Shotgun To Handgun

Aiming Is Overrated

By Shari LeGate

For a lifelong competitive shotgunner, I own a lot of handguns. I like them and I like to shoot them. We all know the basic difference between pistol and shotgun shooting. Pistol shooting is aiming. Shotgun shooting is pointing. With pistol you focus on the sights and squeeze the trigger. With shotgun you look at the target and slap the trigger, never looking at the sight or bead. It’s movement vs. stationary shooting. Shotguns move. Pistols don’t, even in an event like Action Pistol.

So when I wanted to learn pistol, I went to the local range and found an instructor. First thing he said was my fundamentals were all wrong. Of course they are, I’m a shotgun shooter. I jerk the trigger, I look at the target, not the sight and my stance is well … a shotgunner’s stance. I can’t unlearn what I’ve spent the majority of my life mastering. So, my question was, is it possible to apply shotgun fundamentals to pistol shooting?

Rob Leatham’s philosophy is “It’s pointless to focus on aiming if your gun is moving.” Which Rob’s
gun does — very fast. But jerking the trigger is okay as long as you don’t jerk the gun too!

A shotgun bead is for alignment, not for sighting. Where the eye is looking — the gun is pointing.

That’s All BS

It’s essential to find an instructor who can relate to you. I was lucky enough to come across Rob Leatham’s approach. He’s one of the best competitive pistol shooters in the world. I asked him if it was possible to apply my shotgun fundamentals to pistol.

Rob explained since I’m used to ignoring the bead on my shotgun, I was already “halfway there” to pistol proficiency. After all, the bead isn’t used to sight in on a target. It’s there to make sure the gun is aligned with your eye and you’re looking down the barrel.

“Do you jerk the gun when you shoot your shotgun?” he asked. Of course not. The barrel stays level with the flight path of the target and when I pull the trigger, I keep the movement of the barrel and the slap of the trigger smooth.

“Do the same thing when shooting a pistol,” Rob said. “The first thing an instructor will tell you is focus on the sight, squeeze the trigger, pin the trigger to the rear, release only the trigger and try and relax. That’s all BS. As a rule, the first thing you should learn to do is pull the trigger without moving the gun. You need to be able to fire the gun without altering the attitude and the direction the gun’s pointed and you already do that.

“Think about it. When you shoot your pistol, you’re focused on the front sight and you’re aiming, aiming, aiming and when you pull the trigger you jerk the gun low, so it doesn’t matter if you were aiming to begin with. It’s pointless to focus on aiming, until fire control is in place. Go ahead and jerk the trigger, just don’t jerk the gun. Don’t let the process of aiming interfere with pulling the trigger. You’ve learned how to jerk the trigger without jerking the gun, so use those same fundamentals shooting your pistol.”

At 5 to 7 yards, just point the pistol. You’ll still hit the target without aiming, but you’ll miss it at
this distance from jerking the gun out of alignment. Don’t let aiming interfere with pulling the trigger.

Once the front and center beads on the shotgun line up, the shooter concentrates on the target only.

Simple Wins

Could it really be that simple? Yes. When I quit trying to make sure the sight was on the target and just concentrated on pulling the trigger the same way I do in shotgun, my hits jumped dramatically. I was so worried about making sure the sight was on the target and squeezing the trigger, everything fell apart when I pulled it. I’m a pointer, not an aimer and I can pull the trigger without moving the gun and that’s all I need to do.
You too, by the way.

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