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Beginner Help

This is a discussion on Beginner Help within the The Classroom forums, part of the Use and Training category; So. I'm completely new to pistols, not firearms. I bought my XDs last week, I've put about 150rds through it (50 last week, 100 today). ...


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Old 04-19-2013, 06:32 PM   #1
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Beginner Help

So. I'm completely new to pistols, not firearms. I bought my XDs last week, I've put about 150rds through it (50 last week, 100 today).

I took a class from the ex-Army Ranger at my local range here in Philly and he instructed me on proper stance/grip etc.

I've been shooting with kind of a modified weaver stance, right arm locked left arm elbow bent, knees bent and right leg behind my left.

I'm right handed but left eye dominant, and I think this is the biggest challenge for me in getting proper sight resolution...saw a recommendation that maybe I should just turn my head 45 to the left so my non dominant eye can't see the front sight...thoughts?

Today I was all over the place, a lot of shots were going low and left (still all but a few were center mass...silver linings I guess). After some reading on this forum and a few youtube videos, I think a big part of my poor shooting today was my grip/trigger pull. I wasn't gripping the gun extremely tight, but wasn't loose either, so from what I understand when one goes to pull the trigger the other fingers reflexively close with the index, and a remedy is to ensure a tight grip on the firearm.

I also was jerking the trigger rather than a smooth pull, and I know I was definitely anticipating the trigger break, probably another reason for my shots being off (flinching/anticipation throwing aim off)

Any advice on why I was shooting like crap today? Only my second time shooting pistols, so obviously theres a learning curve, but I kicked ass the first time I shot with my shotgun as well as with my rifle, so its just awkward having my first few outings with the pistol suck
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Old 04-19-2013, 06:45 PM   #2
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XDs is a tough pistol to shoot -bigger small caliber is easier. Loads matter too - I have a 357 and with full mag loads you will not enjoy it, but with targe loads it's as mild as a 22LR. Nice thing about revolvers is you can do that, semi's need a min load to function.

You can do lots of dry fire practice at home to work on the trigger and grip - get some 'snap caps' (azoom is one brand).

You'll have bad days. There is a lot of htings to get all together at one time to be consistent. And once you get one position figured out try leaning on a barricade or prone or sitting - as soon as you brace the gun/arm/hand the POI will move 3". So you have to start over. Now do it with your off hand. Wiht on hand.

As for the eye issue -I'm also right handed left eye dom and I just close one eye. I've tried it with right only and left only and both are equally accurate. Just be consistent.
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Old 04-19-2013, 06:46 PM   #3
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Sounds like you know what you are doing wrong but are not sure how to fix it. You need to work on the fundamentals, slowly and do a lot of dry fire.
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Old 04-19-2013, 07:04 PM   #4
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Agreed, keep working those basic drills and make it your goal to shoot with both eyes open. Shoot alot and shoot often.
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:52 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTman05 View Post
I'm right handed but left eye dominant, and I think this is the biggest challenge for me in getting proper sight resolution...saw a recommendation that maybe I should just turn my head 45 to the left so my non dominant eye can't see the front sight...thoughts?
There's lots of different ways to deal with eye-dominance, and there are very, very good shooters who are cross-dominant (Brian Enos and Larry Vickers, to take just two, from what can be said to be different ends of the "professional gunmen" spectrum), so it's not really that big of a problem.

Among the viable solutions include tilting your head to bring the dominant eye in-alignment with the sights, but also just as valid would be to re-train your handedness towards your eye-dominance ("awkwardness" is cured via diligent training - Vickers, for-instance, shoots pistol right-handed, but shoots carbine left handed), or to simply (with the pistol) slightly shift the gun just ever so much to the left, to allow your dominant eye to align better.

However, despite all of these solutions being "viable," they also all contain inherent shortcomings that you'll have to work through and decide what makes most sense to you. Tilting your head - like canting the gun at an angle - makes for a less-than-"normal" sight-picture and can affect your shooting performance. Switch-hitting can make for gear issues, etc.

