In Top Training Tips from Pro Shooters, Gabby Franco and Dakota Overland shared their best advice to help you up your competitive shooting game. The advice continues with more great training suggestions from world pistol champion shooter Julie Golob and world sporting clays champion Diane Sorantino:
Practice dry fire. World champion shooter Julie Golob says her top tips for improving shooting include things like becoming very familiar with your firearm, and working on your gun-handling skills just as much as you work on fundamentals and shooting. “Practice proven techniques, not just what you’ve seen others do,” says Golob. “Specifically, at the top of that list, is dry fire.”
Dry fire is practicing shooting a gun without any live ammunition. With the scarcity in ammo supplies these days, dry fire is truly one of the best ways to improve, says Golob. “You can practice most skills in dry fire, such as firearm familiarity, grip, stance, sight alignment and trigger control, for starters.” Additionally, you can advance your skills by practicing drawing from a holster, working on efficient magazine changes or simulate shooting from around a barrier, she says. “Practical shooting sports competitors even set up mock courses of fire that help them improve their movement with a firearm. From basics to advanced competitive shooting skills, there are many options.”
To make the most of your dry-fire practice, Golob recommends setting up a dry-fire space. Make sure your firearm is unloaded and you’ve removed ammo from the room. Next, use sticky notes as targets, or print targets and then tape them up to your wall. “Start with fundamentals, and when you’re ready, move on to advanced shooting skills,” she says.
Have an open mind. “It sounds simple, but so many people assume that with a little practice or training they are more advanced than they really are,” says Golob, noting there are thousands of instructors and influencers to learn from who can provide a valuable perspective. “Don’t limit yourself,” she says. “There are tried-and-true methods to improve your shooting but there are also variations, even some subtle ones, that can really make all the difference for you.”
Golob says her personal experience of keeping an open mind hearkens back to when she served in the military. “I often hear that only women can teach women,” she says. “This is a fallacy. A good student can learn from all sorts of teachers. Yes, many women are able to give valuable insight and perspective, but there are excellent male teachers who understand concerns and challenges too.”
Golob recalls her experiences in the Army Marksmanship Unit, when she was chasing her dream to become a Ladies National Champion. “I had many big, strong soldiers telling me what I needed to do to become a better shooter,” she says. “I tried to shoot like them when I was a lot smaller and lighter.” Then an afternoon of training with decorated shooting champion Rob Leatham changed everything for her, she says. “He’s a big strong guy, too, but he told me to stop shooting like someone I wasn’t. I started to make changes and studied successful shooters who were shorter and had less mass behind the gun. It paid off.”
To find new perspectives in training, Golob suggests you ask questions and explore answers. “Ask instructors or shooters on social media what their thoughts and ideas are. Ask potential instructors how they would address your area of concern,” she says. “Keep an open mind when you try techniques and give them an honest try to see if they will work for you.”
Perfect your grip. Golob says so much changed for her when she made adjustments to her grip and stance. “I use a ‘thumbs forward’ grip when I shoot,” she says. “It allows me to use my support hand to not only grip better, but also my thumbs serve as pointers for when I need to transition from target to target quickly. “
Golob says getting your hand as high as possible along the backstrap of the pistol with the strong hand is the first step. “When I bring my support hand up, my thumb is straight and follows the line of my arm," she says. "Filling in all the spaces left on the grip and using my support hand as a vice on the front of the grip helps me to keep the muzzle flip down.” This technique, combined with an aggressive stance that uses small bends in her body starting from ankles to knees, a slight bend at the waist, and bends at the elbow, is how Golob says she efficiently controls recoil.
Determine eye dominance. Shooting any firearm involves coordination between your eyes and hands. The best shooting is accomplished by firing the gun with your dominant hand and aiming with your dominant eye. But how do you know which is which? Sporting Clays champion Diane Sorantino explains:
“In our classes, we go over all the fundamentals, such as proper gun mount, grip and stance, but the biggest element that we look for right in the beginning is your eyes and the eye dominance,” says Sorantino, an instructor at A.I.M. Shooting School in New Jersey. “I’ve had many students feel very frustrated because they tried clay shooting, and said they couldn’t hit anything.”
Sorantino says they then check eye dominance. “We test them to determine the degree of dominance since not everyone is simply strong left or strong right,” she says. “Eye dominance is a big factor with shotgun shooting because the target is moving. For optimal accuracy you need to know how your dominance will affect your perception of what you are seeing.”
Shooting with both eyes open is favorable with sporting clays, says Sorantino, because of the multiple angles and the varying speeds and distance of the targets. “Knowing your eye dominance becomes a major player in the ability to shoot a shotgun and the ability to have some reasonable success.”
Sorantino, who is strongly right-eye dominant, says she shoots from her right shoulder. “This combination has allowed me to have success over the years. There’s no question about it,” she says. “I’m seeing perfectly the same on every target.”
There are a few methods used to determine eye dominance, but here is Sorantino’s technique. She says you should stand about 10 feet from another person, facing him or her, as he or she holds a phone. Ask the person to raise his or her arm so the phone is at your eye level, then look at the phone lens. With both eyes open, raise your right thumb and point to the camera lens. Ask him or her to snap a picture. Relax that hand and do the same with the left thumb. “This exercise gives us a picture of where that person looks when they have the gun and they’re trying to point at the target,” explains Sorantino. “For me, my thumb right and left will come up squarely on my right eye.”
Believe in yourself. If it’s one thing Sorantino says she has learned over the years, it’s that performing at a high level requires confidence. “I relate confidence directly to ‘knowing how to win’,” she says. “I realize this can be a complex area. And that’s because I believe confidence or lack of confidence is a process throughout our lives. Being able to perform at my best requires tapping into my subconscious mind.”
Sorantino says when doubt enters her mind, which is usually fear of some type, she must balance those conscious thoughts and maintain connection to the targets. "As a competitive shooter, I believe my confidence level remains high,” she says, adding that she has worked at understanding what triggers the thought process, which could possibly affect confidence. “I have found that working at my mental game has truly helped me be able to compete and win over years and in years to come.”
About the Author: Maureen P. Sangiorgio is an NRA-Certified Firearm Instructor/Range Safety Officer.
Top Training Tips From Pro Shooters