I have heard many times over the years that Glocks just shoot to the left naturally. At one point I even believed it. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say their Glock shoots to the right.
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At the Prairiefire match, I believe I was the only person shooting a Glock in the top 32 shooters. In order to get to the top 32, I had to be able to hold a pretty tight group. While practicing for it, I realized that my hand-cycled first round was always shooting 2.5-3.5″ to the right of my aiming point. I had not noticed this before, as most targets I shoot at are larger than the Prairiefire’s 3″ 10 ring, or closer than the 15 yards it is shot at. Time after time, I dropped a round out of the 10-ring, and I could not figure out why. I was not seeing it in my sight and was getting frustrated that I was throwing shots and not able to call them. My Glock will do 3″ at 50 yards without issue, so it never occurred to me that I could see this issue at 15 yards.
I took a .22 pistol out to the range with me and shot the course with that. Perfect score, no problem. This proved to me that I could hold well enough, and also pull the trigger well enough. .22’s are often overlooked by better shooters, but their value goes far beyond teaching kids to shoot. Now I just had to do that with the Glock. When my first shot went wide, frustration set in again. I unloaded and reloaded the gun and tried again. Same thing. I then repeated that 3 more times for a group of 5 shots, almost all touching, 3″ to the right of my point of aim. When I simply shot 5 rounds, with only the first round hand cycled, my 2nd through 5th shots were all in a ragged group in the center of the bullseye. Bingo! The lightbulb finally went off and I realized what was happening.
It has been long known that the hand-cycled round can shoot to a different point of impact from the rest of the rounds in the magazine. As with many gun-related issues, I think I first read about this phenomenon in an article written by Mas Ayoob. Usually, people think of this as only mattering at some distance. A very good friend of mine, JD, who is also a phenomenal shooter, relates that his hand-cycled round always hits high and that he has to compensate by holding lower for the first shot. I had not really been able to pin this down before, and though I had talked to JD about this very issue a few weeks ago, I had not found it to be a problem. I was shooting Action Pistol at that time, and the conversation revolved around that sport. All shooting in Action Pistol starts at 10 yards, and the X-ring is 4″, so 1″ bigger than the Prairiefire 10 ring. At 10 yards, all my shots are in the X-ring, and the chamber stays loaded as I move back to further distances. Because of that, I had never had to grapple with weird misses at the 50-yard line.
For the Prairiefire Competition, I had to hold my dot on the left edge of the 10 ring for the first shot, and then hold center for the next 4. This worked pretty well but is certainly not a desirable situation to be in. I had noticed that though the hand-cycled shot was to the right, every once in a while it would go somewhere else. This made me think the whole thing was in my head! In talking about this issue with Bruce Piatt, he mentioned that as long as you hand cycle the first round the same way each time, it will at least remain consistently off. If you drop the slide by hand one time, use the slide release another time, and slingshot it the third time, that round will likely go to a different spot each time.
I know I had previously heard this, but I had never really messed around with it. Now, I can’t imagine not knowing what my gun will do with that first round. Of course, not all guns and not all ammo will behave the same, so every combination needs to be tested. My Sig 229’s tend to put all the rounds closer than my Glocks, but they still show a slight difference.
The ammo that I was using for the Prairiefire match is some slightly older, boutique match ammo I had laying around. When I tested my Glock again using my current Federal practice ammo, the first shot shift was much less and was more in line with the rest of the group. Nonetheless, a group shot using only hand-cycled rounds printed to one area, and a group fired with only weapon-cycled rounds printed to another.
Does this matter for most types of shooting? Clearly not. But that is my gun and my ammo and my shooting. What does yours do?