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11 Tips For Tactical Pistol ShootingWords by Chris Mudgett
A difference exists between typical Bullseye marksmanship and tactical shooting. However, the fundamentals remain the same. How we apply them is where we see a division.
Bullseye shooting, or a focus on marksmanship, is typically accomplished on a clear, flat range with a small bullseye-style target set at a specific distance, such as the NRA B8 25-yard target featuring a 5½-inch bullseye. The shooter ensures their upright, Weaver-style, semi-bladed stance is perfect, and a natural point of aim with the target is obtained. Their firearm is presented in a methodical manner, and they take the time to ensure the sights are perfectly aligned. The trigger is slowly squeezed rearward as the shooter’s vision bounces back and forth between their sights and the target, making minute changes to their sight alignment and point of aim prior to the shot. When the shot goes off, the shooter prefers to be surprised. This minimizes any chance of anticipation or flinch, which could disturb their sight alignment. Bulls-eye shooters generally rely on an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster and are not concerned with concealability or cover garments. They also typically reload while at the shooting bench.
The tactical shooter, on the other hand, chooses an athletic, forward-leaning, Modern Isosceles stance that allows them to aggressively shoot and move in a 360-degree environment without changing their shooting style. The tactical shooter relies on an acceptable sight picture given the distance to their intended target and engages that target with multiple rounds in a quick and efficient manner. The tactical shooter’s “bullseye,” if you will, closely resembles an 8-inch circle of an IDPA silhouette target or the 6-inch-wide by 14-inch-long A-zone of an IPSC or other humanoid target. Tactical shooters tend to shoot from concealment or from duty-style rigs and work on obtaining a full firing grip from the draw. They rely on a fast yet efficient draw stroke. Speed reloading their firearm is an important and practiced skill for the tactical shooter.
The following 11 tips will help you become a more skillful tactical shooter:
A good, forward-leaning, athletic stance is the foundation of consistent shooting. Your feet should be positioned approximately shoulder-width apart, with your non-firing foot a half step forward of your firing foot. For right-handed shooters, that means your left foot is forward of your right. Your upper body should be forward enough for you to feel the weight over your toes and balls of your feet, and your knees should be slightly bent. Ensure your upper body remains erect, and your forward lean is accomplished with your lower body and knees. You shouldn’t be bending at the waist when distributing your weight forward.
Clear your clothing
IWB—When the decision is made to draw, both of your hands should be working together to clear your cover garment if your pistol is concealed. If carrying on or behind the hip, use your support hand to lift your garment in an upward motion, and use your firing hand to begin sweeping your clothing in a rearward movement, completely exposing your holstered firearm. Don’t let go with your support hand.
AIWB—If carrying appendix inside the waistband (AIWB), use your support hand to grasp a handful of your cover garment and aggressively pull upward toward your sternum (the higher the better). Place your firing hand on your pistol grip.
OWB—If carrying outside the waistband (OWB) without a cover garment, move your support hand toward your upper chest while simultaneously swinging your strong hand rearward toward your exposed pistol, elbow facing the sky. Place your strong hand on the grip of your pistol.
Full firing grip on the draw
Wrap your strong hand as high on the grip of your handgun as possible, with no space between the web of your hand and the tang of the pistol, and obtain a full-firing grip. A full-firing grip is when your hand is positioned in such a way that it does not require any additional movement or fine-tuning once the gun is drawn. The grip should resemble a firm handshake when folding your fingers around the front strap of the pistol.
Draw, or remove your pistol from its holster, in an upward motion. Once it clears the holster body, rotate the grip of the pistol downward, leveling your barrel horizontally in the direction of the target. Begin pushing the pistol upward and toward the target like it’s riding on an escalator, not up toward your chest like an elevator. Release your support-hand grip on your clothing and allow it to meet with your pistol once it appears in your lower peripheral vision, and drive both toward the target.
