Aiming a Pistol


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golfer_ray
January 29, 2013, 12:42 AM
OK, I'm developing into quite the pest here, so I might as well keep going. I hunted with mainly shotguns growing up, then didn't have any firearm after marriage, until my wife puts it, "went over the edge" over a year ago.

So, I now have four quality pistols, a S&W M&P 40, a Glock 17 Gen 3, a FNS 40, and a Bersa BP9cc. I'm not a great practiser, as I'm not patient enough,, rich enough, or have the time, but I try to shoot 50 rounds once a week. What I've noticed is if I line the front sight dot on the same line with the rear dots, I shoot low. If one could draw a line across the top of the rear sights, and I line the front sight up with that line, I do pretty well for a shooting hacker.

I asked the guy at the range that I shoot at, who also offers lessons, about this & he said, "I do the same thing, so I just compensate for it." To me, that's like a slicer in golf saying "aim left". That doesn't fix the problem.

Any advice? I know if anyone breaks into my house, I'm aiming a little high! :)

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Telekinesis
January 29, 2013, 12:55 AM
If someone breaks into your house, just aim center of mass. That way a little high or a little low won't matter :D

Some sights are set so that when you line up the dots, the bullet strikes on the center dot, not the top edge of the sight.

As far as training, the NRA classes are a good place to start if you need or want to review basics, and then you can go on to a bunch of different specialty schools. One thing that could help is trying some sort of competitive shooting (lots of places do it for fun and not to be uber competitive with each other). I've found that if you let some of your fellow shooters know that you're new, they will usually be happy to offer you some pointers, anything from basics to advanced competitive theory.

murf
January 29, 2013, 01:21 AM
let someone else shoot the gun and make sure it is the gun and not your shooting technique. your technique can be changed cheaper than the sights on your gun.

murf

Bovice
January 29, 2013, 01:38 AM
Never never never change your sights out on a gun if you are consistently low with all guns. Your problem is likely jerking to compensate for recoil. Don't do that, let it happen. Don't just limply hold the gun all willy nilly but try loading some dummy rounds in your mags, wait a few days so you forget which mag has them and the position. I bet when you get to the dummy round, you'll see your sights dip down.

The trouble with saying "I shoot low" is that when you do finally get the technique down, your sights have to be put back to the original setup. That's why I don't like adjustable sights for new shooters. They spend all day cranking the screws, chasing the point of impact.

MrCleanOK
January 29, 2013, 02:17 AM
If I understand correctly, your problem is that lining up the dots gives you a low point of impact, lining up the top of the sights gives you a good point of impact. The simple answer? Aim with the body of the front and rear sights. That's what I do as a course of habit, and on my pistols that don't have night sights I paint in the dots with black paint so they are not a distraction.

Urban_Redneck
January 29, 2013, 07:23 AM
+1 on blacking out the rear dots.

ku4hx
January 29, 2013, 07:23 AM
Wife and I just loooove our CTC lasers for low light, close quarters, limited time and etc.: see dot; see hole.

tuj
January 29, 2013, 10:37 AM
As others have said, you probably have developed some habit. If this is happening consistently across four different guns, I doubt the problem is that the sights are off. You are probably anticipating recoil and stiffening your wrists right at the moment you pull the trigger. If you are shooting left or right along with shooting low, you might be jerking the trigger. There's also the possibility you might be bobbing or moving your head when the trigger breaks. It can help to have someone videotape you shooting from the side so you can observe your technique.

I like this chart; it technically is designed for shooting off-hand (one-handed) but basically applies to two-handed technique as well.

http://img.tapatalk.com/438167ba-4e0f-ea93.jpg

forindooruseonly
January 29, 2013, 11:49 AM
If one could draw a line across the top of the rear sights, and I line the front sight up with that line, I do pretty well for a shooting hacker.

There's your answer, assuming you mean that you line up the top of the front sight, not the dot. The problem I find with dots is that the gap between reference points grows, allowing things to get sloppy. You should focus on the outline of the sights and make sure they are properly aligned - apparently when you do that, you shoot ok.

