10 rounds, 10 second par time. Draw from holster, two-handed grip.
  2. 10 yards, 10 rounds, 10 second par time. Draw from holster, strong hand only.
  3. 5 yards, 10 rounds, 10 second par time. This one is tricky. Gun holstered on the strong side. Draw from the holster with your weak hand – no drawing with the strong hand and switching to weak hand – fire ten rounds. This part of the drill forces you to think through your draw, build your grip then fire ten accurate shots.

End Drill

When coming from the holster, this means we develop snappy movements through the draw, building the grip and pushing out the gun, then slow down, achieve proper sight alignment and execute a perfect trigger squeeze to send our rounds onto the intended target.

Drill 9: Sig Sauer Academy Quarter Drill

This drill combines precision with speed and perfecting your magazine changes.

Shoot this drill from three yards. You need a target with a quarter-sized dot as your aiming point. The par time for this drill is 6.5 seconds.

Begin Drill 9:

  1. Start with your handgun loaded with one round and in your holster. You will need two additional magazines for reloads with one round in each magazine. The magazines should be in the magazine holder you use for everyday carry.
  2. When the timer starts, draw and fire one shot at the quarter-size target.
  3. Drop magazine one, reload, slingshot your slide and fire shot two.
  4. Drop magazine two, reload, slingshot your slide and fire shot three.


End Drill

The goal is to have all three shots in the quarter-sized target. Your sight alignment and trigger squeeze must be perfect for this drill.

Adding the stress of the timer and reloading for each shot really forces you to think through each movement, moving quickly during the reload and presentation, and slowing down when aiming and pressing the trigger.

Drill 10: Ball and Dummy Drill

This is a drill that is used to diagnose flinching and anticipating the shot. If you notice that your shots tend to be hitting below the point of aim, chances are you are flinching.

Begin Drill 10:

  1. The shooter hands the gun to a partner or lays it on the bench and turns away from the firing line and target.
  2. The partner then readies the gun either by loading with a single live round or by leaving the chamber empty.
  3. Shooter turns back to the target, picks up the gun, points in and fires the shot.
  4. If the gun is empty and there is a flinch, the partner- and very likely the shooter- will see a noticeable dip in the front sight, the moment the trigger breaks.

End Drill

This drill is best done with about 75% of the shots on an empty chamber. Live rounds are introduced randomly to keep the shooter a bit off balance.

As this training progresses, the shooter will eventually overcome the flinch and begin to put more shots on target.

Drill 11: The Five to Glock Drill

This drill was developed in the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation matches.

For this drill, you need 5 targets spaced from 5 yards to as far as 25 yards from the shooter. Each target requires 2 shots.

If you don’t want a penalty, every shot needs to be inside the 8-inch circle of a 10-point ring. You could do the same thing with 8-inch paper plates on a cardboard backer. Every shot needs to be on the plate at every distance.

Begin Drill 11:

  1. To begin, just time yourself and train until all your shots are on all the plates.
  2. Keep track of your improvement in your journal.

End drill

As you improve, begin to add stress by decreasing your par time setting and strive to make every hit within your time limit.

Drill 12: Ready-Up Drill

This drill is used to develop proficiency with your chosen handgun. It’s simple, effective, and easy to track your improvement in your journal.

Start with the target no more than 5 yards downrange. Your handgun should be loaded with a round in the chamber and holstered. Begin this training without a timer.

Begin Drill 12:

  • Facing the target, draw the handgun and fire one round as soon as the front sight covers the scoring area of your target.
  • Re-holster your handgun and repeat until the magazine is empty.
  • Perform a combat reload and continue firing one round at a time.

End Drill

As your skill develops, your confidence in trusting your front sight increases because you know when the front sight is on the target, your fired rounds will be on the target as well.

For added training, have a partner yell out a number for each repetition. This means you may shoot one round, then 4 rounds, then 2 rounds, then 1 round.

The purpose is to train for the eventuality that you may need to fire more than one shot in a defensive situation and put all those rounds on the target.

Putting It All Together

The drills above are proven to improve your shooting accuracy with a handgun. But you must walk before you run.

Work on your basics first:

  • Stance
  • Grip (grip the gun firmly!)
  • Sight Alignment
  • Sight Picture
  • Breathing
  • Trigger Control
  • Follow-through

Start with the drills that you can work on without a timer and place your targets close. When the groups start shrinking, move the target back and begin placing some time limits on your shot strings. Only work on a couple of drills on each trip out.

