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Handgun Scopes Help With Training

by Dan Johnson   |  June 20th, 2011 18

A handgun sscopes will make you a better shooter.Do you own one or more accurate scope sighted handguns? Perhaps you are a handgun hunter and routinely take game with a scope sighted handgun. Maybe you have a flat-shooting specialty pistol with high-powered optics and enjoy giving the rifle guys at the club a run for their money. Or, maybe you simply like punching small groups in paper with an accurate .22 pistol mounted with a good scope. If you fit any of those descriptions this article is not for you. Stick around anyway and share your experience in the comment section below.

The people I most want to reach out to today are the optics virgins – the guys who shun anything but open sights on a handgun – the red-blooded individuals who always stand upright at the range and fire their open-sighted handgun off-hand the way God intended. I understand you guys. I was once one of you.

I began using handgun scopes somewhat late in life and begrudgingly. I was a little past 40 when I noticed handguns were not as accurate as they used to be. I fired off a few irate letters to the manufacturers insisting they get their act together but it turned out not to be their fault. It was my aging eyes that were to blame. It was then I discovered how useful an optical sight can be on a handgun.

Handgun scopes have value beyond simply providing more precise aim, however. They are also useful tools in developing good trigger control. In the quest for accurate shot placement with a handgun, good trigger control is at least as important as precise sighting, often more so. A rifle shooter may get by with sloppy trigger work, though he will never be able to make full use of his rifle’s accuracy. I know rifle hunters with chronic flinchitus who bring home the venison every year. Handguns are much less forgiving because their short barrel, relatively light weight, and lack of a stock for support magnifies every twitch.

The most common complaint among those who shoot a scoped handgun for the first time is that the crosshairs bob and weave all over the place and they cannot hold them on target long enough to squeeze off a shot. Of course, their open-sighted handgun bobs and weaves just as much only they cannot see it with the naked eye. To achieve true shooting skill one must learn to deal with the movement and release the shot during the fraction of a second the sights settle in on target. With enough practice this will become a conditioned reflex and it will almost seem the gun fires on its own when the sights are right. This is what is meant by trigger control.

In the same way bodybuilders use special exercises to isolate and concentrate on certain muscles, regular practice with an accurate scope-sighted handgun allows you to isolate and concentrate on trigger control. A scope lets you see exactly what is going on with the handgun as you try to release a perfect shot. If you put in the practice required to master an accurate scope-sighted handgun and reach a point where your groups on target reflect the true accuracy potential of that handgun, I guarantee you will be a better shot with most any handgun you pick up.

  • PJ

    Good article Dan

  • BPsniper

    Scopes obviously have their place. Guess it just depends on the task.

  • Danny D

    Another great article…I have optical sights and iron sights on many of my handguns. As BP says, each "have their place".

  • Frank

    So what scope would your recommend for my Ruger GP100 .357 or my Super Redhawk .44 magnum. Yes, I am a handgun scope virgin. I am also 46 and have noticed that my eyes have aged a bit.

    • Dan C. Johnson


      A fixed 2X is a good place to start and all you are likely to need on a .357/44 mag.

      • Bart

        I agree with Dan. I bought a 2-7x and it never leaves 2x (the eye relief on the higher power settings is too close). Also, if you can afford it, buy a high quality scope like leupold. leave the cheap scopes for the .22s

    • Camo in Tennessee


      My name as well …….. what do you intend to use the .357 for? I have one as well.

      Let me know, I will share my thoughts.

  • Dave911

    I’m with Frank. The issue is not so much “opposing” the use of scopes, but more “how do I do it?”

  • Norm

    Good article. I have a Super Redhawk 480 Ruger, and a 2x mounted and bore sighted, but never get around to sighting it on the range.

    I carry it afield in a holster I can use with belt of scabbard unscoped, but with scope a new holstering system would be required. Other than a bear encounter, the gun would ordinarily be shot with shooting stix or some other support.

    I probably should do the sighting and get the carry system. A hand gun has a lot to recommend it in heavily wooded areas, especially in a stalking type hunt.

  • John Larson

    I put a weaver 4X on my 454 bull and had the same experience as you said about noticing a lot of movement in the cross hairs. I liked the improved vision of the target and hit most of what I was trying to but when I returned home I removed the scope. After reading your article I think I may put it back on and try it again. I can work on the fraction of a second when the x bobs into the target and let my finger do the work. Interesting perspective.

  • Jason

    I have read the article and think it is great. I am a handgun scope user and have been for some time and love it. I have a 2X Burris on a Colt Anaconda 44mag and it shoots really well. I would like to add a comment that could be helpful for some as to controlling the movement issue with handguns and scopes. When freehand shooting which is what I assume you have to be talking about. I think it is easier for me to control the handgun when I slightly lean toward the target with slightly bent knees and slightly bent forward at the waist. Seems to give more stability to the shooting position. I also practice with a controlled movement that is the same all the time. By controlled movement I mean that I start off about 6-12 inches below the intended target and move straight and fluidly up to the target and squeeze off the round as you reach the intended target. Practicing this way in my mind seems a little more consistent instead of trying to man handle the pistol and hold it on target. Hope this helps for some of the readers.

  • Bruce Redding

    I fully understand your point and I have had a couple of handguns with scopes on them. i also agree that shooting the scoped hanguns at the range were an excellent tool for improving my skills. For myself, however, scoping a handgun somewhat defeats the purpose of carrying a handgun. I have numerous light rifles that are more handy to plan for and carry around in the field than a scoped handgun. I also like the challenge of mastering the big bore handgun with open sights at longer distances. To each his own, for me I will stick to the iron sights for now.

  • Bill Markland

    Interesting. By the same logic, wouldn't a laser attachment serve the same function? And it's less bulky. At least for improving aim. Obviously there is a distance limitation with the laser that you will not have with a scope. Food for thought.

  • Tomas Finland

    I have a Redhawk 454 with a 4x Leupold. There is a paralax issue when aiming on other distances than the paralax free distance, the x moves quite much when moving my head. How should one deal with this issue?

  • Erv Gravening

    I shoot around 500 rds. a week with pistols. Most are open sighted. I shoot a couple of TC 14" scoped barrels(.223 & .44).

    My Hi-Std 102 8" bbl is scoped,and I have a couple of dot sighted semi-autos. I've learned to cope with the added bulk of scoped guns. I make my own holsters for these guns,which

    helps. If you don't shoot some scoped guns,you're missing out. Learn to hold cross-hairs or a dot steady and watch your open sight shots improve.

  • Ernie Bishop

    I use both, but on my singleshots they are all scoped.

    I have one revolver scoped, but all the rest are irons.

  • Ray

    Good article – thanx. I've had a 629, 5" barrel and recently put a Simmonds 2 -7x scope on it. I'll be taking it to the range this week. thanx again for the suggestions on how to best use it.

    Ray in Tricities

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