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Old November 28, 2012, 03:36 PM   #1
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Learning on a .22 to move on to a 9 mm later?

You guys think it's okay to learn the basics of semi auto handgun shooting on a .22 with the thought of actually purchasing a 9 mm later?

Yesterday was my first foray into shooting a live handgun. Ever. We went to a shooting range and I tried a .38 special revolver, a PPK .380 and a Glock 9 mm.

The revolver had way too much power in way to small a package (for my taste) and the kickback was horrible. The .380 was much better but I ended up snakebit and found that it was too small and unbalanced for me (I have fairly wide hands and long fingers). I shot last with the 9 mm and that was when I actually started having fun and was able to relax a little because I could actually get a solid grip on it; however, the kickback was still a bit of an issue even though I know I can get used to it and learn to control it eventually.

I shot my kid's .22 rifle last weekend and was surprised that there was no kickback whatsoever and how easily it handled, even though I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with it because cocking my head sideways and trying to aim seemed awkward to me. Which is what made me decide to go to handguns instead.

My question is this: Since I'm a complete beginner, would it be okay for me to learn the handgun basics on a .22 such as basic handling, loading, reloading, cocking, aiming, stance, shooting technique, and so forth, and get comfortable and build some muscle memory before eventually moving on to shooting with a 9 mm and purchasing one for personal use?

Yesterday I found myself wincing and squinting horribly and did a lot of wincing even with the 9 mm just due to its power, and I don't want to start off with a bad habit that's going to take me forever to unlearn later on. So I figured I'd take that completely off the table by starting off with something less powerful and going from there.

We have a local indoor range where I can rent whatever caliber I want, basically, so it doesn't matter. I currently do not own a handgun but will be purchasing one probably sometime first part of next year. I will probably get a concealed permit but am not necessarily looking to carry for protection outside my home, but rather in-home protection, but I do want to become as proficient as possible, obviously, and it may well turn into an all-out hobby because I'm already getting hooked.

(Of course when I say "kickback" I mean "recoil" but like I said I'm a total noob and so the terminology is something I'm still learning. Bear with me. I called ammo "bullets" yesterday (the horror!) and my hubby was quick to correct. Sheesh. )

Anyway ... thoughts?

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Old November 28, 2012, 03:41 PM   #2
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You'll find that a good many think and recommend a .22lr as the best option for learning to shoot. You find a few that think other wise. Of coarse those folks would be wrong.
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Old November 28, 2012, 03:47 PM   #3
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Yes, it is an excellent idea to learn with a .22lr before moving to larger calibers. The .22 will help you learn trigger control and to properly use your sights. It can also help avoid the problem of anticipating recoil and flinching which seems to be very common.
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Old November 28, 2012, 03:48 PM   #4
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Whatever it takes to get yourself comfortable....

I would recommend you invest a few bucks and get yourself a good instructor until you learn proper techniques. It is a lot easier to learn correct technique and become a good shooter than it is to break poor habits while becoming a terrible shooter.

Just my opinion...only because I'm an Instructor and see this situation every once in a while. Usually comes on when someone can't hit the front of a barn door. I spend five or more hours with them when they could have spent two or three out of the starting gate.
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Old November 28, 2012, 03:53 PM   #5
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I could never hit the front of the barn door. But mostly cause my Uncle who owned the barn wouldn't let me shoot at it. The bigger, better, and best reason to take some classes is the safety lecture. Learn the universal rules of gun handling. Get your 22, then your 9mm, then get a rifle and shotgun. Enjoy all the various approaches to shooting. I like rifles, and I love handguns and shotguns.

Oh and for the OP... the bigger the gun, the less you'll "feel" the recoil. Equal and opposite reaction type stuff is going on.. so the powder blows, kicking the bullet forward.. that also kicks the case back.. case hits gun, or was already tight up against it, so it pushes the gun back too. The bigger the gun the more force required to overcome that inertia. A 22LR in a rifle will kick less than in a pistol, less than a 9mm in a pistol etc...

