Monday, August 1, 2016

Training – It’s always the foundation!

A text conversation with a friend this past week  . . .

Friend:  Here’s my question Keller.  How far do you have to stick your finger in the trigger guard to make a Glock Shoot To the Left?

Me:  Shooting left implies to little finger.  Try just a touch more.

Friend:  By the way that was said with levity . . . . . J

A day later . . .

Friend:  Got any range time today??

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the phrase “Shootin’ low left??  Must be a Glock!”  A pistol is a pistol . . . period.  Keep good sight alignment, keep a good sight picture . . . press the trigger straight to the rear . . . and you will send each and every round through the same hole.  Period.  Past this basic “truth” . . . it gets a bit more complicated – and remains simple – all at the same time.

When I’m trying to work with a shooter who is having a problem like this I automatically default to a “Drive, Touch, Press” drill.  From the High Compressed Ready the shooter Drives the front sight to the target, Touches the trigger to take up the slack and then smoothly Presses the trigger straight to the rear.  It is a drill that “moves” slowly allowing an instructor to get some good work done . . . let me explain.

I begin with the “Load and make ready” command.  I can evaluate how they load their firearm, how they rack the slide.  The magazine insertion should be one smooth movement.  The slide rack should be done with their dominant arm’s elbow pinned to the side and the support hand grasping the slide over the top and at the rear of the slide.  Firmly move the slide rearward and simply let go, allowing the gun to do the work it was designed to do.

Once loaded you can begin to work with the shooter.  I start with the stance, check their feet – shoulder width apart, check their toes making sure both feet are aimed at the threat.  Next I look for slightly bent knees.  I want their elbows close to the body, firearm at a point that is approximately at the same level they “join” hands to grip when they draw and I want the front sight already pointing directly at the threat.

On “Drive!” I want to make sure that their finger is at its “home” on the dominant hand side of the firearm and that the front sight drives straight to the target (no “casting” or “bowling”).  If you see this, have them come back to the High Compressed Ready and repeat it slower until it is correct.  I also expect to see them lean slightly into the gun putting their body weight behind the gun to help with recoil management.  By breaking the firing sequence up this way you can work on each little piece of their presentation and firing sequence. 

Another piece evaluated during the “Drive” is their grip.  I did a post about “Get a Grip” quite some time ago that covers the basics but one thing I want to hammer on just a bit here is that the meaty part of the palm of your support hand should have full contact with the grip of the firearm.  One of the biggest issues I see is that the shooter’s grip does not cover a full 360 of the grip . . . there are little gaps, or the meat of the support hand palm is not fully resting on the grip but rather on part of the meat of the dominant hand.  This provides space for energy to escape which will affect the way your firearm responds when you press the trigger.  You need a firm, full 360-degree grip on your firearm.  Again, by slowing things down and taking this step by step, you can see and fix these things.

Next – “Touch” the trigger.  Again, with this step-by-step process you can fully evaluate their finger placement.  This is especially valuable in evaluating the fit of the handgun.  Sometimes the shooter is trying to use a firearm that just plain doesn’t fit their hand.  Small person, full sized Glock 17 . . . may not work well.  Or a moose of a guy with a subcompact might not fit well either.  Fit matters.

The advice I gave my friend is where I typically start when a shooter is placing rounds “low left”.  Too little finger has a tendency to push the barrel left when pressing the trigger.  Too much finger has a tendency to pull the barrel right when pressing the trigger.  I use the word “tendency” because every shooter is an individual.  What causes an issue with one shooter may not with another.  Still, I need a place to start – and this is mine.  My starting position for finger placement is 1/3 the distance back from the tip of the trigger finger to the 1st joint.  After that each shooter “tweaks” it so if feels good, is repeatable and effective for them.

We also discuss the “take up” of the trigger.  This is best practiced with an empty firearm, but I continually remind them of how it feels to take up the slack in the trigger before we move to the “Press” command.  We also talk about shooting off the reset, meaning that the trigger finger never goes fully forward after the round is fired but forward enough to only reset the trigger set – then the string is continued.  Shooting off the reset allows the shooter to better control the firearm for the next shot, eliminates the tendency to “slap” the trigger and decreases the time between rounds in the string.

Finally, there is the “Press” . . . said over an extended period of time . . . “ppppprrrrreeeeessssssssss”.  This allows me to convey the idea of a smooth trigger press and not a PRESS!!!.  The thing I watch for here is first and foremost a smooth front to rear movement and not a slap/jerk/quick pull process.  Once the round is done I look where the hole magically appeared.  I will also throw thoughts in during the “Press” . . . “watch the sight alignment, watch the sight picture, firm grip, lean in a bit more”.  While there are only three primary components – Drive, Touch, Press – there is also stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture to keep in mind.  For new shooters – and as in the case of my very experienced friend – reminders when at the very beginning of the drill set will pay off big time as the session proceeds.

For my friend, shooting a LETargets SEB defensive target we went from 30% on one of the circles to 100% on a square within about 75 rounds and about an hour and 15 minutes of one-on-one instruction.  The hits did indeed begin low and left and ended with a rather largish hole in the middle of the last square.

Honestly, it’s seldom “the gun”.  Nor is it some convoluted stance or grip or method of aiming.  “Fixing” things invariably boil down to foundational issues.  So, how can you “fix yourself” if you are having some issues?  Three primary answers there.

First – seek good instruction.  A couple hours with an instructor for some tweaking and fine tuning may save you hundreds of rounds of ammunition and hours/days/weeks of frustration.  Self-Help – walk yourself through the above process being exacting and deliberate at each and every step.  From the “Load and Make Ready” to the final round fired.  Call out the Drive, Touch, Press commands aloud and pay attention to what you do each and every step.  Finally, virtually the entire population now walks around with a high definition video camera in their pockets.  Set up your phone and record yourself again being exacting and deliberate through each step, each command and each round.  Call out each step.  Self-assess on the video speaking the notes as you go through each round.  Once you’ve done 20 rounds viewed from the dominant side – repeat the process from the support side.  Then, review the video noting EVERYTHING. 

There are no secrets to fast, accurate and effective rounds on a threat.  There is simply a set of foundational information that must be executed well for each and every shot.

You are the answer to this . . . and you alone.  Do the work . . . it’s as simple as that.  


  1. I have to remind myself every time I go to the range... Sigh... I'm to the point I now automatically do the basics with a .22 until I'm on target. Shows 'I' am not getting to the range enough!

  2. I needed to be reminded of this, and I definitely am not getting to the range enough.

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