Anyone who has ever held a gun in their hand would know that shooting a target is no child’s play. It is a skill that develops over time as a result of routine practice. In fact, a lot of know-how goes behind holding a gun and shooting accurately.
If you are a beginner who doesn’t know how to shoot a handgun, this article will give you some detailed tips to get you started. Keep reading to take the first step towards learning how to use your home defense handgun properly.
Choosing The Right Handgun
Before you even think about shooting targets, you first need to get the right handgun. We cannot start with handgun shooting tips before we acquaint you with the process of choosing the right handgun. A beginner cannot expect to hold just any gun and start shooting with it. In fact, they require lighter guns to help them develop the muscle memory and basic skills required in handling the gun the correct way.
At the same time, selecting a gun for beginners is also a task in itself. There are actually a number of things that you should consider before getting a gun. Some of them include the size of the gun, the size of your hand, and the purpose for which you require the gun. We have mentioned these and more below:
Factors To Consider When Buying Your First Handgun
1. Type Of Handgun
As a beginner, when your purpose is training and practice, you will want a handgun that is relatively easy to handle. You can get a small-caliber gun for the same purpose. It will be enough for learning basic defense as a starter. On the other hand, a high-caliber gun will cost more and can be a little hard to handle.
2. Caliber Size
Caliber is the size of the round. Caliber sizes in guns range from .45 ACP to .40 Smith and Wesson. However, for beginners, 9mm is considered the best as it recoils mildly. It has a higher capacity, too, and can take up to 15 rounds or more at a time. With this caliber, you won’t have to reload again and again, which is a major plus point for beginners. Beginners often do not know how to load a cartridge. If they have to reload every time they shoot, they will lose focus. A 9mm caliber will take this worry away.
This caliber size is also easier to control and aim. Beginners can find it difficult to adjust to harsh recoil and hence, will find one with a soft recoil more suitable.
However, this caliber size is not as powerful as the others. It is only ideal for practicing as a beginner. For more serious situations, such as home defense, you will eventually have to upgrade to other caliber sizes. Nevertheless, any beginner should start with this caliber size only.
3. Size Of The Handgun
When we talk about the size of the gun, it should fit nicely in your palm. Any gun that is too big or too small for your hand would cause you discomfort, and that can cause trouble. Pay attention to the size of the trigger, too. Smaller triggers are easy to pull than bigger ones. Overall, the perfect handgun is one that fits snugly into your hand and palm.
Some may think that the more compact the handgun, the efficient it will be in handling. However, any trained person will tell you otherwise. A 4-5 inch handgun is the ideal size for people who are just starting to learn the handling of a gun.
The reason why a full-size handgun is suitable for beginners is simple – it has a larger grip-area and therefore, is comfortable to hold and keep stable. Moreover, it also has a wider sight radius. Beginners, who are not used to using the front and rear sight of a gun can adjust better to a bigger sight radius in a full-size gun than a smaller one.
Handguns like Glock 19 9mm and even Mossberg MC1sc single stack 9mm pistol are some of our best recommendations for beginners.
To understand ammunition, you will have to understand what “stopping power” means first. It is how the bullet affects the target. If it only creates a small hole in the target, it has a lower stopping power and vice versa.
When it comes to ammunition for beginners, get that ammo that have high stopping power. They will create maximum harm to the target and will maybe even reduce it to shards. Hence, the person practicing will be able to clearly see if they hit the target.
Areas To Work On For Beginners
When you have a gun in your hand, you should know the standard stances or positions to use it. There are mainly three stances – the isosceles stance, the weaver, and the modified Weaver stance.
Go through all stances and practice firing a few shots to see what position you are most comfortable with. The isosceles stance requires you to stand with your arms stretched out right in front of you. It is a position that requires you to stay the most stable. The other two stances just require some modified leg and arm positions.
When you are just learning how to shoot a handgun, your stance will determine your level of comfort with your weapon. It will also subsequently affect the shot that you fire from it. Therefore, spend time working on your stance if you want to be a good shooter.
The next thing that you should consider is the kind of grip that you have to maintain on your handgun. It should be firm, stable, and tight. If you have a crushing grip on it, the chances of missing your target will be lower because your hand will be steady. On the other hand, a loose grip will only make things harder for you.
Your grip on the handgun also depends on how you hold the gun. There are many ways to hold a gun. To keep it the most stable, you should keep the area between your thumb and your forefinger as high on the grip of the gun as possible. This will also help contain the recoil of the slide that moves back and forth every time you shoot.
Remember to always keep your forearm straight and not angled or bent, although the latter will feel more comfortable. The idea is to get comfortable with the awkward positions and grip to make the eventual process of shooting easier and accurate.
3. Thumb Placement
Next comes the thumb placement on the gun. If you are wondering how to shoot a handgun better, pay attention to this tip. You can keep the thumb of your dominant hand either pointing up or straight ahead. This depends on your personal preference and comfort. Meanwhile, your non-dominant hand will run in alignment along with the frame of the gun. Make sure that you avoid limp wristing as it will create instability and will not allow proper ejection of the cartridge.
