5 Ways To Improve Your Shot Groups

5 Ways To Improve Your Shot Groups

Precision is just as important as accuracy. Precision is being able to do something reliably and accurately is, of course, doing it right. When it comes to defensive shooting, being able to confidently know your rounds are going on target can be extremely helpful. It’s not always just the defender and the assailant in a closed off, sealed room. There are thin walls, bystanders and other things we need to be careful to avoid. So how do you improve your shot groups?

In this article, we’ll go over five simple exercises you can do to improve your shot groups.

A shot group is any cluster of shots on the target. If a group of rounds landed is very close proximity to one another, it’s possible to determine precision. Once precision is established, we can move on to getting that shot group tight in the middle of the target. So, that means we’ll need to first…

1. Establish A Shot Group

Nothing learned, nothing gained, right?

To establish a shot group, place a target out at a known, set distance. For most concealed carriers, 8 yards is a good starting point.

  1. Load a magazine with 3 rounds of standard ammunition — usually full metal jacket in most places.
  2. Aim like you normally do.
  3. Fire.

Don’t worry about rapid shot placement, yet.

5 Ways To Improve Your Shot Groups


Hopefully, you end up with something like what’s above you. If you don’t, don’t worry. Go back to the fundamentals of basic marksmanship, which are:

  • Sight picture – Is the front sight post aligned and level with the rear sights?
  • Sight alignment – Are your sights aligned on the center of target?
  • Posture – Are you holding the handgun so the weight is even and balanced in your hand?
  • Breathing – Do you fire from the same place in your breathing cycle? Ex. pulling the trigger after exhaling, etc.
  • Trigger control – Are you squeezing the trigger straight back or are your sights skewing to the side at the last second because of how you’re pulling the trigger?
  • Bone support – Is your stance properly supporting your body weight and arms?

If any of these turn out to not be true – don’t worry. All concealed carriers continually work on the basics. Keep firing at 3 shot intervals until a group is established. If 8 yards is proving to be too hard, move the target back to 5 or even 2.5 yards until a shot group appears.

Once you have a shot group, you know how to correct so your shots are more precise.

  • Shots skewing laterally
    • Correction: Trigger control, grip, and posture
  • Shots skewing top to bottom
    • Correction: Breathing, grip
  • Shots all over the place
    • Correction: Move the target closer, slow down your rate of fire

These are just a few examples to give you some ideas.

2. Rapid Shot Grouping

Only once you have established a shot group, should you attempt to increase the rate of fire. An increase in the rate of fire is important because it will closely reflect how you will probably fire in a self-defensive gun use.

Much of this activity is the same as the last with the exception of one important change: your breathing.

Breathing is cyclical. As such, depending where we are in that cycle (inhaling, pause, exhaling, pause) we can expect our shots to align proportionally. Once you know where you prefer to be in the breathing cycle when you make your normal shot placement, try holding at that spot when you do a rapid shot grouping.

  1. Place the target at 8 yards.
  2. Load 3 rounds into a magazine.
  3. Aim.
  4. Fire three quick, successive shots on target.

What we can normally expect is for our basic shot group to widen — sometimes considerably — when we fire at a higher rate of fire. This is because we have less time to get our sights aligned back on target after recoil. It’s okay if your first few attempts look horrible. Pay close attention to the pattern those shots make. Mark your shots on the paper and repeat this exercise until you start seeing a correctable pattern emerge.

These two exercises will tie into the fundamental idea of how we can improve our shot groups.

How To Improve Shot Groups And Shot Placements

If we want better shot groups, we need accurate shot placement. Accuracy and precision. Both of these require one special ingredient that simply can’t be replaced: practice, practice, practice.

  1. Practice regularly

Bi-weekly or weekly is preferable. You will NEVER regret it.

  1. Be brutal in self-assessment

It’s not good enough to just say, “my shots suck.” Frustration always happens before the breakthrough.

  1. Always return to the basics

Firearm safety and the basics of pistol marksmanship never go away. There’s no point where any of us are better than those basic rules that govern how effective we are with firearms.

  1. Master the basics before moving on

Some days our shooting is better than others. However, if one particular day we’re struggling with something, maybe it’s a sign we should practice it more before moving on to something more advanced.

  1. Slow is steady and steady is fast

It’s much more important to execute the steps properly than execute them quickly. In a self defense environment, seconds matter. When that pistol goes on target, you need to practice smooth actions so the action is ingrained into your muscle memory.

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Luke McCoy is the founder of USA Carry. In 2007, he launched USA Carry to provide concealed carry information and a community for those with concealed carry permits and firearm enthusiasts.
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This is great info to not only know but to also practice as well. But as far as the 8 yards or closer goes it also depends on the gun range that you go to as well. My g


Actually pull the trigger after inhaling, your brain will have oxygen, you are less likely to be fatigued or shake because of the lack of oxygen, as in exhaling. It was explained to me by a gracious Army Drill Sergeant and it makes all the sense in the world to me, also works.


To simplify from the above:
1) Position/Stance
2) Aim/Sight Picture
3) Breathing
4) Trigger Squeeze
In the sequence you should be performing them.

Bri Smith

That was a great lesson. Thank you.


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