new guy needs advice on pistol technique

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Hi Guys, I hope I'm putting this in the right forum section. I'd like the help of the collected wisdom here.

I'm a relatively new shooter in that I picked up my first pistol a MKIII late last year. I thought I was getting pretty good with the basics and it was time to move up to something in a centerfire so I picked up an SR9 this week. Took it to the range to make sure everything goes bang when it should and practice a bit and I've noticed something: I'm consistently shooting low and more left of center (I'm a right-handed guy) or center with the 9 while I'm dead on with the 22.

I adjusted the sights a bit and I can make a nice grouping in the center of the target if I brace my elbows and basically bench fire. So that tells me it's something with my technique, not the hardware at this point. After running about 50 rounds through it, I was starting to inch closer to center but still shooting low and slightly left and I can't really tell you what I was doing differently that was pulling me up some. Though I did notice that when I switched back to the 22 for a bit I started off pulling high right so obviously I was compensating for something.

Now that I've given you a picture as clear as a mud puddle, any advice or suggestions on things to watch for or work on as far as causes and correction in addition to just getting a lot of rounds through the gun to get more comfortable with it? I know it's hard to suggest sight unseen, but I hope a few folks might be able to. Thanks in advance for any input.
 

shaunss

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Sounds like you might be anticipating the recoil, which would explain why you shot high when you switched back to the 22.
Try having someone else load a snap-cap into your magazine so you don't know when it's coming and fire away. I was doing the same thing when I started shooting and as soon as I got to the dummy round I could watch the gun drop as I pulled the trigger.
 

Mike-Mike

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"Just stop flinching" is the answer (easier said than done). Understanding the flinch is the first step in overcoming it. The flinch is a natural reaction and what you are experiencing is very normal. There are several good articles on here as well as instructors who can help you. There are many drills and games that can help as well.
 
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I picked up an SR9 this week. I'm consistently shooting low and more left of center
Everyone I've talked to who has shot this gun is shooting the same way. I'll shoot dead on in the same setting with a ruger 22/45, Kahr PM9, USP 45, Beretta 92FS, and then go to the Ruger SR9 and consistently shoot low and left. A couple of folks are going to sell theirs because of it. Is it operator error? Probably. I'm a novice and I've tried every grip adjustment I could think of and couldn't correct it. My only thought is that the grip is narrow and long, making it more likely to swivel a bit in my grip. But it sure seems to affect an awful lot of operators!
 

Twigg

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But it sure seems to affect an awful lot of operators!
Perhaps because the average person can't hit the broad side of a barn.

Not flaming you and believe me, I was one of them.

Only perfect practice gets perfection. ( and by no means am I perfect...)
Get some quality instruction and shoot, shoot, shoot. When you can't get to the range, dry fire. When I can get to the range I tend to fire off close to 200 rounds. Most of the time I just draw and fire two rapid shots and I change targets when they look like this;



After changing targets my goal is to eliminate the fliers and center the ragged hole.

I've found it really helps to have a knowledgable person standing behind you observing / coaching.
 
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SJan

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Practice dry firing with the sights aligned on target. When you slowly squeeze the trigger the sights should stay on target. Do this 10 or so times, slowly, then load just 2 or 3 rounds in a mag and do the same thing, slowly squeeze the trigger holding the sights on target.

Shoot through 50 rounds like this, only 2 or 3 at a time, with 10 dry fires in between. This will help you break out of the habit of flinching or pulling low left
 
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Thanks everyone for the advice and suggestions and tips. Analyzing it a bit more, I'm pretty sure I'm anticipating the recoil and that's causing me to pull down slightly as I fire the gun. I'll do some work with dry firing and have a friend help me surprise myself with snap caps in the magazine.

However, a related question came up. As rutilate pointed out, now that I've had a chance to shoot it a bit beyond trying it briefly at the range and fondling it in the store, I have noticed that the grip is rather narrow though it does fit me well in terms of distance front to back. Any recommendations for building up the "sides" to get a fatter grip without injuring the gun, making it too fat to handle, or turning it into an ugly, unwieldy monstrosity?
 

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(I'm a pretty new shooter like you, have been lurking on this forum for quite a while, and have also been struggling to overcome "the flinch"... man, it's work! Do you realize that a difference of 1/16th of an inch in your muzzle makes a difference of 4.5 inches on the target at 20 feet? I learned this watching a video of Dave Spaulding the other day. When these guys say "hold the gun steady" they mean REALLY steady.)

Sorry, back to your most recent question: There are lots of different replacement grips that you can get for your gun, and you can change them yourself. They all have unique sizes and feels. Some add more distance front to back, some more side-to-side, some vary per side. But before you start changing grips, are you confident that your hold on the gun is correct? As I've learned, trigger control is important... but getting your hands on the right place on the gun and applying the right pressure is at least equally important.

