View Full Version : First time at the range help please

June 4, 2006, 01:52 PM
Hi yall,

I just brought my first pistol home this week from layaway. Of course I immediately took it out to the range. This was the first time I had ever been to the range. Well I'm a lefty and I seem to be shooting low and right. I'm still shooting about 4" groups at 5 yds. I know with practice I can get the groups smaller but the low and right thing is bugging me. For example I was using one of the targets that looks like an xray of a guy in a ski mask holding a knife raised up in a reverse hold. The last 4 shots I took were aimed at the head area they have marked out and I ended up hitting his Left eye with all 4 shots. What am I doing wrong,or is it just a newbie thing and It will get sorted out the more I go?

June 4, 2006, 01:59 PM
If you group and place shots consistently, I'd first try to adjust your sights.

Mad Cow
June 4, 2006, 03:01 PM
This link might help, the article is for right handed people (shooting right handed hitting target low & to the left jerking the trigger, left handed would be hitting target low & to the right jerking trigger).


June 4, 2006, 04:55 PM
Get some snapcaps, and dry fire the heck out of your gun. Watch your front sight, and see where it goes when you pull the trigger. Practice untill it dosent move any more. Just use the pad of the tip of your finger on the trigger, sticking to much in will cause you to hit left or right. The hitting low is recoil anticipation, or pushing the gun as you fire. Practice is all you can do.:)

June 4, 2006, 05:02 PM
what kind of gun? double action? single action?

June 4, 2006, 08:49 PM
you are most likely jerking the trigger. Get a rest and shoot to make sure the sights are legit, and then practice practice practice squeezing that trigger. Some people will say you are scared of the gun and jerking, but a lot of it is getting used to the trigger pull and letting the Big Boom be a surprise. If the shot is a surprise then you are squeezing.

June 4, 2006, 10:54 PM
mostly SA trigger pulls. I tried a few doubles to get the feel and actually did pretty good with those.

June 5, 2006, 09:44 AM
I can't help myself....become a member of Handgun Control, Inc.! HAHA!

On a more serious note, I'd suggest that you do a RE-start on your shooting by signing up for a handgun shooting course. While you're still new to shooting, it would benefit you greatly to learn the basics from a professional instructor, so that you don't pick up bad habits.

I've been an avid handgun shooter for 35+ years, and have even been a competitive shooter for many years. Even though I might be looked upon as an "expert" handgunner, I often ask my shooting buddies to monitor my shooting skills. Bad habits can be picked up no matter how long you've been a shooter!

Since this was your first time at the shooting range, DON'T start monkeying around with the "factory" settings of your pistol sights! They may have been set "dead-on" at the factory. The solution is, most likely, going to be found through more shooting practise....AND to have been properly instructed! Just don't give up, for accurate shooting is an "acquired" thing, for there are VERY few "naturals"!

Harley Quinn
June 5, 2006, 10:48 AM
You are anticipating the round and pushing (bucking).
If you were right handed it would be on the left and down.

Try shooting one round at a time. Squeeze, it should suprise you when it goes off. Do not jerk and buck at the same time.
It takes practice, shoot a few hundred rounds slow fire and take your time and squeeze.

Don't adjust any thing until you have shot about 500 rounds. At 5 yds it is what I am telling you.
Relax, breathe in, let a little out, hold the breath squeeze, BOOM.:D

Make sure your pistol/revolver is in a good straight upright position. Use a one hand hold for starters. It will eliminate some things the other hand is doing to confuse the issue. DO NOT ANTICIPATE THE SHOT, SQUEEZE.


