Whether it is a scope-sighted precision single-shot or a pocket pistol, I like to know the true accuracy potential of all my handguns. It's also part of my job to be able to test the accuracy of handguns. This can be tough to do with some handguns as things like a heavy trigger pull and crude sights can affect practical accuracy.
I doubt any of us can always eliminate human error completely, but with practice and a few basic benchrest techniques, it's surprising how much accuracy can be wrung from even the most cantankerous of handguns. What I've done here is cover some techniques for shooting handguns off the bench, which I have developed through trial and error over the years and have found to work best for me. You may have to experiment a bit to accommodate differences in your shooting bench or individual body. Likewise, you will have to modify shooting positions and grip to adapt to various handguns.
For example, the grip-and-bag setup will be different with a small-frame auto than with a scope-sighted hand cannon. Dealing with heavy recoil alone may cause you to have to adjust your shooting position to lessen stress on your wrists or elbows. The best technique is always the one that works for you.
The basics are simple You have to eliminate all movement and execute a perfect release of the trigger. This is easy enough with a rifle since it is supported at both the forearm and the toe of the stock, the shooter's head is supported by pressing the cheek to the stock, the elbows are supported by resting on the bench, and the shoulder and torso are supported to some degree as the shoulder is pressed against the butt of the rifle. As long as the rest is sturdy, it's easy to shoot tight groups. A handgun offers a more demanding challenge. Not only must the handgun be rested firmly, but you must also have your wrists, elbows, torso and head locked in a solid position and supported as much as possible.
TAKE A REST
There are a number of shooting rests on the market designed specifically for shooting handguns off the bench. While they are OK for casual shooting, all of those that I am aware of have a basic flaw that makes them less than ideal for serious accuracy work The platform is too high.
When the shooter locks his wrist straight in a normal shooting position, the elbows are left dangling in the air unsupported. Rest the elbows on the bench, and the wrists are crooked. This is why an assortment of small sandbags works best. You can adjust the bags for the most comfortable and steady shooting position. The key to a solid shooting position is to get everything--handgun, arms and head--close to the bench for maximum support.
Conventional benches set up for rifle shooting are not ideal for precision handgun work. The recess on many benches for the shooter's body can leave one elbow dangling unsupported in a typical handgun shooting position. An ideal handgun bench is square so the shooter can press his chest against it for maximum support and face the target straight on. Also, the seat should be low enough so the bench top hits just under the armpits, allowing a very low shooting position. Remember, you want to support as much of the arms and body as you can to eliminate shake or wobble.
Unfortunately, most of us shoot on other people's benches, and those at gun clubs or public ranges are often all identical, and you just have to adapt. Most of these benches are for rifle shooters and have the recesses in the top for right- or left-hand shooters. Seat yourself fully into the recess, and press your chest firmly against the bench top. Hopefully, you can sit forward far enough so your outside elbow has a solid rest on the bench and the top surface of the bench is deep enough to allow you to stretch out your arms into a comfortable position.
If the seat provided is too high, as many are, slide your butt back from the bench, and lean forward until your chest contacts the bench just below your armpits. Again, you need to get low on the bench for best results.