A wooden furnitured rifle will kick less than a synthetic one...
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Old November 28, 2012, 03:56 PM   #6
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I also agree, a .22 rimfire is an outstanding caliber to start with. For most it will allow a great deal more practice time due to the much lower cost of ammunition. The low recoil allows for easier learning of shooting basics, I will urge you at this point to get some instruction as well, that will help keep you from falling into some hard to break bad habits down the road.
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Old November 28, 2012, 03:58 PM   #7
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Many people believe the .22 long rifle to be the greatest cartridge ever made. They would be correct. Here’s the advantages:
1. Almost insanely cheap ammo.
2. Just enough recoil to know you’ve shot the weapon. Indeed in my Remington pump I can’t actually tell if its fired with muffs on vs. just the striker firing.
3. A full range of inexpensive pistols that are more accurate than you are. In addition to the classics by Ruger, Browning, Beretta, and Smith and Wesson, several manufacturers have versions that mimic their larger pistols (again Ruger, Walther, and Sig Sauer to name a few).

1. Your finger will get tired from shooting so much.
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Old November 28, 2012, 04:02 PM   #8
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Most of us that are serious shooters will recommend the 22 bolt action rifle and/or a single action revolver as first guns because they are simple to operate, easy to handle, more accurate out of the box than most people and a lot cheaper if you plan on getting a lot of trigger time. Everything you need to know about marksmanship can be learned with a 22 LR and you can shoot it anywhere from 3 yards to 100 yards accurately. By the time you get to that stage you will have learned the basics of grip, natural point of aim, breath control, sight control and trigger control and most importantly gun safety.

What you learn with the mouse guns will transfer over to the center fires and later the magnums. By then you will have a much better idea of what you can handle and what you want. I don't care if you are 4'6" and 80 pounds or 6'6" and a 300 pound power lifter. You need to crawl before you walk, walk before you run and run before you take a serious jump. The chest thumpers who insist you start out with X caliber and X model gun are only touting their own gun and their way of doing it because they espouse shortcuts and really don;t know any better.

Start small, go slow, keep at it and I will bet you most anything that in 2 years you will be out shooting the magnum only boys or the pistol only boys or the revolver only boys. There is no single right gun, right action, right caliber for everybody and for every situation but there is only one way to start.

Dos centavos from a dinosaur who still shoots 22 more than all other guns in my inventory.
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Old November 28, 2012, 04:05 PM   #9
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Other than the cost of the ammo ....there really isn't much reason not to start shooting with a 9mm over a .22 / unless you know you want a .22 down the road. I will always introduce a new shooter to handguns with a
.22 typically - and some stay with a .22 for a few hours / some are done with it in 10 min ...and want to move on to a 9mm.

However, don't buy anything guns, find out what fits your hands the best ( there is a lot of difference between various mfg's in terms of controls, grips, width, weight, triggers, etc...) so after a few range sessions / you will probably know some mfg's that you hate, some you like, some you aren't sure about - and you'll be able to start sorting some of this stuff out.

At first its really confusing - because companies like Sig, as an example, have about 12 models of handguns...and then within each model they may make 15 different guns / with 3 or 4 different trigger options, in 3 or more calibers, etc.../ so even within one mfg - it takes some time to sort thru all that stuff...

When I've had aquaintances going thru the same thing you are....I might take 4 or 5 different 9mm's that I have to the range....give them a little taste of each they can figure out - why does the trigger feel different, different grip angles, etc....and what they want in a gun / at their budget.

Then I encourage them to rent virtually every 9mm in the range rental case ( maybe 15 guns ) ...and make some notes ( put 10- 20 rds thru each gun )..and narrow it down to 1 or 2 guns...and then put a box thru each of them. Maybe even 2 or 3 range trips ..before they spend $ 600 - $ 1,500 or more on a 9mm...
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Old November 28, 2012, 04:25 PM   #10
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Since I'm a complete beginner, would it be okay for me to learn the handgun basics on a .22 such as basic handling, loading, reloading, cocking, aiming, stance, shooting technique, and so forth, and get comfortable and build some muscle memory before eventually moving on to shooting with a 9 mm and purchasing one for personal use?
Due to cost, yes.

Just don't develop any bad habits (loose grip, for instance) .....

Yesterday I found myself wincing and squinting horribly and did a lot of wincing even with the 9 mm just due to its power,
Some PT for the hands and arms might be in order..... 9mm is pretty light as far as recoil goes.
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Old November 28, 2012, 04:25 PM   #11
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.22 is a great way to start but you will probably never stop shooting it, it's so cheap and fun!
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Old November 28, 2012, 04:31 PM   #12
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Short answer,,,

My question is this: Since I'm a complete beginner, would it be okay for me to learn the handgun basics on a .22 such as basic handling, loading, reloading, cocking, aiming, stance, shooting technique, and so forth, and get comfortable and build some muscle memory before eventually moving on to shooting with a 9 mm and purchasing one for personal use?
The short answer is Yes!