Solid support hand grip
The key to shooting multiple rounds as fast and accurately as possible is an efficient support-hand grip. To obtain this, extend both arms toward your target and make a finger gun with your support hand. Point your support-hand finger gun at a 45-degree angle toward the ground. Open your support hand and use it as a clamshell, wrapping it around your firing-hand grip on the pistol; ensure that you do not change the angle of your support hand. The heel of your support hand should cover the exposed portion of your pistol grip, and your fingers should be as high beneath the trigger guard as possible. Your support-hand thumb should be pointed at the target, and your wrist should be nearly locked, relying on bone support instead of your tendons. This is your support-hand grip.
See your sights
If you’re able to attain full extension (i.e., your arms fully extended in front of you with your pistol pointed toward the target), your sights should be utilized. Always. When an efficient support-hand grip is obtained as outlined above, the muzzle of your pistol will not flip up vertically but will recoil rearward. This equates to your sights traveling on a horizontal plane, which your eyes can track as they move throughout the cycle of operation. During rapid-fire strings, your sights will consistently return to the position they were prior to the previous shot being fired, allowing for quick and accurate follow-up shots.
Move toward cover
When in an active shooting environment, it is always a good idea to practice moving toward solid cover. Cover will not only offer some level of concealment, but it will also stop bullets. Good examples of this are concrete or brick walls, larger trees and engine compartments of vehicles. When at the range, time should be allotted to practice shooting accurately on the move, both forward and laterally toward cover. Time should also be spent shooting from behind said cover in standing, crouching and kneeling positions, paying careful attention to minimize how much of your body is exposed when engaging targets.
Carry a reload
Always carry a spare. Extra bullets on-hand are only one of the benefits of carrying a reload. Most malfunctions can be tracked back to faulty magazines. A quick remedy to this is out with the bad, in with the good. Get that malfunctioning magazine out and get a fresh one in, and your functioning problems will likely be solved.
Index your magazine
A good rule of thumb is to carry your magazine(s) on your weak side and ensure the bullets are facing your belt buckle when positioned in a belt-mounted magazine pouch or pocket holster.
When it comes time to perform a reload, drop your support-hand palm onto the baseplate of your spare magazine. Extend your index finger along the front of the magazine as you draw it upward and out of its pouch. Whenever possible, the tip of your index finger should contact the exposed bullet at the top of the magazine.
Everyone can point at objects with an extended index finger, and we do so every day. This orientation allows you to point your finger, and subsequently your magazine, in the direction that it needs to go — into the magazine well. This should be so ingrained that it can be accomplished in all lighting conditions.
Cant your pistol
When it comes time to reload your handgun, pull it into your workspace, which is the area in front of your face. When retracting your pistol into this zone, your firing hand elbow should contact your lower ribcage and your elbow should be bent as if you’re at the apex of a bicep curl. You should be able to view your target through the trigger guard of your pistol, and the magazine well will be pointed toward your left pants pocket. In this position, the mag well will be open to accepting your reload.
Press the magazine into the grip until it stops. With upward pressure on the magazine, utilize your firing hand thumb to sweep the slide release downward to close the slide and chamber a fresh round. If your firing-hand thumb is not strong enough or long enough to complete this action, utilize your support-hand thumb to depress the slide release. These two methods are the quickest, most efficient techniques to reload your pistol.
Be efficient in your movement
Move in straight lines from Point A to Point B. Excessive movement is wasted time and motion. When your pistol clears the holster, it should be riding an escalator toward your target until it meets your line of sight, not being brought up to your chest and then forward in an L-shaped arch. The same is true with your reload: Your magazine should be correctly oriented to the left of your center line, bullets facing your belt buckle (for right-handed shooters), and follow a straight line out of your magazine pouch or pocket and into the mag well of your pistol grip.
Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it
You’re responsible for each and every round fired. Quickly make the determination to shoot or not. If the decision is to shoot, be aware of what is behind and to the sides of your target.