If you’re one of the millions of new gun owners who purchased their first firearm in the past few years, you likely have little to no prior experience shooting a gun. Shooting and firearms training is a safe and rewarding hobby that promotes numerous practical skills, as long as you practice in the right environment and follow the best safety practices.
Best of all, shooting is for everyone. Regardless of age, gender, or stature, anyone can become a skilled shot, provided you put in the time, effort, discipline, and patience.
Follow these top tips if you are a beginner shooter who wants to sharpen your skills and become a safe, responsible, and skillful gun owner.
The Basics: Learn Gun Safety Rules
Whenever a gun is involved, firearm safety is paramount. Firearm misuse is a primary source of gun-related injuries and deaths. Fortunately, it is easy to be safe with a gun; all you need is to learn, remember, and practice the four basic gun safety rules.
Although many shooting organizations may offer variations in the rules (some with different wording, some with additional restrictions), the primary four are typically found in all versions.
Treat all guns as if they are loaded / All guns are always loaded
This rule emphasizes that no shooter, especially beginner shooters, must assume or trust that a gun is unloaded, even when you think (or are told) it is. A mistake results in a bullet leaving the barrel. If you also broke one of the other rules, it may have devastating consequences.
The only situation where you can safely assume a firearm is unloaded is when you have personally (and safely) verified that it is unloaded. If you don’t know how to unload the gun safely by yourself, ask for the help of someone who does.
Never point a firearm at anything you’re not willing to destroy
This rule teaches beginners the concept of muzzle discipline. Guns are lethal; you should always be mindful of where the muzzle is pointing. Keep it pointed in a safe direction, such as the floor or at a target on the shooting range.
Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot
This rule showcases the concept of trigger control or trigger discipline. Most firearms do not “go off on their own” unless exceptionally unsafe or mechanically unsound. The only way to fire a bullet is to pull the trigger.
Experienced shooters typically rest the trigger finger on or above the trigger guard, well away from the trigger shoe.
Know your target and what lies beyond
You are responsible for every projectile that leaves the barrel. For this reason, you must be sure of your target, what may stand between your barrel and the target, and what may be behind the target.
Certain guns, like rifles, fire bullets that can easily pass through many surfaces and continue onward with enough energy to remain lethal.
Buy the Right First Gun
One of the most common mistakes a beginner makes when purchasing their first firearm is not paying attention to the gun’s specifications and features, often ending up with what an enthusiast would call “too much gun” for the intended application.
If you have little to no prior experience with a firearm, don’t skip directly to a high-powered hunting rifle, shotgun, or a competition shooting handgun. Not only do these guns typically generate too much recoil to practice the fundamentals with, but the discomfort and difficulty of use may discourage you from shooting entirely.
One of the best first guns to purchase is a semi-automatic rifle or pistol chambered in .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR). The .22 LR cartridge is small, generates negligible recoil, and is an excellent way to practice your fundamentals until you’re ready to upgrade to a larger caliber. Additionally, you can find many high-quality .22 LR guns for an affordable price, and the ammunition is relatively inexpensive.
Don’t Forget Eye and Ear Protection
Whether you prefer to go shooting at the range or in your backyard, the two essential pieces of equipment all shooters should have in their gun bags are hearing protection and shooting glasses.
Hearing protection is available in internal (earplugs) and external (earmuffs). They may also be passive or electronically active. Regardless of type, look for the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): the higher, the better. The highest NRR on the scale is 33, but anything between 28 and 31 is suitable for beginners.
When shooting a semi-automatic handgun or rifle, each shot fired results in a spent casing being ejected at high velocity out of the weapon. These casings can fly toward you or other shooters at the range, and these casings (made of steel or brass) will be hot and painful to touch, potentially causing mild burns.
Wearing a pair of shooting glasses protects your eyes from contact with these hazards and maintains safety at the range.
Forget What Movies Taught You
A common mistake beginners make is to imitate shooting stances or positions they see in movies and TV shows. For example, when shooting a pistol, a beginner may hold the gun with what is known as the “tea-cupping” grip: when the off-hand cups the bottom of the shooting hand. This stance does absolutely nothing for recoil control and should be avoided.
Instead, learn proper stances, grips, and breath control techniques, such as:
- Don’t try to shoot from the hip or hold the gun sideways when shooting handguns. Instead, always aim and use your sights as intended.
- When aiming, always focus on the front sight (not the rear sight or the target). Even if the target appears a little blurry, focusing on the front sight is the only way to align your sights correctly.
- Be mindful of your trigger finger’s position. Pull the trigger using the pad of your index finger (not the tip or the crease). An incorrect trigger finger position may throw your shots off your point of aim.
- Pull the trigger slowly but deliberately; do not squeeze or jerk the trigger back
- Always ensure you pull straight back (not at an angle).
Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
You may have heard the adage, “practice makes perfect.” While shooting as frequently as possible is essential, you can develop bad habits and reinforce bad techniques through incorrect training.
Instead, “perfect practice makes perfect” is a more accurate expression, as it is possible to develop bad habits and reinforce bad techniques. Just as you must perform proper reps at the gym, performing the right actions at the range is critical for better accuracy and consistency. Here are some examples:
If you intend to spend some of your time, money, and ammunition shooting, a mindset you should avoid is to go out “just” shooting. Instead, pick a live-fire training drill and make each shot count.
While the static range is good for the basics, it may not adequately prepare you for the intended situations. For example, if you want a gun for self-defense, consider doing some exercise before your shooting session, as it will get your heart rate up and simulate the effects of stress while shooting.
Train from different positions
If your range allows it, consider practicing shooting while crouching, sitting, prone, or in other non-standard positions. It will help you understand how different body positions and postures can affect your accuracy.
Train as you fight
To “train as you fight” is to use the equipment you’re most likely to wear in a self-defense scenario. For example, if you conceal carry in an IWB holster, you’ll want to practice drawing from concealment, using the gun and ammunition you carry every day.
Receive Top-Quality Training With IFA Tactical
Whether you wish to obtain a Michigan CPL or simply want to become a better shooter, IFA Tactical Training is here to help. Our highly-skilled shooting instructors will teach you everything you need to know to become a safe and skilled gun owner, allowing you to exercise your rights and improve your preparedness.
If you’d like to enroll in one of our classes, call us today at (586) 275-2176.