Safety and Training

Free Shooting Diagnostic Targets

Pointing out that I was having issues with pushing or no follow through.

I took a defensive pistol clinic a while ago and using a full-sized 9mm Glock, we shot at a shooting diagnostic target. Fortunately, this was good timing for me, as I had been having problems hitting bullseye consistently with handguns. Sometimes my groups were just fine, but not right in the center. I recruited a friend, an NRA-certified instructor for some one-on-one time to watch me shoot these types of targets. I also wanted to see if he could guide me through what I was doing wrong and what I could do to correct it.

Here I am shooting to figure out what I need to correct.
Here I am shooting to figure out what I need to correct.

I downloaded my free targets and printed them out on regular 8.5×11 paper. There are right-handed target and left-handed target shooters targets. Though intended for one-handed shooting, I shot these diagnostic targets with two hands. I shot from a distance of no further than five yards. This time around I shot a full-sized 9mm Beretta and a S&W .22 Magnum double-action revolver.

The targets have nine sections around the bullseye that help you determine what you are doing wrong while shooting:

  • Breaking wrist up
  • Breaking wrist down
  • Pushing or no follow-through
  • Too little trigger finger
  • Tightening fingers
  • Jerking or slapping the trigger
  • Tightening grip while pulling the trigger
  • Thumbing or too much trigger finer
  • Heeling (anticipating recoil)

When you hit in the breaking wrist up, which is at the top center of the bullseye, or if you are breaking the wrist down, which is at the bottom of the bullseye, it means you are most likely not keeping a solid grip on your handgun. I was tending to break up. This means that I was overcompensating for the perceived recoil of the handgun. Breaking the wrist down is the same thing. Both are issues with anticipating the recoil. To help with issues you may have with anticipating the recoil, interchange live ammunition with snap caps into your magazine. You will be able to tell if you flinch when no round comes out.

Another issue I was having was too little trigger finger and thumbing/too much trigger finger. If you do not have your trigger finger placement right, it can affect the trigger pull. You could be pulling to the side, which affects your sight alignment by moving the gun. Your index finger should be on the trigger between your fingertip and the first joint of your finger. When pulling the trigger, the movement should be one smooth continuous movement. Julie Golob relates it to scooping your finger through peanut butter. My friend and I discussed the proper placement of my finger on the trigger and I immediately improved.

Jerking or slapping the trigger is also an issue with how you pull the trigger. It means that you may be bringing your finger forward after you have taken the shot and not allowing the trigger to release smoothly or you have not squeezed the trigger back in one fluid motion.

Tightening your grip means you are probably anticipating the recoil.

Heeling, also anticipating recoil, means that you have given the gun a push forward with the palm of your hand when you take the shot. I was having this issue with the .22 Magnum revolver.

If you hit the target in the thumbing area, it means that you may have been pushing on the gun’s frame with your thumb; quite possibly moving the gun so that your sight alignment is off when you pull the trigger.

Pointing out that I was having issues with pushing or no follow through.
Pointing out that I was having issues with pushing or no follow-through.

Pushing is anticipating recoil or no follow-through. No follow-through means that once you have taken the shot, you relax a little too much and throw off your successive shots. Your sight alignment has most likely been thrown off.

These free targets are not the perfect solution, but they will help guide you. Taking a class or getting instruction from a certified pistol instructor is always your best bet. What I like about the targets, is that they helped me pay close attention to everything while I was shooting: my stance, my sight alignment, my grip, my breathing, and my finger placement on the trigger. Once we went through a few targets to see what my issues were and started to correct them, my shooting improved.

Have you ever shot at a diagnostic target before? What were your major issues and how did you correct them? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

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Comments (5)

  1. Just by looking at the target for right-handed people, I know I am breaking wrist up. This is my first year hunting. I know that I brace for impact of recoil before I shoot because I can feel myself do it. What I can’t seem to figure out, is how to not brace so much for it.

    I have always wanted to go hunting and now that I am finally going, I am worried that because I am breaking up, I will not have a proper shot at the deer. Which in turn, makes me not want to go. I want my shot to be perfect. I do not want to make the deer suffer in anyway.

    Any advice that anyone can give me on how to correct this would be greatly appreciated.

  2. A few years back I had a NRA instructor help me figure out my (biggest) problem. When shooting right handed, my placement was pretty good, oddly, much better than my two handed shooting where it turns out I was thumbing pretty harshly. The fix? Keep both my thumbs raised off the frame when firing, now I’m key-holing most of my shots.

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