“My pistol shoots low”

13-Apr-09 – 16:12 by ToddG

I just spent 20 minutes visiting half a dozen different popular handgun forums. Every single one of them had threads started by someone claiming that his gun shoots low. How low? 6-12″ at 21 feet. 10″ at 25 feet. Three feet at 25yd.

The threads generally begin asking if the problem is the gun or the ammo.

The gun or the ammo!

Here’s a simple professional opinion: if your handgun is shooting three feet low at twenty-five yards, it’s you. I’m sure someone will be able to come up with an exception, but any major brand handgun with standard ammo will not be shooting that low.

The response from many shooters, especially less skilled shooters, is invariably, “it doesn’t happen with any other gun I have” or “I had some friends shoot it and it did the same thing.” Sorry, it’s still you. Just because you can shoot a single action target .22 well doesn’t mean that you can shoot a double action .40 S&W well. Just because the local Rangemaster says your gun sucks doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about no matter how many cool stories he has about learning to shoot sixty years go.

So what to do?

First, try shooting the pistol from a support position, like a sandbag rest. This will reduce the effect of anticipating recoil. If that doesn’t magically fix things, though, you need to work on your fundamentals. This is the approach I recommend:

  1. Wall Drill. Practice this until you can press the trigger every time without the front sight moving out of alignment.
  2. Ball & Dummy Drill. Practice this until you no longer flinch at the end of the trigger press.
  3. 3×5 Card Drill. Take your time and get your hits. 

You’ll soon be amazed when that same gun & ammo that used to shoot a foot low at 21′ now suddenly hits a little notecard at twice that distance.

Sure, it’s possible that a factory gun with certain ammo will shoot a few inches low at 25yd. Heck, you might even notice a difference of an inch at 21 feet. But if it’s low enough that it bothers you, odds are it’s the guy behind the gun.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 16 Responses to ““My pistol shoots low””

  2. Or, ya need to aim higher.

    Isn’t it amazing how this gun sucks or that gun sucks, it won’t work, it’s not accurate, blah blah blah, and in someone else’s hands, its a laser that can’t miss the “X”? Guys being guys, there seems to be this built-in thing that makes them all think they can shoot. Guys think they’re Carlos Hathcock by way of Bob Munden and Larry Vickers, but without training, they’re all Barney Fife.

    By Haji on Apr 13, 2009

  3. Funny this should be brought up now because I just swapped the sights out on my Glock and it was shooting very low even with a rest so I swapped the front sight out for a shorter one.

    By Jesse on Apr 14, 2009

  4. the 2 things which helped me out the most was the wall drill and a 22. i’m still working on mastering the 3×5 cards with the .45. with a 22 i can constantly hit business cards all day long but the .45 is definitely a different critter.

    By David on Apr 14, 2009

  5. And what if you are using a rest, you have tried 3 different brands of ammo, and it shoots 7-8″ low at 25′ and 3″ low at 10′. Is it still the guy behind the gun? This is what my Sig P226 Elite does and I am not happy.

    By Shane on Apr 14, 2009

  6. Shane — There’s no way I can guarantee it’s the shooter, obviously. But something would have to be massively wrong with the gun to be off that much. You’re talking two feet at 25yd. If you’ve tried shooting it from a bench and got those results, and if you’ve tried the drills I suggested and nothing has improved, then I’d say it’s time to send the gun to the manufacturer. If it’s really that far off, they should be able to detect it easily.

    By ToddG on Apr 14, 2009

  7. A couple of years ago I found it helped me with my trigger control to think of a place on the back of the pistol as the place I was pulling the trigger to, helping me to acheive a better “straight back” pull. For my 1911 that place is the hammer, which is stainless on a blued gun. For my M&P I put a grey vinyl dot on the slide end cap.

    By upstateshooter on Apr 15, 2009

  8. Two simple pieces of advice that I found really helpful were:

    1. Keep the sights aligned while slowly pulling the trigger back at a constant rate, so that you’re surprised when it breaks. If you’re surprised when the gun fires, your body doesn’t have time to flinch or anticipate. As you get the hang of it, just learn to do exactly the same thing, but faster.

    2. Get a firm grip on the gun. The best analogy I’ve heard is to grip it with the same strength as you’d grip a hammer before banging in a nail.

    By Paul on Apr 15, 2009

  9. Working at a gun range, I could literally sit on the range all day and correct this non stop. A solid 75% of the shooters on my range have never been taught proper trigger pull and somehow manage to flinch all the time. My fav was a guy with an H&K Mk23. One of the most amazing pistols ever build – shooting 12″ low at 15 feet.