Use the dots to acquire the sights, or for close in situations where time is critical, but precision requires proper sight alignment which means ignore the dots and focus on the front sight.

If you're talking lining the dot on the front sight up with the top of the rear sight, I'd say you've got a technique issue.

sota
January 29, 2013, 12:21 PM
golfer: I'm going to point you to this article...

http://pistol-training.com/archives/1361

I think it might help.

For the record my pistol (H&K P30) "prefers" a #3 sight image, but my natural habit is to line up for #2, so I'm consistently low. Whereas my friends Glocks and Sigs like #2 as a sight image. I'm just learning to "aim high" and I don't consider it bad form because of that. Every gun will have its quirks and it's pretty impractical to try and make all the pistols in your collection shoot exactly the same for POA/POI. Plus in the end in a home defense situation, the difference in POA/POI will be so small just do as telekensis said... aim for COM and you'll make squishy holes in your target.

rcmodel
January 29, 2013, 01:53 PM
The white dots on sights are not for precision shooting, as they almost never line up exactly right with the tops of the sights.

They are there only to give rapid sight acquisition in close range combat type shooting.

Align the tops of the F & R sights if you want to hit where the sights are actually looking.


The other thing is, if you are even looking at the dots, or the rear sight and the target, you are looking at too many things at once.
The eye can only focus on one distance at a time.

You should focus on the front sight only, and let the rear sight and the target take care of themselves.
Your eye will automatically align the rear sight properly if you focus only on the front sight.

rc

holdencm9
January 29, 2013, 04:35 PM
The way you mentioned is the proper way, for most guns. As RC mentioned, the dots are just for quick sight picture and imprecise shots. I always used to think that you wanted the three dots aligned, and the target behind the center dot. That is not the case. You want the tops of the sights aligned, and the target centered along the top, and even "air space" between the front sight and both sides of the rear sight. That is how I have found to be most precise, but I am not pro by any stretch either.

I have attached a rough pic to show what I mean. As you can see. The tops of the sights are aligned, equal space on either sight of the front sight, the top of the front sightcentered on the target....even though the dots may be somewhat askew, you just have to try ignoring them.

The Lone Haranguer
January 29, 2013, 04:53 PM
http://fototime.com/340A1C647DF4460/standard.jpg

If you use the sight picture on the left (the common target shooter's zero, only with a black bullseye, and usually with no sight dots), with a fighting handgun that is zeroed to hit at point of aim (like either of the other two pictures), you will always hit low.

Ramone
January 29, 2013, 05:02 PM
two factors to understand at this point in your journey.

First is that sometimes sights are regulated for a 'Six O'clock' or target hold, and some are regulated for point of impact or a 'combat' hold.

As the very center of a black dot/bullseye can be hard to find with ones sights (especially if you ar e in the process of shooting it out), in many cases the alignment is so that the top of the front sight just touches the bottom of the dot, and the point of impact will be higher, in the center of the dot/bullseye.

A 'combat hold' is where point of aim= Point of Impact.

The other thing to bear in mind is that some pistols are adjusted for 50 yards- while 9MM and .40S&W are flatter shooting than .45ACP there is still an appreciable arc to the trajectory.

All that said, the dots on night sights are there for low light shooting- not accuracy.

RetiredUSNChief
January 29, 2013, 05:10 PM
Short of shooting your guns myself, I can't give you anything other than my suspicians, as others have already.

Next time you go to the range, put your target at 7 yards then sit down, or otherwise get comfortable, and shoot from the bench, with your arms resting steady on the bench.

Do the following:

- Aim and hold your target site absolutely still.

- SLOWLY squeeze the trigger while maintaing your target site absolutely still.

- Continue slowly squeezing the trigger until the gun goes off. Do NOT "anticipate" when your gun will go off.

- Repeat the above.

I suspect you'll find that you have some habits which are contributing to the low shooting...like maybe anticipating the gun going off or pulling the trigger without actually maintaining a proper sight picture.

