The very best way to improve your shooting is to not go shooting. That’s right. Stay home. Do not go to the range. Do not pass Go and do not spend $200 on ammo. Yet.
Here’s why. Of all the things required to make an accurate shot—sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through—trigger press is the hardest to master and easiest to mess up. For a shot to go where you are aiming, you need to press the trigger until the gun fires, and you need to do it without moving the gun at all. Simple math will show you why it’s not easy.
A handgun weighs a couple of pounds, give or take depending on the model. An average handgun trigger requires four pounds or more of pressure to break for the shot. Unless you have solid technique, the gun will move as you apply pressure to the trigger, because the gun is lighter than the applied pressure. For this reason, developing perfect trigger technique is the most productive thing you can do to improve your shooting.
I constantly hear newer gun owners pronounce a handgun inaccurate, or say the sights are a bit off. Most of the time the gun is just fine. Any modern gun, clamped in a vise, is capable of putting shots into a circle a couple of inches in diameter at a range of 25 yards. It’s the shooter who blows it.
So how do we learn to execute a perfect trigger press that never moves the gun from target? That’s simple: dry-fire practice. And that’s what you can do in your living room.
The Five-Step Method
Most modern centerfire handguns can be dry-fired—operating the trigger without ammunition loaded in the gun—without damaging the gun. The key to safe dry-fire practice is following a rigorous safety process to eliminate the risk of a negligent discharge:
- Remove all ammunition from the magazine and chamber (or cylinder if using a revolver) and put it in another room. Double-check to make sure your gun is completely empty.
- Aim at a safe backstop.
- Develop a sight picture on a part of your safe backstop, and focus on the front sight.
- Practice pressing the trigger. Depending on your gun model, you may need to “reset” the trigger by partially racking the slide or cocking the hammer. Complete a trigger press slowly and smoothly without moving the sights at all.
- Repeat 10 or 20 times.
When you’re finished, put your gun back into its normal condition and put it away. Do not risk being distracted by something and continuing dry-fire practice. Always follow all five steps consecutively and completely. That will eliminate the risk of practicing when the gun might be loaded.
If you want to invest in completely safe training, I highly recommend the SIRT Training Pistol from Next Level Training. The SIRT is a dummy gun that contains a realistic trigger that automatically resets after you press it. A pair of lasers shows your steadiness as you press the trigger and show exactly where your pretend shot impacted. Its faux magazine can be removed so you can safely practice reloading. The best part is that this practice gun is incapable of firing any type of ammunition, so you can practice whenever and wherever you like.
If you practice dry firing your handgun 20 or so times per day, I guarantee you will see a noticeable improvement in your shooting ability on your next trip to the range. Dry firing gives you the opportunity to perfect your technique without the distractions of muzzle blast, noise, and recoil. You’ll clearly see the movement, or lack thereof, of your front sight as you press the trigger.
I guarantee it’s the best 10 minutes a day you can spend practicing shooting.