Five rules for quick shots on target with a handgun

Getting off quick, successive shots on target with a pistol is all about recoil management.  Here are five things that will help all shooters conquer their weapon’s kick and allow for super fast and accurate handgun shooting.

1.  Thumbs forward grip

I find the two-handed, thumbs forward grip is by far the best when it comes to making multiple, fast shots.  Having a quality, strong support hand grip in the correct thumbs forward position gives the shooter the proper amount of recoil control.

thumbs forward grip pistol

Showing off the support hand for the thumbs forward grip. These four fingers lay across the strong hand. (Photo: Jeffrey Denning).

Realize that the support hand does a lot of the work here.  The support hands’ grip should be very tight, while the shooting hand and fingers should be pretty relaxed.  All four fingers of the support hand should be pressed tightly across the fingers of the shooting hand with one or two fingers (the index finger and part of the middle finger) underneath the trigger guard.

The thumb of the support hand points at the target and the wrist is locked in a downward angle, effectively immobilizing it.  This allows the tendons and ligaments of the wrist to lock, which are much stronger than muscle alone, and create a much better platform for absorbing recoil.

2.  Aggressive stance

A proper “aggressive stance” allows a shooter to absorb recoil throughout their entire body and when recoil is lessened, it is possible to stay on target and keep shooting quickly because the sights and barrel of the gun will remain fairly aligned.  In order to get in an aggressive stance, shooters should bend forward slightly at the waist, not the knees, because this can lead to tired quad muscles which will ultimately affect shooting performance.  Learning to support your weight with bone and not muscles will help refine the accuracy that comes with this natural shooting stance.

aggressive stance thumbs forward pistol

Demonstrating a thumbs forward grip with aggressive stance. In combination, these two techniques provide superior recoil management, the bedrock of accurate, successive handgun shooting.

Weight should be in the balls of the feet and the feet placed flat on the ground.  Ideally, the torso should face forward and the gun and the sights should be brought up to the head so that it does not cant.  The arms and hands are extended.  In essence, this makes a sort of horseshoe, beginning at the hands.  The curve starts at the shooters armpits and goes around his or her waist.  The other side of the horseshoe is the ground.

3.  Quality flash sight picture

Getting a flash sight means seeing the front sight post inside the rear sight.  In reality your front sight post will be bouncing around a little, and it won’t be perfectly aligned.  That’s okay depending on the distance between your target and your gun.  The target cannot be so far away that the shot will miss if the front sight is a little off.  Three to five yards is ideal when it comes to this type of pistol shooting.

flash sight picture

A good flash sight picture has the front sight in-between the rear sight like this.

The idea to shooting quickly and accurately is to shoot in a rhythm.  To begin mastering this concept, try a three shot rhythm drill and then a four and five shot rhythm.  Eventually you’ll be able to shoot a six shot rhythm and soon after that a ten shot rhythm drill with great accuracy.  When you start off, keep your rhythm slow and steady.  Only when you’re comfortable shooting smoothing and accurately, should you pick up the pace.

Remember, accuracy means everything in a gunfight, so concentrate on both your trigger and your front sight post; it’s not point shooting.

4.  Caliber you can control

There’s a huge debate about pistol calibers.  Personally, I feel very comfortable shooting all guns well, quick and accurately.  But the truth is everyone is faster shooting rounds they can control well.  For that reason, I generally like the 9mm.  I even think it’s a good personal defense round.  Why?  Because, ten fast and accurate rounds to the torso or the face will do a lot more than one round.  Believe me.

Also there’s something strange that I’ve noticed over the years of teaching pistol that I ought to mention.  Some people ride the recoil.  It’s like kids putting imaginary kick into their wooden guns after every “shot” because that’s how they saw the actors guns do it.  I’ve seen people hold the recoil or even allow the recoil to push their hands up in the air.

That’s bad.  Now, you should never push the gun down or anticipate recoil, but you also shouldn’t let the recoil take over either.  Just let the gun go off, get back on target and shoot again.

5.  Lots of practice

I say it often, repetition is the law of learning.  If you want to be good at something, you need to focus, concentrate and do it over and over again. Practicing correctly allows proficiency.  It’s a law of nature.  So, until next time, continue to hone your skills and keep adding to your tactical toolbox.

Safety warning: Jeffrey Denning is a long time professional in the art of self-defense and any training methods or information he describes in his articles are intended to be put into practice only by serious shooters with proper training.  Please read, but do not attempt anything posted here without first seeking out proper training.