How to Be a Better Pistol Shooter in 3 Steps

By Suzanne Wiley

  1. Master the fundamentals of shooting paying close attention to trigger control
  2. Practice regularly by dry firing at home
  3. Use optical aids like reflex sights and lasers
To be a good shooter, you must train and practice regularly. Red dot sights and lasers help with accuracy.
Good shooting requires training and practice.

There are many factors that go into why you haven’t yet achieved the level of sharpshooter in defensive pistol shooting. Being really good at shooting takes dedication to practicing regularly. Even the world’s best shooters must practice (a lot) to stay on top. Eleven world record holder and one of history’s best shooters, Jerry Miculek says he practices up to 4 times a day, 40 minutes at a time.

Fortunately, shooting is a skill anyone can learn and learn well.

What does being a “better” shooter mean?

Whether you shoot for competition, precision, self-defense or even just for fun, shooting requires you to aim at and hit a target. You aren’t shooting well if you aren’t hitting your target—crucial to hunting, competition and self-defense. Accurate shooting may be the difference between life or death.

Being a better shooter means improved groups and consistently hitting where you aim.

“… good trigger pull is one of, if not the most important aspect of shooting well.” -Rob Leatham

1. Master the fundamentals of shooting.

The fundamentals of shooting are:

  • Stance
  • Grip
  • Sight alignment/sight picture
  • Breathing
  • Follow through
  • Trigger control
Trigger control is the most fundamental of shooting accurately. Your finger should be placed on the trigger between the tip and the first bend.
Good shooting begins with the fundamentals, of which correct trigger placement is key.

The most important of these is trigger control. Many problems arise from not manipulating the trigger properly. Top Shot contender and 12-time NRA National Pistol Champion Brian Zins says, “all other shooting skills are pretty much useless without proper trigger technique.” For a semiautomatic pistol, place your finger between the tip and the bend on the trigger for the correct placement and perfect amount of control.

To follow through the right way, do not take your finger off the trigger check where you hit the target. Place your finger on the trigger, pull back smoothly to the break and take the shot. Without letting go, let the trigger reset, when you feel the reset—often followed by a clicking noise—go head and squeeze the trigger again for your next shot.

2. Practice regularly at the gun range and by dry firing at home.

We go to the gun range to stay proficient with our firearm, learn new skills, perfect the fundamentals and work on our weaknesses. When training at the range with live ammo, it is best to focus on your groups. The tighter the group, the better. There are many different types of drills you can do to improve your accuracy and marksmanship.

Dry Fire
Snap caps can be used when practicing dry fire drills at home.
Snap caps can be used when practicing dry fire drills at home.

Dry firing is practicing with your firearm without using any ammo. Dry firing saves money without sacrificing training time. You can do it at home with snap caps, laser light training aids or nothing at all. It can help you stop anticipating recoil, teach you how to safely and quickly draw from a holster, and develop correct muscle memory.

When dry firing, completely empty your firearm of ammo and remove any ammo from the room. Always be aware of your target and what’s behind it, even if you are sure your gun is unloaded. There are plenty of different dry fire drills you can perform at home to help you improve your shooting.

3. Red Dot Sights and Lasers

Mini reflex sights made for handguns offer quick target acquisition.
Reflex and red dot sights, lasers and weapon-mounted lights help with quick target acquisition and accuracy.

Red dot sights, reflex sights and lasers were all designed for quick target acquisition in close quarters situations in both broad daylight and low-light areas. Laser sights allow you a full field of view, continued situational awareness and fast target acquisition, especially at night at close distances. Red dot and reflex sights provide quick target acquisition with an illuminated reticle visible during the day or at night and help you aim and shoot accurately. These sights are good for competition, law enforcement, military and self-defense.

Click here to learn more about how lasers help in a self-defense situation.

Stay focused, train regularly and you’ll improve. It won’t hurt to invest in a class or two from a respected instructor either. Contact your local shooting range for a schedule of classes and workshops. Range Officers are usually willing to help and give pointers if you ask.

What has helped you become a better shooter? Share your tips with others in the comment section.