Tag Archives: shooting instruction

SKILLS: Hold Control

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Getting, and staying, steady on the target is the first step in learning to employ correct shooting technique. Here are some great tips on how to do it…

Hold control

by Larry Quandahl, NRA Family

What do we mean when we talk about “hold control”?

Simply put, “hold” is the relationship of the gun and shooter to the target. Hold control is the way in which you correctly maintain it long enough for the shot to break. Here’s how it works: The shooter uses sight picture to monitor the hold. In stationary target shooting (bullseye rifle and pistol), sight picture consists of sight alignment (relationship of your eye and the rear and front sights), and the relationship of the aligned sights to the stationary target. For beginning shooters, it is as simple as holding still while firing the shot, but the simplicity of hold control is deceptive. Controlling hold is actually the most difficult aspect of accurate shooting. Even world-class shooters experience movement in their sight picture while shooting. The goal — hold control — is to control the combined movement of the shooter and firearm on the target.

The NRA Muzzleloading Rifle Handbook describes hold control as learning to hold the rifle steady, but that’s just the beginning of the story. Hold control applies to shooting at stationary targets as well as at quick-reaction targets and moving targets. For simplicity’s sake, this article will deal with stationary targets.

When shooting at a stationary target, the shooter has to aim at the target and hold the firearm still as the trigger is pulled. Your hold is the movement of your aligned sights in relation to the target that you see while aiming. The amount and speed of movement shows how well you are controlling your hold. Your task is to hold the firearm as still as possible, which is best done by relaxing and letting your position and natural point of aim do the work for you. Concentrate on holding your body and the firearm as still as you can.

As a shooter, you need to learn to recognize the period of your steadiest hold. This is because the shot should be fired when hold is steadiest. Your goal is to reduce the amount and the speed of the movement and to release the shot when the hold is at its best.

So how do you do this? Start by establishing a benchmark to measure success at controlling hold. When you look through the sights at the target, you’re automatically aware of the amount and speed of the movement of the gun as you hold. Have a mentor or coach look over your shoulder and observe the front sight with relation to an object or area downrange. Now that you and your coach know what kind of “wobble” your current hold is giving you, you can move forward.

There are five elements of a shooting position: consistency, balance, natural point of aim, comfort and, for competitive shooters, the position must be legal. To improve your hold, start by focusing on balance and natural point of aim. If you fire from an off-balance position, or if the natural point of aim does not coincide with the target, hold will be larger. The resulting movement will be like a leaf blowing in a windstorm. And the longer you hold, the stronger the “wind” gets.

To develop good habits, you can use a simple “go/no-go” system to get into and check position. You should always stop and correct any problem, no matter how small. The position checklist can be divided into two categories: external checks and internal checks. For example, checking to see that the butt of the rifle is placed correctly on the shoulder is an external position check that you can observe. An internal check would be checking the muscles and bones of your body, to ensure that they are in the right position and work together to support the gun. (The internal check is largely a matter of feel reinforced by experience.)

A good coach or trainer will provide a position checklist for you. As you gain experience, you’ll create and continually modify a personal checklist to reflect refinements in individual position. Using this method of checking, you can determine whether a change has improved your hold.

Concentration improves hold control. Something as simple as thinking “hold” — or using hold as a key word — can slow and reduce movement. This will allow you to focus on sight alignment and sight picture. Through concentration, you literally reduce the amount of hold and its speed. If the hold is small and slow, your position is good with respect to natural point of aim.

MASTERING GRIP: 5 Ways You’re Holding Your Gun Wrong

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A correct shooting grip is one of the most important fundamentals in mastering pistol shooting, but most don’t know to do it! Find out…

Courtesy Team Springfield

It’s show and tell time.

We asked Team Springfield™ shooters to assemble some of their go-to tips to benefit the fans out there looking for some pro advice. The first topic we threw out to them was the art of the grip. Let’s dive in.

#1: ROB LEATHAM: WRIST ACTION
The most common email question I get is asking how to correct the low, left shot on the target (from a right-handed shooter). One of the ways to address this problem is:

LOCK YOUR WRISTS, AS IF THEY ARE A VISE ON THE GUN

When instructing, I primarily observe the arm/wrist/hand areas when a student is shooting. I often see prominent movement in the strong-side wrist and hand (and sometimes into the arm) before or as a shot is fired. Even the smallest of movement before or when the shot is fired will cause the gun to move out of alignment, typically in the low, left direction.

I don’t care if you “jerk” the trigger. You can jerk all you want if you are able to hold the gun completely still. IMO, “Do not jerk the trigger” should be replaced with “Do not move your wrists.”

