The wise man builds his house upon the rock

I am very fortunate as a competitive pistol shooter that my introduction to the shooting sports was in NRA Collegiate Pistol; aka bullseye shooting.  In fact, the first sport I ever won anything in was 10m Air Pistol, which by the way is the most difficult shooting sport I’ve ever participated in.  The reason why that’s fortunate is because as I’ve stated elsewhere, accuracy is the foundation of all pistol shooting.  It’s not just me that believes that either – guys like Brian Enos, Todd Green, and Larry Vickers all push that accuracy is the most important fundamental of shooting.

Don’t get me wrong, speed is important.  But it doesn’t matter how fast you can yank your gun out of the holster if you can’t put the round where it’s supposed to go.  At Pistol-Training.Com, Todd recommends that a shooter should be able to hit a 3×5 index card on command before trying to move to the “speed” portion of their skill development.  That’s an excellent baseline, but don’t stop at just that.  Keep pushing your accuracy skills, because there’s no such thing as too accurate.  Can you hit a 2 inch circle on command at 5 yards?  What about an 8 inch plate at 25?  I would go so far as to suggest that a USPSA or IDPA shooter who cannot hit a pepper popper on command at 20-25 yards needs to go practice their accuracy a bit more.

Accuracy is the rock.  Practicing accuracy is boring and it’s often not as fun as shooting super fast.  Once you can hit a 3×5 card at 7 yards, try 10.  Then 15.  Push it out to 25.  As I mentioned in the post below this, I’m a big fan of walkback drills as a warmup.  Here’s a drill (and the recent results) that I run pretty regularly.

12 shots at 5 yards

Start with 12 shots at 5 yards at a 2 inch circle.  At this distance, ideally you should get all the holes touching one another.  I find that at the 5 yard start of this walkback drill is where I have the most trouble.  A 2 inch target is still very small, and my front sight occludes the entire target meaning I must get a careful and deliberate trigger press on a DA revolver.  Even the tiniest flinch will through a round out of the target area.

Next, the target goes out to 10 yards, although I’ve also tried it at 15.  At 10 yards I’m firing 12 shots in a 3×5 index card, with the goal again to get all the hits in the card at 10 yards.   Be harsh with yourself on the scoring – I have a hit that’s barely touching the black line.

12 shots at 10 yards

While that would count in a match, your standards for your practice should be higher than the standards that a match would impose on you.  You’re not looking for speed on this drill, or any other pure accuracy drill, but it’s also important to not create detrimental habits.  I have a very bad habit from bullseye shooting of not recovering from recoil properly when I’m shooting slowfire.  I’ll let the gun rock up, and then manually bring it back down on target instead of controlling recoil during the shot like I should.  Bad habit, and one that’s very difficult for me to break.

18 shots at 25 yards

The end of the walkback drill is at 25 yards usually, since that’s all I have access to at the indoor range where I do most of my practice.  For this, I’m shooting 18 rounds at 25 yards.  The goal here is an 8 inch circle, which is the size of the 10 ring on a Bianchi Cup target or the “-0” on an IDPA target.  If you want to challenge yourself, shrink the target area.  Try the 25 yard part on a 6 inch or 4 inch circle, or a 3×5 card.

Build your house on the rock of accuracy.  Then start to incorporate speed in your training.  If you can get the accurate hits on command at a given distance, all you need to do after that is get those same hits faster than the other guy, and you’re own your way towards IDPA (or USPSA) victory.  A final note – if you find yourself practicing at distances where you can consistently get the hits you want, it’s time to push it out further.  More and more I’m shooting at 20 and 25 yards.

If you live in the Seattle metro area and are interested in developing your pistol accuracy, you can sign up for my Accurate Pistol class.  The next class is April 17th, and it’s an 8 hour, 750 round class that focuses on developing your accuracy as a pistol shooter.  Cost is $250, and you can enroll by clicking this link.



