THE SHOOTING BASICS
By: Danny Behymer
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF HANDGUN SHOOTING
After you’ve made the informed decision on the type of Firearm and caliber that you are going to use for your concealed carry firearm, you now need to obtain professional instruction in the proper use of your handgun.
As in any physical activity or sport the key is proper training, and practice, practice, practice! In our Members section we provide a report on the best method of practice there is; Dry Fire Practice. Yes, it is the best single type of practice and in our report we explain why.
In handgun shooting there are six basic fundamentals that you must master to become competent, safe, and accurate so that when you need your skills you will perform your absolute best during an armed encounter.
It is important and even critical to continually practice to master the fundamentals so that in a stressful situation of a shooting your body will instinctively react in the way that it has been taught; this instinctive movement becomes a “conditioned response” or more commonly known as “muscle memory” This could very well save your life!
The following information is provided as a guide only; it is your responsibility to get professional training from a certified firearms instructor.
As you prepare for your professional instruction it is important that you go with the proper mindset of why you’ve made the choices to become a concealed carry permit holder and the gravity and importance of what you’re about to learn.
You’ll be taught by your instructor methods, and tactics on how to handle yourself, your mind, your body, and your Firearm in an armed encounter.
After you receive your initial professional instruction it is incumbent upon you to take what you learn and practice. The importance of proper practice and repetition of the movements that you’re been taught could and will save your life!
Although there are six basic fundamentals that are commonly agreed upon, there are those instructors that believe in a seventh fundamental which would be the actual “Draw” of the firearm, and the subsequent pointing or “putting on target” of the firearm.
The six fundamentals are;
- Sight alignment/sight picture
- Trigger control
Stance is usually in reference to firing at a range while on a firing line. In an actual gunfight you could be kneeling, you could be standing, you could be prone, you could be lying down, and you could be behind concealment or cover. (All of these “Stances” should be considered and practiced once you have completed an advanced or combat course.)
A proper stance position assist in controlling recoil and it will also allow you to move and react quickly, and you will be able to draw your Firearm and put it on target with the least amount of movement.
Stand square to the target, feet should be about shoulder width apart and your weight would be slightly forward on the balls of your feet, your head remains high with your chin pointing towards the target.
Your ears should be in front of your shoulders and your shoulders in front of your hips and it should be a comfortable position.
Some instructors may have you place your strong leg slightly back while you’re leaning forward with your knees slightly bent, this would be known as the Isosceles or modified isosceles stance.
The stance is a support for a shooting platform and there are several types including the following;
- Modified Isosceles
- Modified Weaver
Your instructor will show you each of these, and you will have to find the one that works best for you. The key is finding a stance that helps you have the greatest degree of stability and accuracy for shooting, and the one that you can do with minimal effort and can assume with practice instinctively.
The grip starts at the holster, from the very second that you draw your Firearm and until you re-holster your grip should not change on the firearm.
The only time that your grip should change is if you should have to change shooting hands, or you have a malfunction of the Firearm or are in the process of reloading a cylinder or doing a magazine change.
It is very important that you always practice to always grip your pistol in the same exact way every single time.
Proper grip assists in controlling the recoil and muzzle flip. During this portion of your training by your instructor you will be shown how to properly grip the Firearm with the proper placement of hands and fingers.
Hands must be placed in such a manner that you have a 360° grip around the Firearm as this allows you to engage a target more rapidly.
The grip also refers to whether it will be one-handed or two-handed; the grip should be high, firm, and consistent every time.
A good grip is created by placing the back-strap in the web of the hand and wrapping the fingers around the stock, for a two-handed grip bring the support hand around the front of the grip so that the fingers of both hands overlap. One key point especially with automatics is to have both thumbs pointing at the target with the heel of your non-shooting hand covering the area of the grip that is exposed.
THE DRAW: (The 7th fundamental)
Many firearms instructors believe that the draw of the pistol from the holster should be considered a separate and distinct fundamental.
This fundamental will differ slightly between revolver and automatic as during the draw and bringing the muzzle up on the target with an automatic you’ll need to be disengaging the safety at the same time. (Not applicable on all automatics) During practice sessions it is imperative that you always draw from your shooting position.
The reason this is considered a fundamental is as during an armed encounter the first and most critical step is being able to properly draw your Firearm and bring it on to the target in a smooth and accurate manner, every single time!
IF YOU CANNOT CLEAR THE HOLSTER IN A TIMELY MANNER AND BRING THE FIREARM ON TARGET THEN NONE OF THE OTHER FUNDAMENTALS WILL MATTER, AS IT MAY BE TOO LATE!
