Live-Fire Drill: GROUP SHOOTING
Fire a string of shots into the target. Be as accurate as possible. This drill is not timed.
Group shooting is useful for a wide array of purposes. You can develop trigger control, test your equipment, sight in your gun, or validate your existing zero. Some shooters also use this to “warm up” at the beginning of a practice session.
The goal with group shooting is to shoot your gun as well as your gun is mechanically capable of shooting. If your gun/ammo combination is capable of 3 inch groups at 25 yards, then you want to be able to produce that out of your hands.
Shooting groups is one of those things that you will do early on in your shooting career and you will never really stop doing it.
The procedure lists that you will fire “a string” of shots into “the target” and I thought it would be helpful to delve into that a little bit more.
“A string” of shots could be any number. People commonly shoot 5 shots, 6 shots, or 10 shots, but all of that is virtually arbitrary. One thing that may be helpful is for you to pick some number of shots that you are going to shoot and then stick with it for the rest of your shooting career. Obviously, it is harder to fire 10 perfect shots in a row than it is to fire 2 perfect shots in a row, so the higher the number of shots you fire the larger the group will tend to be. If you just pick a number that you like and stick with it, you should have some basis for comparison over time or with different types of ammo and so on.
You also have a good deal of choice of targets. I don’t think you should restrict yourself to USPSA legal targets for group shooting. Other targets work well too. There are a variety of stick on targets you could use or paper bullseye targets or some other target. The above diagram is shown with a black mark made in the center of the USPSA target. That is also perfectly acceptable.
The reason for using a different target for group shooting is that most people find it much easier to shoot a good group when they have a very definitive aiming point. Some experimentation can be helpful with this. A one inch square may well be far too small at 25 yards, but an area the size of the A-zone may be far too big. Your personal preferences will play into it a lot as you experiment with different target arrangements.
I also set the distance on the diagram to 25 yards. This is one of the more popular distances for group shooting, but it isn’t your only option. Obviously you can pick any distance you like. Personally I have been gravitating towards 50 yards due to using a gun that is far more mechanically accurate than most other production guns. It all depends on you.
One other concern I should point out is that when you are shooting groups, there are 2 important considerations. First, you want all the rounds you fire to impact as close to each other as possible… obviously. However, you also want the rounds to hit in the center of the target. I would treat these as separate issues. A tight group far from the center of the target could mean there is a problem with the sights, or that you are making the exact same fundamental error every time. It is important to pay close attention and figure it out.
Another thing you should consider is using sandbags or a rest to help you stabilize the gun. I personally avoid this, but other shooters really like it. It is largely a matter of preference. Bagging the gun in will probably give you tighter groups, but I like dealing with the little bit of sight movement you get when you are in a standing position.
The key to good group shooting is accepting there is some wobble in your sights and trying to discharge the gun without making that wobble any worse. Any sort of flinch, trigger jerk, pre-ignition push, and so on will show up big time during group shooting. You really can never be too good at this skill.
It may strike you as silly to devote time and energy to a skill that doesn’t seem to have that much direct application to USPSA, but there is a lot to be learned here. Working towards mastery of shooting without any time limit will give you the tools to zero your gun in without help from someone, to detect problems with your equipment if something isn’t working right, and you will have confidence when you move to high speed shooting that the gun is capable of hitting exactly where you point it. There can be no substitute for that.
There are a couple of major concerns that I want to point out.
First, being able to shoot tight groups is a different skill than being accurate at speed. When you are pushing to go fast it tempts you to push down hard on the gun to try to control recoil. Sometimes people pull the trigger with their whole hand, instead of just the trigger finger. During slow fire, people are more tempted to try to discharge the gun at the moment the sights look perfect, and that often results in an errant shot due to rushing the trigger press. The point with all this is that you are dealing with a different set of problems when you are shooting a group versus shooting under time pressure. Just because you are good at one doesn’t mean you will be good at the other.
The second major concern with this exercise is to understand that no time limit means no time limit. You should shoot each shot individually. You can lower the gun down to rest between shots. If you start pressing the trigger and you don’t like what you are seeing you can abort the shot and start over. This is a totally different mentality than USPSA shooting, and that is absolutely ok. Do not rush.
This Drill is from “Skills and Drills”