Different people will have different degrees to which they are cross-dominant - this, combined with our unique anatomy and personal preferences can well mean that what works great for one person may work less so for another or can be completely non-viable for yet someone else. Additionally, you may find that as you age, your dominance also changes - Enos is noted to have mentioned this phenomenon. My recommendation is to expand your breadth of knowledge at this point, to check-in with various qualified instructors so as to find what solution works best for you. Again going back to Vickers, with the pistol, he combines shifting the pistol a bit to the left with a little head-tilt. Don't succumb to the dogma of "the technique," understand that there are many out there.

Quote:
So. I'm completely new to pistols, not firearms. I bought my XDs last week, I've put about 150rds through it (50 last week, 100 today).
That's not a lot of rounds - have patience.

Quote:
I took a class from the ex-Army Ranger at my local range here in Philly and he instructed me on proper stance/grip etc.

I've been shooting with kind of a modified weaver stance, right arm locked left arm elbow bent, knees bent and right leg behind my left.
"Proper" per this one instructor.

As I've mentioned before, don't think of these things in such dogmatic terms - know that there's plenty out there: find what works best for YOU.

Take a look at the following presentation by D.R.Middlebrooks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xLiDt3MpVo

Quote:
Today I was all over the place, a lot of shots were going low and left (still all but a few were center mass...silver linings I guess). After some reading on this forum and a few youtube videos, I think a big part of my poor shooting today was my grip/trigger pull. I wasn't gripping the gun extremely tight, but wasn't loose either, so from what I understand when one goes to pull the trigger the other fingers reflexively close with the index, and a remedy is to ensure a tight grip on the firearm.

I also was jerking the trigger rather than a smooth pull, and I know I was definitely anticipating the trigger break, probably another reason for my shots being off (flinching/anticipation throwing aim off)

Any advice on why I was shooting like crap today? Only my second time shooting pistols, so obviously theres a learning curve, but I kicked ass the first time I shot with my shotgun as well as with my rifle, so its just awkward having my first few outings with the pistol suck
Yep, don't get disheartened, like you said, there's a learning curve, and it's only your second time, and you've only put 150 rounds or so downrange.

Most will agree that the pistol is the hardest of the shooting disciplines - so take heart in that and drive on.

That all said, you wrote that you're "all over the place." Unfortunately, that's going to be the hardest to diagnose because you're inconsistently inconsistent - there's no pattern at all.

While the Weaver stance/presentation is no longer favored, it's by far not "wrong" by any means of the word, so if you're currently solid with that, I'd stick with it. Given that you're proficient with long-guns, I would also imagine that you're familiar with the basics of breathing, sight-picture/alignment (although you've admitted that you're working through your cross-dominance at the same time, and this will unfortunately be another variable), as well as trigger control, so those issues are likely *not* what's problematic here.

I would encourage you to start by finding your natural point-of-aim. Let's take any kind of musculoskeletal bias out of the picture. It's possible that you're forcing yourself into what you believe is the proper stance - and that this is injecting inconsistencies into the equation once you're fatigued enough that you start to fail at fighting your own musculature/skeletal structure (and since you're a beginning pistol shooter, this fatigue can set in very rapidly).

From there, work the grip. Typically, big inconsistencies/deviations result from - as you've self-diagnosed - grip deficiencies. You've self-diagnosed your low-left deviation as a combination of grip as well as trigger-control issues, and as with others here, I think that you're on the right track, too.

With the grip, have a look at the following resources:

The Combat Grip

^ This is perhaps one of the best articles written about the modern "thumbs-forward" grip, and it shows you how several different top-tier shooters have adapted this style of grip into their own unique variants. Keeping this article in-mind, watch the following YouTube videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a-bFZQPvpI

^ That's D.R.Middlebrooks's Fist/Fire grip technique, which is a variation of the modern thumbs-forward grip. Overlook the fact that it sounds like a mini-commercial and just look at the physics of his presentation. Note that what's fighting muzzle flip is the strength of the support/reaction/"weak" hand's pinky, locked around the base of the pistol or even the magazine base-pad - and that the tremendous ulnar deviation of the wrist is simply an anatomic skeletal way to achieve that lock (note that in this following thread, Middlebrooks, whose screen-name is DRM, talks about how it is also possible to achieve this anatomic lock-out of the wrist via tendon/muscle tension, as per several of the shooters detailed in the above-referenced Handguns article: Proper Grip & Recoil Managment).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTc5OG0AI64

^ This is ssdsurf's YouTube presentation on the modern thumbs-forward grip. It's a three part series, and is geared towards the newer pistol shooter. It's worth watching the entire set, despite the length.

