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Thread: Handgun Practice

  1. #1
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    Default Handgun Practice

    Yentlemen:

    Iíve been frequenting the Handguns forum because, I donít know a lot aboutíem but you probably knew that already.

    I appreciate all the things I think Iíve learned so far, but hereís a question Iíve been stewing on for a while.

    How do I practice?

    I have several handguns, from 22 LR to 44 Mag, both revolvers and auto, and I like shooting them.

    When I go to do that, shouldnít I have some kinda plan?
    Like, what distance should I shoot from?
    What targets should I use?
    How many rounds do I shoot?
    Do I score myself? Etc.
    Should I just put up a target and unload the whole truck on that same target?

    Stuff like that.

    Any advice or comments, will be considered, and appreciated.
    Smitty of the North
    Walk Slow, and Drink a Lotta Water.
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    Default Handgun Practice

    Smitty,

    First thing to determine is, What are you practicing for?

    There are several different competitive sporting events, like Silhouette shooting, IPSC Target, Olympic Smallbore, Bowling Pin, etc.

    Or if you are practising for self-defense (in which case you should also practice courtroom demeanor, but that is really another thread).

    So, do you plan to compte in formal competition?

    Do you just want to practice hand-eye coordination?

    Do you just want to go "bang" and indulge in the joy of putting holes in paper targets or reaction targets (things that fall over or break into thousands of pieces)? Don't get me wrong. This is FUN, and that's OK.

    Do you want to practice for hunting?

    The scientific approach, trying to find some super accurate or powerful handload?

    Some other purpose?

    My tone is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, not pointed. Shooting is supposed to be a fun hobby as well as a serious one and how YOU enjoy hour hobby is not a subject for derision, so if I offend you or anyone else, please forgive me and let me know. Sometimes my social skills are a little off-target (lack of practice, don't you know).

    Larry (Lost Sheep)

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    Smitty, when I first got my first handgun S&W 29 I was shooting so much my right hand started to hurt. All I did in the off season was shoot,reload,shoot,using full power loads. That was in 1977, I don't shoot lke that anymore, but would suggest that you shoot you 22"s at very small targets at say , 25 yards. A one inch square, black or red, centered on blank white paper does wonders. You can always switch to the big guns at long ranges, but this will keep you in shooting shape! Small targets force you to consentrate.
    ; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 1 SAMUEL 2;30

  4. #4

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    Hmmmm. I probably should have read this thread before the one titled "Beginner/Practical Use Handgun." Here's what I just posted there:

    I want to throw something out here, not only for you and your girlfriend, but for anyone else who wants to improve their shooting.

    The biggest problems with learning to shoot a handgun is the long span between range sessions. Ideally you would shoot every day if you could.

    Well you can.

    I dry fire for 15 minutes a night, carefully aiming and squeezing of shots with particular attention to sight picture and followthrough.

    I also shoot 20 rounds a night through a single pump "target" air pistol. I got the Daisy 717 a long time ago for well under $100, but the best target on my 15' indoor range is to shoot at a blank sheet of paper, then shoot at the hole. If the hole gets bigger, it's your fault.

    This nightly practice does three things. It teaches technique and coordination. It builds muscle and endurance. It IMPROVES your performance between range sessions rather than allowing it to deteriorate.

    And best of all, no matter what you shoot at the range, all the noise and recoil doesn't seem nearly as bad when your mind and body already know what to do.


    I practice the basics all the time, then use my range sessions for the specifics of the individual handgun and the way I'll be using it. I can't argue with success.

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    Thumbs up A starting point....

    To get you started, one of the fundamentals of shooting (especially handguns) is trigger manipulation. Practice good trigger control with whatever gun you are shooting and it will help across the board.

    To explain semi-automatic trigger control (for those who don't know what I'm talking about...) -

    When you pull the trigger, take out the "slack" until you feel pressure on the trigger right before the sear releases. Make sure you are on target and crisply break the trigger (don't slap or jerk it). Keep the trigger depressed until you have recovered from the recoil and then slowly let out the trigger until you hear/feel the sear reset then stop. You are now ready for the next shot. Don't take your finger completely off the trigger between shots, this really affects smoothness. After you get the hang of feeling the sear reset, you can speed things up and it will eventually become a natural movement. If you are shooting several rounds in a row and you find some rounds are hitting low, you are probably slapping the trigger which causes the barrel to dip.

