Expert Shooting Tips: Maggie Reese Talks Pistols

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Photo by Yamil Sued

California native Maggie Reese didn't start shooting until she visited local gun ranges with her dad when she was 18. But it didn't take long for her to get the bug to compete. Now 34 years old, Reese has become a force in action shooting circles. Here's her take on improving with a pistol.

Outdoor Life: What is the key to good accuracy with a pistol?****

Maggie Reese: It all starts with trigger control, sight alignment, and getting a good sight picture. And you need the right grip, stance, body alignment, and follow-through. Getting all those things in order will improve accuracy.

OL: What is a good drill to improve trigger control?

MR: I've got a mini ipsc target on the door that leads out to my garage, and I dry-fire on it to practice the fundamentals of getting a good grip, drawing properly, driving the gun toward the target, getting a good trigger press, making sure my focus is on the front sight, and seeing the sight picture all the way through the trigger pull.

OL: Why do you like dry-firing?

MR: I'm a bit old-fashioned that way. Dry-firing strips away all the noise and recoil of shooting live rounds and lets me make sure that the fundamentals are in place.

OL: What's a good drill for live-fire practice?

MR: I like to stagger three targets at different distances--say 3, 7, and 20 yards--and shoot against the clock, placing single and double hits each from the draw. I will take notes and set a standard par time to try to improve on. I always shoot on a timer to put some pressure on myself. Once you set a par time, go back and do the same thing six or seven times more, trying to beat the par time with accurate hits. If you can meet the goal, step up the pressure and do it more quickly. If you can't, you've identified something you need to practice.

OL: What do you do to get more accurate hits at speed?

MR: I will set up three paper targets at different distances, like I mentioned before, and then set a plate rack at 25 yards. I put two shots on each target and then finish with one accurate shot on a single plate. I work to vary my speed based on the distance of the target. Some people get on cruise control and shoot everything at the same speed. You don't want to do that. This drill teaches you how to switch gears and modify your speed based on the specific target.

OL: How do you improve transition times between targets?

MR: There are a lot of things going on when you move between targets. It's important to keep in mind that your eyes are quicker than your hands. If you can lead with your eyes and get to the target ahead of time, that can help, rather than trying to find the target with the gun and letting your eyes catch up.

OL: Why do you focus on transitions?

MR: When people double tap, they get geared up to shoot as fast as possible and reduce their split times. But when you do that there is a tendency to stop the gun, which makes you move more slowly to the next target. You need to look at the big picture. It is better to get off two smooth shots so that you set yourself up to transition well, which will make you faster.