Shooting a handgun accurately is dependent on several variables, many of which are beyond your control. For instance, the situation may dictate that you draw and fire from an awkward position or while moving in relation to the threat.
However, you can take certain measures to tilt the odds in your favor. By using specific index points when shooting, you ensure that your body and muzzle are properly oriented to the threat. Indexing promotes consistent and efficient shooting mechanics, which lead to improved speed and accuracy–two of the most critical factors in any gunfight.
When shooting a long gun, there are four points of contact or index points between your body and the firearm: Your left hand supports the weight of the rifle and pulls the stock into your body; your right hand maintains a shooting grip; your upper chest/shoulder provides an anchor point for the butt of the stock; and your cheek presses against the stock to further stabilize the gun and enables you to acquire the sights.
We all know that shooting a handgun is more difficult than shooting a long gun, and this can be partially attributed to the fact that there are fewer points of contact between your body and the gun. In order to shoot a handgun as accurately as possible, you need to use what index points you do have so that your body actually helps aim the gun.
The manner in which you grip your handgun is critical. A proper grip helps mitigate the effects of recoil, allowing you to acquire a second sight picture more quickly for follow-up shots.
To achieve a proper grip, start by indexing the web of your hand as high as possible on the tang. Your trigger finger should be indexed along the frame, while the three remaining finders wrap around the grip, with your middle finder indexed to the bottom of the trigger guard.
Point the thumb of your shooting hand toward the threat. Your support hand “fills the void” created by your shooting hand, with your left thumb pointing toward the threat and indexing along the frame. Your shooting-side thumb rests atop your other thumb, and the fingers of your support hand wrap around those of your shooting hand. These index points ensure a solid grip, making it easier to control recoil and get faster, more accurate rounds on target.
While there will probably always be debate among shooters as to which stance is most effective for shooting a handgun, there’s no doubt that squaring yourself to the threat is a valid strategy because, under stress, your body will tend to do that instinctively.
This stance can be found in many sports because it is a balanced position that enables an athlete to move quickly in any direction. From a shooting standpoint, when your feet, knees, hips and shoulders are indexed to threat, your body is essentially aiming for you.
When shooting from this isosceles stance, you simply bring the gun to eye level and lock your arms to whatever extent is possible. This takes the guesswork out of the presentation on target because you simply punch the gun out as far as you can every time. This stance enables you to track in either direction by rotating at the waist like a tank turret.
If you use a bladed stance, you will find it much more difficult to engage a threat to your non-gun side because your body has limited range of motion. The bladed stance is also less conducive to movement and narrows your field of view.
When it comes to the draw stroke, it’s important to adhere to a very specific protocol each time you draw your handgun. Remember that a good draw stroke is based on economy of motion. Rather than try to draw as fast as you can, practice drawing smoothly while eliminating any unnecessary movements. The more consistent and efficient your draw stroke, the better your odds of getting accurate rounds on target in response to a sudden, violent attack.
Indexing during the draw is critical. As your dominant hand reaches for your gun, your support hand should index on your chest (except in circumstances that would require you to fight with your support hand). In this manner, the support hand stays behind the muzzle of your gun but is quickly able to move into position on the gun as you extend your arms to achieve a two-handed, sighted-fire position.
Rather than blindly searching to acquire a grip on the gun while it’s in the holster, allow your fingertips to slide along the grip. This helps guide the web of your hand to the tang, ensuring a proper shooting grip as you defeat your holster’s security mechanisms.
From there, draw the gun from the holster as high as you can while orienting the muzzle to the bad guy. (Drawing as high as you can is something that is easy to replicate. If you were to draw in any other manner, it would be impossible to predict exactly where your gun would end up.)
Once the muzzle is oriented toward the threat, extend the gun toward the target and mate your support hand to the gun. As you fully extend your arms, acquire a sight picture while taking the slack out of the trigger. This process enables you to produce your gun in the most efficient manner possible.
An excellent option when your adversary is close enough to grab your handgun is the one-handed close-quarter hold, and one of the reasons it works so well is because it’s a natural component of your draw stroke.
en employing this technique, index your thumb or the heel of your gun hand against your pectoral muscle while canting the weapon slightly outward. The contact between your hand and your pectoral muscle ensures predictable muzzle orientation; canting the gun helps keep the slide from snagging on your clothing.
Against a threat at arm’s length, your rounds are likely to impact his abdomen or pelvic region. Since your hand is indexed to your body, your wrist is stabilized, which increases accuracy considerably.
If your hand is not indexed to your body, the gun is closer to the bad guy and therefore easier for him to grab. If he grabs your gun, you don’t have nearly as much leverage as if you were employing the one-handed close-quarter hold in the prescribed manner. In addition, failing to index the weapon to your body allows your wrist to flex, which makes it difficult to predict where your rounds will go.
From this close-quarter hold, you can use your support side elbow to protect your head from incoming strikes. When executing this technique, simulate running your fingers through your hair, then index your palm on the back of your head. Your arm should cover your non-dominant eye. This enables you to see with your dominant eye while offering a degree of protection and helping to keep your arm from crossing in front of the muzzle.
Another option is the two-handed close-quarter hold, which affords maximum leverage against a gun grab and allows you to orient your muzzle to the threat.
The two-handed close quarter hold is similar to the position during the draw stroke when your hands mate. The difference is that when executing the two-handed close-quarter hold, your elbows are indexed to your sides, which facilitates more accurate fire.
When you’ve fired your last round and the slide locks to the rear, lives could hinge on your ability to reload efficiently. Consistent indexing can help here too.
After you release the empty magazine from the gun, bring the gun toward you and rotate it to get a better view of the magazine well. Retrieve a fully loaded magazine, and index your finger near the business end of the top round. Gripping the magazine in this manner enables you to guide it into the magazine well more easily.
Insert the magazine into the gun and, without breaking contact, roll your support-side hand into position while hitting the slide release lever with your support-side thumb. Admittedly, this is a bit more difficult than simply pulling and releasing the slide to chamber a round, but it is much more efficient because the support-side hand stays in firing position. With practice you’ll find this is definitely doable.
During a gunfight, you need to control as many factors as possible. Training in proper mechanics, including the use of indexing, is critical to success. I’ve covered indexing as it relates to proper grip, orienting yourself to the threat, drawing and fending, and reloading. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start. Familiarize yourself with the concept, and implement it whenever possible.