    Trigger exercises are good to practice because they can be done with any gun and will substantially help your accuracy. There are lots of other important drills too - grip (isometric tension), sight alignment, reloads, malfunction clearances, drawing from a holster, etc..., but try to master the trigger early on.
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    Many good suggestions here and I will add a couple more.
    This might seem really basic but make sure you use targets of some type. Why? so you can measure your progress.
    I would concentrate training with the revolvers first because it is easier to check for flinching with a revolver. When you are loading your revolver grab three or four rounds and without looking down load the weapon and close it. Having a couple of chambers empty will help point out if you are flinching or have poor habits after pulling the trigger.
    Stay with reduced loads or .22's for the vast majority of your sessions until you are absolutely comfortable with your shooting techniques and abscene of flinching. Change positions as well but shoot mostly off hand. Once you learn off hand the other postions are a piece of cake.
    Last, practice, practice and practice some more.
    Tennessee

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    Lost Sheep:
    Iím practicing for self defense, I reckon.
    I donít compete in any shooting events.
    I will occasionally hunt small game with a handgun, I used to do a lot of that, Wabbits, Spruce Hens, Ptarmigan, and the like.
    Iím not into hunting big game with my 44 Mag, nor will I be, unless it gets a whole lot easier for me with a rifle, than it is now.

    So, what about distance, and type of target?

    LongHunter7:
    OK, so youíre suggesting 25 yards, at 1Ē red or black squares, on white paper, with 22 caliber, then bigger.

    BrownBear:
    The issue of
    ďlong span between range sessionsĒ,
    dry firing,
    and air pistols.

    Akmud:
    Yeah, I heered on the TV, (History Channel) one of the exhibition shooters said that trigger control was more important than sight alignment. ????

    Snowwolfe:
    Flinching is something I have to control, because I tend to tense up, on the first shot of anything I shoot. Maybe, Iím apprehensive about how well I will do.

    Anyone else???
    Iím looking for a method, a procedure, a plan of action, if you will. I wanna be more familiar and proficient with my handguns.

    Thanks everyone.

    Smitty of the North
    Walk Slow, and Drink a Lotta Water.
    Has it ever occurred to you, that Nothing ever occurs to God? Adrien Rodgers.
    You can't out-give God.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    Lost Sheep:
    Iím practicing for self defense, I reckon.
    I donít compete in any shooting events.
    I will occasionally hunt small game with a handgun, I used to do a lot of that, Wabbits, Spruce Hens, Ptarmigan, and the like.
    Iím not into hunting big game with my 44 Mag, nor will I be, unless it gets a whole lot easier for me with a rifle, than it is now.

    So, what about distance, and type of target?

    LongHunter7:
    OK, so youíre suggesting 25 yards, at 1Ē red or black squares, on white paper, with 22 caliber, then bigger.

    BrownBear:
    The issue of
    ďlong span between range sessionsĒ,
    dry firing,
    and air pistols.

    Akmud:
    Yeah, I heered on the TV, (History Channel) one of the exhibition shooters said that trigger control was more important than sight alignment. ????

    Snowwolfe:
    Flinching is something I have to control, because I tend to tense up, on the first shot of anything I shoot. Maybe, Iím apprehensive about how well I will do.

    Anyone else???
    Iím looking for a method, a procedure, a plan of action, if you will. I wanna be more familiar and proficient with my handguns.

    Thanks everyone.

    Smitty of the North
    One more thing. I your a revolver shooter, use you left index finger, if your a right hand shooter, to keep the gun frame from moving when your pulling the trigger for a shot. This is done by putting SLIGHT PRESSURE ON THE LOWER GUN FRAME, just forward, and across from the trigger guard on the lower end of the frame. Make SURE that your fingers are not near the barrel cyl. gap when you shoot! Bill
    ; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 1 SAMUEL 2;30

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    Default Self Defense Practice

    Take the advice on practicing your grip, trigger squeeze, sight alignment, follow through, etc. All of this can be done in the dry fire environment at home. Using an air pistol is an excellent way to practice all of this stuff too. I have an airsoft pistol that is modeled after a real handgun with most of the user controls intact. At self defense ranges of 5 yards, it will cloverleaf a target every time, which is pretty impressive for 6mm plastic BBs. Great "living room" practice.