Pistols are NOT as easy to shoot accurately as long guns for a variety of reasons, all having to do with the difference in mechanics between a long gun with sights widely separated and held by two arms and a shoulder as compared to a short pistol with sights only inches apart and held by one or two hands with no additional leverage against the trigger pull.

ATLDave
January 29, 2013, 05:13 PM
I'll concur with the others who say that the results may be either a result of technique or a result of misunderstanding the pistol's intended sight picture (combat hold vs 6 hold).

Are you getting tight groups a defined distance below your aim point? Or is there vertical stringing, with some low, some really low, and a few dead-on?

golfer_ray
January 30, 2013, 12:16 AM
I really appreciate all the responses, & I'll try your tips, RetiredUSNChief, next time I go to the range. Again, I'm not a pro shooter, but, for an example, I went to the range tonight & actually fired 100 rounds through my S&W M&P 40. The results were pretty normal for me. The first 12 rounds (one mag) were all over the place. Then, and I don't know if it's a 10 or 12" circle, I'll get 10 in the circle, with more on the left side & maybe a little low, one just outside the circle to the left, & one low left of the circle by 5-6". I figure if a bad guy comes into the house, I'll get him by the 3rd shot, but maybe not the 1st. Now if he's shooting back . . . hmm.

9mmepiphany
January 30, 2013, 12:33 AM
The rule of thumb is that you'll be twice as bad (or only half as good) when shooting under pressure. That is why I have clients shooting on 3"x5" cards

Byrd666
January 30, 2013, 01:06 AM
Just out of curiosity, have you tried simply aiming with your front sight only? I' m sorry if it has been mentioned before but, that is the way my Pops taught me, my Grand Dad taught me, and the Military taught me. K.I.S.S. right? And quit trying to compensate or expect recoil. It's just a matter of physics that it will happen, so don't try to compensate for it by expecting it. Know it's gonna' happen, but don't expect it.

Lastly, DRY FIRE. No it doesn't take the edge, or expectation of recoil away, but, what it does do is give you the proper timing and training for when that should happen. Someone once told me, I believe it was on this site, to keep a penny or a dime on my slide when aiming at (whatever) when doing a dry fire practice, and if I "hit" what I'm aiming at without said coin falling off, then I'm doing it right.

ATLDave
January 30, 2013, 11:09 AM
I really appreciate all the responses, & I'll try your tips, RetiredUSNChief, next time I go to the range. Again, I'm not a pro shooter, but, for an example, I went to the range tonight & actually fired 100 rounds through my S&W M&P 40. The results were pretty normal for me. The first 12 rounds (one mag) were all over the place. Then, and I don't know if it's a 10 or 12" circle, I'll get 10 in the circle, with more on the left side & maybe a little low, one just outside the circle to the left, & one low left of the circle by 5-6". I figure if a bad guy comes into the house, I'll get him by the 3rd shot, but maybe not the 1st. Now if he's shooting back . . . hmm.

I'll go out on a limb and say you have EXACTLY the issue that I had when I tried to get semi-serious about competent handgun shooting. You have a flinch. This does not mean you are a coward or a wuss or a fraidy-cat. It means you have normal reflexes. A loud noise, a flash of light, and an innanimate object moving quickly in your hand is supposed to make you flinch.

But this flinching makes accurate handgun shooting impossible. You will hear all kinds of methods for "curing" it that really only reveal it. (For instance, having a friend load a mystery number of rounds into the magazine, so you can see the gun dip as you pull the trigger on an unexpectedly-empty chamber.)

The eyes are the key to the flinch. I would bet money that your eyes are closed when the gun goes off. The sights are aligned where they ought to be the last time you saw them before the gun fired, but the anticipatory flinch drives them low and (often) left. You cannot see it because your eyes are closed.

