Handgun Accuracy: Watch the Video!

I cannot tell you how many forums I frequent where the question is asked, “Which is more accurate?  The ‘insert model here’ or the ‘insert model here’?”  Or, I’ll see, “The ‘insert model here’ is the most accurate handgun around.”  Are these statements true?  Yes… and no.

Yes:  they are true for that individual user.

No:  they are not necessarily true for all users.

Here’s the deal.  Think of handguns like pants.  Would you ask the question, “Which are most comfortable, the Levi 501 or the 550?  How do they compare to the Wranglers?”  Likely not.  Why?  Because your size is your size.  It depends on a lot of things:  your height, your shape, how you like your jeans to fit, what you consider “comfortable,” and if you really can restrain yourself from that 2nd doughnut each Friday at the office.  What would you do to determine if a pair of pants fits?  You go try them on.  Until then, it’s all speculation.  Same with pistols.  It’s all subjective until you wrap your hands around the grip, feel the trigger, look down the sights, experience the balance, and put some rounds downstream.  Heck, even if you can’t shoot the actual pistol, just looking at them and dry firing can help make your decision (or at least rule some models out).  I have been guilty of asking the “which is more accurate” question myself, but only because I was either too inexperienced in the past to really understand what I was asking, or I am looking for subjective feedback to help point me in a certain direction based on other people’s experiences.  I don’t use other people’s opinions as fact, but rather use it more for consideration (i.e. “Hmmm… I might want to take another look at that or consider that option”).

Now, understand this.  Some designs may inherently work better for higher percentages of people.  And, some variance may exist in manufacturing tolerances and quality control between makes and models to make a difference.  But, all in all, if you keep with the flagship models of the major brands (Beretta, Glock, Sig, Colt, HK, Walther, S&W, CZ, Ruger, etc. etc. etc.) chances are that you’ll end up with a quality firearm that many people feel is the best thing since sliced bread.

With all of this said, there are a few things I’ve found that generally make for a more user-friendly pistol and, therefore, more accurate results from my hands:

  • Trigger:  this is most important.  I will shoot most accurately with a trigger that travels smoothly and breaks between 3 – 4 lbs. of pull.  5 lbs is fine as long as the trigger is smooth and clean breaking.  A gritty trigger or excessively heavy trigger will throw my shots off more than any other single factor.  I find that I shoot well with both traditional and constant pull triggers, all other things being equal.
  • Grip:  grip shape plays a role, but less than I used to think.  The main thing is that I have to be able to hold the pistol comfortably and apply equal pressure to all points around the grip with two hands.  As long as I can do this, I’m probably okay.  Now, I certainly do have some pistols that just feel right (1911s, Walther PPQ, Buck Mark, Beretta 92fs and my S&W revolvers w/ Hogue grips) and I’m sure that doesn’t hurt, but grip is secondary to trigger pull.
  • Barrel Length:  Most 4″ – 5″ barrels shoot about the same for me, with the factors above overriding barrel length.  But geometry can’t be ignored, and a longer sight radius does make for less margin of error in sight alignment.
  • Balance:  this is a factor, but not as much as the others listed above.  That’s because most full size pistols have an acceptable balance.  But something that’s way too butt heavy isn’t conducive to accurate shooting.  Weight out front may be a positive trait in many situations, but can cause fatigue if it’s too much… which throws off control and steady aim.

For me, those are the major factors in whether or not a handgun shoots accurately.  Again, though, this is assuming the pistol is what I would consider standard factory tolerances and quality control.   Of course, you can get into finely crafted high-end pistols but that’s a whole different ball game… so let’s not go there for purposes of this discussion.

The best explanation of handgun accuracy I’ve found is at the link below.  I do not know this gentleman, but I thoroughly enjoy his “down to earth” style and the manner in which he produces his videos.  He has a pretty big following online, and for good reason.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVzSAm5VhfE

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About martowski

Garden-variety professional with one too many hobbies.
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