A firearm, that is. If so you are NOT ready for the range. You need to learn how to shoot accurately and proficiently. But don’t worry, though it will take some work it will be fun and you will come out of it feeling confident and competent.
OK, time to build our knowledge base and master some skills, from the ground up.
OK, number one is gun safety. There are two sets of gun safety rules: One for those who know nothing about guns, and one for those who intend to learn to handle a gun. Usually, when asked what the first rule of gun safety is, I hear ‘Keep your finger off the trigger.’ Not a bad answer, but incorrect! Why? Because $#t happens. Let’s start with basic gun safety. If you don’t know much about guns and are not trained in safe gun handling (we’re going to fix that), the first set of rules are the following:
- Do not touch!
- Leave the area (so you are not tempted to violate Rule #2, and so if some knucklehead does violate that rule, you will be elsewhere. Never feel silly about walking out of a room or leaving a building where some DD (dangerous dolt) is channeling his/her inner cowboy. Get out now!
- Tell someone. For kids, this means tell an adult, for adults it means tell a knowledgeable, responsible adult.
But we want to be able to pick up that gun or to be the responsible adult and remove it from the temptation of goobers. Good! I highly recommend checking out YouTube for a video showing and explaining the nomenclature of guns. Here’s 6 minutes of basic instructions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSEzRgpE4OI is short (6minutes) and very basic. Here’s some more:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jietpKOrTJA is another basic video. Look around for more. It’s an esy way to gain a little knowledge. Watch them both.
Now, the number one rule of safe gun handling is ‘always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.’ What is a muzzle? I thought you watched the videos. What is a ‘safe direction?’ It is a direction in which if the gun fired there would be NO loss of life and minimal property damage.
Next come the still-important but not #1 rules:
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Less elegantly said, ‘keep your booger hook off the bang switch.’ Now guns are ergonomically designed to make it easy to put your finger on the trigger, so what the heck do we do with mister pointer finger? Instead of just knowing what NOT to do, we need to have a purposeful intent of what to do. Put your trigger finger on the frame just above the trigger guard. Now you have a definite place to put your finger. For well over 20 years I have been drawing and shooting on a live range with other deputies right next to me and I can assure you that you won’t lose any time moving your finger from the frame to the trigger. I can start with my hands empty and crossed over my abdomen or in the air, draw my firearm, and shoot accurately faster than most people can un-holster their gun. I am nothing special, it just takes practice.
- Keep the firearm unloaded and in a case if you are not intending to shoot it in the immediate future.
- Only carry the caliber of ammunition that fits your gun
- Know your target and what is beyond. Guns shoot a long way; farther than you can see, so know what’s out there.
- Do not un-holster your firearm until you are ready to shoot. Our command to draw our weapons and shoot on the range was ‘Threat!’ If we were moving on the range the firearm was at ‘low ready’ pointed at the ground in front of us, or it was holstered.
This is by no means a definitive list of safety rules. There are of course a myriad of additional rules and I suggest you do some reading on them. One thing to remember: Many pistols do NOT have a manual safety so you need to make safety a way of life. When I teach classes, everyone has to recite this mantra from memory: “A safety is a mechanical device and mechanical devices are prone to failure.” The best safety is in your head!
Now let’s talk about the body mechanics of shooting. You know, muscles and bones. The kind of things a ballet teacher or a basketball coach call the basics and hammer into you until they are done without thinking.The gun must be supported properly, so we’ll start with a firm foundation and work up. This is optimal and you may have to shoot with a poor form or off balance at some time, but having the basics down will improve the bad times.
Start with your feet approximately shoulder width apart, toes facing forward, and one foot about half a foot length ahead of the other. I use my non-dominant foot but learn to shoot with the dominant foot forward, too. Just like you have a dominant hand and a dominant eye. Know which is which. Most right handers are right eye dominant, but that is not always the rule. Some right handers are left eye dominant. So get your feet positioned, standing erect but relaxed, legs straight but not locking the knees. Back straight and head erect. Don’t drop your head. Since these exercises are done without a gun, we’ll assume you are in your living room. With both eyes open point your index finger on your right hand at a wall switch, lamp, doorpost, or whatever is handy. Now close your left eye. If your finger is still pointing at the light switch you are right eye dominant. Now switch, opening the left eye and closing the right one. If your finger appears to jump to the side of your ‘target’ you are right eye dominant. If it stays on the switch, you are likely left eye dominant. If you are right handed but left eye dominant you will need to turn your head slightly and sight with your left eye. Don’t worry; millions of people shoot that way. I taught a photographer from a local newspaper and he did it that way. Now you know which eye to aim with. Hang in there, you will be able to pick up a gun pretty soon.
Next, let’s assume the shooting stance: Feet, knees, head. Now raise both your arms with your hands clasped together. Act like a little kid and point your dominant hand trigger finger, wrapping your weak hand around the dominant one. Firmly but not tight, just comfortable. I’m going to teach you an ‘isosceles’ stance, so your arms should be straight out, elbows locked and hand up to eye level. A true isosceles stance would have both feet equal, but having one slightly in front strengthens your base. Try it. With feet completely equidistant have someone push back on your shoulder. Then split your stance slightly front to back and have them push again. You should be able to tell a definite difference in your stability. Practice this form of standing straight but relaxed and bringing your hands up to eye level. If you are dropping your head to the level of your hands, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t worry, it’s a natural mistake. Fix it and practice doing it right. Bring your hands up to your eyes. Just keep going.
OK, practice moving into the shooting stance from a relaxed ‘hanging out’ standing position. Now do it again. Again. Again. Do it until your body begins to develop muscle memory and it becomes automatic to assume the position.
Great job! Now repeat this exercise 250 times. 5 groups of 50 repetitions, or 10 groups of 25 reps. Not kidding! It takes approximately 250 repetitions to develop muscle memory. Remember, you are learning how to survive a gunfight. You’re going to be shooting successfully in no time. Just like an NFL linebacker, never stop practicing the basics. Try to get in 25-50 reps a day after you learn it and you’ll stay fresh. It will pay off.