  1. I enjoy practicing accuracy. Making all the holes in an IDPA 6×6″ head box at 25-yard is fun. However, I have a little problem when switching guns. The POI would shift a few inches at 25-yard until 20-30 rounds later when proper trigger press is regained. I guess it has something to do with different triggers, trigger finger position, grip angle/shape and of course a lack of patience to pull the trigger straight back. Not sure if you have similar experience especially you shoot very different guns from long double action revolver to short single action 1911.

  2. I considered myself a decent shooter, even winning some local IDPA style matches, but the first time I attended an NRA bullseye match I was truly humbled, almost to embarrassment, by guys who can put 10 rounds in a quarter sized bullseye at 50 feet. (Indoor for winter)

    I’ve since joined the league and my shooting has greatly improved. I’ve cleaned up, so to say, some things I was doing well, but not great. Your grip, trigger control and sight picture, all have to be near flawless. The little details become important and become second nature.
    When I shoot two handed now it feels like I’m shooting from a bench rest.

  3. “I’ll let the gun rock up, and then manually bring it back down on target instead of controlling recoil during the shot like I should.”

    It’s called “John Wayne-ing”.

    Dry practice corrects it as does a shooting partner with a stick and buckets of ice water.

  4. So, what dimensions should my typical groups be at 7, 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards? I really don’t know what those goals should be. I get frustrated with myself when I don’t put a mag full into the same hole at 7 yards.

    1. Bill, don’t worry about group size. Use a 3×5 index card at 7, 10, and 15. If all your hits are on the card, your in good shape. Once you can get all your hits in there, try to get them on the index card at 20 and 25 yards.

  5. I shoot at these free targets I get from a website that are 4″ red circles. I’ve been trying to shoot every weekend that I can and I’m getting the point where I can finally put just about every one of my shots within that 4″ circle at 15 yards on command. I’m on the verge and it feels good. I’m getting good enough that I can almost call my shots.

    So you know what I did today? I hung a 4 inch red circle at the 25 yard target stands and started shooting at that. New goal is to be able to keep them all in that circle at 25 yards.

  6. One thing that I know to now look at more than ever is what kind of sights are on the gun. I mean I know there is a difference, but WOW can there be a major difference. I have a couple of guns with Big Dot XS sights and shot them for the first time recently. Actually the first time was in an IDPA Tuesday practice at West Coast Armory a couple weeks back.

    It’s pretty common for me to shoot a virgin gun under these circumstances. I don’t usually notice a huge difference between guns unless it’s related to malfunctions or ammo issues. That can be real fun!

    In the recent IDPA thing I noticed my distance shots were not impressive even when I slowed down(shooting in the dark kind of forced this) on the second run to make better hits.

    Last Friday I went went to the range and shot the gun at 50 feet to make sure of this. The gun was a Glock 34 with big dots. I shot a 35 with Tru Glo, 26 with Big Dots, and stock Kahr P380 along side it. Guess which one had the largest groups? The 34 with big Dots! The 35 was 2-3 inches when semi slow fired for a couple mags worth. The 34 when shot the same looked like a short barrel shotgun in comparison! The really odd thing is the 26 shot more accurate and I am actually ok with the resuts. Not great but ok considering the gun. The Kahr from previous experience I know is capable of at least what i was shooting with the 35, but I had no patience to shoot that kind of group with it. Still it had tighter groups than the 34. Freaking weird!

    Basically what I gathered from it was to get different sights ASAP on the 34. I ordered some Truglo Tritiums like the 35. Possibly I am wrong, but I dont believe I will be dissatisfied with the accuracy anymore.

    Anyways, what I am saying is the gun can make a difference.

  7. I love the 3×5 target. I used to tell people to do that when I was a firearms instructor down in SC. To carry less and save a little money, if only shooting 50 or 100 rounds I would use the empty ammo box (take out the plastic) and the receipt for the ammo purchase.
    I have not shot in about a year or so as I have yet to find a decent range in the area, but moving in May to where I know there is a nice one. I never took the ammo boxes out past 15 yds but with the lasik done I can’t wait to give it a try.

    Caleb- I saw the video on the shoot house at Blackwater, is that the only shooting area you went trough or did you get to enjoy some of the other ranges there?

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