The Top 5 Missed Shots in Handgun Shooting

  1. The first shot.
  2. The last shot.
  3. The first shot after reducing a stoppage (which includes a reload).
  4. The shot after an Unintentional Discharge (it’s missed because it’s not fired).
  5. The first shot after the transition to another target.

The first shot is easily the most missed shot of all. Walking rounds into the target is a very common exercise. However, as Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his 1893 book Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail :

No possible rapidity of fire can atone for habitual carelessness of aim with the first shot.

If the gun isn’t indexed into the eye-target line with adequate precision, relative to the distance involved, the first shot is likely to miss. Brian Enos called the necessary personal characteristic “visual patience.” Get the gun adequately aligned prior to pressing the trigger.

The last shot is often missed due to lack of follow-through. There always needs to be one more sight picture than rounds fired. Follow-through may be the least understood of all the Fundamentals of Pistol Shooting.

A stoppage is any unintended interruption in the cycle of operation. Whether that’s a malfunction or simply running out of ammo is irrelevant. Any stoppage reduction is a complex motor skill. That means a combination of gross and fine motor skills. Once the stoppage is reduced, we need to transition back into the fine motor skill only (trigger manipulation) mode before we fire the next shot.

After an Unintentional Discharge, the next shot is frequently not fired at all, which is why it’s missed. Periodically, a POlice dashcam or badgecam will record an officer firing one shot, then clearly displaying some type of startle response, and then immediately reholstering. That means it was an Unintentional Discharge, even if shooting was Justifiable under the circumstances. In competition, shooters will occasionally have a UD and then look at the pistol in a dumbfounded way. If they’re not Disqualified by the Range Officer, they will eventually get back to shooting but it’s often several seconds later.

Transitioning from one target to another and then making a good hit with the first shot is difficult. Very few people ever practice it, which increases the difficulty. It’s a sacrilegious view, but my observation is that when someone who isn’t a highly experienced and capable shooter (GM, M, A, Expert) moves their eyes to another target ahead of the sights, the first shot is going to be a miss. If the target is in an unexpected location, this is even more true.

Understanding the Top 5 Missed Shots makes them easier to avoid and shoot gooder.

The following isn’t related to the 5, but it’s an interesting comment from a previous post on my blog.

If you can’t be bothered to expend fifteen minutes a week in dry practice, two extra magazines on your person are most likely meaningless.

2 responses

  1. Excellent post. Will copy and try to avoid these misses. Thanks Professor!


  2. Contact shooting eliminates any issues with “Missed Shots”. For actual combat or realistic practice go Meat & Metal. And, the results are always very gratifying.

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