How to analyze your shots and fire your best groupPosted: August 28, 2013
Benchrest shooters are obsessed with it. Firearm and ammunition testers rely on it. Even the fastest shooters in the world add this to their list of drills. I’m talking about shooting groups.
On one side of the spectrum, for precisions shooters, a tight group means success. Jamie Lynn Gray drilled the 10-ring seven times out of 10 in her 10-shot final at the 2012 Olympic Games in Women’s 50-meter Three-Position Rifle. With a group size smaller than 1.5 inches for the entire event, she set an Olympic Record and won the coveted gold medal.
Where being able to shoot a tight group is the name of the game in precision based shooting sports, it isn’t just a skill for the tack drivers. Being able to shoot a group is also valuable for those who compete in the fast-paced shooting sports like IPSC, USPSA and IDPA. It can also help every day gun owners hone their skills to become better shots as well.
Shooting groups tests the entire system of shooter, gun, sighting system and ammunition. Shooting rounds at a single spot on a target can tell you a number of things and by evaluating your hits on your target, you can determine if there is an issue with any part of your individual shooting system.
Starting with the shooter, the ability to shoot a group indicates whether you have a firm grasp of shooting fundamentals. Analyzing your groups can help pinpoint problem areas with your technique.
- Hits low and left for a right-handed shooter is a sign of a classic improper trigger control diagnosis. In this case, instead of pressing the trigger straight to the rear, the trigger finger “pulls” down and to the left.
- Shots outside the group that end up extremely low on the target point to issues of shot anticipation and it’s likely the shooter is pulling down on the gun right before the shot breaks to counter the effect of the firearm’s recoil.
- Hits found high and outside of the group can point to issues with heeling the gun. This is where the heel of the strong hand pushes grip of the gun and results in the muzzle pointing high on the target as the shot breaks.
Group shooting can also help determine if there are issues with a firearm and its sights. Take a firearm that has historically grouped consistently and well. Suddenly this same gun produces poor groups. This can point to different problems, thing like an internal barrel issue or lock-up. It could also mean there is a concern with the sights. Screws on both iron sights and optic mounts can become loose resulting in erratic groups. A small group located outside the aiming area can indicate that the gun is not zeroed properly for that distance.
Ever wonder what the best ammunition is for your firearm? Take note from those who test guns and ammo with groups to determine accuracy. By shooting a series of groups with your firearm with different loads, you may find that there is a specific bullet weight and profile that produces the best accuracy for your gun.
To develop the most accurate load for my Smith & Wesson Pro Series 9mm 1911 for the NRA Bianchi Cup, ASYM Ammunition tested several bullet and powder combinations.
Taking the time to shoot groups out of your gun can give you an idea of how you and your firearm are performing. Focusing on sight alignment and trigger control while shooting groups is a great way to improve your basic shooting skills. Being able to shoot consistent groups also is a confidence booster for later, when you need to make a precise shot.
Group shooting isn’t limited to shooting from a bench or prone with sandbags or a rest, although these are the best methods for testing for accuracy and eliminating human error. You can shoot groups from any position: standing, kneeling or prone. For handgun shooting, you can shoot with both hands or use just your strong hand or your weak hand. Keep in mind that your groups are likely to open up at further distances and more challenging positions.
Here are 3 easy ways to incorporate group shooting into your next practice session:
- Use group shooting as your warm up. Shooting groups at the beginning of your session can help you adjust to the gun’s recoil and focus on the fundamentals right at the start of your practice.
- Have a contest! A drill I created for when I train others is the Group God (or Goddess) Award. If you have a shooting partner, challenge each other to see who can shoot the smallest group at a specific target and distance. Whoever shoots the tightest group wins the title for the day!
- End your practice with a few groups. Set aside enough ammo at the start of your training to shoot groups at the end of your session. If you have been practicing tough skills or have been pushing your ability to shoot fast, taking the time to shoot a slow group at the end of your practice can help you settle back into shooting accurately.
Keep track of performance by taking a snapshot and recording information about your groups.
Want to become a serious groupie? Keep a log by saving your targets or by taking a photo of your group size. Record date, time, firearm details, ammunition used, how many shots fired, shooting position, distance and group size measurement. Not only is this a good way to track your shooting progress, but also it also gives you a snapshot of your firearm’s capability and can help you determine if and when you may need to have your firearm tuned for accuracy.
Now lets see your groups and you can win an a signed copy of Julie’s book:
We want to see your best group! Submit a photo of you with your best group in 1 of 4 ways. The contest will run through Saturday, August 31 for your chance to win a signed copy of SHOOT: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition.
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