Shooting target pistols with one hand

By B.B. Pelletier

It’s rare to see someone hold a handgun with one hand anymore. Yet the one-handed hold used to be the most popular way to shoot. In official target events, it’s still the only hold allowed. Here are some tips.

Tip 1 – stand like a pitcher
A major-league baseball pitcher orients his feet to control the direction of his pitch. So do handgunners. By placing the feet just so, you can control the left and right orientation of the barrel so your shot placement will be inside a 12″ span at the target distance of 10 meters (which is close to 33 feet). Twelve inches sounds like a lot, but we’ll reduce that in the next step.

Stand with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart. The foot on the side of your shooting hand (right foot for right-handed shooters) should be in front of your other foot so your non-shooting side is angled about 45 to 60 degrees away from the target. Don’t measure angles; just do the following.

Close your eyes and point the finger of your shooting hand toward the target. Don’t guess where the target is; just point your finger in the most natural direction. Open your eyes and notice whether the target is in front of your finger or to one side. If it’s to one side, adjust the foot on the non-shooting side either backward or forward to bring your entire body around until you are pointing naturally at the target. Close your eyes and try it again. When your finger is pointing at the target when your eyes open, that’s where your feet should be.

Tip 2 – grip the handgun the same way EVERY TIME
Open your shooting hand and insert the handgun with the other hand, jamming the grip deep into the web between your thumb and index finger. Wrap your middle finger only around the front of the grip frame, then let your thumb and other two fingers come to rest lightly against the pistol grip. Now raise the shooting arm up in front of you and lower it until you can see the front sights. Are the sights in line with the target? If not, shift your feet until the handgun comes into line with the target as you lower it from a raised position. When you are aligned, you have acquired the correct stance and grip for one-handed target shooting.

Once your feet are planted correctly, the proper grip controls the gun to such an extent that the latitude, side to side, is only a few inches at 10 meters. Close your eyes, raise the pistol and point it toward the target. When you open your eyes, the pistol should be pointed directly at the target. If not, make small feet adjustments until the pistol is aligned with the target.

Tip 3 – hold on target for no more than 5 seconds
This is hard and takes practice. The worst thing you can do is hold longer than 5 seconds. You’ll end up “sniping” at the target instead of smoothly squeezing the trigger until the sear releases. All good target airguns have a dry-fire feature for practicing this technique. Use it!

2 thoughts on “Shooting target pistols with one hand


  1. I do have two disagreements with the post. The 5 second rule, in my opinion, is alittle longer for most people. For marksmen with many years of practice, its much longer.

    I shot for the USMMA Pistol team a few years back. Our coach, a shooter from Moscow in the red days, expounded on the "moment" timing using a lasing recording system that tracks the barrel's path on the target and records a dry "click" as the shot. It was a pretty cool system. Most of the memebers of the team had a one moment between seconds 6-8. Coach was 6-10. I spent long long hours everyday after school practicing since I was a little kid; thus, I had the muscle endurance to hold the gun longer. With the system recording, I had two moments.. between 4-6 and 9-12. These moments, for clarification, are periods of time where muscle tremor and other accuracy affecting factors drop to their lowest.

    The laser bouces around alot more than you would think but it is easily seen how the bouncing steadies for a short period of time.

    The second point is that you should stand 90 deg to the target. THe reason being that the sights are about a few inches further away (your shoulder's width) and you are thus lengthing the sight radius.

    Great site. Proud owner of a S&W 78G


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