Intro to Pistol Shooting Fundamentals for Accuracy & Recoil Management
Shooting the pistol with consistent accuracy and speed is perhaps the most difficult skill to master in all of the shooting sports. The pistol is an unforgiving platform that will showcase any deficiencies a shooter may have. However, with knowledge of the fundamentals and enough discipline to stick to them, a shooter can find success.
As with all shooting disciplines, the first fundamental is stance. A good stance will build a consistent and reliable platform for success. This begins with the feet about shoulder-width apart with the strong-side foot placed about even with the mid-step of the weak-side foot. With a slight bend in the knees, place the weight over the balls of the feet. To complete a good stance, the chest must remain up and the shoulders relaxed.
A good grip is the second component to shooting a pistol well. A good grip begins with the strong hand getting a good purchase on the gun while it is still in the holster. The strong hand should grab as high on the grip of the pistol as possible, with the back strap of the grip driving into the meat of the thumb. The strong hand thumb should be relaxed, but remain high enough to allow room for the weak hand to also gain a purchase on the grip. The weak hand should fill in the opening left on the pistol with the meat of the thumb and heal of the hand. The fingers of the weak hand should reach around, under the trigger guard, and apply pressure on top of the fingers of the strong hand, with the weak hand thumb pointing at the target as it sets along the frame of the pistol. A good grip allows for strong recoil management, while not impeding accuracy.
With a good stance and grip, now we will talk about sight alignment. On pistols with iron sights, there are three planes of focus; rear sight, front sight, and target. For best accuracy, the front sight should be crystal clear. It should be centered inside the rear sight with equal height across the top, and with equal light on both sides of the front sight. If the shot is fired with the front sight perfectly in the middle of the rear sight with the front and rear sights perfectly level across the top, and that sight-picture lined-up in the center of the target, the round should impact in the middle of the bullseye.
Now that we’ve built a good stance, grip, and sight picture; it will all be for naught without trigger control. Trigger control is arguably the most important component to accuracy. Perfect trigger control was once described to me as pressing the trigger perfectly to the rear without disturbing the sight alignment and sight picture. If the shooter introduces pressure to the trigger to the right or to the left, no matter how slight, it will cause the round to impact outside the center of the target.
Success with the pistol will involve a strict adherence to the fundamentals of stance, grip, sight alignment/sight picture, and trigger control. Repetitive training of these fundamentals is necessary in order to consistently achieve accuracy and recoil management for that accurate follow-up shot. Once a shooter has built a strong foundation of reliable fundamentals, they can introduce the speed and dynamics that are necessary to reach that next level.