The longer answer is:

There are many handgun manufacturers out there that offer identical pistols chambered in .22 LR and 9mm,,,

One example is the S&W M&P 22,,,
You could purchase that gun for inexpensive practice,,,
Then at some later date when you feel comfortable, buy the 9mm version.

There are also some very nice Sig-Sauer "Classic 22" pistols that you can quickly convert to 9mm with their Caliber X-Change Kit.

Ruger offers a revolver called the LCR (lightweight carry revolver) in .22 LR, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum.

These are only a small sample of the .22 rimfire/centerfire cartridge handguns out there,,,
Hang out at this forum and you will learn abut others.

So yes, it is a very legitimate training strategy,,,
And the gun manufacturers make the handguns to support it.


P.S. Welcome to the sport and the forum.

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Old November 28, 2012, 05:49 PM   #13
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A decent .22LR handgun is a great learning tool for now, and will remain a great tool for practice and for introducing new shooters to handguns. Pretty much everyone that is serious about handguns has at least one .22 in their stable, and many of us put more rounds through the .22 than any other handgun.

A 9 mm pistol has the value of firing a much better defensive cartridge, with the least recoil and ammo expense of any of the center fire rounds. If the recoil of 9 mm bothers you, though, a .22LR should definitely be your first pistol.

For your future purchase, be aware that there is quite a bit of variation in 9 mm pistols. A small, light 9mm designed specifically for concealment will transmit more recoil to the shooter than a larger, heavier pistol firing the same cartridge. The mechanics and geometry of the pistol can affect the perception of recoil, as well. A notable example of the former is the Berreta PX4 series, which has a rotating barrel that mechanically absorbs recoil.

A good overall plan for you is to take some lessons, practice your pistol craft with a .22LR, and then try out several 9 mm pistols by renting and/or by being a nice guy at the range that people like to loan pistols to, then purchasing a 9 mm that suits your needs.
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Old November 28, 2012, 05:56 PM   #14
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I started with a .22 and highly recommend it. A .22 is easy on the wallet (ammo) and a real pleasure to shoot.
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Old November 28, 2012, 06:04 PM   #15
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That' how I'm starting. Just ordered my full steel RIA 1911 .22 today as my first handgun, to practice on. Ammo is very cheap so I can practice without worrying about the cost. I will purchase a 9mm after I've had some practice time with this.

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Old November 28, 2012, 06:07 PM   #16
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Man, you people are incredibly informative and helpful! I appreciate all the responses, and so quickly! Am currently at work but will take time later on to respond more individually.
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Old November 28, 2012, 06:08 PM   #17
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I recommend a 22 conversion unit with a full size pistol for beginners-the CZ with their Kadet unit for a factory package, an M1911 or Browning HP with a Ciener unit if you can find one. You learn to shoot with the 22, when you transition to centerfire the controls and feel of the pistol are all familiar. I personally did not become a good pistol shot until I practiced Bullseye with a 22. I also recommend Bullseye shooting as the best way to develop proper shooting skills, form, etc.
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Old November 28, 2012, 09:41 PM   #18
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Starting on a .22, and moving up is exactly how my Dad did me and how I started bamaboy.

Plus, I tend to try and stay "tuned up" with a .22. Cheaper to shoot, and much easier to focus on fundamentals.
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Old November 28, 2012, 10:26 PM   #19
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Its a fine way to learn. It may not be required, but starting small and working up can be a big benefit for anyone.