Sight alignment is one of the most critical parts of all the fundamentals as the slightest movement of the front sight will result in a miss at even very close ranges.
When viewing your site picture it should be important that the target be somewhat fuzzy and the front sight blade should be crystal clear. Think of it this way, the front sight blade is “point of aim point of impact!”
Correct Sight Picture
Believe it or not when aiming with the front sight blade do not worry about the dots on either side that are located on the rear sight aperture.
The dots located on either side of the rear aperture are really there for low light conditions and only give you a reference point for you to see the relationship to each other. In other words the dots on either side of the rear sight aperture is for lowlight conditions, and yes you would use those dots for aiming but not in a daytime situation while aiming at close range.
Your eyes only focus on one thing at a time and although you want to keep a good sight alignment your focus should be on the front sight, again remember point of aim point of impact!
Statistically most combat or self-defense shooting scenarios take place from 7 yards or closer. With distances so close if the front site is on target the attacker will be hit!
Most would agree that the sight picture for a point of aim point of impact at 7 yards would be “Sight Image 2”
Trigger control in either single or double action mode is typically defined as a steady rearward pressure placed on the trigger while being pulled straight to the rear, to release the hammer and fire the firearm. Trigger control has to be done while maintaining proper sights alignment.
Proper trigger control is defined as a steady pressure on the trigger in a rearward manner by first taking up the slack and then engaging the mechanics of the Firearm and continuing to pull the trigger in a steady pull to a point that you do not know when the Firearm will fire, The Firearm should fire as a surprise to you, and it may sound a bit strange when you first read this but once you get on the range and practice it will become clear to you.
There’s basically three parts of the trigger pull or squeeze:
- Take up the slack
- Follow through
In handgun shooting it is widely accepted that the two most critical of the fundamentals especially in short distance shooting is the “Sight alignment” and “Trigger Control”
Breathing especially during an armed encounter will be one of the last things that you’d be thinking of.
Let’s face it; during an armed encounter if anything you’re breathing would probably be either rapid or in the case of some people they would have a tendency to hold their breath, and neither is something you want to do. Breathing is important so that you keep your blood properly oxygenated so you can maintain:
- Ocular focus
- Proper hearing
- Fine motor skills
- Mental alertness
Although breathing is normally associated with trigger control as in the case of a sniper it is quite different with an armed encounter that is happening only a few feet away.
The best you can do under such a stressful situation is to just remember to breathe deeply and controlled, Do not hold your breath!
Even with being confronted with a stressful situation your training will kick in, it is still very good to practice proper breathing techniques as it will help you as your body will develop a muscle memory on how to respond when you’re shooting under any condition. (Advanced and Combat coursers will teach this in greater detail)
One of the methods that many instructors may use during your initial firearms training is called B.R.A.S.S.
- Release halfway and hold
Follow-through consists of having and maintaining steady pressure on the trigger until it reaches the most rearward point of travel. It also includes maintaining the front sight on target in preparation for a second shot. You want to always be prepared for a second or third follow-up shot as the attacker that you are engaging may possibly require multiple shots to stop their life-threatening activity towards you.
You must be prepared to shoot multiple shots until the attacker is no longer able to threaten your life! Once the attacker has been neutralized you still want to check the immediate surrounding area to make sure there are no other life-threatening attackers.
Once you have completed a firearms instructions course by a certified and professional firearms instructor, and once you feel that you have mastered the fundamentals it is highly recommended that you take an “advanced handgun” or “combat” course to continue developing your shooting skills. These advanced courses are highly recommended as in the event of an actual armed encounter it is unlikely that you and or your attacker will be standing perfectly still as you would find on a typical firing line.
To be prepared and trained for movement you would need to develop advanced skills that allow you to engage a moving target while you yourself may be moving for and or shooting from cover.
The preceding is the very basic fundamentals of handgun shooting, and is provided as a cursory overview that should be demonstrated to you in detail by a certified firearms instructor in a sanctioned training environment.
There is no substitute for proper instruction by a professional. The need for proper training cannot be stressed enough, and should be completed prior to obtaining your concealed carry firearms permit. Remember; Practice, Practice, Practice, be LEGAL and be SAFE!
Slow is smooth…….smooth is fast. Speed is fine–accuracy is final. You can’t miss fast enough to survive. THE FIRST SHOT FIRED MUST CONNECT ACCURATELY AND DECISIVELY. The award ceremony for 2nd place in a gunfight starts at the Coroner’s Office.
In an extreme close quarter shooting situation you may not have time to bring your Firearm up to use the sights, and as part of any competent self-defense shooting training regimen one should include drawing and “point shooting”. Simply put, “you use your sights to qualify and you point shoot to survive.”