Mastering Marksmanship: Tips and Tricks for Better Accuracy

By Jay Beal

Jay Beal, hailing from Maine, has made a name for himself in the competitive shooting world, particularly within the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), boasting several top-10 finishes. A dedicated family man, Jay balances his passion for shooting with life at home with his wife and two children. He’s widely recognized for his expertise in dry-fire training, a discipline that has earned him considerable respect and recognition among peers. Jay also contributes his insights and experiences to the popular podcast “That Shooting Show” with Steve Anderson, where he shares tips, strategies, and stories from the competitive shooting circuit, further cementing his status as a thought leader and influencer in the sport.

In the world of shooting sports, self-defense, or law enforcement, training a high level of pistol accuracy is a fundamental skill. Whether you’re entirely new or well experienced, improving accuracy is an ongoing process. Being accurate without a time limit is the first piece to develop. After that, testing that accuracy at speed has been where I’ve found the most growth. We will cover both of these elements in detail.

  • Pulling the trigger without moving the sights: When the sights are aligned on target and we pull the trigger without interfering in that alignment we will always hit the target in the center… that sounds simple and truthfully it is, what tends to happen is a feeling of urgency to release the shot NOW. Which in turn introduces unnecessary movement in the sighting system. This is where I will start, in dry fire with an unloaded pistol, sights on target, pulling the trigger and observing what happens to the sights when the trigger breaks. After a few minutes you’ll get an idea of what it feels like to pull the trigger without interrupting the he alligned sights. That same drill can be tested in live fire, this time you have actual feedback on target, plus the understanding of what a “good” trigger pull feels like. Remember, There is no time limit here… yet.
  • Grip & trigger control: I put the two together because these are the elements that will ultimately allow you to be fast and accurate. Grip is often over complicated, for me I’ve always wanted it to be simple… the firing hand fits as high as comfortably possible on the grip with the support hand filling in the empty space on the side of the frame. As far as answering the questing “how hard do I grip?” I grip hard enough so that the grip does not shift in my hands during live fire. An easy way to test this is to take a slow motion video from the support side! Using grip enhancer or improving the texture on the grip will make it easier to keep the grip from moving inside your hands during recoil.  As for trigger control, we’ve already learned how to pull the trigger slowly without a time limit, now we can pull the trigger quickly with a time constraint. As for most skills, we can train them in dry fire and test them live. And that’s exactly what we will do with our grip and trigger control. I’ll start with my grip set, holding my sights on target and I will pull the trigger NOW! As you can imagine… this will most likely introduce an error of some kind, and that’s good, it means we can learn and make an adjustment in how we pull the trigger and hold the pistol. Most commonly we not only pull the trigger with our index finger but we will also tighten our other fingers at the same time, resulting in the sights dipping down. The goal in this exercise is to learn how to pull the trigger quickly without moving the sights. This is only achieved through repetition.Now it’s time to practice: improving any skill requires repeating it over and over, consistently.

Like all skills that we seek to improve, consistent practice over time is the most affective approach. Dry fire is going to make up the the bulk of our training because it doesn’t require a trip to the range and it’s free! Less than 5 minutes a day of working on these skills will improve accuracy and speed. Confirming or testing in live-fire that you are practicing the skills efficiently at home is also important. Some tools that improve training would be cardboard targets and a shot timer. A shot timer, either an app, or designated device, will help you measure improvement and increase the pressure you feel in training, in turn accelerating the learning process.

Its also a great idea to take a training class, regardless of your skill level, I will generally take a class of some kind every couple of years to get direct feedback on how to improve. It’s also a great way to accelerate your development as a new shooter.

To wrap things up, developing pistol accuracy is a continuous journey that requires dedication, practice, and attention to detail. By focusing on improving singular skills at a time and paying attention to one thing at a time, you can significantly improve your marksmanship skills. Remember, becoming a proficient pistol shooter takes time and effort, but the rewards—both in terms of skill development and confidence—are well worth it. Keep refining your technique, seek guidance when needed, and enjoy the process.

My Basement Dry-Fire Range

Backup Sights to get you on Target