June 5, 2006, 11:14 AM
Am I missing something? :confused:
Isn't five yards a little close to start learning how to properly sight and fire any handgun? Also, why start with a silhouette target? I would suggest a bullseye or some sort of target with a clearly defined aiming point. I was always taught that there are five basic elements of good handgun shooting: sight alinement, sight alinement, sight picture, trigger control, and grip. (Yeah, there is a lot more to it but without these, forget it.)
I agree that some good instruction NOW is an excellent idea before you ingrain bad habits and you shouldn't mess with the sights until you really know what you're doing. Suggest you get an experienced good shot to try your handgun as a check to see if the sights really are far off or if it is you. My bet is on the latter, although it is unlikely that the sights are exactly correct out of the box.
Anyway, welcome to the club! :D

Dave R
June 5, 2006, 01:19 PM
Lots of advice here. My advice is--first, determine whether the sights are off. If that's the case, you may be doing everything right, but the sights are pointed at the wrong place.

To determine if the sights are off, shoot the pistol from a bench rest. Rest the butt of the pistol on a padded rest, and make it as immobile as possible while you sight and shoot. I'd shoot it at 10 yards or more. See howyour groups look. If they're all over the place, you're not as immobile as you need to be. If the group is tight, but the point of impact is not where you want it, I'd adjust the sights. If you don't have adjustable sights, there are still some things you can do...

Or, just have someone who you trust as a good shooter do a check for you and see if the sights are off.

Richard Hanson
June 5, 2006, 07:20 PM

I am not qualified to diagnose your problem, but I found myself in the exact same circumstances. I am also left handed and I bought my first handgun about six weeks ago. On my first trip to the range I had the same problem where I was often missing low and to the right and I also suspected a problem with my gun or its sights. My shooting was so bad I was actually embarrassed.

The week following I went to another range with a friend who had just purchased a 9mm CZ 75 and when he let me try his gun it jammed and did not fire. I did, however, jerk the gun badly as I pulled the trigger in anticipation of the shot and the front site was all over the paper. I am so glad this happened as the event convinced me that I had a significant problem with my trigger pull and I am now shooting much better.

As a training exercise, I have considered getting some kind of snap cap that I could load into one of my magazines and then mix them up so that from time to time the gun will not fire and I can confirm that I am performing a good trigger pull. Even better would be to have a friend load the magazines randomly mixing in a number of snap caps. Unlike my friend's CZ, I have pulled the trigger 800 times on my Sig and it has fired 800 times so waiting for a jam does not appear to be a viable methodology for implement this trigger pull training idea. Perhaps one of the experienced forum members could make an appropriate equipment suggestion as I have no experience with snap caps.

I hope you are having as much fun as I am having and I wish you good luck with your new gun.

Best Regards,

June 5, 2006, 08:01 PM
First off I am using a S&W 669. It was a used gun I bought from Gander Mountain. GM bought it off of a pvt citizen in my area. They have no range so I can't garuantee my sights are good. It seems I need practice and to at least get to the range with an experienced shooter. It seems the majority of the people agree I'm anticpating the shot and pushing on the gun. I plan to go back this week and shoot some more. I have 100 rounds in and many more to come

June 6, 2006, 09:58 PM
ok, first are you gripping it tight enough? It is nearly impossible to grip it too tight.

second are you surprised when the trigger breaks or are you anticipating and jerking it.

Get some snap caps and practice dry firing. This is essential to firing a handgun. do it hundreds of times. an empty cartridge will work just fine if you don't want to get snap caps.

For your second and other shots are you resetting the trigger just to the point of "click" or letting your finger fly off the trigger.

Also, don't worry about the short distance, most of the actual use of a pistol is at that distance or less. If you learn to shoot tight groups at this distance you will be fine further out.

Good luck. I don't expect you to know the answers to the above questions but at least you will start watching how you do it at the range and know what to watch for. THEN you can start getting better.

June 10, 2006, 10:51 AM
Well I went back yesterday and practiced not pushing the gun and my trigger finger placement. I shot significantly better. I was using the target with the 5 small bullseyes at 5 yards and actually ripped the canter black area out of a few of them. Out of 100 shots about 4 did not fall within the marked rings.

