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Target Quick Fix Guide: How to Shoot the Bullseye

So you’re at the range.  You’ve got your sights perfectly aligned with the center of the target.  You pull the trigger and BLAM!

That felt right.

I’m certain I got that bulls-eye.

You check the target and…nowhere near where you were aiming for.  Ok, so you send reset the target and empty a magazine.  You check again and every shot is hitting above and left.  “Must be my sights” you say to yourself.  You check it out with a bore sight and your sights are spot on.

What am I doing wrong?!

Worry no longer.  We’ve put together this quick reference on the 3 most common problems, how to spot them and how to fix them.

Shooting Diagnostic Chart

Take a look at the chart below.  Assume you’re aiming for the middle and then pick the bullet hole that’s closest to where you tend to be missing (if you’re left-handed, swap the directions, btw).  Then check out the corresponding section below the picture.

Shooting Diagnostic
Shooting Diagnostic

Flinching or Anticipating the Recoil

If your shots are favoring the upper left, believe it or not, you’re flinching.

I don’t care how many horror movies you watch or how often you skydive, the gun is making you jump when you get the trigger to the breakpoint.

It’s nothing to be ashamed about.  Even long-time shooters run into this problem on occasion.  The trick is knowing how to recognize it and fix it.

Was That a Flinch
Was That a Flinch

There’s an easy way to verify this problem.

Have a friend load your magazine and tell him/her to randomly load a couple of snap caps or dummy rounds in with the normal ammo.  What this does is creates a scenario where you don’t know if the next bullet is actually going to fire or not.

Most times, flinching will be masked by the recoil of the gun itself.  In this case, you’re going to eventually pull the trigger and nothing will happen when you’re actually expecting it to.  See the gun jump just then?  That’s the flinch.

This is an easy problem to fix.

Slow down a bit.  Concentrate on a slow (and I mean slooooooooow) and smooth trigger pull.  That will work out the kinks and you can eventually start speeding up your shots again.

Also, it might help to swap to another gun, if you have a spare.  When I find myself flinching consistently, I like to swap down to a fun little .22LR for a bit.  The reduced recoil and sound, combined with super cheap ammo, works that flinch out fast.

Check Your Trigger Finger

Chances are that if you’re consistently shooting directly to the left of the target, you might want to double check the placement of your trigger finger.

Easy fix…put the pad of your finger on the trigger and keep it there.

If you have a bit of trouble with finger strength, get yourself one of those hand exercisers.  I personally like the 5-pound Gripmaster because the average trigger pull is about 3-5 pounds.  If you can get to where the exercise isn’t a problem for you then it’ll be worlds easier to keep your pad on the trigger.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing


Prices accurate at time of writing

Jerking the Trigger

If you’re finding your shots consistently to the lower left, you’re most likely yanking that trigger back.  The sudden and violent action causes the muscles in your hand and wrist to act accordingly and it’ll pull the gun downward.

Easy Fix:…just like in flinching, you need to slow your trigger pull down.

I know that if you’re practicing double taps and such the tendency is to jerk the trigger as quickly as possible but a smooth trigger pull is far more important that a fast one.  Once you’ve committed the motion to muscle memory you can work on speeding it up.  In the mean time, this isn’t a race.


Now that you’ve gotten the three most common problems out of the way, you can continue with our Ultimate Guide on Shooting More Accurately which will go over everything else from the grip, stance, and dry-firing to electronic aids to build up that nice trigger pull.

Handgun Grip Wrist Check, Shannon Smith
Handgun Grip Wrist Check, Shannon Smith

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9 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Carol Chaffee

    I am left handed. Should I switch the diagnosis on the target? I tend to shoot lower right.

    September 15, 2020 5:15 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Allison Goodwin

      Yes! That's exactly what you do. From the looks of it, you may want to start by double-checking your grip and making sure you squeeze the trigger slowly, almost so it surprises you when it goes off. Even if you're an experienced shooter, it's good to get back to basics because those bad habits can sneak up on you. Best of luck!

      September 15, 2020 5:24 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Carol Chaffee


        September 15, 2020 7:09 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Hi Eric,
    My 1 year old Howa Long Range 6.5CM Rifle started exhibiting the following condition with match ammo...
    Target 100 yards
    1st shot 2 inches directly below bulls eye
    2nd " 2 " " above " "
    3rd " 2 " " below " "
    4th " 2 " " above " "
    and so on, alternating below/above for all 10 shots
    Below 5 shot group .77 inches: above 5 shot group .89 inches
    Competitive rifle shooters at the club couldn't help diagnose problem nor could my gunsmith offer any suggestions. Scope plus base and rings are spec tight as is rifle bedding/barrel.
    Any ideas?
    Thank you.

    June 27, 2019 8:49 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      Did you have someone else shoot the rifle also and if so did they have the same problem? Something this odd I would normally assume was the shooter Vs. the rifle.

      Assuming this is the rifle, I would re-re-check the torque specs of everything - not just tightening them all, but taking them out and reassembling with specs.

      Try different match ammo, maybe you got a weird batch, maybe your rifle just doesn't like that bullet/weight/tip type.

      The rifle is a year old, how many rounds through it total? 6.5 CM burns barrels fairly quickly and if you're in the 2,000+ round count range, your throat might be going.

      June 27, 2019 11:01 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    This is awesome.

    May 31, 2019 11:08 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      So glad we could help!

      June 1, 2019 9:01 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Christine Greene

    Hello, any way to purchase a full size Right Hand Shooting diagnostic chart? Do you have an online store where I can order some? Thank you!

    May 27, 2019 2:27 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      Sorry, our store is just t-shirts and such. Feel free to copy the image and print it out though!

      May 27, 2019 2:49 pm
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