Sight focus is one thing that most beginners struggle with. The first instinct with a gun in your hand is to squint hard with just one eye open to focus on the target. However, in reality, shooters often use both eyes to view and focus on their target.
It can be helpful to keep both eyes open. Initially, it will feel weird, but as you practice and go ahead, you will find that it in fact gives you more focus on your target. It will also help prevent eye fatigue and provides more awareness. You can also see some double-vision when you keep both your eyes open, but that will go as you learn to work your focus right on to your target.
This is probably one of the most ignored handgun shooting tips. Also, remember to properly align the top of the front and rear sight. It helps with accuracy and focus.
5. Trigger Pull
Yes, there is a correct way of doing even a seemingly simple thing as pulling the trigger. Ideally, you should squeeze the trigger very slowly to make your shots more accurate. You should also be careful about where you place your finger on the trigger. It should neither be too low nor too high, nor it can affect the shot.
If you want to learn how to shoot a handgun accurately, you will have to spend several hours practicing. There is no easy or quick way to get to use a gun. Ideally, you should make your own practice routine. For beginners, practicing every week or every other day is a good idea. The more you practice in the beginning, the better your basics will be.
Once you are thorough with your basics, you won’t require much time in bettering your existing skills. On the other hand, if you get lazy in the initial learning phase and do not work on your fundamentals, you will never truly be able to learn better.
Here are some ways of practicing effectively with your handgun –
During dry-firing, you can pull the trigger on an empty gun for the sake of practice. It will just make the hammer strike on an empty chamber. First of all, you will have to find out whether your gun is made for dry-fire practicing or not. Some guns are not made for it and can get damaged if forcefully dry-practiced.
Different guns are suitable for different things. So, any handgun that fires rimfire rounds is not suitable for dry-fire practicing. On the other hand, if your gun shoots centerfire rounds, you can do it.
Dry fire practicing will help you develop muscle memory to help you with the trigger pull. You can practice for a few minutes a day or on alternative days. It will also give you a chance to work on your posture and grip on the gun.
Before you begin practicing, make sure that your gun is unloaded. One good habit to develop is to always check your gun to see if it is empty every time you pick it up. Next, set up a small target to shoot at a distance and practice aiming it accurately. Also, practice trigger reset pulls.
2. Range Practice
Building up the muscle memory of dry-firing is essential before range practicing. If you don’t, you may flinch whenever you pull the trigger and fire a shot, and that is exactly what you want to avoid when practicing.
For some more professional practice, you can join a shooting range where you can load up real ammo and practice with that. Any self-learner who doesn’t know anything about how to shoot a handgun will benefit immensely from joining a shooting range.
There are also other things that you should take care of when you have a gun in your hand for practice. While you are practicing, be mindful of always checking the gun to see if it is empty or loaded at all times. You can also start off with a couple of dry shots before doing the real job.
It is a good idea to start at a shorter distance, especially if you are a beginner. You can even begin with a supported position to get more accuracy with the shots. You can sit down or place your elbows on a bench to make the shot as stable as possible. You can also lean in a little bit if you like. The idea is to make the shots precise. Taking some help for learners is okay.
Investing in good-quality shooting gear can prevent potential trouble and injuries if you are a beginner. It is necessary because while you are still in the process of learning and perfecting your shots, you are bound to make unforeseen mistakes. Moreover, shooting gear is not just meant for protection, but there are also some useful tools that can actually help you better your shots.
Any guide about handgun shooting tips for beginners will be incomplete without the mention of shooting gear. There are a number of accessories that you can find helpful in bettering your stances and focus. We have listed some of them for you below:
1. Ear Protection
It can take time to adjust to the sound of the gunshot for beginners. If you invest in noise-cancellation earplugs, you will find some relief from the otherwise thunderous sound of the gun. However, regular earplugs or headsets can cause discomfort to your ear.
Alternative ear protection to avoid this is foam earplugs. They are soft and effective in reducing noise. You can also wear them under ear muffs for double impact in blocking the noise.
2. Eye Protection
Along with earplugs, also invest in something that would protect your eyes. Some simple and clear safety goggles can prevent any stray particles from entering your eyes. Alternatively, you can opt for black glasses if you want to practice in style.
You can also focus better on the target with glasses on your eyes because they will block all unnecessary views. Remember that the glasses should be of good quality and tested for durability. Military glasses work great, but you can get regular sunglasses too.
3. Cleaning Kit
One should always take care of their tools. Invest in a cleaning kit to keep your gun and shooting gear always tidy and shining. You can easily get a portable minigun cleaning kit online and it will contain everything you will need. You will get brushes of different sizes for a thorough cleaning, and also squeeze bottles for your gun oil.
Investing in a kit is also more economical than getting gun-cleaning equipment separately. Moreover, if you practice at a shooting range, you can take the portable kit with you.
When you are learning how to shoot a handgun, you will certainly need a target to hit. If you are hitting on steel or paper targets at a shooting range, you can find it difficult to see where your bullet hits.
You can get various kinds of beginner-friendly shooting targets online and at gun accessory shops. Some shooting targets change color when you hit them, while other reusable ones heal on their own to get back to their original shape.
