Many people buy pistols for self defense but few people really know how to shoot a pistol with any kind of accuracy. The relatively short barrel and the short sight plane make a pistol more difficult to fire accurately than a long gun. Learning to fire a pistol accurately is basically the same as learning any other physical skill; it takes time, practice, and a methodical approach.
I suggest that you learn to shoot a pistol with a .22 caliber revolver. There are several reasons for this:
1. The ammo is cheap
2. The recoil is light, so you won’t be as likely to develop a “flinch”
3. A revolver allows you to load chambers in a random pattern leaving some of them without a cartridge (the reason for this will be explained in a moment)
You will need to use the same size target and shoot from the same distance at every practice session when you are first learning to shoot, so buy or print a pile of targets. You will also need to record each and every shot that you make, so I recommend that you buy a small notebook and print off a bunch of miniature targets that look like the one that you will be shooting at. Cut the small targets out and glue them into your notebook, and you will be ready to go to the range. Be sure and take hearing protection, a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope, and if you want to make your targets last longer take a roll of masking tape and a black marker with you. This way after you fire ten or twelve rounds at your target you can tape over the holes. If you hit the bull, you can use the black marker to color the tape black.
At the range you want to set up your target in a safe shooting location, then pace off twenty-five yards and draw a shooting line on the ground. I like to set up a small table to hold my ammo, binoculars, notebook, tape, etc.
The first time that you shoot, you want to do something that is a little unusual but is very effective for teaching proper trigger pull, and this is why I recommend that you use a revolver. If your revolver holds six rounds, load it with four rounds in a random pattern. If your revolver holds nine rounds like mine, then load it with six rounds. Don’t leave the empty chambers right next to each other, space them randomly around the cylinder. Now spin the cylinder, and without looking at it, close the cylinder. Now when you thumb the hammer back, you don’t know if it will be falling on a live round or an empty chamber.
When learning to shoot you always want to fire single action, so step up to the line and assume a good shooting stance. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart facing straight ahead. Your hips and shoulders should be square to the target. If you are right handed your left foot should be about 14 to 18 inches in front of your right foot, depending on how tall you are. Hold the gun with both hands. The right hand should be wrapped around the grips with the index finger extended. The left hand should cup under the butt and come up onto the left side of the grips. Arms should be relaxed and bent slightly at the elbows.
When you are comfortable with your stance, thumb the hammer back and place the first digit of your right index finger on the trigger. Sight down the barrel so that the top of the front sight fills the slot in the back sight with the top of the front blade dead even with the top of the wings on the rear sight. The center of the bull should be sitting right on top of the front sight.
Now draw in a breath, exhale half of it, and relax. Keeping the gun on target squeeze the trigger slowly. If you are squeezing the trigger properly you should not know exactly when it is going to fall. It should be a complete surprise to you. This is the hardest thing for most people to learn, and this is where the empty chambers in your cylinder will really help you in developing the correct trigger pull. When you squeeze the trigger the hammer may fall on an empty chamber. If the happens, take note of your reaction. Did you jerk when the hammer snapped down? If you did it means that you knew when the hammer was going to fall, and you jerked in anticipation of the discharge. If you are squeezing the trigger properly, you should not know the exact moment when the hammer will fall, and so you can’t anticipate the discharge and you won’t flinch. You should use this method of leaving random chambers empty until you never flinch. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you will overcome flinching, and you will be amazed at the difference it makes in the accuracy of your shooting.
Each time you discharge a round you should stop, lay your pistol down, look at the target through your binoculars, and mark the target in your notebook at the exact spot the round hit on your target. Then pick up the pistol and fire another round. This is very time consuming, but it will make you pause and consider each shot and what you might have done wrong. In no time at all you will start shooting tighter and tighter groups, even if you don’t know exactly what corrections you are making. Don’t ask me how it works. Maybe a brain researcher can explain it. I just know that it does work.
Please don’t get in a hurry. When I was learning to shoot, I made it a point not to shoot more than a hundred rounds per practice session. Slow and steady wins the race. Just be patient, be methodical, and keep practicing. The results will be well worth the effort.