Physical Fitness — Does it Impact Our Shooting Fundamentals?

How is your gun grip? We do so much training with guns and firearms tactics that we often forget about the basics. Good shooting techniques include proper form, grip, sight alignment, trigger pull… the list goes on and on. But what about the simple concept of physical fitness? Do exercise and some basic strength training support the rest of those shooting fundamentals?

It’s not surprising that we do not associate going to the gym with improving our firearms skills. After all, shooting is shooting, and exercising is, well … that’s something we will do someday, right? But physical fitness can greatly improve your firearms skills and gun manipulation. Just think about the amount of hand and forearm strength you use when performing mag changes, racking the slide, clearing jams, shooting long guns, and more.

Increasing your wrist, hand and forearm strength can greatly improve your ability to manipulate your firearm during stressful shooting incidents and training.

A lack of strength training can attribute to common issues with shooting fundamentals. Let’s take a look at how.

Limp-Wrist With Semi-Auto Handguns

This is one of the most common issues new shooters have. When the shooter does not have a firm grip on the gun, the frame travels in the rearward direction while the slide tries to cycle the rounds through the gun, and this can result in feeding malfunctions. This can greatly be improved when the shooter builds confidence. But for some, the problem is a simple lack of strength to hold the gun firmly, especially when shooting those larger caliber handguns.

Onehanded shooting can also be improved when the shooter has more strength in the wrists. In drills that require a transition to one hand, many shooters start to shake and quiver with their gun hand. It gets even worse when they transition to their support hand to fire. While this is more of an issue with new shooters, all of us could benefit from increased strength in our wrists.

Slide Manipulation and Charging Handles

Shooting guns simply takes a lot of hand and finger muscles. It’s easier to get ahold of the slide and chamber the first round on some of the larger frame handguns. But the market is full of nice compact guns designed for concealed carry and with that—smaller slides. It can take a lot of hand strength to grasp some of those slides and pull them to the rear of the gun. Countless people in my CCW classes over the years could not rack the slide on their handguns because of a lack of strength in their fingers and hands.

Like limp-wrist issues, this can often be a confidence issue with new shooters, but even the experienced shooter can struggle when they are fatigued, and adrenaline is running high. I have a Ruger LCP Max that is great for carrying when my attire does not allow concealment of a larger weapon, but a two-finger grip is all I can get on the slide to cycle it.

The slides on smaller guns, like this Ruger LCP-Max can take more hand and finger strength to cycle.
The slides on smaller guns, like this Ruger LCP-Max can take more hand and finger strength to cycle.

Just like the slides on smaller framed handguns, getting ahold of the charging handle on an AR-style rifle can be difficult for some shooters as well. This can be improved by upgrading to an extended charging handle, but it still takes some finger strength to cycle the action.

What kind of physical fitness training do I need? How will it help?

You don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger or Thor to up your shooting game. But it does take the same dedication you give to learning good shooting fundamentals. Spending just a little time each day in the gym (or exercising at home) can make all the difference. It can help with:

  • Improved accuracy
  • Better control during stressful situations
  • Longer stamina during firearms drills or self-defense incidents
  • Better balance
  • Stabilization during shooting
  • Gun retention during self-defense incidents

Aerobic exercises

Doing some kind of aerobics on a regular basis is a great way to keep your heart and lungs healthy. It keeps your blood flowing and helps you to handle stressful situations better. This can be done by walking, running, cycling, swimming, or playing a sport with your kids. Get in the habit of adding some type of aerobics to your schedule several times per week.

Core training

Performing some basic core training can help support overall body strength and help with shooting fundamentals.
Performing some basic core training can help support overall body strength and help with shooting fundamentals. (Photo: MensFitness.com)

When you start to get in shape, core training is one of the most important things you can do. Working those major muscle groups will help with every other workout you perform. The stomach, sides, chest, back, and upper legs are all part of your core muscle group. Adding some sit-ups, planks, squats, push-ups, etc. will all help support good shooting fundamentals.

Wrist and Forearms

Along with core training, it is also good to add some shoulder, upper arm, and lower leg training. The good thing about most of these workouts is that they will also support hands, wrist, and forearm strength. You don’t have to work out every muscle because most of the lifts you do will require multiple secondary muscle groups to contribute to the lift.

cycling the bolt of an AR-15
Even with an extended charging handle, all the resistance is placed on the fingers when cycling the bolt of an AR-15.

Summary

It can be challenging to set a daily routine for exercising. At my agency, there has always been a joke that the deputies like to say, “We will start working out and eating better on Monday.” That infamous Monday has never shown up for many of them and you often will not realize how much you need physical fitness training until, well… you need it.

And being in better health doesn’t just help with your shooting skills and self-defense abilities, it makes your overall quality of life better. Why wouldn’t we want that? Creating an exercise routine does not mean you have to be the fittest person on the block. It means you are dedicated to slowly creating a healthier lifestyle no matter where you are on that journey. And in the process, you just may see your shooting skills get better.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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