Some may argue that you will get bored of 22lr quickly and want to move up to larger pistols like 9mm in short time... Well I have been shooting for most of my life, and I still love and shoot the 22lr more than other calibers (Lowest cost being a big factor Though I do have larger calibers that I can/do fire a few rounds through to scratch the itch while at the range, and well because I want to and can)

When shooting a centerfire caliber like 9mm, the shape of the gun, how it functions mechanically, and weight play big roles in how much recoil you feel or perceive. Heavier guns recoil less, but get too heavy and pointing and aiming accurately can start to be an issue. Revolvers tend to recoil a bit more than semi-autos due to the barrel being higher over the hand. (given same caliber and similar weight)

Getting a target style pistol like the Ruger Mark III can be a good way, as any misses and/or poor shots are all you and not due to the gun itself. (or a combination of you and gun) Because guns have moving parts, even when held completely still using a vice/clamp, the gun will not put all the rounds into the same hole. When clamped down and fired, how tightly the holes are grouped together is called mechanical accuracy. A good target pistol like the Ruger will have a hole not much bigger than the bullet itself, while a non target pistol may have a group one or two inches wide. Not a lot, but when you get better and more consistent, you will know it with a target pistol. Pull a shot due to poor trigger control or slightly poor aim, and you know it. While some would argue that having good mechanical accuracy of that degree is not needed to learn good shooting, which is true, I feel it doesn't hurt, and can only help.

Then there is the 22lr revolver idea. The benefit of it is the ease of use and maintenance. If the revolver stops working, its because something in the gun broke, and not due to an ammunition jam or problem. While there are many semi-autos with reputations for high reliability and few problems... Some semi-auto 22lr guns can be picky about what ammo you use, and jam frequently if you use the wrong type/brand. (for example some guns do not like cheap bulk ammo but work well with more expensive stuff... while some guns can fire just about anything you put in them) Revolvers can be very accurate as well.

It was mentioned that you might get a 22 pistol that is identical/similar to a 9mm pistol to aid in familiarity... A conversion kit that allows you to change a 9mm pistol into a 22lr is also an option... The only disadvantage of this route may be that they might not be as accurate as a target pistol or revolver. But a quality pistol or kit is usually more accurate than the average shooter. A conversion kit also has the disadvantage of having only the one gun, and that you must switch between calibers by installing/removing the kit. It isn't difficult, but some just don't like to do so. (some conversion kit models may have or be known for reliability issues, some are top notch, so research them if you go this route)

They also have some more modern looking but overall smaller sized pistols like the Ruger SR22. Not known for great accuracy, but decent, plus its reliable and fun to shoot.

Some good examples of potential 22 pistols to look at are:

Ruger Mark III or its brother the 22/45 (same gun but with a different grip shape)

Ruger Single Six or Single Ten revolver (six shot and ten shot respectfully)

M&P22 or the CZ Kadet... For options of 22s that are identical to the centerfire models. (first is a modern polymer framed pistol, the latter is a full sized steel framed pistol) Both are considered reliable and have good accuracy. The CZ Kadet is being discontinued soon, but they will still offer a kit that allows you to convert the CZ75 9mm pistol into a 22lr. The CZ 9mm runs about $500-550 online (plain black model) and the kit is another $250. A bit expensive, (but in line with buying 2 separate pistols, and cheaper than some other pistol/kit combinations out there.) You do get dual functionality though. 9mm for when you want/need, and 22 to learn on, and for cheap shooting when you want to have some fun with lower cost.

There are many options and looking around, visiting shops, handling different pistols, shooting them when possible... will help you decide on the pistol best for you. One that fits well in the hand and points and handles well is a must when learning.

Find an instructor, or barring that, someone you trust and feel is competent is the shooting sports to help you learn... They do not need to be competition level or professionally trained, but they do need a good understanding of the safety and skills. Plus, you don't need to take anything they say at face value, (even with the professional instructor) you can always log in here and ask questions.

*These are just my opinions, and others may disagree*

I hope I didn't throw to much at you, and if I did, feel free to ask more questions. Around here, we love getting new people into the sport.

Last edited by marine6680; November 28, 2012 at 10:37 PM.
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Old November 28, 2012, 10:55 PM   #20
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Welcome to the forum! TFL members are (for the most) part very courteous, knowledgeable, and more than willing to help wherever they can. I always say that the gun community is filled with some of the best people you'd ever want to meet.

As far as your questions go, ABSOLUTELY YES, start on a .22lr! My shooting improved greatly when I really started practicing with my grandpa's old .22 target pistol. I perhaps somewhat unwisely (for me) started on a .40 S&W and spent a lot of time, money, and ammo developing bad habits and then erasing bad habits. Not to say that it's impossible or even unwise to learn on a larger caliber, it just didn't work very well for me.

