The 1 inch group explained

An example of a shotgroup smaller than one inch from the M&P 45 Compact.

An example of a shotgroup smaller than one inch from the M&P 45 Compact.


If you follow my Facebook pages (Personal and Author’s page) and this blog, you have seen me write about the 1 inch shot group in my reviews of various firearms and discussions about range practice.  I thought I would add some perspective and clarity to this discussion and explain what I mean and how I look at this particular accuracy goal.

Truth be told, most modern pistols are capable of better than 1 inch shot groups at a distance of 25 feet.  If the firearm could be locked down into a vice on a bench, most would produce impressive shot groups.  I am confident that even my snub-nosed, .38 special revolver is fully capable of that level of accuracy.  So, when I say, “I know this pistol is capable of shooting tighter groups,” in reality, I am saying, “I know that I am capable of shooting tighter groups with it.”  Shooting from a standing, off-hand position, many variables come into play.  But, since I know I am capable of shooting 1 inch, or tighter, groups with a pistol under those conditions, when it doesn’t happen, I begin looking at the pistol itself.

What is it about this particular pistol that is preventing me from achieving that level of accuracy?  Is it the strangely shaped grip?  The mushy, garbage trigger?  Or, does its overall shape require me to alter my normal shooting grip?  All of those things can work against you.  Discovering them can be a challenge, but it requires that you spend time on the range shooting it, so it’s really a win/win for all involved.  In the case of the M&P .45 Compact, the terrible trigger was the issue.  Once the Apex trigger kit was installed, the shot groups shrank to half of what I was producing with the stock trigger.


Wrong answer!  Most people don’t shoot at that level of accuracy because they don’t train for that level of accuracy.  Especially military marksmen.

Hell you say?  I’m a fine soldier and I qualify expert on the range!

Okay, calm down, Francis.  Let me explain.  On a military qualification course using silhouette targets, we train to shoot the torso-sized plastic and make it fall down.  If you nick the shoulder or arm, it still falls down.  If you hit the berm in front of it and kick up enough dirt, it will hit the target and also make it fall down.  We are shooting at targets that are too big to develop a proper degree of accuracy.  But, that isn’t the goal of most standardized military firearms training.  Can you hit a human sized target most of the time and be consistent with that process?  Why, yes, I can, Sergeant!  Then you are good to go, soldier!  Move out!

If you reduce the size of your target, your level of accuracy will follow suit.  Well, if you are training properly it will.  Improper training is the biggest culprit when it comes to firearms accuracy.  We get all excited to be on the range and start blasting rounds into paper or steel and we are having such a great time that we forget to pay attention to the fundamentals of marksmanship.  And then we start missing.

A gun was first placed in my hands when I was 8 years old.  That means I have been shooting for nearly 40 years.  To this day, every time I go to the range, I learn something new.  The most enjoyable learning experience was when I attended an advanced pistol marksmanship course put on by SEAL instructors for my Army MP unit.  It was voluntary and was held on two Saturdays.  As you can imagine, only a handful of us attended.  That was 10 years ago.  The instructor had us shooting at 3 inch squares.  Once I was consistently capable of performing that task, he reduced them to 2 inch squares.  Then 1 inch squares.  With practice, some pointers, and paying attention to the fundamentals, it eventually became fairly easy to accomplish this part of the training.  Imagine my joy when I realized that, holy crap, I’m a much better shot than I thought I was.  It was all in the type of training I had been doing.  I had been training to hit a human-sized target.  Now, I train to hit the button of that human-sized target’s shirt.


Because I want him to die, that’s why.  Under stress during a critical shooting scenario, your shot group is going to open up on you quite a lot.  You are scared, angry, injured, and in a hurry.  You aren’t going to hit that 1 inch square under those conditions.  So, training to shoot smaller means that when your shot group opens up, it will open up less.  If you only care that you can hit a torso, most of the time, how often do you think you will hit that torso when the shit actually hits multiple fans?  Not many.


If you focus on your front sight, your target becomes fuzzy and blurred.  It looks larger than it really is.  So, if you normally have a 6 inch shot group at 20 feet, and you are training that the entire silhouette is your target area, when you see black in front of your sights, you squeeze the trigger.  Well, if your sights were only on the edge of that target, there is a good chance you just missed it with your 6 inch group.  Place a marker, a piece of white or blue tape, for instance, dead center between the eyes of the silhouette and dead center in his chest.  Use THAT as your aiming point and ignore how big the rest of the target is.  Now you are ensuring that your entire 6 inch grouping will hit within the silhouette, as long as your aim is true.  If you have a good imagination, you can do this without tape.  Just imagine there being an aiming dot in the center of whatever it is you are shooting at.  Practice it.  Give yourself a smaller target at which to aim and you will discover that you too are a better shot than you think you are.


Ross Elder


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