June 10, 2006, 11:31 AM
glad that you are shooting better. One tip to see just how you are shooting is to setup a camcorder on a tripod or have a buddy fil you. You can place it back (slo mo is good) and watch how you react to each shot and how your body moves. It is helpful to shoot a few mags, rewind the tape watch and note any problems, shoot a few more mags trying to correct your porblems, review again, over and over (practice makes perfect or makes your mistakes completely ingrained if you don't watch out). Also the snap cap idea is great! Especially if someone else loads the mags for you. I do this with my rifles as well. I am a very experienced shooter and I ocassionally catch my self going back to some nasty old flinching habits on occasion when shooting my 2 ruger no. 1's in 416rigby and .338Win Mag (single shot so you can't suprise yourself with a round mixed in so I use the video method).

Happy shooting and if you haven't already done it then attend a firearm safety course to learn how to properly handle and care for your guns. Plus it is always a good refresher. I used to teach hunter safety and firearm safety classes and i make it a point to go once every other year to a class just to "remind" myself. It never hurts.

June 10, 2006, 01:11 PM

I'm glad you're shooting better. One thing my late father (a WWII gunnery instructor) taught me almost 50 years ago, was to squeeze the trigger and not yank it. I suspect that was probably the cause of your initial bad groups.

Take your time and practice, and I'm sure you'll do fine. A firearms training class at the range would probably be helpful. Most important, relax and have a good time.

Harley Quinn
June 10, 2006, 03:19 PM
keep up the good groups and you will get confidence then move out to the 7 yd line and then the 10yd, you will see your groups get bigger and then you have to tighten them up. If you go to the bigger bulls eye when you are further out you will still be in the black.:D


June 10, 2006, 03:58 PM
this works for me.
Good solid grip on gun, front sight on target, squeeze trigger, front sight, squeeze again. It is key that you do not snap or jerk the trigger. After sufficient practice this will become second nature and you will be surprised at your improvment. I learned to shoot in 1982 with a revolver and the long trigger pull made the squeeze ( or press) imperative to overall shot placement. Good luck. Enjoy :cool: and let us know how you are coming along.

June 10, 2006, 05:20 PM
You can listen to all the help here and much of it is good suggestions.
BUt what you need is some one that is a "Qualified" instructor to help you through the starting pains. The hardest thing to learn about shooting is the bad things you pick up before you get some good traning.
I have been an instruction for over 20 years at the gun store that I work part time and that has always been the hardest thing to break.
I had one young lady last week that her "boy friend and great shooter" taught her that when gripping the gun in two had grip the thumbs of both hand should be pointing straight up into the air. Gives you somthing to line up with. He also suggested that the index finger of the strong hand should not pull the trigger but point along the side of the gun and the middle finger should be used to fire the gun. This so called "great shooter" had her so screwed up she couldnt hit the right side of a barn from the inside.
The point is that there are a lot of people in gun ranges that are "gun experts" and will do every thing to help, and when they do you will have to spend lots of range time forgetting what they showed you.
Join a shooting group or club and they will help you find some one or there should be some one in the group that can help.
As far as shooting range no range is too close if you cant hold your groups. To many people start shooting at 15 yards or more and get upset that they cant hit. Then start closer, If you cant hit something at 5 yards you sure as heck can't hit at 100 yards.
If your looking for groups then use a round target with a 3 or 4 inch bull. Once you can hold groups at 5 yards or less then work out another 3 or 5 yards untill your out to 15. For defence shooting any thing beyond 15 yards is not defence. The other thing is slow down, most new shooters shoot to fast, take your time and rest your eyes between shots.
Snap caps are very good learning tools.
The biggest reason for bad shooting is trigger pull. If its a revolver load only 2 or 3 chambers and spin the cylinder and close it with out looking, then shoot single action if your shooting a wheel gun. If some one is there shooting with you have them load the gun for you.
Pulling the trigger on a gun that you dont know when the gun will actual go off or not will teach you a great deal of the trigger mistakes your making on your own. When the gun fires you cant tell if your jerking the trigger or pulling the gun way off target, but when you pull the trigger on an empty cylinder, your mind will react the same and you will see and know the bad things you do. That is a simple trick to learn of the mistakes your making.