Grip is most related to recoil control.

Get a good enough grip on the gun, and your shooting partner or instructor can literally put his/her finger on the trigger - or even use a chopstick or a screwdriver - and jerk off rounds as fast as they can, and you'll still keep EVERY shot in an 8 or even 6-inch diameter circle on a target that's 7 yards away. This is actually a drill that some instructors will do with intermediate-to-advanced pistol shooters, to demonstrate specifically how important the grip is, and how much you can get away with, with respect to trigger control (or the lack thereof), at certain distances and under certain time pressures.

Once you've got your grip down - and this should automatically fix your "tightening fingers" problem, in terms of your 7-to-8-o'clock "push" - you can then work trigger control with more diligence (since your grip deficiencies can potentially mask the finer trigger control issues). This recent thread should help you get started:

What is wrong with my grip?

^ Note for that particular shooter, his troubles were not really so much grip related as they were trigger related, and a combination of dry-fire practice ("balance the spent case" drills), the live-fire "ball and dummy" drill, as well as the Haley/Avery "TriggerStripe Drill" made a noted improvement in his shooting.

Best of luck!
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by STONEYARDER View Post
Agreed, keep working those basic drills and make it your goal to shoot with both eyes open. Shoot alot and shoot often.
I'm right handed and left eye dominant also. I've learned to shoot with both eyes open. It takes some getting use to. Another thing you can try is rest your right ear near your shoulder with your head angled to the right.

Try that a few times and see how you do. Might want to change out your targets and try different stances and see which works the best for you.
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Old 04-19-2013, 10:11 PM   #7
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Oh, and one more thing -

I would also encourage you to go back to your instructor.

Why?

Because it's notoriously hard to diagnose someone's shooting without being there to see it: even if you were to take a video of yourself shooting and then post it, it's still somewhat removed from actually being there with you.

Oftentimes, what takes a million words and several posts-counterposts to discuss online can be troubleshot by an instructor, live, in just minutes.

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Old 04-20-2013, 05:55 PM   #8
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Holy crap guys! Thanks for all the replies, all of it helped a lot!

I went back to the range today and put another 200rds downrange. The good news is that a large part of my left and low groupings from yesterday was due to the sights being a little off. The bad news is a good chunk of my ammo today went towards zeroing in my sights, as two instructors were noticing that my groupings, while tight and consistent, were all left and low...one of them fired off a few mags and had the same thing happening.

After the sights were fixed I started getting a lot more in the center of the target, fatigue did start to be an issue as I started noticing some slight tremors going on. I still had a couple going left and low, but nowhere near as bad as before, so I'm going to go back in when the instructor that helped me is actually on the floor and he's going to do just a slight adjustment to the sights, he's confident he can just fix it real quick (he couldn't leave the range today he was the only one there.)

The big group left/low of the X was just before the last sight adjustment, at the beginning I was grouping about 1 1/2 inches to the left and 1inch down from the group on this target. The stragglers were where I was trying to see if compensating to the right would help and I ended up way overcompensating


I changed my grip to thumbs-forward grip (thanks a bunch TSiWRX!) and my god did it feel better. I sat at home just constantly picking my gun up and getting in that grip for a few hours before I went to the range, did it while watching TV, while folding laundry etc.

I kept switching up my stance till I found something comfortable, ended up using what I guess is called the Chapman stance (right arm locked, left arm bent, right leg back a bit from the left) and it felt really good.