Two things did work well for me-shooting lots of .22, and shooting with my neighbor who used to be a range master in AZ. The benefits of shooting .22 have been clearly stated, so I won't beat a dead horse, but definitely look into some sort of training. Mine was pretty informal, just spending time practicing at the local range with somebody who really knew what they were doing. Look into getting some sort of real training in. The Tactics and Training section of the forum- located under "Hogan's Alley" is also very helpful.

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Old November 28, 2012, 11:06 PM   #21
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+1 for .22LR ( my Ruger 22/45 is my favorite.
+1 for heavier has less recoil. My full size 9 is mild but my polymer .380 LCP feels like a .45.
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Old November 28, 2012, 11:53 PM   #22
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Yes in fact it is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself to make yourself a better pistol shot.

You can shoot a few thousand rounds of .22lr for a fraction of the cost of shooting thousands of rounds of anything else. There is less kick, less muzzle blast, and this makes it easier to learn the muscle memory of good shooting habits. Habits form quickly, and they are hard to change once set. Good shooting habit with a .22 will translate to good shooting habit with any larger caliber. Its less likely to make you flinch and shut your eyes while pulling the trigger.

Ruger Mark III or the 22/45 are great target pistols in .22LR. You might want something that looks a bit more like a traditional handgun and not a target pistol.
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Old November 29, 2012, 12:17 AM   #23
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Okay now that I'm off work, I can actually respond properly:

Someone mentioned training. My husband is a former Marine and has all kinds of gun training under his belt. I went to the range with him, simply because I know how knowledgeable he is and because I trust him implicitly. So I have a built-in instructor already. He taught me about gun safety, stance, body position and all sorts of things already. My brain is still swimming but I'm excited to learn more and get proficient. He calls the .22 a "nuisance gun." I guess that's military speak for not being able to 1-shot somebody.

Someone else mentioned hand grip and strength, and having to do PT. Yep, I noticed that I'm kind of a weaksauce when it comes to that. My arms were definitely sore, and my handgrip needs work! I'm going to have to get some strength and work on that, most definitely. But, a lot of the problems I had came from sweaty palms and a bit of shakiness due to anxiety, and I know that will be subsiding as I get more control and become more comfortable with the thought of handling a deadly weapon (granted, no more deadly statistically speaking than the car I drive ... just sayin).

As to technique, I'm finding that there are variations between hand grips and stance, breathing and so forth depending on who you talk to. I'm just taking in all the info I can but I'm pretty sure I'll eventually develop my own technique once I get a hang of the basics.

Also, it looks like I'm going to have to get me a list together of all the various makes and models y'all listed and start weeding through things because price is certainly an issue, so I want to be sure what I'm buying before I do. I also can't be renting 3 guns at a time every week at our range due to cost, so I definitely have some thinking and planning to do. Once I purchase, our friends have property out in the boonies with a target range, so I can practice practically for free at that point and am not really worried about it.

Also, while I recognize some of the names/brands, I mostly have no idea what y'all are talking about. I had to look up what .22lr means. Haha. Seriously. Clueless.

We have a gun shop with a couple very helpful fellas right down the road, and there is a local gun show here every couple or so months that I will definitely be attending from here on out.

Also I'm being told what I actually shot were a .380 Sig Sauer P232, a .38 special Taurus hammer-free revolver, and a Glock 9 mm. There. See what I mean? Noob.
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Old November 29, 2012, 08:59 AM   #24
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but I ended up snakebit
I'm wondering what you meant by this, when referring to the revolver.

Many good answers above. I will add that the fundamentals remain the same, no matter what you are using- so yes, using a .22 helps develop those same fundamentals.

Regarding flinching- it takes some people time but once you realize the recoil, sound and muzzle flash will not hurt you in any way you may notice some improvement in this area. Again- working with a .22 will help as there is so much less of all of them.

There's a quote from Bruce Gray, a well-known instructor and gunsmith, which goes something like this: "Accuracy is about operating the pistol, not hitting the target."
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Old November 29, 2012, 09:13 AM   #25
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Regarding flinching- it takes some people time but once you realize the recoil, sound and muzzle flash will not hurt you in any way you may notice some improvement in this area.

When you first started driving, an oncoming car on a two lane road was a cause for anxiety ..... now you probably pass hundreds of them daily and give them no thought, even though they are huge objects flying by at kill-you-very-dead speed, within inches of you ..... you get conditioned to it- your brain comes to understand that as a normal thing and no cause for alarm.......
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