How to Shoot a Pistol

The Problem:

Most people are wildly inaccurate when shooting a pistol. Over the past couple decades, I’ve observed many shooters. I’ve seen casual gun owners, Recon Marines, regular Marines, executive protection agents, and nationally competitive pistol shooters do their best and worst at the range. In terms of accuracy, there’s a bimodal distribution. Shooters are either good or bad, with most, especially the casual gun owners, falling into the bad category. Bad pistol shooting is so pervasive that common shooters believe pistols themselves to be inaccurate. The problem is not the pistol; it’s the shooter. If a typical pistol is pointed in the right direction when a bullet leaves the barrel, it will hit a human torso at 100 yards every single time. I show this by shooting a compact 9mm at 200 and 300 yards.

There are a couple of paths into good pistol shooting. The most common path is years of practice, shooting hundreds of thousands of rounds. The other path is much quicker and cheaper, but requires a specific bit of insight and a little practice in a special shooting drill.

The Insight:

You move the gun as you pull the trigger. You move way more than you realize because your movement is masked by the more violent movement of the recoil. Your movement is actually a subconscious effort to counteract the force of the recoil. You tighten up and drive the gun forward and down. It’s automatic; you don’t plan on doing it, and you don’t even know that you are doing it. In order to stop doing it, you need to remove the mask that keeps it hidden in the subconscious.

The Drill:

Remove the recoil that masks your movement. Buy dummy rounds. Mix three or four dummy rounds randomly into each magazine of live rounds, then mix up the magazines so that you don’t have any knowledge of where the dummy rounds are in your ammo.


Shoot for accuracy at a target close enough to easily see your grouping. If you haven’t done this before, I absolutely guarantee that when a dummy round randomly feeds into the chamber, you’ll pull the trigger and flinch in anticipation of recoil that doesn’t come. Your movement will be fully visible without recoil to obscure it. Now it’s in your conscious awareness; now you can exert conscious control. Your goal should be that whenever you pull the trigger on a dummy round, the gun will stay still like a statue. Most people can achieve this after shooting several magazines in this drill. At the end of your first session of this drill, the grouping on the target will be the best you’ve ever shot. You’ll know cognitively and kinesthetically how to overcome the biggest obstacle to accurate pistol shooting. It will take more practice to make it into a habit, but that practice can be profoundly more efficient and productive than ever before.



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