Handguns may be some of the smallest weapons in your arsenal, but they often present the biggest challenges when you’re shooting for consistent, tack-driving accuracy. It’s no wonder, either. A light, short-barreled firearm with open sights and a trigger pull heavier than the gun itself isn’t exactly the best platform for showcasing your long-range marksmanship.
Still, much of what ultimately dictates accuracy lies in the hands of the beholder.
Just ask Hickok45. Legions of shooters look to the YouTube firearms reviewer for straightforward advice on guns. While many of his videos assess the merits and performance of specific firearms, he’s also an accomplished shooter—with a full chamber of tricks for putting more rounds on target.
Following are his five top tips to improve handgun accuracy, whether you’re hunting, competing, plinking or neutralizing a threat.
Master Trigger Pull
Hickok45 acknowledges many dynamics of shooting form play a role breaking the bullseye or dropping your target, but he says one factor rises above all others.
“Of all the elements of accuracy, having the trigger break at the right time—when your sights are aligned exactly where you want them—is the most important to me, bar none,” he begins. “Ultimately, it all comes down to the sight being on target when the trigger breaks and the primer fires.
“You can be in a comfortable stance with a good grip and the gun steady, doing everything right,” he continues. “But if you flinch and your sight alignment moves off the target, accuracy takes a nosedive.”
“Ultimately, it all comes down to the sight being on target when the trigger breaks and the primer fires.”
Techniques for taming trigger pull include a variety of breath-control and finger-squeezing strategies. Hickok45 recommends using whatever you’re most comfortable with, but says no matter which approach you adopt, dry-firing practice is a great way to hone your ability to squeeze the trigger without taking your sights off the target.
He also advocates double-checking your steadiness. And the best way to do that, he maintains, is adding dummy rounds to your practice routine.
“Dummy rounds, which contain no primer or propellant, are great tools for testing your trigger pull,” he says. “Randomly mixing a few dummy rounds with live ammunition will reveal what’s really going on at the moment of truth. If you’re jerking the trigger, you’ll know it, because there’s no recoil to hide your sins.”
Get A Grip
How you hold a handgun affects accuracy. Here, too, there’s no shortage of techniques to choose from, and Hickok45 advises experimenting with different holds until you find the right fit for your specific firearm, stature and style of shooting.
“Keeping my little finger out of the equation helps avoid stringing shots laterally or milking the trigger.”
“I prefer a nice, firm grip,” he says, noting that regardless of the gun in hand, he keeps his pinky off the grip. “Keeping my little finger out of the equation helps avoid stringing shots laterally or milking the trigger. It also works equally well with subcompacts and full-size pistols, so there’s no need to alter your grip when switching from one style to another.”
Above all, he cautions against taking too firm a grip. “Some people hold a gun like they’re trying to choke the life out of it,” he says. “A solid hold is fine, but too tight of a death grip can adversely affect accuracy by increasing the tendency to pull down as you squeeze the trigger.”
Take A Stand
Although foot position doesn’t trump trigger pull, Hickok45 says it remains a boon to accuracy.
“Stance is important,” he says. “I like a modified Weaver stance, with my right foot a little behind the left. But everybody’s different. The best advice is to choose a solid stance that feels natural and keeps your feet shoulder width apart. Practice until it becomes second nature to stand that way when you shoot.”
Practice, Then Repeat
“When I was teaching, I’d tell my students ‘repetition, repetition, repetition’ is the key to learning,” he recalls with a laugh.
“It’s the same with developing accurate shooting habits. However you shoot, be consistent about it and practice as much as possible. Even if you’re doing something the experts might think is wrong—like a side-arm quarterback or unconventional free-throw shooter—if you do it enough, you’ll eventually get pretty good at it.”
“I strongly encourage practicing with ammunition that’s either exactly the same or has an equivalent bullet weight and power ratio to the ammo you’ll carry afield or in competition and self-defense situations,” he says. “Otherwise, you risk variations in point of impact and performance that can really throw you off when the chips are down.”
Toward that end, he chooses ammunition readily available in both range and carry rounds. “That’s one reason I like middle-of-the-road rounds like 180-grain, 40-caliber. It offers lots of good practice and carry ammo in the same bullet weight,” he says.