    What Paul said. Problem solved. (most of the time)

    By Phil on Apr 16, 2009

  10. There is another problem that arises when one changes from 7 yards to 25 yards. The angle of the shooter’s arms, relative to the ground, has to change. If instead you squinch your head down a bit more, rotate your wrists up a bit, and try to align the sights on target from this unconsciously contorted position, you will likely shoot low.

    Try raising the gun, held in both hands, up about 30 degrees above level, and then lower it to align your eyes with the sights.

    Worked for me.

    Then when I stopped jerking the trigger, I really started to see improvement in my groups at distance.

    By Mikee on Apr 17, 2009

  11. You think shooters are bad for blaming their guns and ammo? Try hanging out at the golf course or a bowling alley and listen to all the complaints about how they could afford better equipment they would be better players.

    Or watch the thousands of dollars guys spend on better equipment and their game doesn’t get any better.

    I constantly tell golfers the same thing I tell shooters who complain about their equipment “The only thing wrong with your equipment is the loose wingnut on the end of the grip.”

    One day out at the range I listened to two guys argue for almost 30 minutes about what kind scope they needed to put on their rifle in order to shoot it consistently at 400-500 yards. While they were doing that the old man with them was constantly banging the 600 yd target with the iron sights on the gun they wanted to put a scope on.

    When he finished I invited the old guy over to shoot with my son and I for a while. We had a blast for about an hour. Both the kid and I learned a lot of good old fashioned common sense shooting advice that day. It was like having my Grandpa around again for a while. Except that this time I was old enough to really listen to him and pay attention.

    By David on Apr 17, 2009

  12. It’s 99% of the time the shooter. Really. Been target shooting air gun, smallbore, high power and pistol since I was 8 years old. The person (male or female) on the trigger is the one throwing the shots around. Not the gun. Actually it was in ONE case. She was an olympic smallbore shooter and it was a new barrel on the gun and it wasn’t right. All other cases, its the shooter. Trigger jerk, anticipating, not concentrating, etc etc etc. Not the gun. But the blowhards don’t want to admit that THEY are the problem, so it is the gun/ammo. Wrong wrong wrong.

    By montanabob on Apr 18, 2009

  13. Another great device is a laser. Standard advice about being triple sure the gun is unloaded and then still using something that would be a good backstop applies. Just aim at the backstop and trigger the laser, then dry fire. Just watch the pretty red dot and see if it’s jumping around. If it is, you’ve just identified your problem.

    And no, the laser isn’t loose. :-)

    By The Freeholder on Apr 19, 2009

  14. The other thing people need to remember. NEW guns need to be broken in along with the shooter. Nothing makes up for good shooting like constant practice. Here is a link to some practice that you can do at home. http://www.personaldefensetraining.com/showpage.php?target=dryfire.php

    By Adiefender on Oct 11, 2009

  15. Well ALL pistols shoot low for me. My .22s my .44 magnum my 9mms and my .40s. I always have to file the front sights down or adjust them as high as they will go. It is me but I can put 6 shots in a 10 inch paper plate at 50 yards with my Ruger Redhawk and shoot dimers at 25 yards with my .22 and empty a magazine into a man size target at 100 yards with my glock 17. So if you hit low but group consistent change your sights(shorter front sight) if you run out of room to adjust.I always prefer a gun to shoot dead on or higher.

    By Spooky on Jul 28, 2010

  16. I just bought a glock 19 and a glock 34 new. For the life of me I cannot shoot the glock 19. I am a Vietnam veteran and consider myself a pretty good shot, though not an expert. The trigger on my glock 19 is atrocious. At 20 feet, I am shooting 6 to 8 inches low with 10 inch and 20 inch fliers. (It jammed on first shot) (Bad magazine) I picked up my glock 34, out of the box, loaded 17 rounds into the mag, stepped off 20 paces and unloaded all 17 rounds into an area the size of a 50 cent piece.

    Don’t tell me it is me. Just tell me who makes a decent trigger for a glock 19. I like everything about it, size, handling, reliability. At this time it is worthless. It is too light for a boat anchor and too heavy for fishing lead. I need help.

    By willie barber on Apr 22, 2011

  17. Wow, you guys just made me feel a lot better. I’m a veteran , and was considered a small arms expert with the M-16. Today I fired a pistol the 1st time in my life, a Beretta Px-4 Storm F. I was upset by my inability to hit the bullseye, all of my rounds went low and to the right, but stayed within the 8 and 9 kill zone. Hearing people talk about firing 6-10″ low makes me feel a lot better. I’ll be doing a lot of range time, I want that “X” every time! One thing I did notice, at least with my Beretta is that it likes lower grain ammunition. I started out with 9mm Federal Premium 147 grain, and switched to the shooting ranges 9mm Federal American Eagle 105 grain. The accuracy went way up with the lower grain bullet.

    By Bob on Dec 28, 2011

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