Being able to land accurate shots on target whether in a defensive scenario, target practice, or in a competition is kind of important.
If you are not hitting the center of your target, the good news is that we can figure out what is going on just by looking at your target and then your hands as we diagnose your problem.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the reasons why you may be shooting left, or low and left based on some knowledge that we’ve compiled over the years, speaking to several different instructors about the topic, and just general experience being the editor for one of the largest concealed carry publications for four years.
Chances are very good that your shooting woes are being caused by only one or two different reasons, and they’re easy enough to fix once you know how. So then …
Why do I shoot to the left or low and left?
The first thing we need to get out of the way right now is that it’s probably not your “pistol” that’s doing it. Your Glock shoots left because you are moving the muzzle of the gun slightly to the left before you fire. Very rarely is it the gun’s fault that you shoot to the left or low and to the left. That said, if it isn’t the gun, then it’s you. You are doing something wrong with the gun either just before or right as the shot breaks. For example, if you’re low and left, chances are excellent that it’s because you’re anticipating the shot, forcing the muzzle of the gun down just as the shot breaks.
Again, the barrel is likely straight, and the sights are likely fine. The problem is you. You are likely causing the gun to shoot to the left because you’re pushing the muzzle of the gun to the left for one of the reasons outlined below, just before the shot breaks.
Before we move on, please make note that if you’re shooting to the right or low and to the right, you may be having the same issues, just opposite. In other words, many right handed shooters shoot to the left, and many left handed shooters shoot to the right.
Let’s discuss this further.
Why does the muzzle move to the side?
The muzzle may actually move to either side for one of a couple reasons.
All of these reasons can be corrected with some proper practice after diagnosed, as outlined in the bottom of this article.
While some of these mention your trigger finger, they can all actually be corrected with a proper, strong grip.
And in fact, just about all shooting deficiencies can be overcome with a better grip.
Let’s read on for more info —
The first reason why the muzzle may move to the side is actually the least likely, and it’s because your trigger finger may push the muzzle to that side as it squeezes the trigger.
In other words, you’re not pulling straight to the back. This isn’t as common as the others, but the culprit here a lot of the time is because of the misinformation about trigger finger placement.
So many people have wrongly stated that the position of your trigger finger needs to be perfectly placed on the face of the trigger that it has turned into a myth that needs busting.
While true in theory and in a perfect world with perfectly sized hands and a perfectly sized gun, what people forget to then tell you is that if your gun isn’t fitted right for this way of thinking, you won’t be able to pull your finger (and therefore trigger) straight back and to the rear without also pushing it slightly to the side.
The fix for this is to either get a gun that’s fit right for your hand, or adjust where your finger sits on the trigger so you can accurately place your shots.
When I say adjust where your finger sits on the trigger, I don’t mean that you just need to move your finger in or out because that won’t cut it. Instead, you MUST get a proper grip for your hand/gun combination and then put your finger on the trigger where it comfortably and naturally sits. Then, once it’s there, practice pulling the trigger straight to the rear.
I have massive hands and in order to shoot small guns I have to put WAY too much trigger finger through the guard. Remember, the most important thing here is that you need to be able to pull your trigger straight back to the rear without pushing to either side.
People who speak in absolutes about trigger finger placement are uninformed on the proper mechanics of shooting and really shouldn’t be teaching people.
The sayings: “too much trigger finger” or “too little trigger finger” really don’t matter in the greater scheme of things. What matters more, is how the trigger is pulled and that is achieved by getting a proper grip.
Trigger Finger Isolation:
Another reason why the muzzle will often move to the side just before the shot breaks, is because the shooter hasn’t mastered the skill of isolating the trigger finger from the rest of the grip.
And when I say “isolate” what I mean is that your trigger finger needs to work independently of the rest of your hand.
Or another way of looking at it, is while your grip needs to be tight around the gun’s grip, the trigger finger needs to be able to move freely so that it can press the trigger straight back and to the rear, or come off of the trigger to rest on the slide of the or frame of your handgun.
This is actually not easy to do unless you’ve trained it to happen. It’s not easy to do because it’s unnatural.
It’s unnatural because your fingers were designed to move sympathetically with each other. If you were to hold your hand out in front of you with all fingers outstretched, but curled your middle, ring, and pinky finger towards your body, I’d bet money that your trigger finger moves at least a little.
The reasons why this is bad is because as your finger presses the trigger, your grip on the rest of the gun also tightens down just enough to push the muzzle of the gun to the side. Which side? Inward. So, if you’re right-hand dominant, your “inward” side would be the left.
And while it may not seem like much, because it really isn’t that much at the muzzle, at the distance of a few yards — it can equal a couple of inches to the side.
If you’re right-handed, it will throw them to the left ever so slightly.
To fix this, you need to work on strengthening your grip doing hand-strengthening exercises to get your trigger finger to work by itself.
One way to find out if this is your problem, is to try and watch your thumb if you’re shooting in a thumb’s forward grip (which you should be), as pictured here:
If your dominant hand thumb moves even the slightest amount, this may be your culprit. It was MY culprit a few years ago when the top picture was taken and most of those shots were to the left of center.
I had taken a class from an advanced instructor (Chris Cerino) who informed me that I was not isolating my trigger finger, and continued to tighten my grip right before the shot broke, sending my shots to the left.
