Many years ago, in preparation for a 4 day pistol course (my very first) I went to the range to make sure everything was working correctly. My gear functioned just fine, however, I did not do so well. My group size was, um, unsatisfactory. No, that’s not true; they stunk. The more I shot, the worse they got.
Whether you’re a beginner or a long time gun owner who doesn’t train regularly, you can benefit from going back to the basics. This short series will be my humble attempt to share with you what I learned, once I finally realized that I didn’t know how to shoot. In order to avoid writing a book, many of the detailed explanations will be found in the linked articles; please don’t rush past them. Each step builds on the previous ones.
Even so called professionals often get the bedrock fundamentals wrong. I cringe every time I go into a gun shop, because customers and clerks alike are flagging (pointing guns at) people while their fingers are on the triggers. You need to know the rules of gun safety, and adhere to them like lives depend on it; because they do. You can read a different version of the rules here.
People who lecture others about the dangers of guns should themselves know how to handle them safely. The lighting is poor, but it looks like the safety is off, and her finger is definitely on the trigger.
This policeman shot his wife while clearing a jam. This search yields many more stories like it. My point is not to bash LEO’s, but simply to point out that even those who handle guns on a regular basis and have some training are not immune and must observe the safety rules.
Safety is something that must be observed all the time; most accidents happen when people thought the gun was unloaded. I don’t even let my children point toy guns at other people – only the imaginary bad guys.
So now that you’ve memorized the rules you’re ready to start shooting, right? Not quite yet; we need to talk about gear first. Eye and ear protection (electronic ‘muffs are awesome) is pretty obvious, but also critical to carrying a gun is a quality belt and holster.
The belt needs to be stiff enough that it will support the weight of the pistol and any additional gear, such as magazines, without being so stiff that it ends up causing back pain. I usually wear a thick leather belt, as it supports well, while also being comfortably flexible. There are plenty of great options from the tactical style, to very nice dress belts.
The holster should be leather or kydex, as those can be formed to the pistol and will hold it securely. Sad to say, it won’t be cheap. However, quality gear lasts a long time and makes training and carrying both safe and enjoyable. Using cheap gear, or good gear that’s worn out, can have disastrous consequences.
With the right mindset and gear, you’re ready to move on to the fundamentals of shooting. It starts with the proper pistol grip. Revolvers require a slightly different hand placement. You can shoot fast -or you can shoot accurately – with a poor grip, but you cannot shoot both fast and accurately.
There are three so called “secrets” to shooting accurately. Sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger control. The sights need to be in alignment while pointed at the target and you need to focus on the front sight while pressing the trigger in a manner that does not disturb the sights.
This next graphic demonstrates where you should focus. Because you can only focus at one distance, and there are three things in your line of sight while shooting, you must focus on the front sight when accuracy is critical.
The words that we use influence our actions; so we say that we “press” the trigger, rather than “squeezing” the trigger. We need to keep our grip as consistent as possible, so the only thing that should move is your trigger finger, which presses the trigger directly to the rear.
One important thing to note about the above graphic is that it is a generalization. The precise place that your finger needs to be is personal and will depend on such factors as the size of your hands, the size of the pistol, and the length of the trigger pull.
You can – and should! – practice all of the above methods dry, that is, with an empty pistol. You should still follow the rules of gun safety and only point the weapon in a safe direction when practicing.
If you have anything to add, please do! Questions are also welcome; I’m sure I left off something.