    For the firing range with your real gun, forget about the long range stuff when practicing for self defense. You won't be taking 25 yard shots that require 1" groups in any self defense situation. In fact, the most important part is getting the gun into action. So a lot of practice needs to be all about drawing from your method of carry. Again, practice the majority of that at home in a dry fire environment.

    When you get to the range for live fire work, start simple. Get a cardboard IPSC/IDPA type target (or just cut one out from a chunk of cardboard) and place a sheet of letter paper over the chest box. Your goal is to keep all of your rounds on that piece of paper. Any hit within that area on a human will be effective. If you're shooting 1" groups, you're going way too slow. If you miss that sheet of paper, you're going too fast and losing control of some aspect of basic marksmanship.

    I suggest starting very close, like 2 or 3 yards. If you can, use a random start buzzer or go to the range with a buddy and have him give a start signal from behind you. Draw and fire 2 or 3 rounds into the paper. Repeat this process a number of times gradually increasing your speed. Next, move back to about 5 yards, then about 7 yards, and finally about 10 yards. As the distance increases, you will have to slow down a little bit. You'll find that a rapid glimpse of the front sight at 5 yards will do, while at 10 yards you'll need to ensure that front sight is fully nestled into the rear sight.

    I like to start each distance with a "1-hole drill" where you just make a half-inch dot on the target with a marker or piece of tape, and take all the time you need to focus on marksmanship and fire 3-5 rounds at the dot. If you're doing everything right, you'll get a nice tight group. Note that you don't try to get the bullets to hit the dot, you focus your sights on the dot every shot and look at the total group when you're done. Then work on your speed drills for a few reps. When you're done with the speed drills, immediately do another "1-hole drill" to refocus on marksmanship before you move on to something else.

    After you get to where the full size sheet of letter paper is too easy, fold it in half and repeat the above. If you look at a standard IPSC target, the score box on the chest is similar in size to a once-folded sheet of paper. If you ever get to where you're getting off 2 rounds in less than a second and still on the 1/2 sheet of paper, then fold it in half again and join a shooting league.

    A key is to mix it up. You don't want to park at 7 yards and shoot 100 rounds doing the same thing every draw. Limit each shooting activity to about a half-dozen or at most a dozen reps. After you've got the marksmanship and speed stuff working pretty good, move on to manipulations.

    While you are shooting, you can practice your "speed reloads" every time the gun runs dry. If you're running a semi-auto, you can force this more often by loading your mags with fewer rounds. I have about a dozen mags for my Glock and I'll load all of them at home the night before going to the range with different numbers of rounds and usually I'll mix a few dummy rounds in there as well (forces a Type 1 malfunction). For added advance practice, I'll put an empty brass near the bottom of a mag or two that will force the gun into a Type 3 malfunction so I can practice that too. I mix the mags up in my range bag and blindly pull them out and fill my gun and mag pouches at the range. Then I'll put my shot timer on random start with a 2 or 3 second par and a multiple repeat. Push the start button once and I have continuous random start buzzers, so I can just keep working on shooting, fixing malfunctions, and reloading until all the mags on my person are empty (I carry 2 double mag pouches on my training rig, so I can start with 5 loaded mags at the ready).

    I tell you, a little imagination and there is no end to what you can come up with at the range. Search some IPSC or IDPA shooting sites and you'll come back with hundreds of stages you can set up and work through. You can put up multiple targets and place a target frame or two at the firing line as a barricade. Practice shooting while moving, shooting around the barricades, engaging multiple targets, failure to stop drills (head shots), shooting one handed (both sides), different positions (standing, kneeling, prone, etc.) and the list goes on and on.

    Finally, for your hunting practice, this is where you want to move back to the game-shot ranges of 25 yards and such and focus on small targets. That part of shooting is pure marksmanship. The one important point to make on this one is not to do this shooting from the bench. You need to get into the various positions you'll actually be using in the field. Standing and kneeling being the most used but don't forget about using the local tree or log as a rest either. Some of the best practice for hunting is to go out into the woods where you have a safe backstop (i.e. a hill) and set up a target that represents your game and take shots from natural positions just like you would encounter for real.

