Being Basic: Pistolero

Across all aspects of life there’s generally a core set of concepts that are the foundation of proficiency.

When it comes to shooting that’s going to be your grip, your draw, your trigger press, and your sight picture.

Grip:

It’s the platform for everything else, and one of the areas where I’ve struggled the most. It’s amazing how nuanced the grip can get, not just “grab the thing” or “grip harder”. My current grip consists of elements taught by Spencer Keepers, Paul Sharp, and John Johnston. I’ve written in depth about each of those classes, and if you’re interested in learning more you can find those posts here.

Grip needs to be mastered first, because otherwise if you jump into your draw too quickly you end up reinforcing bad habits that will negatively impact your performance. You’ll have a much harder time shooting consistently (ask me how I know).

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that there is not one singular “right” grip. There’s an almost infinite combination of hand shapes & grip geometries, so you’re going to have to play around with it to see what allows you to control the pistol most effectively. A few placed to get some ideas are Aaron Cowan, Scott Jedlinski, and Bob Vogel. Not saying it’ll work, but it might give you an idea to play with.

Draw:

Once you’ve got a good grip on the gun, now it’s important to be able to bring it to bear quickly and efficiently. The great thing is that this costs absolutely nothing. You already own the gun, you’ve already got the holster, you have plenty of clothes.

Whenever you’re doing dry work, it’s critical to ensure complete safety. No ammo in the room, a dedicated practice space, conscious, intentional repetition, and a backstop that can stop a bullet if everything else goes wrong.

This is also helpful to find out how your wardrobe and carry gear work together (or don’t). Trust me when I say it sucks to try and fight against your own equipment.

Having a shot timer is definitely helpful. Target Barn was kind enough to send me one and I can say it’s significantly more convenient, but there are several free apps you can download to your phone to get started. I also did a video about some of the ways to use that timer in practice.

I find it helpful to video yourself, so you can see where you’re wasting time/effort. I’m still trying to break myself of the habit I’ve got of hunching my shoulders on the draw. Jedi has some great pointers on developing your draw stroke as well.

Trigger:

Trigger control ties in to grip on a couple of levels. A good grip sets you up for a clean, uninterrupted trigger-press. A strong enough grip can also compensate for some flaws in your trigger pull (not saying that should be your goal).

I’ve found that the Dry Fire Mag to be extremely useful because my biggest issue was hard to diagnose on single trigger pulls. I have a tendency to milk the grip if I’m shooting (combined with a flinch I’m still trying to break).

Trigger finger placement is another area where people get dogmatic about THE way that it must be done. Bullshit. For the same reason that there isn’t one single master grip, the size of your hand and your pistol grip will dictate where your finger falls on the trigger. Pat McNamara has some great ideas on the subject.

Sights:

There’s some discussion as to in what order these elements should be prioritized. I put sights last because if your trigger pull sucks, it doesn’t matter what your sight picture is because it won’t be there when the shot breaks.

Sights are another place where you can end up fighting your gear. I tried shooting a 25 yds. B8 at an indoor range with standard 3-dot night sights, and spent the entire time cursing because the lighting was JUST dim enough that it was hard to make out the front sight effectively enough.

I’ve become a huge fan of blacked out rear sights, and a high visibility front. Personally I like fiber. My Warren Tactical sights are just about the closest equivalent to red-dot optic you can get with conventional irons.

The other reason I think trigger comes before sights is that, once you have an appropriate sight picture, that’s the instant you want to make the shot break. Shooting various drills will help you to understand what that sight picture needs to look like in order to achieve a desired result.

Play around with this stuff. It’s going to take some experimentation to find what works for you.

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