Student Handgunner: In Search of Small Groups Part II


SIG SAUER P320 AXG Classic with SIG Romeo1Pro Red Dot. The dot largely
fixed sighting troubles, allowing Serena to diagnose fundamentals.

Beep. The music would quicken and the lady on the tape would read a number. As the music got faster, all I could think of was how much I hated the pacer, part of the annual student physical fitness tests. I’d come in with a good attitude but quickly resign to the fact that I wasn’t and couldn’t be good at it. I started not to care.

Shooting Off A Rest

Learning to shoot a pistol off a rest mimics the pacer experience. Frustrated at having the ability and not the results, I counted the seconds until I was done shooting. This didn’t help.

My original frustrations with shooting off a rest came from sighting issues. I struggled to maintain a consistent sight picture. The target would blur out and I couldn’t aim at the same point every time. At 25 yards, everything seemed to fall apart. Determined to diagnose the root of the problem, I turned to a red dot.

Red Dot Benefits

Shooting a red dot is much like shooting a scope. Although there is no magnification, it makes shooting with both eyes open easier and reduces tunnel vision. Rather than focusing on aligning a front sight to a rear sight and then to the target, you have just one plane — the dot. The dot is on the same focal plane as the target.

There’s less to think about with a red dot, which results in faster target acquisition. No matter what kind of shooting I am doing, the longer I focus on the sights, the worse the shots get. Unlike a scope or iron sights, you don’t have to be looking through the exact center of a red dot to get an accurate shot.

Putting It All Together

One of my very first and best experiences with a red dot came from working with the AMU’s pistol team. Using an Aimpoint red dot on a .22 LR pistol, I could see the red dot and the target. And I knew each shot’s intended aim point with precision. Shooting a red dot allows me to see errors in trigger control and what is going wrong. Now that I could shoot great groups two-handed at shorter distances, I needed to move back and add recoil.

These shots were taken at 25 yards off a bench. Most of them trended low,
but there isn’t a great pattern. Serena’s suspicion was an inconsistent grip
with some occasional trigger slap.

The Test

I mounted a SIG SAUER Romeo1Pro on my SIG SAUER P320 AXG Classic 9mm and set up a bench 25 yards from the target. I used targets from Tactical Target Systems with two columns of circles increasing in size.

Using a Ransom Multi-Caliber Steady Rest, I fired several five-shot groups. Using a red dot was incredible. I could see both the target and the dot and could guarantee I was lined up in the center of each circle. If I jerked the trigger, I could see it in the dot’s movement. Reviewing the targets, I discovered I would have one or two center shots with the rest scattered — usually low and left. Lines of shots appeared at strange angles — almost as if out of a game of Galaga.

Frustrated, I returned to the basics. My first guess was poor trigger control and anticipation, so I focused my energy on that. It worked for the first one or two shots before everything disintegrated again. As I watched the red dot, I noticed the gun seemed to jump up out of the rest with each shot. I also noticed my hands were less and less secure with each shot.

To quantify my errors, I utilized the MantisX10. Data from 40 dry-fire shots revealed most of my shots dropped low due to “pushing forward” or recoil anticipation. With no ammunition in the gun, it shouldn’t be happening. I also had an issue with what Mantis calls “pushing” (dominant hand pushing the gun up). This also can be due to anticipation of recoil. My live-fire results were very different. The overall score was lower, but the problems narrowed to “slapping trigger” and “tightening fingers.” Slapping the trigger fit with my original hypothesis, but it also confirmed my tendency to have a weak grip and overcompensate on the next shot by clutching the gun as tightly as possible on the bench. Tighter isn’t necessarily better and, in this case, proved detrimental.

I would have loved to have used the Mantis with the steady rest, but the Pic rail location doesn’t allow for it. So far, I’m pretty confident in the diagnosis. I haven’t shot benchrest size pistol groups yet, but removing one error at a time is making it easier to find the root of the problem.

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