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The seductive danger of false precision

I’m sure you’ve seen it: the “diagnostic pistol target” with a series of pie slices around a circular center. Shoot the center and see where your hits end up and tells you what’s wrong with your shooting. I won’t reproduce it here because it’s so unproductive I don’t even want to spread it any further. If you haven’t seen it, be glad. You probably will if you hang out in this hobby long enough.

This target is amazingly appealing to the novice shooter. In one simple piece of paper, they can diagnose everything that’s going on with their shooting and become better overnight. More importantly, they can discover their exact and special deficiency to narrowly train on and practice.

The sad truth of it, of course, is that very few people are special. Despite “slapping the trigger” being a tiny slice in the lower left of the target, I’d say that’s the overwhelming problem the vast majority of novice shooters have. The second most common issue, anticipating recoil, is also on the target, but couched in weird terms like “breaking wrist up” and “drooping head”. Except nobody does that shit.

If you cant hit bullseyes reliably, you’re probably not pulling the trigger straight back isolated from your strong hand grip on the gun or you’re anticipating recoil. Those two problems which occupy less than a quarter of the magical diagnostic target, are your problem. Almost certainly.

But time after time, we keep seeing the target posted again and again. Something about its quasi-scientific exactness and detail makes us think it must be correct. Only an expert could diagnose so many different conditions so precisely.


You just suck in the same way every one else sucks.

Take your gun and dry fire it until you can pull the trigger without the front sight moving. Then go shoot the middle of the target. If you start hitting low or left or low-left, unload the gun and dry fire until the front sight stops moving.

Hat tip to Todd Green who also covered some of the practical problems with actually getting any useful data out of it.

About Ben

Blog contributor. Active in IDPA and USPSA, and he won't flinch if you call him a rules lawyer. Ben is a beard wearing, bacon eating, whiskey drinking, motorcycle riding, coder.

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