Again, the best way to fix this is by strengthening your grip, which ultimately brings us to the next point —
Handgun Grip Weakness:
Finally, and probably most prominent, is that your grip sucks. There can be a lot of things going on with your grip, and having a proper grip will help fix the above problems, as well (you should still address the above problems separately, however because it can only help).
You need to be holding your gun as tight as you can with both hands.
Grip it until it starts to shake, and then back off just until the moment it stops. That’s how hard you need to grab your gun.
Having a weak grip can wreak havoc on your accuracy, especially your follow up shots. But that’s not the point this time around. For shooting to the left, we’re going to focus on your support hand not being strong enough.
Most people focus most of their grip strength on their dominant hand, wrongly assuming that a majority of their grip needs to come from that hand.
However, if you were to ask any of the prominent pistol instructors to give you a percentage of how hard they grip the pistol with each hand, you’d ask something like, is it 50/50? 60/40? Etc.
The instructor would likely say something like this: It’s 100/100, meaning that they grip the handgun equally as hard with both hands and with as much force as they possibly can before the gun starts to shake.
But the thing to keep in mind, which is something I just spoke to an instructor friend about, is that if your support-hand grip isn’t hard enough it can allow for your dominant hand to, well, dominate.
For a right-handed shooter, that might mean pushing slightly to the left, like with one of the above scenarios or something else.
In other words, if you’re unable to isolate your trigger finger, but you have a strong support hand grip, it’ll make up for your trigger finger problems.
The fix, grip your gun harder. If you need help with this, get some hand strengtheners.
And this is the reason why we say that the grip will help you overcome most deficiencies.
Why do I shoot low and left?
A lot of people shoot low and to either side. In fact, the two usually go together. A lot of people ask: Why does my Glock shoot low and left?
It likely isn’t your Glock.
But don’t worry, because you’re not alone in this. Heck, I’ve been shooting for years and have been trained by some of the best instructors in the industry and still struggle with this.
The culprit this time is anticipation. Now, the anticipation could be causing you to shoot low and left, or just low, but if you are lower than center on your target, this is almost certainly the reason why.
The reason why this happens is because in an attempt to try and minimize the amount of recoil you’re feeling, your body sympathetically attempts to push the muzzle downward a bit.
You’re not doing this on purpose, but it’s a reaction to shooting a lot over time.
And as you can imagine, this does wonders for your shooting accuracy.
The fix? Dry fire. Keep reading.
How do I fix accuracy issues?
By dry firing your gun.
Dry firing your firearm, which can be safely done from the comfort of your own home with an empty, unloaded gun, is one of the best ways to overcome any accuracy issues.
It really helps you nail down what you may be doing wrong, and helps you practice the fundamentals with extreme repetition to drive them home. This is one of the reasons why the Marines are such good marksmen.
We would spend countless hours dry firing our rifles and pistols before ever making it to the live fire range to shoot actual ammo.
I talk about dry fire more in depth in this article, and explain why it’s perfectly safe to do with your gun.
How does it help? Here’s a personal example:
A while back I dry fired for about a month without going to the live fire range and was able to largely overcome my anticipation issues. Granted, I still anticipate my shots to some degree, as does everyone.
But because I was able to practice pressing the trigger without recoil, I was able to train my flinch away while working on my trigger press and grip fundamentals.
No matter what issue you’re having with your shooting accuracy, there is one thing that will help you more than just about anything else. That one thing is called dry fire practice.
Because I take the time to dry fire, even just one time, it helps me be more accurate when shooting it. And, I take matters one step further, and even dry fire my gun when I’m at the range doing live fire just so I can make sure I’m keeping up with my fundamentals.
Sometimes people look at me like I’m nuts when I stop live fire, and start dry fire when I’m at the range, but then when I tell them what I’m doing and explain that it helps to drive the fundamentals home during my live practice, it makes more sense to them.
When you dry fire your gun, it helps you diagnose the issues you’re having because it’s very similar to real firing. After all, you’ve got your empty, unloaded gun in your hand. If you’ve got a flinch, you’ll be able to see it easier. If you push to either side, you’ll be able to see it better.
You should strive to have dry fire practice each day in the comfort of your own home. Then, if you’re noticing issues while at the gun range doing live fire, empty your gun and dry fire on the range to clear out the mistakes. If you do this you should see improvement.
I know I do, and so do many others.
Finally we get to the gun issues. This section is last because more often than not your gun will be just fine.
Having said that, I have gotten more than one gun in for review that was in less than stellar condition from the factory and understand that this does happen. (Like this one.)
Each time there was a problem with the sights, but it was verified and eventually fixed. On one of the guns, the front sight nearly fell off as I was shooting.
And, as I was shooting, before I noticed the front sight, the shots drifted further and further to the side.
The point that I’m trying to make is that issues with the gun do pop up, but more often than not it’ll be something you’re doing wrong just before or during the shot break.
If you’re shooting to the left or low and to the left chances are good that it’s not your Glock or whatever pistol you’re shooting. Chances are good that it’s you doing something wrong, moving the muzzle of the gun ever so slightly.
The good news is that these problems can be fixed very easily with just a little practice and grip strengthening.
Any accuracy issues you’re experiencing with your gun can be improved very easily with nothing more that dry fire practice.
Most shooters still don’t engage in dry fire, and it blows my mind whenever I hear someone who doesn’t participate. It’s one of the most beneficial things you can do with your gun, and will up your proficiency faster than just about anything else will.