Looking to learn how to shoot a handgun? Here are 6 shooting tips to help you get started!
So you want to learn how to shoot a gun? That is great! Despite what you may see in movies or read in books, shooting accurately and safely actually takes a lot of practice, focus, and technique.
Even someone who claims that they are an experienced shooter can make silly mistakes and may develop habits that can be hard to correct. Being a new shooter, you have a clean slate and are in a great position to learn the basics for shooting a gun safely.
1. Know the Rules of Gun Safety
Before you even think about picking up a gun, you should be able to recite these gun safety rules in your sleep:
- Treat every gun as if it is loaded all of the time
- Never point your gun at anything you do not wish to destroy
- Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to fire
- Always know your target and what is beyond it
Treating your gun as if it is loaded all of the time means to never assume that it is unloaded. Telling yourself that you checked to see if it was unloaded a couple of days ago is not a good habit to fall into. Assume that a round is hiding in the chamber somewhere and check, then check again.
Never point your gun at anything you aren't wanting to destroy. Ever. Do not treat it as a toy and point it at your friend jokingly. Too many accidents have happened because of this mistake, which also goes back to treating your gun as if it is loaded at all times.
Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to shoot your gun. The guys on TV who have their finger resting on the trigger is a big no-no, and quite frankly has come to be one of my biggest pet peeves when watching movies.
Most range officers will actually stop you in your tracks if they see that you are not removing your finger from the trigger after you shoot, so it is best to nip the habit in the bud before it ever starts.
Also, this is habit is crucial for if you ever want to consider carrying in a holster. If you draw your gun from the holster and are in the habit of laying your finger immediately on the trigger, you just increased the risk that you will shoot yourself or someone else before even reaching your target.
Always know your target and what is beyond it. If you are in your backyard shooting at targets or cans, consider the fact that a bullet can travel for several miles. In the event that you ever have to use your weapon in self defense, look behind your attacker as well to ensure that the bullet won't travel and hit an innocent person.
2. Always put the proper ammunition in your gun
Putting the wrong ammunition is a sure way to ruin or damage your weapon. On most semi-autos, the gun's caliber is normally located on the barrel or the ejection chamber. If you are still unsure, it is always a good choice to reference your manual.
3. Find an instructor
Finding a reputable certified instructor can be one of the best things you can do for yourself. In most cases, they will join you at the range your first couple of times to help you get comfortable shooting around groups of people. This will also give you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with your weapon of choice.
However, when it comes to finding an instructor you have to trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable with your instructor before you even head to the range, find a new one. Having someone you don't trust standing over your shoulder while you shoot a gun is a disaster in the making. You could run into accidents or you could be turned off to ever shooting a gun again.
That being said, when you do find a good instructor, listen to them. Do not take their feedback personally. They are giving your constructive criticism in order to make sure that you and everyone around you are safe at all times. If you are not willing to accept their feedback and learn from it, then you should probably find another hobby.
4. Always aim to improve
Never assume that all of your shooting skills are mastered. Everyone in the gun world, including champion competitive shooters, have areas in which they can improve. Just because you can shoot a 9mm semi-automatic handgun does not mean that you will be comfortable shooting a .45 Colt single-action revolver or an AR-15 rifle.
5. Understand the importance of a proper grip
First, you need to determine the type of gun you will be shooting. A semi-automatic handgun has a slide that shoots back whenever the weapon is fired. If your thumb is sticking up behind the gun, you may just lose it or at the very least have a very painful broken bone.
If you are firing a revolver, you will notice a small gap between the chamber and the cylinder. Do not put your fingers near this gap when firing otherwise you will be burned.
YouTube channel Hickok45 actually has demonstrations of both:
6. Practice, Practice, and Practice some more
The best way for you to learn is to practice. Get familiar with your gun, your local range, and set goals for yourself to improve. Shooting on a regular basis will help you understand and control your trigger reset. It will also help you become more comfortable shooting, but shooting isn't the only thing that you should practice:
- Practice loading and unloading your magazine or chamber: If you purchase a new semi-auto, the spring inside the magazine will be extremely stiff. The more you practice loading, you can break it in quicker and get used to the retention.
- Practice different stances: You never know what position you will be in when you need to use your gun, so practice them all. Practice leaning, standing to the side, sitting, and laying down (if the range will let you).
- Practice dry-firing: Dry-firing is the act of shooting a gun without ammunition. After you have verified and confirmed that your gun is unloaded remove your magazine, go to a room where you have absolutely no ammunition, and locate an area that is safe to point your gun. Practice pulling the trigger. This technique can help you familiarize yourself with the trigger pull and reset. When you know when the round will fire, you won't be surprised. Fully understanding when your round will fire can help your aim. Most beginners try to anticipate when the round will fire, which ultimately causes them to push the gun downward when pulling the trigger because they want to avoid the recoil. When you know, you can relax your grip, straighten your aim, and you won't have to worry about shooting too low.
- Practice shooting with both eyes: Most people will tell you to determine your dominate eye and aim with that. However, practice to help prepare yourself for unexpected occurrences. Shoot with one eye closed for each eye and then try shooting with both eyes open.
- Practice with different targets: Using the same cutout and posting it on the same height and at the same distance every time is not going to help you improve. The odds that your attacker will be as tall and as far away as what you've been setting your targets at every day is slim to none. Turn the over, post them up higher or lower to the ground, and try all different scenarios. When you feel that you're shooting fairly well at one type of target, try changing it up and shooting at something smaller.
Shooting skills won't just come to you overnight. In general, it takes time to feel comfortable. Don't be discouraged if you can't shoot the center of the target every single time.
With time, constructive feedback, and practice, you should be shooting like a pro in no time at all.