Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Put it on target: Handgun shooting fundamentals

Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Dan Meadows,

We have all started our pistol shooting somewhere and generally speaking, we were taught by someone else in our lives. Yet there are a few of us out there who have ventured far enough from the mainstream shooters 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 in their shooting lives.

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.

Now that you’ve made all your firearms and accessories purchases, you’re ready to go out and shoot some, right? You ask yourself, “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?

  1. This alone is a self critiquing question that only you can answer for yourself.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

  1. 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 $.
  2. 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.
  3. Attend other CFI courses or schools like; TAP3X ( or others. Once you find the right instructor, your handgun shooting fundamentals will improve immensely.

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.

Dan Meadows runs the TAP3X Group of Companies and is Co-Host of The Shooting Channel.