Have you ever been shooting on the range, trying your best to be precise with your shots, only to have them go consistently low and to the left (low and to the right for left-handed shooters)? Spoiler alert: it’s almost always NOT a problem with your gun or your sights. It is usually your brain playing tricks on you.
How to Fix Shooting Low and to the Left
Here are some reasons why you may be shooting low and to the left and what you can do to fix it.
Problem #1: Recoil Anticipation
The leading cause of shooting low and to the left is recoil anticipation. Recoil anticipation results in a flinching motion, which in turn drives your shots low and sometimes to the left. Recoil anticipation happens because you are trying to fight your natural instincts. Think about it – you have a small, controlled explosion happening right in front of your face. It makes sense that you would be naturally inclined to flinch. It’s important to understand that recoil is never stopped, it can only be managed. If this is your issue, don’t feel too bad! Most shooters, no matter how experienced they may seem, will still struggle with recoil anticipation from time to time.
How to fix Recoil Anticipation?
This is not something that can be fixed with dry fire practice alone. It’s very common to see someone dry fire a gun perfectly, but as soon as they start shooting live fire, the flinch response rears its ugly head. A better choice is the Ball and Dummy Drill. This drill will not only give you a visual of how badly you are flinching, but it will also give you something to focus on while doing live fire practice.
If you truly want to see how bad your flinch response is, have a friend load your magazine, randomly mixing dummy rounds (snap caps) and live ammunition together so you don’t know what order they are loaded. The dummy rounds will result in a “click and no bang,” simulating a misfire. During that misfire, you will see your gun dip aggressively, therefore giving you a visual representation of the flinching you are doing every time you break a shot.
Ball & Dummy Drill
- Load a magazine with a mixture of live ammunition and dummy rounds. This will work better if you load more dummy rounds than live ammunition. Either have a friend load the magazine for you, or do your best to load them at random without looking. The goal here is to press your trigger without the gun moving, whether it’s a misfire or a live round.
- Focus on your points of performance: tight grip, slowly press the finger straight back to the rear, front sight focus, or whatever they may be, and try to ignore the obvious negative of the gun going off. Remember to breathe throughout the entire exercise!
- If you feel yourself really struggling it may be helpful to talk to yourself through the exercise. As you’re pressing back on your trigger slowly, say “pressure, pressure, pressure.” Every time you say the word “pressure,” increase the pressure to your trigger until the shot breaks. If you do this properly, this can be a great distraction and allow you to be more conscious of your actual trigger press.
Problem #2: Not Moving Your Trigger Finger Independently
Another primary cause of shooting low and to the left is squeezing and curling your whole hand when you pull the trigger instead of moving your trigger finger independently. Due to the way our hands are designed (the mechanical coupling and neuromuscular control), there is a limit to finger independence. This is another very common–but challenging– issue; it requires good body awareness and a lot of practice to overcome.
How to Fix Not Moving Your Trigger Finger Independently
Good news: This is something that can be corrected with dry-fire practice. Dry firing your gun is an easy way to tell if this is your problem.
- Keep a hard focus on your front sight and then press your trigger. Did your front sight deviate from your target? If so, there is a good chance that you’re not moving your trigger finger independently.
- Another way to diagnose this problem is to use a laser cartridge in your firearm or invest in a SIRT pistol. With both tools, you will have instant feedback from the laser. If the laser creates a dash instead of a dot when you pull the trigger, it’s a good indicator that you may be squeezing with your whole hand.
- Practice pressing your trigger until you have no movement in your gun each time or practice with a SIRT pistol or laser cartridge. The benefit of a laser cartridge over a SIRT pistol is that you are practicing with your own specific firearm.
- If you’re using a laser cartridge or SIRT pistol, practice until you consistently get a dot instead of a dash with your laser device.
Understanding how to properly grip your gun can also play a role in fixing your trigger finger independence. Having a tight death grip on your gun with your dominant hand can make it more difficult to isolate your trigger finger because it will be tenser. It’s easier to keep your index finger loose if you’re gripping your gun tighter with your support hand than your dominant hand.
Problem #3: Trigger Direction
Another cause of shooting low and to the left is trigger direction. The trigger needs to travel straight back to the rear for a clean shot on your target. If you have too many fingers on the trigger or not enough fingers on the trigger, your firearm may move in undesired directions as you press your trigger. If this is your issue, you should feel bad about it…just kidding!
How to Fix Trigger Direction
The primary fix here is dry fire practice (are you sensing a theme?). You’re going to have to spend time learning where your finger needs to be on your trigger to press it straight back to the rear. A good starting point for most people is to center the trigger on the first pad of their index finger. Ultimately, it’s going to vary from person to person and gun to gun.
Try this Trick…
When you are lined up on target looking through your sights, imagine the front sight is attached to the trigger and you are trying to pull the front sight through the rear sight notch. This will help you to focus on the direction the trigger is traveling. Using a laser device to practice is a great option for instant feedback, especially a laser cartridge so you can learn the trigger pull on your own firearm.
Handgun Classes & Private Lessons Available
No matter what your issue is, the common theme here is training and effort. Don’t worry if you can’t fully correct these issues overnight; it will take time. If correcting these issues on your own seems like a daunting task, try one of our handgun classes or sign up for private lessons with one of our instructors. To request a private lesson, contact email@example.com.