The Balance Between Speed and Accuracy

In my Carry Permit Classes, I often push the need for further training to our students.  Most students are hesitant to spend additional time training and I can only assume this is because all the students already know how to shoot a handgun.  However, when it comes to self-defense shooting, there are many more skills involved than just pointing and pressing the trigger.

Obviously clearing the garment, the draw stroke, grip, presentation and acquiring the sights is a time-consuming process.   Becoming fast at these things will significantly increase your odds of survival.  However, to effectively defend yourself with a handgun, you MUST also hit your target.  You cannot afford to miss.  This contradiction is one of the hardest things to overcome.  Being fast, but also being accurate is something that is not easy to achieve.

We all want to shoot quickly.  We all want to shoot accurately.  Unfortunately, one of the first things students notice is the two are mutually exclusive.  If you’re fast, it’s very hard to be accurate.  The converse is also true.

The ability to be fast and accurate is a skill that takes years to build.  Those who achieve truly astonishing speeds with accuracy never stop trying to improve their skills.  Truly serious shooters never go to the range without a shot timer because it’s the best way to gauge your progress.  The timer is the ultimate judge.

For an affordable and reliable shot timer, click HERE.

There are a couple of important components to understand when addressing speed vs. accuracy.

The first is distance matters.  A large target appears large up close, but at distance, it seems to get smaller.  Of course, we know this isn’t really the case.  The target size doesn’t change.

As the distance increases, the requirement to slow down increases.  The close the target, the quicker we can shoot.  Learning this balance is something I believe is different for each person.  Once you have learned your own boundaries, the better you can get down to work on what needs improvement.

Tom Givens, who is a well-known instructor in the training community, discusses how even the terms we use to describe our shooting speed can be detrimental or beneficial to the subconscious mind.

Below is a video of Tom talking about this concept.


The second point to consider is that no matter what the distance or size of your target, your overall presentation of the gun (drawstroke, grip, etc) should always be the same, and will always be the slowest part of your shooting.  This is indicative that working on your presentation is the best way to increase your speed.  Even at distance targets, you will still draw as quickly as possible.  However, target size or distance will dictate how much time you’ll need to take in order to maintain accuracy.

The final point is defensive accuracy is much different than competition accuracy.  Defensive shooting is NOT the same as Bulls-Eye or extreme precision shooting.  Defensive situations are overwhelmingly up-close.  Therefore, you most likely won’t need to spend a lot of time verifying your sight alignment.  Using tools such as point shooting and getting a flash sight picture can also increase your time without sacrificing defensive accuracy.

Work on your presentation.  As with EVERYTHING in firearms drills, start slow.  Speed will come with repetition and it does not come from “hustle”.  It comes from efficiency and economy of motion.  The less you move, and the more efficient your presentation is, the quicker you can accurately fire that first shot.

Chris Chandler

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