Gun Digest

Handgunning: Massad Ayoob Group Got Me On Target!


Bottom target shows typical shot group for me prior to the training. Cardboard IDPA target shows results of qualification round at the end of the class.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Massad Ayoob Group’s MAG20 Range class, taught by Master Instructor David Maglio near Saukville, WI. After two days and more than 500 rounds, the results spoke for themselves. Three components in particular made a huge difference in my shooting.

The first was a small but critical adjustment in the angle of my off-side wrist and resulting placement of my thumb on the frame of the pistol. This minor shift in grip position took the feel of the gun in my hand from “awkward” to “natural extension of my arm.” It also seemed to cure my pulling shots low and to the right on the target.

Finding the right place for my off-hand thumb seemed to be a challenge …
… until David showed me that changing the angle of the wrist …
… puts the thumb right where it needs to be.
Both the fun-to-shoot Walther PPQ 9mm and the Remington Ultimate Defense rounds delivered a flawless performance for every one of the more than 500 rounds fired over the weekend.

The next was a training technique called the Blind Swordsman Drill, done while not even holding a gun. The instructor had us assume our stance, extend our arms with simulated grip toward the target and close our eyes for 30 seconds or so. When we opened our eyes, if we were still on target, we had identified our “natural point of aim.” We made note of the position and used it from then on.

If, upon opening our eyes, we were off target, we pivoted our body until the aim was back on target and closed our eyes again, repeating until we found our natural point of aim. The difference this made in accuracy was remarkable. Evidently, this is a technique known and used by many successful competitive shooters.

The third was a live-fire trigger pull exercise, called the Exemplar Drill. The instructors had us assume stance and grip on the handgun, but then they pulled the trigger to fire, first with our trigger finger on the frame, then with our finger on the trigger under theirs, and finally us pulling the trigger with their finger over ours so they could feel what we were doing. This essentially isolated the effects of recoil from any movement created by the student’s trigger pull.

The Exemplar Drill isolates the effects of recoil from movement caused trigger pull habits.

This was when the light bulb really lit up for me: recoil results in some minor vertical action, but any side-to-side shot variance is all my doing. The exercise helped me to think of it as cycling the trigger, rather than pulling or squeezing it. This shift in understanding created huge and immediate results.

David Maglio, Master Instructor with Massad Ayoob Group

David Maglio is a former Marine MP with 25 years of experience in law enforcement, has won several state and regional IDPA matches and is one of very few 5-Gun Masters in IDPA. He is the sole trainer authorized by Massad Ayoob to teach the MAG Instructor Course (MAGIC).

To receive information about upcoming MAG training courses by David Maglio in Wisconsin, or to host MAG training in your area, contact David at

For a schedule of MAG training available nationwide, visit

Special thanks to Mark Thomas at Walther Arms and Jessica Kallam at Remington/Freedom Group for making this great weekend of training even better!

For more great tips to improve your handgun shooting, pick up a copy of the new Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to Handguns.

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