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Accuracy: Basics (stance, grip, aim) -vs- Trigger Control

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  • Accuracy: Basics (stance, grip, aim) -vs- Trigger Control

    Hello All,
    First, I really appreciate your website and all the information offered. I also appreciate the service to our country that apparently many of the SME's have had. My family has a long history of service also.

    I would like some consensus input in regards to pistol accuracy as I am in a debate with a NRA instructor on some advice he and another Instructor are giving on a prominent pistol forum. I've been hunting/shooting for nearly 50 yrs and I am considered to be highly proficient with both pistols and long guns, btw. I am an advocate of our sport (hunting/shooting) so it bothers me when inaccurate statements are made that could cause a misunderstanding for others.

    Anyhow, I have always considered the platform (means by which you stabilize weapon) to be the most important or first consideration for accuracy. With typical pistol shooting your platform would be your stance, grip and the rest of your body of course. I do however consider focus (concentration) and trigger control the most important factors for the experienced shooter to consider once the basics are fully established.

    Some NRA instructors are saying that trigger control alone is sufficient for accuracy and the only real consideration and they diminish the importance that the stance/grip and even aiming (sight alignment/picture) can and does play in regards to accuracy. For me that is a reverse method of teaching which is fine. However, where I completely disagree with them is they place all the importance for accuracy on trigger control while completely negating the importance of the basics (stance, grip, aim) in regards to accuracy.

    I challenged them on this notion because I find it irresponsible. You can debate that trigger control is the most important factor to consider for accuracy but you cannot downplay the importance that the stance, grip and sight alignment/sight picture play in regards to accuracy. They then doubled down by quoting Col Charles Askins to support their claim that the basics are insignificant.

    “A shooting acquaintance of mine recently asked, "What's the most important principle of handgun marksmanship?" Without a moment's hesitationnI ANSWERED, "Trigger pull." The fundamentals that apply to pistol shooting, stance, grip and sight alignment are insignificant indeed by comparison with the all-important factor of trigger squeeze..." The Art of Handgun Shooting, Col Charles Askins A. S. Barnes & Co., 194, pg. 38

    This is a ridiculous notion to me made by a man who was overzealous in his presentation. I consider this a misleading statement because you have to have stability (stance/grip) as well as aim (sight alignment/picture) in at least getting the pistol on target. This also has to be repeatable because if your stance and grip are varying then you could never expect to be consistent or accurate.

    Again, I know the great importance of trigger control but without some form of stability and aim that cannot even be a consideration. I believe it takes everything to make accurate and consistent shots (stance, grip, aim, trigger control, follow through) so I have everything more on a level scale, whereas their scale tilts completely or heavily toward trigger control. Can you please give me your professional opinion and please state your experience in doing so, thanks.

    God Bless,
    Last edited by Ralph III; 10-13-2019, 11:34 AM.

  • #2
    Ralph, first off, thank you for the post.

    The short answer: I don’t think trigger control should be taught as the superior fundamental. I think it’s the hardest to master for new shooters, and after they get everything else right, trigger control is still jacked up.

    The long answer: If we simplify the fundamentals of marksmanship, we have three main categories: Grip, Trigger Control, and Sight Alignment/Picture. We could all agree our sights have to be on the target to hit the target, right? So that takes care of that one, now we talk about grip, when I say grip, I mean everything we are doing to lock that pistol into a stable shooting platform, "like a vice". If the pistol is in a vice it shouldn't matter how bad your trigger control is because the gun is locked in and not moving. If I mounted the gun in a vice on the range and aligned my sights on the target, I could pull the trigger with a coat hanger and have repeatable accuracy on the target, that's our goal with the grip. now trigger control, my sights are still aligned on target but the gun isn't in a vice now I'm resting it on a table with one hand but I have perfect trigger control, I don't impart any movement on the gun as I press the trigger to the rear. where does my bullet impact? the same place it does when its locked into a vice. Is it going to take longer to make a second shot? absolutely! But the debate is about pistol accuracy. Where the argument would matter – what style of shooting are you doing? Slow aimed bullseye shooting of course trigger control and sight alignment are going to be something I focus on a little more than my grip, locking in the grip uses muscle tension, muscle tension is something you want to avoid using when you are looking for consistency. Now if I’m training a combat style of marksmanship where it’s more important to manage recoil and putting multiple rounds on target in a short period of time, I’m going to be more focused on my grip (wrist, elbows, shoulders) than anything else. That doesn’t mean any fundamental is less important than the other, always remember good, better, best techniques for the style of shooting you’re doing.

    From my experience as an instructor, the toughest fundamental to teach a new student, is proper trigger control because people just aren’t used to an explosion going off in their face so they jerk the trigger and try to compensate for the recoil before the gun even goes off and you can spot it from across the range. In my opinion that’s why you’re having this debate and seeing it brought to light by many instructors. It also may be a teaching technique to make people focus on having proper trigger control because it’s such an issue with new shooters. My experience consist of training Tactical Operators within the Coast Guards Deployable Specialized Forces, also working for the Department of State Training Crisis Response Teams from around the world.

