The truth hurts

You can have lousy technique and still be an accurate shooter. I hate saying stuff like that, but it’s generally true. We’ve even seen examples of it on TV through various Top Shot contestants, including the winner of Season 4. All an accurate shot requires is good sight alignment and a trigger pull that doesn’t disrupt your sight alignment.

That's a decent Weaver
That’s a decent Weaver

So even if your grip is completely janky, or your stance is utterly atrocious, you can in fact get accurate hits without really having good technique for the rest of your shooting skills. Of course, you won’t be able to do it quickly, but that’s not really the point. Of course, here’s the truth that actually hurts: being able to just hit the target doesn’t make you a good shooter.

Hitting the target is basic. I can and have taken someone who has never held a gun in their life before and get them to shoot decent groups at 10 yards with about 20 minutes of instruction. Being able to hit the target is perfectly sufficient if all you want to do is shoot groups at the range and feel good about how awesome you are at shooting.

The problem is that just hitting the target isn’t enough if you plan on doing anything useful with your gun, like oh I don’t know, carrying it to defend yourself. I’ve heard many people say things like “I can group my shots in the torso of a B-27, that’s good enough.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly feel like betting my life on “good enough.” This of course applies to more than just gunhandling skills, which is why I’ve also taken defensive driving classes, and have quality tires on my car instead of the “good enough” cheapo models. But to get back to the point, just hitting the target isn’t “good enough.” Because if you have to use your gun to defend your life, odds are you’re not going to be standing on an indoor range, calm and collected as you casually aim your Bersa .380 at the not-moving B27 25 feet away.

If you think being able to hit a pie plate at 25 feet or a paper bag is good enough, then I wish you the best of luck. You probably won’t ever need to use your gun for self-defense, but if you do I hope that the bar for “good enough” on that day is set pretty low. Train to win, not to just get by.


  1. My dad teacups, but he can shoot pretty tight groups. The shots are really close together spatially but it takes forever for him to recover his grip and get the gun back on target. He doesn’t believe me when I say his form is crap.

    When I started getting into IDPA and IPSC I just worked on fast shooting because I decided that I was cooler than all the indoor range goobers trying for the tightest untimed group. While my recoil control and stuff are pretty good now, I’ve realized recently that I need to start doing “uncool” stuff like slow group shooting again to drill fundamental trigger control and sight alignment because I’d let that slip while I was busy being a high speed low drag gun gamer.

  2. In a crescendo of clichés, it follows that:

    Accuracy is the foundation.

    Precision and repeatability is the structure.

    Repetition is the beginning of speed.

    Practicing faster in 5% increments builds skills. Build speed till you lose accuracy, back of 10%, and keep practicing that till you’re as accurate at your new speed as you were in (relatively) slow fire.

    Build on that till you’re faster still, bust your speed limit again, back of 10%. Lather, rinse and repeat.

    Do all that for a year or so, and you’ll be fairly fast and reliably accurate.

    You can’t miss fast enough to win.

    Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

    Good instruction, (really good, not “bubba showin’ ya how”), is usually worth more that what you pay for it.

    Humility is vital to success. Don’t be too proud to learn something new. Don’t be too proud to learn you’ve been doing it wrong, or that you can’t learn to do it better.

    Always keep having fun with it. Ya learn more when you’re enjoying the experience.

    Okay, my cliché account is overdrawn.


    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

    1. @Jim:

      You forgot “Fast is fine, but accurate is final.” 😀

      But in all honesty, most cliches become so because they have a core of truth to them.

      And I agree; I don’t trust “Good enough” for me or my family.

      Springfield, MO

      1. “Fast is fine, but accurate is final.”

        Sure it’s not : “Speed is Fine, Accuracy is Final !”

        It’s been widely attributed to Cooper, however

        Taylor has used it for a very long time and Vickers

        has it on his website & e-mails as if he originated it…

        1. Bill Jordan used it in his book “No Second Place Winner” in the 1970s…No idea if he originated it, though.

          1. In his book, Jordan attributed the saying to Wyatt Earp…who I’m sure borrowed it from someone else.

            In the land of guns there’s very little that’s truly novel.

          2. a long time ago a very wise old instructor told me “you can NOT miss fast enough to win a fight”…

    2. As always, Seamus, good words. Hope the rebuilding is going well, down in the flood plane.

  3. Well, not that I’m disagreeing with you, but you should also keep in mind that most Gun Owners are not and will not be Good Shooters. Here’s the problem as I see it.