My trigger pulls were excellent today, I only anticipated the pull a few times; once I was aware of it and had that in my mind before even picking up the gun I was able to kinda focus on it but tune it out at the same time (if that makes any sense )

Going back again on Wednesday when my buddy gets to Philly (also going to shoot my rifle for the first time in a few months, can't wait) and I'll have a bit more time to dial in my pistol skills.

Thanks again for all the advice, especially TSiWRX, those videos and articles not only killed a good chunk of the spare time I had today, but were extremely knowledgeable.


Cliff Notes:
Left/Low shooting was mostly due to sights being off
I've now switched to a thumbs-forward grip and love it
Trigger pull was smooth and not jerky
Excellent progress between yesterday and today
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Old 04-20-2013, 07:19 PM   #9
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Keep at it, bruddah!

Don't over-do it too soon - particularly as ammo is expensive, now. I learned the hard way (with wasted $$$s ) that with shooting, there really isn't a wall that you can "push through," and instead, after you've reached that wall, you're pretty much done for the day.

You'll build-up your endurance over time. There's a whole new set of muscles that you've never used before (just like it's sometimes hard for pistol shooters to transition to long-guns, it also goes the other way, too). Give yourself time to acclimate, and shorter range sessions to prevent burn-out is better than marathon sessions that leave you feeling defeated at the end.

Keep experimenting with stances, presentations, and grips: you've seen with the Handguns article above that even the top-tier shooters all have their unique spin on exactly what is the perfect grip for them. Know that as you develop as a shooter, your techniques may change, too.

Looks like you've got some good people teaching you locally - that's always a tremendous help. Before anyone adjusts the sights, though, if I were in your shoes, I'd respectfully ask them to shoot the gun from a rest or bagged, to verify that the sights are at-blame.

Why? Because unless the person shooting is intimately familiar with the XD platform, it's not entirely impossible that this might become a Folie deux scenario, and if that's the case, then it's just going to set you back in your learning, instead of help. Here's some food for thought from Chris Cerino, Top Shot Season 1 runner-up and former FAM, regarding the temptation to "adjust sights" - TRAINING TIPS: Need a sight adjustment? Think again! | TheGunMag ? The Official Gun Magazine of the Second Amendment Foundation .

That said, please do not mis-understand and think that I must think that the sights aren't the problem. There's absolutely no denying that it COULD potentially be the problem. Rather what I am saying is that it's just that you really need to be *ABSOLUTELY* sure that the sights are actually the problem (loose, mis-aligned, etc.) before you adjust/address them...otherwise, like Cerino said, it's like chasing your tail!
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Old 04-20-2013, 07:20 PM   #10
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Re: Beginner Help

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTman05 View Post
So. I'm completely new to pistols, not firearms. I bought my XDs last week, I've put about 150rds through it (50 last week, 100 today).

I took a class from the ex-Army Ranger at my local range here in Philly and he instructed me on proper stance/grip etc.

I've been shooting with kind of a modified weaver stance, right arm locked left arm elbow bent, knees bent and right leg behind my left.

I'm right handed but left eye dominant, and I think this is the biggest challenge for me in getting proper sight resolution...saw a recommendation that maybe I should just turn my head 45 to the left so my non dominant eye can't see the front sight...thoughts?

Today I was all over the place, a lot of shots were going low and left (still all but a few were center mass...silver linings I guess). After some reading on this forum and a few youtube videos, I think a big part of my poor shooting today was my grip/trigger pull. I wasn't gripping the gun extremely tight, but wasn't loose either, so from what I understand when one goes to pull the trigger the other fingers reflexively close with the index, and a remedy is to ensure a tight grip on the firearm.

I also was jerking the trigger rather than a smooth pull, and I know I was definitely anticipating the trigger break, probably another reason for my shots being off (flinching/anticipation throwing aim off)

Any advice on why I was shooting like crap today? Only my second time shooting pistols, so obviously theres a learning curve, but I kicked ass the first time I shot with my shotgun as well as with my rifle, so its just awkward having my first few outings with the pistol suck
As a fellow Philadelphian, I would recommend start with isollies stance aka triangle not weaver. Focus on front sight not the target. You should have also started with a 9mm instead of xds first.

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