#2: KYLE SCHMIDT: UNSUPPORTIVE SUPPORT HAND

When Rob asked me to explain my No. 1 issue regarding grip, my mind immediately turned to earlier in the day. Less than an hour prior to the text from Rob, I was working with a few struggling shooters. Each one of them suffered from a very common gripping issue that I regularly see:

NOT USING THE SUPPORT HAND PROPERLY

Without proper support (i.e., position and strength) from the support hand, you are essentially shooting one-handed. One of the first indicators of improper support-hand usage is that the primary and support hands separate (partially or completely) when the gun is fired. Many shooters try to correct this problem by continually readjusting their support hands between shots; however, that correction is time-consuming and typically short-lived. The lack of use of the support hand has a significant negative effect on the shooter’s ability to both hold the gun steady when aiming difficult shots and the ability to quickly return the gun onto the target after firing.

#3: KIPPI LEATHAM: GET YOUR SHOOTING GRIP FROM THE GET-GO

I work with a lot of newer shooters, and the No. 1 gripping problem I see is:

PICKING UP THE GUN A DIFFERENT WAY EVERY TIME

One time they grab the gun with their strong hand and the webbing between the thumb and trigger finger is positioned one to two inches below the tang. They immediately have to re-position the webbing higher under the tang/beavertail before they can rack the slide and shoot.

The next time they pick up the pistol with their support hand to seat a magazine with their strong hand, they only to have to switch the gun and grip back to the strong hand before chambering a round to shoot. Or they draw the gun from the holster with all four fingers under the trigger guard, requiring an adjustment of the grip to re-position the trigger finger so it can press the trigger and move the other three fingers under the trigger guard.

My advice is to get the proper shooting grip immediately (if possible), whether picking the gun up off of a bench, drawing from a holster, taking it off of a display rack, etc. Every time I handle one of my pistols, whether I’m loading a mag, unloading the gun, drawing from a holster, just admiring it, etc., I use my strong-hand shooting grip —

Trigger finger rests on the frame (below the slide), visibly above/outside of the trigger guard.

Three remaining fingers are closed and touching under the trigger guard.

Thumb webbing is centered on the back strap of the gun and positioned under the tang as high as possible.

Thumb on the left side of the gun is touching the side of the frame.

proper pistol grip

If you can do this every time you handle your pistol, you will repeatedly reinforce your proper shooting grip, and, soon, muscle memory should take over.

#4: JASON BURTON: LOSE THE LOOSE GRIP

GRIP THE PISTOL TIGHTLY = HAVE MORE TIME

Whether it is competition such as USPSA, shooting bullseye at Camp Perry, or defensive-oriented pistol craft, time and its effects on the end result are a factor present in most shooting. Time as it relates to competitive shooting can often be categorized in two ways: Expend the least amount of time (or do things as fast as the shooter is capable) or make the most of the fixed amount of time allotted. However, time as it relates to personal defense is neither fixed nor limitlessly expendable, but rather a consideration often used and quantifiable for making decisions. So when it comes to actually shooting the pistol from a personal defense aspect, how can we have more time with which to make decisions and/or react to the evolving situation?

ONE VERY SIMPLE WAY IS TO MAKE THE PISTOL MOVE LESS

Many times in classes (as well as competitive circles) I have seen shooters who wait to move from one target or part of a shooting array to another until they have completely recovered the gun onto their existing problems. While more prevalent in defensive pistol craft, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is essentially an assessment of one’s previous actions and the results they had.

However, the sooner you can get to the point of assessing your previous action, the sooner you can move on to the next problem. Herein, the application of proper shooting technique will contribute to the speed at which you can assess problems. Simply put, the better you grip the gun the less it will move, and the less it moves the sooner it will return to the target, which allows you more time to evaluate if what you did worked. My friend Clint Smith has a saying, “You have the rest of your life to solve the problem. How long your life lasts depends on how well you do it.” So grip the gun like your life depends on it, because it just might.

#5: STEVE HORSMAN: THUMBS DOWN

When I taught concealed carry permit classes, we would spend the first day in the classroom discussing safety, state self-defense law, basic shooting technique, and — did I mention safety? On day two at the range, after discussing safety again, I would ask the students to shoot a group at 5 yards and 10 yards, and my primary objective was to observe how the student gripped the pistol. While I would occasionally have students shooting revolvers, most were using a semi-automatic pistol, such as the 1911 or the striker-fired XD® line. So this is the grip I’ll focus on.

What I immediately noticed was that most shooters would place their primary thumbs over the top of their support-hand thumbs, with the thumbs almost pointing down. If you can visualize a good revolver grip, this is what many shooters were doing while shooting their semi-autos.

THUMBS DOWN TO THUMBS DOWN

However, most firearms instructors and accomplished competition shooters grip the pistol with a high thumb grip. Visualize my primary-hand thumb resting on my support-hand thumb, with both thumbs somewhat pointing toward the muzzle of the gun. Thumbs should look like they are in direct line of the slide/barrel.

gripping pistol
This high-thumb hold/grip allows you to get more of your support hand on the pistol and forces your hands as high up on the pistol as possible. The best thing about that grip is that it reduces the muzzle flip!

With this tip, and the others that my Springfield teammates have suggested, head out to the range, give these techniques a try and see if you don’t just notice some improvement…