5. Ammo Can
An ammo can is a necessary shooting gear that everybody needs. You should always keep all your ammo in one place for easy accessibility. Ammo cans are light in weight and come at a reasonable price too. It is a smart accessory to keep with you.
6. Range Bag
Get a range bag to keep your handguns and gun accessories all at one place. You will especially need a bag if you have to travel to a shooting range to practice every now and then. It is an effective way to keep all your things safe and in the same place.
Even if you do not have to travel, it is a good habit to keep your gun-related stuff in one safe place. That way, you will know where exactly to look when you have to get your stuff out.
7. Protective Gun Case
This is another necessity when you are handling guns. To keep your guns safe and away from the access of potential intruders, having a gun case is a must. Gun cases come in different sizes, with different capacities, and are of distinguishable qualities.
A sturdy, hard-plastic gun case will make for a good choice for beginners. It will be light and portable. If you own multiple handguns, go for a case with a larger holding capacity so that you can keep two to four of your guns in one gun case.
A holster is another fun gun accessory that you can add to your gun kit. You can attach it to your belt and keep your gun in it to practice with more seriousness. It will also make your gun easily accessible.
9. Recoil Pads
Recoil pads are an absolute necessity for beginners. It will reduce shock at the time of recoil. You will also get enhanced muzzle control and will feel less recoil. Beginners can use it during the initial days of their training to get used to the sensation and sound. Once you get a little used to it, you can stop using it.
10. Laser Training Tools
Laser Training targets are also similar and great for amateurs. They are a little expensive but will save you your ammo. One such amazing tool that lets you see where exactly your shots hit is Laserlyte. It is supposed to fit into the gun as a dummy, but when you hit it, it shoots a laser out. It gives you the precise location of where your shot went.
11. Hand Strengtheners
When you are just starting to learn how to shoot a handgun, gripping the gun hard can cause some major discomfort. You need some strength in your hand to keep a hard grip over the gun. A hand strengthener is a tool that can help you strengthen your grip.
You can train your hands into gripping the gun as hard as you can to maximize stability with a hand strengthener. This will also help you to deal with recoil better, eventually.
Common Mistakes To Avoid When Shooting With A Handgun
A lot of things depend on how you grip the gun. Having the correct grip is essential for accuracy in shooting the target and also for overall control. The way you manage recoil also depends upon your grip on the handgun.
The “teacup grip” is one among the many inaccurate ways of holding the gun. This grip involves holding the gun with one hand and keeping the other palm under the base of the gun. This is a popular way of holding guns because it is depicted in many movies and shows. This is incorrect because it will be hard to keep the hand stable and the holder will also get no help in managing recoil.
Beware of “limp wristing” too, which occurs when your grip over the gun is not strong and stable enough and your hand gets shaky. This excessive motion will result in the bullet missing the target. To prevent limp wristing, ensure that your arm is correctly aligned with the gun.
If you want to learn how to properly shoot a handgun, working on your grip is important.
Perfecting your stance requires a lot of patience and conscious posture-correction every time you hold a gun. Many people raise their shoulders high and extend their arms out with the gun to shoot the first time they are handed a gun. This is a wrong approach and it will tire you before you even get started.
When you have a gun in your hand, your aim should be to reduce the possibility of getting fatigued as much as possible. With the above-mentioned stance, that becomes almost impossible.
You should always be careful with stances and remember that the key while shooting is stability. The more stable your hand is, the better your shot will be.
Use both your eyes to focus while shooting. It can take some time to develop this habit but it is an important one. Studies show that your vision drops by twenty percent when you close one eye. Identify your dominant eye and try to keep more focus on that one while keeping both eyes open. It sounds tricky for beginners who are learning how to shoot a handgun, but with a little practice, you will learn it.
Another thing that you should keep in mind is that you do not have to focus on the target. Doing that will not make you a precise shooter. Your focus instead should be the front sight of the gun. This is important to shoot accurately every time.
4. Trigger Control
Beginners often lose trigger control when they have a gun in their hands. Losing control or having poor control over the trigger can happen because of many reasons. The most common reason is holding a gun of the wrong size. While starters should opt for full handguns, the size should not be too big for their hands or it will cause problems. This is also why you should do proper research before getting a gun for yourself.
The part of your finger that you keep on the trigger also matters. You should ideally hold the trigger from the area just below your fingertip. Also, remember to always release the trigger slowly and not in one quick go. Take care of such small measures and you will be able to control the trigger of your gun better.
How to shoot a Handgun – Conclusion
Learning how to shoot a handgun can be difficult, but we hope that with this thorough guide, the process will be a little easier for you now. Take time to learn your basics when it comes to stances and grip, and you will see yourself get better in no time.
With this, we have come to the end of our guide and we hope our tips for shooting a handgun will benefit you. You must be equipped with sufficient basic knowledge about handling a handgun on your own.
Michael Castaneda is a 45-year old war veteran from Michigan with a deep interest in guns. After the war, Michael took a pledge to never touch a gun except for the purpose of self-defense. He created Machine Gun Books to guide people on self-defense and providing information on guns and accessories.