Diagnosing and prescribing sight unseen is tricky, and “foolproof” is a tough standard. For a longtime member of the Handgunner family I’ll give it a shot. This is not an uncommon situation with good shooters as they develop into good, fast shooters. Shooting low/left in slow fire is a fairly common problem with beginning handgunners. It can result from one or more of several causes: jerking the trigger, anticipating recoil/flinching or pushing the trigger partly from the side instead of straight back,
If you’re shooting accurate slow-fire groups, centered on the target, you’re certainly not a beginner. If the problem occurs during rapid fire, one or more of the same issues may be the reason. Fast shooting introduces another aspect, the issue of timing.
In order to shoot fast and accurately we have to be doing more than one thing at once. I know, this is obvious, but it has to be learned through drills and repetitions. The best drill I know of is to fire 6-shot strings. The “Bill Drill” developed by Bill Wilson has the shooter draw and fire six A-zone hits at 7 yards, in two seconds or less. It is an outstanding drill and one you should eventually be using.
Shot just fired, pistol at about the position of
maximum muzzle rise, fired case ejected and slide
moving forward to chamber a fresh round. Trigger
finger has moved forward to let trigger reset.
Gun returning to original position, back to
an acceptable sight picture. Trigger has reset,
trigger finger has prepped trigger by taking up slack.
Next shot fired, slide has cycled
and pistol is coming down again on target.
Pistol is ParaOrdnance .45 ACP Long Slide.
I’d suggest working on the 6-shot strings to begin with, and add the draw later. Use a full USPSA-style target at 5 to 7 yards. Start from low ready, take your shooting grip and ensure the trigger finger is placed squarely across the face of the trigger.
Raise the pistol and see an acceptable sight picture centered on the A-zone. I know what “acceptable” is for me but we can only see with our own eyes. If the bullets are striking centered around the middle of the A-zone the sight picture is acceptable. Prep the trigger (take up trigger slack), press straight back and break the shot.
As the shot breaks and the pistol lifts in recoil, the shooting eye tracks the movement of the sights. Which reminds me, to do so the eye has to be open, which is less common than you might think. Until you can keep the eyes open as the shot breaks it’s darn hard to improve.
Here’s where several things are happening at once. The shooting grip brings the pistol smoothly back to its original position. The shooting eye monitors the path of the pistol as the sights lift and then track back to the acceptable sight picture. At the same time the trigger finger moves forward to allow the trigger to reset, and once again preps the trigger. By the time an acceptable sight picture is reacquired the trigger should be reset, prepped, then immediately pressed straight back toward the eye to break the next shot.
This is what I mean by timing. The goal is to have the pistol track smoothly back to its original position, and as the eye confirms an acceptable sight picture the next shot breaks instantly.
Since you’re an experienced shooter you already realize timing is different for different pistols and cartridges. A standard .45 ACP with full-power loads will rise higher in recoil and take longer to track back than a 9mm with compensator.
Three Good Ideas
Begin each session with a fresh target. Tape the holes after each 6-shot string, but use the same target for multiple strings. I’d suggest around 15 strings as a pretty good session. My old friend and mentor Mike Plaxco said, “Strings magnify errors.” The tape pattern will show where your shots are centered. Date each target and either keep it or snap a photo with your cell phone, so you can monitor progress.
The first shot sets the tone for a string. As you develop consistency in returning the pistol to its original position, subsequent shots group around the first shot. We’re always trying to shave off tenths of a second, but taking an extra tenth or two to get the first shot centered is a good investment.
There’s no one more of a proponent of dry fire practic than I am. Trigger management and the characteristics of different triggers can be learned with dry fire, but timing cannot. It has to be learned and maintained through live fire — and lots of it.
By Dave Anderson