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Thread: Thoughts on Accurate Shooting

  1. #1

    Thoughts on Accurate Shooting

    For the average person, as I see it, the ability to accurately shoot targets is determined by two things, the shooter's ability, and "the gun". It seems to me that they go hand-in-hand, and when you're trying for extreme accuracy, you need both.

    Statistically, one's accuracy when shooting would be a sum of both of them. If a gun held perfectly stationary puts its bullets into a grouping two inches in diameter, and the shooter's hands can only hold a "perfect" gun somewhere within a two inch diameter grouping, that shooter, with that gun, will be placing their grouping within a four inch diameter grouping, the sum of the two individual factors.

    How well a person can shoot is by far the single biggest factor, and I'll leave that for a separate discussion. Improving the shooter involves training, practice, and still more practice. What I'm thinking about here, is "the gun" meaning the gun itself, the ammunition, and so on.

    People who know far more about this than I do have come up with the following chart to show the relative importance of things you can improve in a semi-automatic handgun. It was posted, along with a wonderful explanation, at

    My thoughts have always been that one should start with the "big things" and eventually work your way through all the details. As indicated by the chart, the things one can work on are separated into two categories, the mechanical accuracy of the gun itself, and other things that while they don't make the gun any more accurate, they do help the shooter's ability to shoot more accurately.

    As I see it, any effort at improving accuracy needs to have a way to measure the accuracy, before and after. The best web page I've seen on this topic is - without understanding this concept, all those photos that show how wonderful a gun is when it almost puts three bullets into the same hole are meaningless.

    From that article - suppose had an expert shooter fire your gun and shot 100 rounds at a target, then drew a circle around the holes and got this (in this case, within a three inch diameter grouping:

    This is a pretty good indication of the gun's capability.
    Suppose you then gave three other shooters the same gun, and had them each take three shots:

    You then were to determine which shooter is more accurate.

    The answer is that these three shot groupings are all equal. All three are within the capability of the gun, and while the first image looks better than the third, that's pure random chance.

    (This is also why it's silly to take three shots, then try to adjust the sights based on what you've done. Until you take enough shots to really know what the gun's grouping is, any such adjustment is a waste of effort.)

  2. #2
    You will notice that one of the biggest factors in allowing you to shoot more accurately is "trigger work". I posted a question on, an excellent forum for shooting information. I got a VERY good answer from JR Roosa, a member of that forum, which explained everything in far more detail than I ever dreamed of. Here's that discussion - I've never read a better description (and this is the first description that I've read, that I could actually understand!!)

    For someone who is already a good shooter, why would the groups tighten up simply by having to use less force to pull the trigger?

    Well, within a reasonable range, the actual pull weight probably doesn't matter much. If you have a really heavy trigger, then you will upset the aim of the gun when you actually pull hard enough to get the trigger to break. The main point of a trigger job isn't to lighten the trigger, but to make the break clean and consistent.

    I also read where too light a trigger pull is dangerous on guns used for anything other than target shooting, as it make it easier for the gun to fire unintentionally.

    Sort of. You have a bunch of automatic reflexes going on when you get scared and you hand turns into more of a paw. It becomes harder to separate your trigger finger from your other fingers, and you could pull on the trigger unintentionally. The bigger danger is for cops who draw their weapons and point them at people who they may not quite be ready to shoot. The even bigger danger is to have a shooting brought into question because the gun has a "hair trigger" and that the shooter may be making up what actually happened to coverup an unintentional discharge.

    The other danger is that with a really light trigger job, if it's not done right and if there's a little wear you can have a full-auto pistol which will rise up with each shot until it's pointing at your face or behind you.

    some kind of adjustable "overtravel (???) stop"

    Sure. The trigger pull has a few different phases. First there's "take up" or "pretravel" this is the initial movement before the trigger stops moving and gets ready to break. Then the trigger breaks. Then after it breaks the trigger travels backwards until it stops completely, which is "overtravel." Afterwards you let the trigger out, and before it gets all the way back to where it started, the disconnector will re-engage and "reset."

    An ideal trigger (there are a few different kinds of "ideal" triggers) would be one that has no takeup, has a perfectly crisp break "like a glass rod breaking," the break has the "perfect" weight, has no overtravel, and has a very short reset.

    A trigger job basically makes the trigger on your gun as close to "ideal" as you are willing to afford. While the trigger job is being done, the trigger itself may be replaced with something lighter (a heavy steel 1911 trigger can break the sear itself with just the shock of the slide closing, causing the pistol to fire on chambering a round). The internal components may also be replaced. They will at least be polished and tuned to get the desired effect.

    As to who does the trigger job, I assume that this is something to be done by a qualified gunsmith? Can the parts simply be ordered from the gun manufacturer, and installed?

    Yes and yes. You need a really good gunsmith who will do it right with good parts. You can also buy "drop in" kits that will make the trigger in your gun better than it was, but won't address every issue corrected by a proper trigger job.

    I guess I should ask this too - sometimes you see triggers that are solid, or have several openings machined through them, or other things that remove material. Is this just for "looks", or is there any purpose to it?

    This it to make the trigger itself light so it can't slam back hard against the sear and make the gun go off when the slide closes, see above. Usually aftermarket triggers are aluminum. You can get them in different colors if you want or have them cerakoted or anodized whatever color you want if you're into that.

    So, why does a trigger job make a gun more accurate?

    I don't really know, it just does. I had one done on my Garand and it halved group size for me and increased my scores at matches immensely. I have a gritty, creepy trigger on my Springfield 1911 and it gives me a terrible flinch. Within one magazine, I'm dropping every shot low and left. The triggers on my S&W .357 and High Standard .22 are glass-rod perfect and these are easy to shoot accurately. I can put 10 rounds into a ~4 inch 10 ring at 25 yards in timed and rapid fire at matches from time to time.


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