    My posts are for general educational and informational purposes only. What you do with this information is your responsibility. I encourage you to seek out professional instruction. Nothing replaces in-person training with a qualified professional to ensure you learn properly and train safely.


    • #3
      I agree with 100% of everything you said! Thanks for the input.


      Last edited by Ralph III; 10-11-2019, 05:42 PM.


      • #4
        I have a way of simplifying this that might help as well. I understand what your argument is and what your NRA guys’ argument is. Billy hit on the main point— the debate is about ACCURACY.

        Let’s group the 4 core fundamentals of pistol shooting into two categories:

        1) Recoil Control - Stance & Grip
        2) Accuracy - Sight Alignment & Trigger Control

        If you want to make the gun go BANG, then it only requires that you pull the trigger. If you want the gun to go BANG and the bullet to impact on a specific location, then you need to align the sights on that specific location and then press the trigger so the sights are not disturbed before the BANG. That’s it.

        Now, if you want the gun to go BANG, impact a specific location, and recover back onto that location in as short amount of time as possible, then you need to create a platform (stance) which is designed to absorb recoil effectively and a repeatable grip that creates consistency in returning to that same specific location.

        Several other points to remember:

        1) Stance controls recoil.
        2) Grip controls muzzle flip.
        3) Muzzle flip is a byproduct of recoil energy.
        4) Speed is a byproduct of efficiency.
        5) Accuracy is not affected by grip or stance.
        6) Accuracy and precision are not the same.

        Hope this helps!
        My posts are for general educational and informational purposes only. What you do with this information is your responsibility. I encourage you to seek out professional instruction. Nothing replaces in-person training with a qualified professional to ensure you learn properly and train safely.


        • #5
          Hello All,
          I apologize but I erred in my original post but I have attempted to correct that now. The matter is settled at this time however. I have a very solid understanding of how everything works in addition to history and I was looking for some specific points to help back up my argument. Billy in part provided that for me.

          But in explaining: The argument wasn't that you couldn't use trigger control alone to make an accurate shot. The argument was that the purported NRA Instructor was completely diminishing the importance that the "grip" and "stance" and even "sight alignment/picture" can and does play in regards to making accurate shots. I believe the platform (means by which you stabilize the weapon) in this case the stance and grip, are the foundation by which you then use trigger control and sight alignment to deliver an accurate shot.

          The ISSF states the “shooting position” to be one of the most important aspects when speaking of Olympic Precision Pistol Shooting. Doug Koenig states that the “stance/footwork” to be one of the most important aspects when speaking about Precision Pistol Shooting (00:45) as well. As we were debating, the stance and grip are the foundation by which everything is built upon which Brian Zins and the NRA espouse as well. It is such that Jeff Cooper and Jack Weaver promoted which lead to the creation of the modern technique.

          From NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting

          A proper and consistent grip is essential to accurate shooting. Together, grip and position (stance in this case) are the foundations that allow proper execution of the shooting fundamentals”

          Proper sight alignment is the key to accurate shooting.”

          Emphasize that the two most important fundamentals in pistol shooting are aiming and trigger control. The other fundamentals all contribute to achieving these”
          That is a correct presentation. To completely negate the importance that fundamentals can and do play is the wrong approach and that is what the Instructor was doing. That is the wrong approach of which everyone I have conversed with agrees.


          Fred, I pretty much agree with everything you stated with exception that "accuracy is not affected by the grip or stance". Without getting into another debate it does and can affect accuracy. The stance and grip support the gun and help to reduce the wobble in order that an accurate shot can be delivered. Of course depending on type of shooting being done. As Billy pointed out a strong grip can be detrimental to accuracy with precision shooting but beneficial to accuracy with rapid fire. I've spoken in person with Brian Zins and we have also exchanged numerous emails in regards. We were in complete agreement on everything we spoke upon, with one minor exception. He does not believe in the surprise trigger break at all. Whereas I do in the instance where I am making a meticulous trigger pull and I let the trigger break, when time is of no factor. In contrast when I am making the trigger break at a desired time, which I can do without disturbing aim, then I do not subscribe to the surprise trigger break. I am making it break as desired in that instance.

          This was another contentious point as the NRA instructor stated "if you try to make a shot break when everything seems good....then you will jerk the trigger". That is not correct. Any proficient shooter can make the gun break when they need it to. Jeff Cooper himself stated that. The objective is to always execute a smooth trigger pull no matter the type of shooting you are doing. Brian Zins is former military and a wold champion shooter and he stated the Instructors sentence is "complete BS".

          In regards to the grip Brian notes (2:15---)…. “one thing a lot of people don’t consider is that the trigger finger is part of your grip....Zins you’re good and all but you do not know grip….Grip is key, think about it. It’s the only thing touching your gun. It’s gotta be firm, it’s gotta be consistent, it’s gotta be repeatable….”

          God Bless,

          Last edited by Ralph III; 10-13-2019, 04:21 PM.