Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Handgun Shooting Fundamentals


Handgun Shooting Fundamentals

By: Dan Meadows
(Originally written for The Shooting Channel and the Daily Caller)

When we talk about handgun shooting fundamentals, you just have to begin this conversation somewhere!  We have all started our pistol shooting somewhere, and generally speaking, we were all taught by someone else in our lives. Yet there are a few of us out there, who have ventured out far enough, away from the mainstream of shooters, and who have taught themselves how to shoot a handgun properly. Some of us did this in the beginning of our shooting craft, while yet others learned this self-trained skill later on in their shooting lives.  For those of us who were brave enough, skilled enough, and who journeyed away from the pathway of “norm”, we did this oh so well!

When you went out to purchase your new firearm, you either went to a gun store, a range/gun store combination, or even to a big box store for that new gun purchase. While you were there, you may have also picked up a holster, eye and ear protection, ammo, a cleaning kit, and maybe even some targets to shoot at. Of course, as you can see, this get’s a bit expensive, doesn’t it?

Now that you’ve made all your firearms and accessories purchases, you’re ready to go out and shoot some, right? “Hmmm, wow! You got me thinking there Dan”! “Ok, so now what do I do?” 

Well, the first question that you should ask yourself is “do I know how to shoot my new gun”? Secondly, “Do I need to take lessons from a certified firearms instructor”?  And lastly, “Where do I go out to shoot”? 

To answer those questions, let’s break each of them down, one-by-one. After we do this, then we can step up to our next level of handgun shooting fundamentals.

Do I know how to shoot?

a.    This alone is a self critiquing question that only you can answer for yourself.

b.    The problem here is that we sometimes feel that we already know how to shoot, when in reality we find ourselves struggling just to put it on target.

c.    You can gauge your marksmanship abilities by simply counting the amount of rounds you have placed into a designated area of your target. Not just on the target, but in a tight set of groupings at your point of aim, or at the bullseye, etc.

d.    If you are all over the place with loose groupings, or if you have complete misses, then you might want to consider finding a certified firearms instructor.

Do I need to take lessons from a certified firearms instructor?

a.    Without a doubt there are many CFI’s out there to choose from. Some are more qualified than others. So how do you choose one CFI from another? You need to shop around. Compare prices and what type of courses are being offered by the CFI’s. Get the best “BANG” for your buck $.

b.    Once you have chosen the right CFI, attend one or more of their classes to improve your handgun shooting fundamentals. Start with the basics and then go for more advanced shooting skills and instruction.

c.    Attend other CFI courses or schools like; TAP3X ( or others. Once you find the right instructor, your handgun shooting fundamentals will improve immensely.

Where do I go out to shoot?

a.    For most of us, this seems like an easy enough question, however it does not always end with an easy enough solution.

b.    Depending on what state, city or county you live in, finding a place to shoot may be a difficult task to accomplish.

c.    Many areas of our country do not have the appropriate indoor or outdoor ranges provided for you.

d.    Look online or in the yellow pages for shooting ranges.

e.    Ask gun store owners or big box stores if they know where a range is.

f.     Join a gun club.

g.    Ask your friends, shooting or hunting buddies where the best place to shoot is.

h.    Sometimes you can find a place out in the country (outside of city limits) to go shoot. However you must obtain permission from the landowner, if it is not on your own property.

i.      Do not shoot near roadways, industrial areas or houses.

j.      Know your target and what is beyond your target. If you can’t see it, don’t shoot it!

k.    Use backstops to help stop your bullets from traveling great distances.

Firearms Safety (6 Simple Life Saving Rules)

1.    Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

2.    Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

3.    Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

4.    Know your target and what is beyond your target before you shoot.

5.    Carefully read all instructions that come with your handgun, or go online and request a copy of the care and usage instructions from the manufacturer.

6.    When not in use, keep your firearms locked and stored in a safe location.

Know Your Handguns


1.    Has a rotating cylinder designed to house or contain cartridges.

2.    Frame – Considered the backbone of the handgun. All other parts are attached to the frame.

3.    Barrel – Strong metal tube through which the bullet will travel, out the muzzle and on to the target.

4.    Action – The action houses or contains a group of moving parts which are used to load, fire and unload the handgun.

5.    Single Action Revolvers – The trigger movement performs only one function or action. It releases the hammer. The hammer must be cocked with your thumb and will stay in a cocked position until it is released by pulling the trigger towards the rear.

6.    Double Action Revolvers – The trigger movement performs two functions or actions. When the trigger is pulled towards the rear, it cocks and releases the hammer, firing the handgun. Many double action revolvers can still be fired as a single action, however the hammer must be cocked to the rear position, then is released by pulling the trigger to the rear.

Semi-Automatics (Autoloader)

1.    Has a different operating system than that of a revolver.

2.    Cartridges are loaded into a magazine and dispensed through auto loading.

3.    Following a cartridge being fired, by pulling rearward on the trigger, an empty casing is extracted automatically and further ejected. A new cartridge is then loaded into the chamber of the semi-auto pistol.

4.    Frame – This too is considered as the backbone of the handgun and all other parts are attached to the frame.

5.    Barrel – The barrel on the semi-auto has a strong metal tube through which the bullet will travel, out the muzzle and on to the target.