    Good luck.
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    JOAT:
    That all sounds good. I'll print this out, and give it a shot, or shots.

    You explain things well. Ya oughta rite a book.

    Thanks
    Smitty of the North
    Walk Slow, and Drink a Lotta Water.
    Has it ever occurred to you, that Nothing ever occurs to God? Adrien Rodgers.
    You can't out-give God.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    Lost Sheep:
    I’m practicing for self defense, I reckon.
    I don’t compete in any shooting events.
    I will occasionally hunt small game with a handgun, I used to do a lot of that, Wabbits, Spruce Hens, Ptarmigan, and the like.
    I’m not into hunting big game with my 44 Mag, nor will I be, unless it gets a whole lot easier for me with a rifle, than it is now.

    So, what about distance, and type of target?

    LongHunter7:
    OK, so you’re suggesting 25 yards, at 1” red or black squares, on white paper, with 22 caliber, then bigger.

    BrownBear:
    The issue of
    “long span between range sessions”,
    dry firing,
    and air pistols.

    Akmud:
    Yeah, I heered on the TV, (History Channel) one of the exhibition shooters said that trigger control was more important than sight alignment. ????

    Snowwolfe:
    Flinching is something I have to control, because I tend to tense up, on the first shot of anything I shoot. Maybe, I’m apprehensive about how well I will do.

    Anyone else???
    I’m looking for a method, a procedure, a plan of action, if you will. I wanna be more familiar and proficient with my handguns.

    Thanks everyone.

    Smitty of the North

    This is interesting and I've tried to stay out but I guess I can't.

    I don't know where to start. I think I am an accomplished handgunner. How's that? I have been, for the last forty years a competitive handgun shooter. I'm not so good today as I was when I was 25 or even when I was 45, but I can still shoot a little. I cannot shoot with the likes of folks who keep all their shots on a one inch dot at 25 yards, offhand, nor have I ever met them. I don't think I can keep all my shots in 3" at 25 yards with my 44 or other heavy caliber hunting guns. When I was forty years old and my skill levels had dropped a bit, I shot a leg match. This is a "Bullseye" National Match course with a 45 Auto, with hard ball 230 grain FMJ ammo. This course of fire is 10 shots slow fire at 50 yards, 10 of timed fire at 25 yards and 10 shots of rapid fire at 25 yards. The ten ring for all targets is three inches. It is all shot one handed, standing unsupported. Slow fire is ten shots in ten minutes, you'll need every one of them if you do it right. Timed fire is two 5 shot strings 20 seconds per string. Rapid fire is two 5 shot strings 10 seconds per string. A maximum score is 300, 100 points for each stage. This was a non counting leg match since I had already "legged" out and had my distinguished medal, but I shot it to see if I could still do it. I shot a 286 and some x's. When I legged out at the Wilson matches at camp Robinson, I had shot a 286 also, so I said I still have it. In this particular leg match I shot a 99 slow fire. The highest hardball slow fire score I had ever shot. Obviously my rapid fire sucked sea water but the long line was good.

    When I was shooting a lot of Bullseye I could keep my rapid and timed inside the 3" ten ring about 98% of the time in matches. I was a monotonous 98 rapid fire shooter. I was a 2620's to 2640's (out of a possible 2700 point three gun match) shooter. I shot everyday about 60 to 120 rounds of 45 and about 60 rounds of 22.

    I have held master class competitor cards in Bullseye, PPC, NRA Action Pistol (Bianchi Cup). I've held similar ratings in all the alphabet soup Defensive shoot competitions IDPA, IPSC and USPSA.

    I can tell you this; the single most important aspect of this game is to see the front sight clearly with correct sight alignment, at the break of each shot. The shot then will always go where the sights tell you it will go. If and when this sight alignment is correct, and your trigger break doesn't disturb that sight alignment, you'll have a good shot. If and when the sight alignment is on the target in the correct place (sight picture) and you make a good trigger break it will be a perfect shot.