Also, not to hijack your thread, but I'd *love* to hear about local instructors who enjoy and are good at working with students with these kinds of basic marksmanship problems. I've encountered lots of folks who are happy to work with you on how to run an IDPA stage, or some other more advanced techniques. But I've not encountered many folks who have the insight to analyze problems and help a newbie with fundamentals.
 

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I am by no means knowledgeable on most subjects regarding guns, but I got fairly accurate with my .45 1911, fairly quickly using the best technique I have ever heard come out of a shooting instructors mouth. This came direct at me from a Drill Sergent: "Squeeze the trigger slowly, don't jerk on it(doesn't 't sound like your problem), the shot should be just as much a surprise to you as it is to your target." You cannot possibly anticipate the recoil if not even YOU know when it is coming. Takes a bit of doing though, I adjusted my trigger twice to make it so I could not know when it would release, and it seems to have helped me a bit.

YMMV.
 

In God We Trust

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Right handed shooters that hit low left regularly are anticipating recoil. If you think the sights are off on the gun, have someone else try it for you first or try shooting a couple mags with the muzzle resting on sandbags or something before adjusting sights.

A couple of the drills we use to correct the flinch is to put a piece of brass on the tip of the slide and have the shooter dry fire it until the brass stays in place. Them we load the magazine out of sight of the shooter a couple dozen times so they don't know if the gun is actually loaded or not and have them shoot the target again with the brass on the slide. sometimes the gun is empty, sometimes loaded. The shooting does not know which when we hand them the gun. EVen when the gun is not actually loaded, the brass will get knocked off if the problem is anticipation.

There is no magic bullet for curing anticipation. I have been shooting for over 15 years and I still do it for the first magazine or so when I go to the range sometimes. Just try to clear your mind and concentrate on the sight picture and MAINTAIN it through the trigger squeeze. The bullet is going to go where the gun is pointed when the trigger breaks every time. Try not to think about it.

If you don't have someone to help you at the range, buy a box of snap caps and load all your magazines with one round each. Half with one round of live ammo, half with one snap cap. Mix them up so you don't know which is which and then load them randomly (without looking at the round) and shoot at the target. Do this for a while when you first get to the range. Hope this helps, and keep practicing![grin]
 
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Another_David

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All of the above is great advice--dry fire at home then take it to the range.

One more thing though, check your grip. You should have complete coverage of the grip to the point you shouldn't be able to see any of it from your isosceles shooting position. With a righty you can sometimes see a patch of grip on the back of the grip, low to the left where your palms meet. If so, adjust your grip for complete coverage and better support. This gap can cause slight low left shots as well, although not typically as low as flinching.
 
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Practice dry firing with the sights aligned on target. When you slowly squeeze the trigger the sights should stay on target. Do this 10 or so times, slowly, then load just 2 or 3 rounds in a mag and do the same thing, slowly squeeze the trigger holding the sights on target.

Shoot through 50 rounds like this, only 2 or 3 at a time, with 10 dry fires in between. This will help you break out of the habit of flinching or pulling low left
I like this one. Economical use of ammo to boot. Thanks for the tip!


Sent from my handheld electronic thingamabob.
 
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I was just at the range yesterday working with a Down Zero instructor and encountered this problem. All my POIs were low and to the left and the more I fired, the worse it became. It took a couple of hidden snap caps and another exercise or two before I finally stopped trying to wrastle the pistol into submission. When I finally released the tension in my shoulders and hands, I hit the edge of the bulls eye with three rounds in succession (my last three!) with a P229 .40 at 20 feet. (That may not seem like much from some perspectives, but as this was only my second trip to the range after a two-decade hiatus, I was happy!)

AC
 
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Practice dry firing with the sights aligned on target. When you slowly squeeze the trigger the sights should stay on target. Do this 10 or so times, slowly, then load just 2 or 3 rounds in a mag and do the same thing, slowly squeeze the trigger holding the sights on target.

Shoot through 50 rounds like this, only 2 or 3 at a time, with 10 dry fires in between. This will help you break out of the habit of flinching or pulling low left
Sounds interesting...I'm gonna give this a try too.
 
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A cheaper option than snap caps is to just try spent brass (if your gun will feed them). Grab a couple mags, randomly load them, put them aside for a minute to do your dry fire practice, and then just grab one and focus on eliminating your flinch.
Practice, practice, practice. You are going to need to put a lot of rounds down range to get proficient. Don't think a few hundred is going to fix it.
 

PeterGV

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You are going to need to put a lot of rounds down range to get proficient. Don't think a few hundred is going to fix it.
This sounds like very good advice, thanks.

I'm just now starting to understand how much practice is required. A VERY good shooter I know shoots over 20,000 rounds a year. He says that he practices dry-fire four times more than he actually shoots live ammo on the range. That's 80,000 dry-fire "rounds" per year. That's more than 200 dry-fire rounds every day -- plus about 400 live rounds each week.

