Speed and accuracy

My initial entry into competition shooting was bullseye competition, under the auspices of the NRA Collegiate Pistol program. I wasn’t bad, winning a couple of sectional titles here and there, and it instilled in me a foundation of pistol accuracy that has stayed with me ever since then.

25 yard px4 storm group

If you want me to shoot little tiny groups on targets with a pistol, I can and will on command. Because of that background in bullseye shooting, accuracy has never really been an issue for me. What has been an issue ever since I started practical shooting has been speed. In matches, I spend a lot more time dwelling on the sights than I should, and will frequently take a much “harder” sight picture on a target than I actually need. When I realize I’m going too slow, I’ll then throw caution to the wind and try to point shoot 10 yard partials. I still struggle with finding a middle gear between “hard front sight focus” and “WEEE SHOOT ALL THE THINGS”.

A friend of mine is a USPSA GM at the top tier of the sport and has won multiple national championships in different divisions – a while ago we were talking about this topic, and he opined that it’s easier to take a guy who is fast but lacks fundamental accuracy and teach him that accuracy than it is to take a guy who’s accurate and slow and make him fast. I’d tend to agree, but that’s because shooting accurately is actually pretty easy. You line up the sights and press the trigger to the rear without disturbing the sights. You can get accurate hits with a terrible grip, the gun upside down, a really slow trigger press, whatever.

But to shoot fast and accurately, you need to do a lot more than that. Trigger speed becomes important, grip and recoil control become important, and a whole slew of other little things that don’t matter when you’re shooting slowfire groups at 25 yards suddenly matter quite a bit. As a personal example, when I’m shooting slowfire for max accuracy, I don’t really do anything to stop the gun’s recoil. I’ll control it so it doesn’t fly away, but I’ll let guns bounce me around, push me back, whatever. I don’t care, because it doesn’t affect shot to shot accuracy. If I’m trying to shoot a clean Bill Drill in under 2.5 seconds, it’s a different story.

The problem with talking about speed vs. accuracy is it’s a false comparison. You need both. There is a misconception that the action shooting sports are all about speed instead of accuracy; if you asked any of the top shooters in the sport if that was true they’d tell you no. It just isn’t. To win Steel Challenge you have to be very fast, and very accurate. To win USPSA Nationals you have to be fast and accurate. The same goes for all of the “action” games.


  1. See, I have the exact opposite problem. I get the same groupings no matter how fast / slow I shoot. And they’re not all that great, at least not for competition (for self-defense, my shooting is, and dear Lord please forgive me for using this phrase, ‘combat acceptable’).

    I need some more 1 on 1 type training to nail down what I’m doing wrong in my fundamentals.

  2. I’ve experienced the opposite. Improving group shooting via slow fire and demanding more precision carries over to improved speed shooting. An inability to execute fundamental marksmanship skills during slow fire is exacerbated when the process is sped up. Speed work is more fun to work on than raw marksmanship so many don’t work on it like they should.

    Regardless of how one gets there, both speed and accuracy is needed for top results.

  3. Articles like this (and the Pistol Training forum, which linked me here) is why I read the interwebz.

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