    It is a serious mistake to practice anything without practicing this precise sight alignment. When you have the perfect sight alignment, then you can get more aggressive on the trigger and even "prep" the trigger in full recoil as you develop that feel for the break. You cannot get precision by getting speed first then strive for good alignment. Now as you develop you will come to find a point where, when you're on your game, you will know what your recovery time is and press the trigger to make it break just at the instance that you have your sight alignment on the target. A quick shot is of no use if it is off the scoring ring or in the neighbors yard. Sight alignment is the only way we can know where the shot is going. You must see the alignment for every shot. If the front sight is a bit high at the break, the shot goes high. Call it as such. When we put a time limit on a number of shots it forces us to do the right things quicker. Most folks can't imagine getting five shots in the 10 ring at 25 yards in 10 seconds. But with practice and good technique it can be done easily. And it has been done in far less time.

    The defensive style shoots require greater speed and less precision. The scoring rings are about 6" to 8" and targets are much closer, usually 7 to 15 yards. They still require good sight alignment and to see this alignment you must focus on the front sight. It is called a flash sight picture. This is the sight alignment imposed on the target center just as you break the shot. You still exercise precision just more quickly and are more tollerant of slight errors in sight picture.

    Practice: Well I think I should shoot once a week. I don't and it had been almost a month since I had been shooting, so I went today. I start with the target at ten yards and a blank piece of paper. I use paper plates because they are free. I would prefer something not so white because the light glares off the target. But plain paper. There is nothing down at the target to focus on and this helps. Keep the eye back at the sights, the front sight and concentrate there. You will center in the paper, just watch the sight and press while you watch the front sight all the time correcting for minor errors in sight alignment. Sight alignment is more important here than where you are pointed on the target. A .010" error of alignment is 6" to 9" at 25 yards. (depending on sight radius) You must press the trigger while maintaining the sight alignment. NOT; Align the sights then pull the trigger.

    Shoot forty or fifty rounds with this precision practice. Don't try to hurry but break the shot when it is ready, watching the alignment all the time.
    You should be able to keep all your shots in about 2-3 inches and make just one hole. This is at just 10-15 yards. If you cannot do that do not speed up, it will only get worse. When you are at that fifty shots into a 2" hole then you can go for speed.

    Now if you want to go to double action and faster style of shooting you will be tuned into this sight alignment and the sight picture that works, just speed up a bit.


    There is an array of pointers as to technique to help with all kinds of problems when shooting. It is impossible to cover all of them and they would only apply if we diagnose them as you shoot. Stance, grip, trigger control, heeling, anticipation, pushing. All of these factors effect the shot.

    There is no short cut, but there is a plan to follow. Shoot twice a week with the handgun of your choice and 100 rounds each session. Align the sights and break each shot without disturbing the sight alignment. Shoot ten shots at a paper plate in a 2" group, ten times (100 shots). Start at 10 yards, from sitting, two handed with the wrists supported. Then stand at 10 yards two handed, then repeat the standing with the weak hand on the gun, still two handed. Then standing at 10 yards, strong hand only. Ten times ten shots each all in a two inch group. Don't cheat, and if you shoot a plate with one shot outside the two inch group, shoot that plate over. There's more. Don't give up.
    Last edited by Murphy; 01-14-2008 at 01:05.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



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    Murphy:
    I'm glad you didn't stay out. I was hoping you'd chime in.
    I shall endeavor to take your advice, to heart.

    Thanks for giving me the time. I'm a whole lot better off than when I first asked the question.

    Smitty of the North
    Walk Slow, and Drink a Lotta Water.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    Murphy:
    I'm glad you didn't stay out. I was hoping you'd chime in.
    I shall endeavor to take your advice, to heart.

    Thanks for giving me the time. I'm a whole lot better off than when I first asked the question.

    Smitty of the North

    I guess I really don't know where you are with your handgun skills. What I posted was more for a beginner but will work as a refresher for many levels. There is much more to that program. The importance of the sights cannot be over emphasized.

    I really like what JOAT posted. That could be beneficial for any one once they have the basics sights and trigger down. I think I do and I could benefit from his instruction. He obviously has grabbed a pistol a time or two.

    I have been trained by the best of the pistoleros, Cooper, Chapman, Smith but would never past up a chance for more good technique and practice tips.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



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    Murphy:
    I'm definitely a beginner. I've never shot a lot of handgun.
    Thanks Again.
    Walk Slow, and Drink a Lotta Water.
    Has it ever occurred to you, that Nothing ever occurs to God? Adrien Rodgers.
    You can't out-give God.

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