I really like the idea of intermixing the dry-fire with a few live rounds.
 
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If you decide that you need help, please give me a call 603-673-6105
i am running a class at Westford the last weekend of July
Thanks for the offer. Unfortunately, I'll be out of town that weekend. However, thanks to the advice here, I did a bunch of dry fire at home and did a bit of the snap cap scrambled into the magazine randomly and it seems to be helping. I've still got a long way to go, but it's improving. Unfortunately, I don't have that first target to show the really bad stuff, but I do have the two from last night to share by way of thanks to the group.

Here's the first one of the night:


As you can see, pretty scattered and generally low, though much better than before my initial post here where everything was 8 ring and lower and all to the left of center. BTW, this is at 21 feet.


Here's the second target of the night after a bit of dry fire practice and some other suggestions from here. I'm starting to get happier despite those few shots that went wide and low at the very end:

 

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Silversnake

Overall your last target is quite good, if we forget the low shots
How fast were you shooting?

Now about the low shots, without watching you my opinion is my best guess
My best guess is that your sight picture looked perfect to you and that you tried take the shot right then
This almost always results in a low shot

What you are doing is making the gun fire as opposed to allowing the gun to shoot
I am guessing that you gun is moving about 1" or less side to side on the target
you must totally ignore the movement of the front sight on the target and just keep adding pressure on the trigger. If the sights move outside the 1" movement, stop adding pressure until you get the sights back where they belong When the gun fires it should be a total surprise to you.
When the shot is a surprise to you, you will not flinch do any of the other bad things that can screw up a shot

One other thing, DO NOT look to see where the shot hit until you have regained your sight picture
if you look too soon, you will surely miss?
Yes, your hands are faster than a speeding bullet
 

Bill Nance

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Silversnake

Overall your last target is quite good, if we forget the low shots
How fast were you shooting?

Now about the low shots, without watching you my opinion is my best guess
My best guess is that your sight picture looked perfect to you and that you tried take the shot right then
This almost always results in a low shot

What you are doing is making the gun fire as opposed to allowing the gun to shoot
I am guessing that you gun is moving about 1" or less side to side on the target
you must totally ignore the movement of the front sight on the target and just keep adding pressure on the trigger. If the sights move outside the 1" movement, stop adding pressure until you get the sights back where they belong When the gun fires it should be a total surprise to you.
When the shot is a surprise to you, you will not flinch do any of the other bad things that can screw up a shot

One other thing, DO NOT look to see where the shot hit until you have regained your sight picture
if you look too soon, you will surely miss?
Yes, your hands are faster than a speeding bullet
Terrific advice Jim.

I watched Jeff Cooper do a talk about "helping" the gun to shoot. It's just a different way of describing a flinch/jerk, but that term has stuck with me every since and has been immensely helpful for students.

SILVERSNAKE:

The good news on both of your last two pics is that you're relatively solid left to right. (I'm assuming you're taking multiple shots, not single shot slow-fire, so if that's wrong disregard everything else).

Up and down on multiple shots is a LOT easier to fix than shots to one side or another. And this is, as Jim said, mainly about trigger pressure and sight picture, particularly with the front sight, which is frankly the one that counts the most unless you're at fairly long range.

The first shot, and every subsequent shot, of a multiple round group, produces a muzzle rise. True of any gun, even a .22.

The muzzle will rise and then fall, if you're doing everything else right, in about the right alignment with the rear sights.

All you have to do is wait for that front sight to get where you want it to and press that trigger back. One exercise I have students do is to dry-fire their guns while counting down seconds and trying to get a surprise-break every time, gradually getting faster and faster.

What this does is get you better trigger control so you can actually press the trigger pretty darned quick, while still maintaining that slow, steady pressure all the trainers talk about.

I highly recommend a class. Jim or others here could add immeasurably to your skills and ability to self-diagnose.

I've not had a single student, even the best, most experienced shooters I've had, who didn't say they got a ton out of someone else who knew what to look for and how to fix it, diagnosing and addressing their issues. -Because we all have them. Including Jim and myself.
 
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Thanks to this thread I was able to correct two new shooters; one, (my little sis) immediately began grouping ten rounds, within a half dollar, inside the center ring with my .22; the other was still nervous, so he pulled shots consistently left or right. I also was able to diagnose my buddies issues with my XDM in.40... alright, so I was doing it for the first shot in every mag aswell... We're both in combat arms, so it stings a little to admit your being a girl and anticipating recoil from a handgun!

This forum is awesome. Thanks.
 
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I adjusted the sights a bit and I can make a nice grouping in the center of the target if I brace my elbows and basically bench fire. So that tells me it's something with my technique, not the hardware at this point.
What you said is correct, it is the technique, put the sights back to where they were. Until you are confident you are doing everything correct, adjusting the sights will just reinforce bad technique when you are satisfied with what you think is a good shot, but isn't.
 

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