Editor's Note: Chris Andersen of Norman is a competitor on the 3-Gun Nation Pro Series and a certified grand master pistol shooter by the United States Practical Shooting Association.
Andersen offers the following tips for recreational and competitive pistol shooters.
Solid fundamentals are the most important aspect of pistol shooting. A handgun is one of the most difficult guns to master so it is very important to start with a good foundation.
GRIP: Your objective in gripping the gun is to gain mechanical advantage. Start with your hands as high on the pistol grip as possible to mitigate recoil. Mount the gun with the web of your strong hand (firing hand) as high as possible on the back-strap of the pistol, fingers wrapping around the grip of the gun with your thumb held high to make room for your support hand.
Index your support hand from under the pistol with your index finger touching the bottom of the trigger guard. Wrap you fingers around your strong hand and lay the palm of your support hand into the gap created by raising the thumb on your strong hand, (this should set your support hand at a 45 degree angle). Now index both thumbs forward, overlapped pointed toward your target.
STANCE: Keep your hips and shoulders square to the target. You should be in an athletic position, knees bent, weight centered on your feet or slightly forward to mitigate recoil. Think of a wrestler or football player preparing to lunge forward. This stance is not only effective for recoil control, but it is equally important if you need to react or move quickly in a competitive or defensive situation.
SIGHT ALIGNMENT AND FOCUS: You should have crystal clear focus on your front sight with everything else slightly blurred. Think of looking at a skyscraper off in the distance. Your front sight tells you where your shot is going to go so focus and alignment are critical.
In competition, we are constantly looking for a sight picture that is just “good enough” to accomplish the shot. That can mean just pointing the gun at a target three yards in front of us or getting a perfect sight picture to hit a 10-inch plate at 50 yards.
We operate on the fine line between speed and accuracy and you can apply that to most any type of shooting if you connect your trigger to your sights and let your sights be your speedometer.
TRIGGER CONTROL: Proper trigger control means a controlled press of the trigger (using the pad of your index finger only) toward the rear of the pistol while maintaining proper sight alignment. I use a significant amount of dry-fire practice every week to practice proper trigger control.
With an unloaded pistol, practice maintaining focus on your front sight while breaking the shot (gently pressing the trigger letting, not making the hammer fall).
Pay attention to what the front sight does when you are breaking the shot and it can tell you a lot about how you should be applying pressure in your grip on the pistol without any confusion that might be called by recoil.
FOLLOW UP: Ability to make a follow up shot is one of the most overlooked basic pistol skills. In competition, it is paramount to building speed and it can be a life-saving situation. The word “double-tap” is over used in shooting and is largely a product of television and movies.
For most people that technique consists of one aimed shot and then another one fired as quickly as possible in hopes it will hit the target.
While that technique is sure to impress friends and looks good on video, you should only be shooting follow up shots as quickly as you can re-acquire your sights after recoil. Again, connect your trigger to your sights.
RELAX: Tension is the enemy of both speed and accuracy. While your grip should be fairly firm to combat recoil, the rest of you does not have to be. I keep my elbows slightly bent (as if I am hugging someone) and allow them to flex rearward to absorb recoil and direct it straight into my shoulders.
I also keep my head upright. That allows me to see everything around me for quick transitions to the next shooting position or target. When moving, I stay light on my feet and keep my weight centered as much as possible. This allows for quick transitions and faster first shots.