Ignatius Piazza: Reading Your Target

September 14th, 2009  

We train our instructors to watch the student, not the target, while the student is shooting, in order to better identify any flaws in the student’s technique. Among the numerous things we look for are proper stance, grip, trigger finger placement, trigger reset, focus, follow-through, etc.

After the shooting is done, we then accompany the student to the target to “read” the target as it will further diagnose any flaws in the student’s shooting technique. Here is what we look for…

We look for where the student’s shots are “grouping.”

A “group” is 3-5 (or more) shots that are grouped together in an area of the target.

If you don’t have a group and your rounds are all over the target, then you are usually doing one of three things wrong:

You are either not keeping the same aiming point on the target; or you are not consistently lining up the front and rear sights with the same aiming point on the target while focusing on the front sight as you press the trigger until a surprise trigger break is achieved (see the Front Sight logo for the proper sight alignment and sight picture); or you are shooting way too fast for your current skill level.

If you simply line up the front and rear sights with the same point on the target and then bring your focus back to the front sight as you press the trigger until a surprise trigger break is achieved, you should have a nice “group” of shots. We can then further diagnose and fine tune your shooting technique.

So, once you have a “group”, we then fine tune it by reading your target.

What we like to see is a hand-span group in the center of mass. This shows you have the correct balance between speed and accuracy.

You should only shoot as fast as you can deliver a hand-span group at whatever distance you are shooting.

If your group is too small, you should speed up. If your group is too large, you need to slow down and work on perfecting your presentation from the holster, sight alignment, sight picture and trigger control. As you become smoother, your speed will naturally increase.

If your group is low, you generally have a trigger control problem in that you are “making” the gun fire when you think everything is lined up instead of “letting” the gun fire as you press the trigger to the rear for a surprise trigger break.

If your group is high you may lack follow-through, meaning you are looking up to see where your hit is instead of remaining focused on the front sight until the shot is completed.

You may also be allowing the front sight of the gun to align slightly above the rear sight. This is common with dots on your front sight. Your eye focuses on the dot, but the top edge of the front sight is actually slightly above the rear sight. Make sure you are focusing on the top edge of the front sight and not the dot.

Or you may be pushing forward with the heel of the hand (known as “heeling”) in anticipation of the recoil.

Barring an improper grip, if your group is left or right of center, this normally indicates improper trigger finger placement on the trigger. Make sure the distal pad (fleshy tip) of your trigger finger is squarely on the trigger and you are not pushing or dragging the trigger in either direction with the rest of the trigger finger.

It is noted that shots grouping in high or low, left or right patterns can also be the sights needing adjustment, but trust me on this one: 99.9% of the guns don’t need a sight adjustment.

On the first day, we often hear students tell us that their gun seems to be shooting “way low” or “way right” or a variation of the gun not shooting where it is supposed to. Sometimes we simply have to prove to the student that their weapon is shooting “way center” by shooting the gun for them in their presence, to show clearly that it is not the sights. They can then be confident in their weapon and focus on improving their shooting technique.

We also regularly see students with two distinct groups of shots. One center group and one high group. This is caused by the student getting a good sight picture for the first shot, but then pressing the trigger for the second shot before they have re-established the proper sight picture.

We also see the opposite situation with one center group and one low group. This is quite common on double action auto pistols where there are two distinct trigger pressures and the student has yet to master the differences in the trigger or when students fail to properly “reset” the trigger for the second shot and allow their trigger finger to fly completely off the trigger and slap or mash the trigger on the second shot, causing it to group low.

Everything I have just shared with you is provided in greater detail, with photos, in our Defensive Handgun Dry Practice Manual.

You can order dry practice manuals here.

Dry practice will help you immensely, but believe me when I tell you that there is absolutely no substitute for Front Sight’s hands-on professional training. You will permanently improve your skills MORE in 4 days with us than you would over years of practicing on your own.

If you can’t make it out to Front Sight, then do the next best thing and get the Dry Practice Manual.

You can order dry practice manuals here.

If you CAN make it out to Front Sight and want the mindset and skill at arms to protect yourself and your family, but do not yet have a 30 State Concealed Weapons Permit, the world class training that Front Sight provides, or a Springfield Armory XD Pistol, then take advantage of Front Sight’s Greatest Course, Gun and CCW Permit Offer Ever. (Also known as the Millionaire Patriot Offer.)


I post a different article on this blog each Monday so I look forward to your visit every week.

If you have an interesting photo, story, or tip about a relevant topic of interest to gun ownership, firearms training or Second Amendment issues, please feel free to send it to me at:


If you want to take advantage of the Greatest Course, Gun, and CCW Permit Offer in the firearms training industry see this link:


See you next week.

Dr. Ignatius Piazza
Founder and Director
Front Sight Firearms Training Institute

Entry Filed under: Dr. Ignatius Piazza,Front Sight,Monday Blog Posts.

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