6.    Action – A semi-autos action can vary quite a bit, as there are significantly different mechanical designs available for semi-autos. Some models have hammers, whereas other models do not and are called hammerless.

7.    Single Action Semi-Autos – The trigger performs a single task or action by releasing the internal firing mechanism or hammer whereas the firing pin will strike the cartridge.

8.    Double Action Semi-Autos – The trigger performs two actions or tasks by cocking the hammer or internal firing mechanism on the first shot and then releases the hammer or internal firing mechanism for the next cycle. The slide will then cock the hammer or internal firing mechanism for the second or subsequent shots. Additionally the slide will chamber a new cartridge after each shot is fired. TAP3X Website

Know Your Ammunition

1.    Most would think that this was a trick question. Yet there are some who will attempt to load the wrong size or wrong type of ammunition into a firearm chamber, cylinder or magazine. I have watched this far too often.

2.    Read the instructions that came with your firearm.

3.    Read the caliber or gauge imprinted on your firearm. Also read the box of ammunition or look on the casing of the cartridge or shell.

4.    Ask questions from someone who knows about firearms and who can look at your gun and tell you. Get the right caliber or shot shell size needed for your firearm. If you are hunting, get the right load size for what you are hunting.

5.    Next, don’t attempt to load your ammunition backwards into your chamber, cylinder or into your magazines. Once again, I have watched this far too often at the range.

Marksmanship Fundamentals

1.    Dominant Eye – Shooters Eye: You should always shoot with your dominant eye or shooters eye. This is your stronger eye and will be your main focus eye for sight engagement and sight picture. Some people can train each of their eyes to be a dominant eye, which can be used when you shoot either left or right-handed.

2.    Shooting with Both Eyes Open: Too many times people will close one or the other eye when they are shooting a firearm. How you train is how you will react or shoot when you are placed into a stressful situation like a self defense shooting event. Opening up both eyes, while you practice or shoot a firearm, will allow you a better peripheral vision for target engagements, or for multiple target threats.

3.    Shooting Positions: Learn, understand, align and practice various shooting positions, both with and without your firearms in your hands. Various positions should be practiced and perfected while you are shooting. (Benchrest, One Handed, Two Handed)

4.    Grip: A proper grip is established through several steps or sequences. Proper hand placement onto the frame of the firearm, tightness, comfort, mobility, proper tension and quick adjustments are all key to accomplishing grip perfection.

5.    Stance: For any shooters stance chosen, balance is more important to the shooter than that of the stance itself. Whether you are a target shooter, tactical shooter, or even a plinker, use a stance that is comfortable, mobile, balanced and stable (all-in-one).

6.    Sight Alignment / Sight Picture: In order to establish a proper sight picture, the shooter must understand the relationship between the front and rear sights. Aligning the two sights, using an equal distance and space relationship between the front and rear sights are key to proper sight alignment, and for shooting accuracy.

7.    Trigger Control / Trigger Squeeze: Along with your grip, trigger control or trigger squeeze is important for proper shot placement. Jerking, slapping, or over pressure from your trigger finger will cause your shots to drift off your mark and may even miss your target. A shooter should squeeze the trigger by using the tip pad of the first joint on your shooting finger, thus pulling the trigger straight towards the rear with a smooth engagement of pressure. Pulling the trigger rearward and then fully releasing the trigger without losing touch contact with the trigger will cycle your firearm for the next shot sequence.

8.    Follow Through: In order to deliver your bullets on target, a shooter must practice and maintain follow through throughout the shot sequence and target engagement. A shooter does this in order to maintain a direct alignment from the muzzle to the target, and to allow for the bullet to leave the muzzle without any variance of shot alignment or shot placement onto the target.

9.    Breath Control: In order to minimize body movements while you are shooting, breath control should be monitored and appropriately used. Some shooters will hold their breaths while shooting, while others will time their breathing sequences to match their respective shooting rhythms and target engagements.

10. Shooting Rhythm: Shooters can get into a shooting rhythm that can either help or hinder their shooting performance. If a shooter varies their shooting rhythm, the space interval between each shot being fired, they could miss a bullseye opportunity altogether, or may even miss a target engagement entirely. Understanding shooting rhythms, intervals, and timing is crucial for the serious shooter. Whether they are in competition or in street battle.  

Put It On Target

Putting shots on target can either be an easy, or difficult task to perform. Doing so all depends on how much you have learned throughout your firearms training, the shooting skills that you have developed through continuous practice sessions, or how much you have paid attention to your shooting instructors throughout your course of your firearms instruction.

The Parting Shot

Handgun Shooting Fundamentals are a basic platform to build from. They can, and are at many times revisited throughout a shooter’s lifespan.  In order to improve upon one’s shooting skills, a skilled shooter will always go back to the basics, and will further build upon a stronger foundation, in all of the shooting sports.

Join us for our next “Put It On Target” series.

Our next article will cover;

Common Shooting Errors

Correcting Your Groupings or Shot Patterns

You Can Never Train Enough With or Without Firearms

Shot Perfection Through Practice Sessions

Bringing Your Shooting Skills Up To The Next Level

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