Here's how I got past it (and I have to re-do this periodically, especially if I go a month or more without shooting). Take a pistol, preferably a .22 (you'll progress faster with a .22, but you can eventually get there with a centerfire service caliber). Go to your range, but do not hang a target. Just shoot into the backstop. Try to see as much as you can. Try to see the muzzle blast. Try to see the brass ejecting from the slide. Try to watch the slide or bolt operating. Try to see the front sight jump upwards during recoil. Don't worry about aiming (other than keeping the muzzle pointed safely at the backstop), just try to see as much as you can. There's no performance anxiety, no "good" or "bad" results, only awareness. Do this for many, many, many rounds. Hundreds of rounds may be needed before you can really see things happening. Part of what you're doing is building trust in your reflexive brain that the bang won't hurt you.

Once you can really see the gun go off, then you can add a target. You may or may not have trigger control issues to overcome, but that's simple mechanical and patience stuff that you can self-correct once you're aware of what's happening. As long as you're flinching, you can't get real feedback, so you cannot correct errors.

This is all very doable. It takes some time, but it doesn't take years. It takes some ammo, but it doesn't take crates of it. Good luck.

tuj
January 30, 2013, 11:13 AM
ATLDave offers some great advice. You need to be able to take a mental photograph of where the front sight was when the trigger broke. If you can't take that mental picture, you won't be able to call your shots, and if you can't call your shots, you can't focus on the underlying problem.

RetiredUSNChief
January 30, 2013, 12:26 PM
I really appreciate all the responses, & I'll try your tips, RetiredUSNChief, next time I go to the range. Again, I'm not a pro shooter, but, for an example, I went to the range tonight & actually fired 100 rounds through my S&W M&P 40. The results were pretty normal for me. The first 12 rounds (one mag) were all over the place. Then, and I don't know if it's a 10 or 12" circle, I'll get 10 in the circle, with more on the left side & maybe a little low, one just outside the circle to the left, & one low left of the circle by 5-6". I figure if a bad guy comes into the house, I'll get him by the 3rd shot, but maybe not the 1st. Now if he's shooting back . . . hmm.

I'm pretty analytical about a lot of things...and part of being analytical is knowing or establishing a "baseline". This is a closer approximation of how the PISTOL actually shoots.

This is why I said to shoot from a bench rest. This helps to either minimize or eliminate a lot of variables, such as movement due to breathing, heartbeat, general muscle tone, flinching, etc. It tells you more about how the pistol actually shoots because you've minimized the influence of the human factors which affect accuracy.

I had a similar problem when I first shot my Beretta 92FS. I knew I was a good shot with a pistol, as I already owned two others and had put a few thousand rounds through them. However, I couldn't hit beans with my Beretta. I was having a hard time believing the fault was with a pistol which has the reputation of a Beretta.

So I went back to the basics and firmly grounded myself from the bench and concentrated on s-l-o-w-l-y establishing a baseline with the Beretta.

What I discovered after a very few shots was that the Beretta was every bit as accurate, if not more so, than my other pistols. Which told me the problem had something to do with me and I needed to figure out what it was.

As it turns out, the problem was with the trigger pull. The Beretta has a trigger which pivots...unlike my Colt 1991A1, which has a trigger that pulls straight back. That minor difference made a HUGE difference in my shooting.

From there, it was simply a matter of practice in maintaining a proper target sight as I concentrated on proper trigger pull.

Remember...once you establish a "baseline", which tells you how the PISTOL actually shoots, then it's easier to apply things like tuj's diagram to help you figure out what YOUR doing that's affecting how you shoot.

And the really COOL thing about this process?

It involves SHOOTING! And, as we all know, shooting is FUN!

:D

Quick Draw McGraw
January 30, 2013, 05:48 PM
Just wanted to say thanks to ATLDave for a great post.

And that if someone would've asked me before, I would've probably guessed that I would be most similar to sight picture #2 in the image above, but to my surprise, after a little dry fire practice last night, I seem to want to actually line them up like #3. Seems more natural for me.

GLOOB
January 31, 2013, 10:24 PM
I have a gun that shoots low. They happen.

If you are pulling your shots low, this will usually get worse over a long session. You get tired, and your nerves get wound up, and you start to anticipate more.

If you are consistently putting the holes where you want them, then no problem just "fixing the slice." Lots of pro golfers play a slice. :)

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