    To become a Good Shooter takes time, money, a place to shoot, and a willingness to practice. Most Citizens in 2013 are more concerned about paying the Bills with less Income, and are working longer hours to make up for the Shortages. Also, trying to find some place where one can Move and Shoot w/o breaking the Range Rules is very hard, at least here east of the Mississippi. Finally, a willingness to practice is hard to develop, even if one has the means. Just look at how many Bad Golfers there are out there, and there are a lot more Golf Courses out there than there are Ranges.

    Now, let’s throw in the need to have a Quality Instructor to help one learn what to do with the Firearm. Good ones are hard to find, and matching one’s Schedule to theirs can be daunting. Also throw in Travel time, Hotels, etc, and just getting a Solid Basic 101 Class can be tough.

    One other thing that doesn’t help is the standard of Training that even the Armed Professional is getting. Remember how Joe Huffman ran some New Gunners through the LAPD Quals a few months passed, and most passed it? Now, think of that level when you see your local LEOs on the Street. Most of them are lucky to get a Semi-Annual Qualification. And most of them don’t practice in between, unless their Dept. picks up the Tab on the Ammo.

    Now, also consider that most of the States that have a Shooting Qualification to get a CHP use the Police Standards. Does anyone think that putting a couple of hundred rounds downrange on a Saturday Afternoon makes one ready to earn an ISPC Grand Master patch?

    Heck, even Recreational Shooting is hard to come by. How many Dads and Moms haul the kids out to the local Dump or the Quarry with some Cans and do some Plinking anymore? Oh, that’s right, one can’t shoot at the Dump or the Quarry because it’s “Not Safe” for the rest of the Community.

    Do I wish that most of my Fellow Shooters were a lot better at it? Hell Yes! Lord knows I need to get better at my Shooting Skills. But looking at the Cost and Availability of Practice Ammo ($50 for a Brick of .22LR!?), plus Range Fees and the accessories like Targets, I’m glad that a lot of them can keep all their Shots in the Center Mass of a B-27.

    I’m just glad that they aren’t pointing the Muzzle at me and saying “See! It ain’t Loaded!”

    But it still Sucks.

  4. I don’t understand this article’s point. If you can hit a target well, you may likely hit someone else who is threatening you. What else is the gun for?
    A much larger issue to me is the equipment used. I don’t get the junk people shoot these days but I guess they pick light, truncated equipment for reasons of comfortable carry.
    People theorize about scenarios, but I think the average perp has a stolen gun, he hasn’t shot it much, and he might be a lot less accurate than you with it. He does have the element of surprise however.
    My take on all of it is that any person defending himself with a gun is going to do well if he can hit a target at the range. He should shoot and *don’t let go* of the gun in an emergency.

    1. Hitting a target with all the time in the world is not the same thing as hitting the target under an extreme time crunch in high stress…like a gunfight. Gunfights typically last only a few short seconds. You have a very limited window of opportunity to accomplish something useful with your weapon. In that time frame you have to be accurate enough to put bullets where they will count.

      This is worlds away from slowfire bullseye. Does some of the slowfire bullseye skill aid your ability to make the hit you need when it counts? Of course. If you can’t hit when under the mild stress of a timer and an audience, though, it’s a warning that you need to improve your skill. I promise that someone trying to kill you places a hell of a lot more stress on you than a timer.

  5. Good points. BTW, that’s not a Weaver stance in your picture – pretty much a classic Chapman.

  6. Wow, the article just came off as completely negative. In stead of being negative towards target shooters who may not know any better, why not follow up the negativity with positive solutions. How should they train? What sort of courses should they look to take and in what order? How do they spot a good instructor and what are some flags that indicate an instructor is no good? In general, what range of instruction is available to civvies? Where should they look for these classes? Indoor or outdoor range for a self defense course?. How about a few outstanding instructor contacts? Does joining a competitive shooting group give one a massive leap forward in skill, or does it increase skill modestly because you are competing with a highly modified weapon, that you would never carry? Generally, the comments left were far more conducive to learning self defense using a firearm than the blog enty itself. But Caleb, you seem to be a pretty educated guy in the shooting sports, so I’d like to hear your answers to these questions, not just a “you suck if you shoot at targets” statement. We’re all on the same team here so I’m sure most readers would rather hear advice on how to better their skill set than how bad they suck if they’ve been shooting at targets in a lane , in an indoor range.

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