Don’t make your range time so regimented you aren’t having fun. End each session on a high note and keep track of your progress so you know where you start next time.

Which is More Effective- Shooting with One Eye Open or Two?

When new shooters learn to fire a gun, they usually start like most people do—closing one eye to aim while looking towards the target downrange. However, some experienced gun owners actually prefer to shoot with both eyes open.

Here are the pros and cons of shooting both ways.

Do You Shoot with One Eye Open?

Let’s start with the most familiar way to new shooters: closing one eye and looking through the scope or down the iron sights with the open eye. Which eye you close depends on whether you’re right or left-handed, but you generally want the dominant eye closest to the gun to be open.

What Are the Benefits of Shooting with One Eye Open?

There’s a reason why most people learn how to shoot like this—it’s incredibly natural. Most of us have what’s called a dominant eye, which is, without getting into too much technical detail, the eye that’s better at interpreting visual data and relaying it to your brain.

Also, closing one eye makes it easier to direct your focus solely on your sights or what you see in the scope and blocks out everything else.

Are There Disadvantages to Shooting with One Eye Open?

The previously listed benefit of directing your focus is a negative in the opinion of a growing number of shooting instructors and experts. Many people train to use guns and own them for self-defense or recreational hunting. In a situation in which you’re using your firearm for these purposes, you want to be able to see everything around you.

Although it may be easier to focus on one thing, closing one eye significantly reduces your field of vision and your ability to see your surroundings thoroughly.

Shooting With One Eye Open – Summary

  • More natural for most people
  • Allows for the use of your dominant eye
  • Easier to direct your focus
  • Reduces overall field of vision

How Do You Shoot With Two Eyes Open?

First, aim as you usually would with one eye slightly closed, then open the closed eye completely. Work on focusing with your dominant eye while both eyes are open. This will take some getting used to, but blinking your non-dominant eye a few times will help you focus as you get more familiar with the process.

If you’re shooting with safety glasses on, which you should always do, a neat trick is to lightly coat the lens of your non-dominant eye with a bit of lip balm to blur the image. This will eventually help your brain to disregard any double-vision effects you might be experiencing and allow you to focus on your target with both eyes open.

What Are the Pros of Shooting with Both Eyes Open?

The increased field of vision is arguably the most important and notable benefit of shooting with both eyes open. Hunters scanning the sky or horizon appreciate being able to spot the mallard that’s currently in their scope as well as the one 50 feet away from it for the next shot.

Shooting with both eyes open significantly increases repeatability and allows you to move on to the next target quickly without possibly disorienting yourself from making rapid switches between one eye being open and both.

What Are the Cons of Shooting with Both Eyes Open?

Shooting with both eyes open can take some getting used to, especially if you were taught to shoot with one eye closed. When going to the range for the first few times and shooting with both eyes open, the urge to “cheat” and slightly or entirely close your non-dominant eye will be strong.

Don’t fight it! The urge will slowly go away with practice as you become more used to focusing and aiming guns with both eyes open.

Shooting With Both Eyes Open – Summary

  • Increased field of vision
  • Increased ability to move on to the next target
  • Can be difficult to get used to
  • May cause a double-vision effect at first

Just Do It – Training Consistently

Too much range practice, in the beginning, is sometimes detrimental. That’s because you haven’t built up good muscle memory. Instead, you build up a flinch reaction.

Don’t worry if that’s you. With some quality dry firing at home you can overcome it.

If you are going to carry a handgun for defensive purposes, you’re obligated to know how to run that gun and how to shoot it accurately. Your range journal may prove to be a valuable tool in the courtroom if you ever have to deploy your handgun to protect yourself or a loved one. Showing that you are diligent in your training and constantly improving means you’re not some vigilante nut job.

Most of us can’t get to the range every week. But all of us have time to dry fire for 15 minutes in our office. Master the drills in this article and when you hit the range with live ammo, your shooting will show definite improvement on every trip.

Shooting well is an obligation, but it’s also fun. The better you shoot, the more fun you have. Like any skill worth developing, shooting a handgun well and improving handgun accuracy is going to take study, training, and practice.

Sanjay Soni is the Managing Director of Hughes Precision Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd. India’s first small caliber manufacturer in the private sector. An MBA from IIM Bangalore he has been involved with the ammunition industry in India and abroad since the last 8 years.


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