Handgun Basics

Hangun Basics by PK (October 2011 Newsletter)

You may be asked occasionally by a non-shooter friend, co-worker, or family member about shooting a handgun and going to the range. Here are some tips on instructing a non-shooter.

  1. First, explain in detail all the safety rules and the proper and safe handling of firearms. Emphasize all of the range rules. Be sure eye and ear protection are provided and used.
  2. Teach the basic handgun functions of both revolvers and semi-auto handguns; i.e., location of features and how to operate them.
  3. Demonstrate proper sight alignment. Lining up the sights IS NOT ENOUGH. Show what proper sight alignment looks like with a drawing or picture. Make sure your student can demonstrate the sight alignment needed.
  4. Explain that sight alignment is the relationship between the front and rear sights, whereas the sight picture is the relationship between the sights and the target. The sight picture includes the front sight, the rear sight, and the target in correct relationship with each other.
  5. Explain that, when proper sight alignment is maintained, the sights will drift slightly back and forth anywhere within the desired target (wobble area). But the shot will hit the target provided the shot is fired with proper trigger control.
  6. Explain proper trigger control. Squeezing the trigger IS NOT ENOUGH. The learner must be aware that trigger control is a series of adding trigger pressure, STOPPING trigger pressure (not releasing trigger pressure) when the sights/sight picture are out of alignment, CORRECTING ALIGNMENT/SIGHT PICTURE, then continuing to add trigger pressure until the shot is achieved. This may involve PRESS, STOP, ALIGN, PRESS, STOP, ALIGN, PRESS, several times before the trigger pressure is enough to fire the shot. Most inexperienced shooters will incorrectly align the sights, attain a satisfactory sight picture, and then press the trigger hard enough to fire the shot.
  7. Initially, do not allow a novice to shoot a fully loaded revolver or semi-auto. The act of single loading a cartridge for each shot will reinforce the proper operation of the firearm and prevent a dangerous situation in the event the student can‟t control the firearm (muzzle control). Observe the student‟s handling of the firearm before allowing him/her to load multiple cartridges into the firearm.
  8. Let the student fire the first series of shots from a rest to determine if s/he understands proper sight alignment, proper sight picture, and trigger control.
  9. Position yourself close enough to the student so that you can correct an inadvertent loss of muzzle control or unsafe operation of the firearm.
  10. After the student is able to shoot a good group utilizing proper sight alignment and trigger control, you can then get them off the shooting rest and practice shooting in the Weaver Stance or the Isosceles Position.

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