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Firearm Safety And Shooting Tips (A Complete Guide)

Note: This article is a guest post by Viljoen vd Merwe of the site Online Barracks. Check out that site, Online Barracks, for some great articles on shooting! Given that Americans are buying more guns than ever (and for good reason), I thought it would be a helpful guide for all of you that might have bout your first gun but not know how to use it. Enjoy reading! -Gen Z

If you have ever applied for a firearm license, you will realize just how important the safety aspects of a firearm are.

These weapons are not toys, and there are some basic rules that you need to follow to provide a safer experience for you and the people around you. In this guide, I will also cover some shooting tips that you can use to improve your accuracy as a marksman.

Safety and shooting will go hand in hand, while safety should be at the back of your mind at all times.

Let’s start with the first section, which is also the most critical, called basic gun safety.

Basic gun safety rules

It is crucial to know that when handling a firearm that safety is your number one priority. You are handling a weapon that has the potential to kill, and you do not want to risk your life or anyone else’s because of your inability to control a pistol properly.

Below I will go over 7 of some of the critical aspects of safety that you need to remember when handling a firearm.

Treat your firearm with respect

In the back of your mind, you should always remind yourself that a firearm can be a dangerous weapon. There are just so many things that can go wrong, and you should take extra effort to handle your gun consciously. You should also treat your firearm as if it is loaded at all times.

Take notice at where you point your firearm

I have seen many cases where people randomly point their firearms in all directions, which is a terrible habit. You should never point your firearm at a person even if the gun is not loaded with ammunition. There might still be a bullet in the chamber which can go off without any warning. The best advice that I can give is to point your firearm to the ground.

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Know what is behind your target

If you have ever watched a movie called “Calibre,” then you will know why this part is so important. At all times, you should be aware of what is behind your target before you even put your finger on the trigger. There might be an innocent child or animal behind the target that can fall victim to your bullet. This consequence is also entirely avoidable and not worth the risk.

Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot

When you have located your target and your gun is pointed towards it, then and only then are you allowed to put your finger on the trigger. Accidents do occur especially if you involuntarily pulled the trigger. Just put your finger on the trigger if you consciously decided to destroy the target.

Always keep your pistol unloaded until ready to use

If your firearm is not in use, try to remove the magazine and the last bullet from the chamber. It is also best practice to keep the slide lock pulled back so that you can also freely inspect the pistol to see if it has a bullet in the chamber.

Make use of the safety mechanism

The safety mechanism is only an extra safeguard to prevent the gun from shooting. Most pistols will have a pin on the left-hand side of the weapon that you can move up, which will prevent the gun from shooting. Along with all of the other points listed in this section, you can now say that you are handling your firearm safely.

Always use eye and ear protection

When shooting at a range or an open field, it is essential to protect your eyes and ears. You can use ear muffs that will cancel out some of the noise from your shots. You can also wear protective glasses, which will prevent any particles from entering, damaging your eyes.

How to load and unload your firearm

To load and unload your gun should be done safely and systematically to avoid accidents. Let’s start with how you should load your gun.

Load your gun in 6 steps

  • The first thing you should do is make sure that there are no obstructions inside your firearm. You can have a look inside the slot where you need to store the magazine. Pull the slide back and make sure that there is not a bullet in the barrel.
  • Ensure that the handgun slide is pulled back and locked with the slide release lock.
  • Now that your handgun is clear of any obstructions and pulled back, pick your handgun up with your dominant hand. Make sure to point the gun in a safe direction.
  • Pick up your magazine with your non-dominant hand and use your index finger to make sure that the bullets are correctly in place inside of the magazine. If this is not done right, the magazine might not go into the handgun properly.
  • Once the magazine is safe, you need to feed the magazine into the bottom area below the handgun’s handle. Once the magazine is seated correctly, you can now slide it up into the pistol. Also, make sure that no part of your body or skin gets caught up between the magazine and the gun.
  • Now that the magazine is in place, you can release the slide lock to allow the first bullet to slide inside the barrel.


How to unload your handgun

  • First, you need to make sure that the handgun is pointed in a safe direction if it accidentally goes off.
  • Hold your non-dominant hand below the handgun and hold in the magazine release button until the magazine slides out and falls into your hand. This release button is located right behind the trigger on the left-hand side of the firearm.
  • Once the magazine is out, you can now use your non-dominant hand to pull back the handgun slide. Pull it back far enough until the bullet jolts out.

How to become a better marksman

There are about nine points that you can do to shoot more accurately to hit your targets more frequently. These points are also fundamental in your success to be a better marksman.

Your grip is crucial

It is difficult for every person to hold a pistol in the same way. The reason for this is that the size of our hands differs. There are some fundamental rules that you can follow that will help with any hand size. Below are some steps that you can follow. This type of grip will give you a more stable platform to shoot:

a) Hold your pistol as high as possible. Take your dominant hand and try to hold the gun as high as possible just below the slide. If you put it behind the slider, then you will injure yourself.

b) Take your three lower fingers (pinky, ring, and middle finger) and tightly hold the handle of your handgun.

c) Take your other hand (non-dominant) hand and put your wrist on the left-hand side while holding your thumb parallel to the slider. Take the four fingers of your non-dominant hand and tightly grip them around and over the three digits of your dominant hand.

d) Bring the thumb of your dominant hand over your non-dominant hand and make sure that your fingers do not get caught up with the slider.


Have a proper stance while shooting

Who would have ever thought that the way you stand could influence your accuracy? Yes, you heard right. It is well known that your stance will determine how well you manage your recoil control. If your stance is very stiff, then you will have problems with recoil control.

a) You need to have proper foot position. Make sure that both feet are stretched out in such a way that they are just as wide as your shoulders are from each other.

b) You need to put the best foot forward. If you are a right-handed shooter, then your left foot should be in front. If you are a left-handed shooter, then your right foot should be in front.

c) Make sure that your knees are well bent. This action will also ensure that your center of gravity is in place, which will help with the recoil.

d) You should slightly bend your chest forward. By doing this, you will also counter some of the recoil created from your gun.

e) Slightly bend your elbows. If your elbows are locked, the recoil force will be distributed to your shoulders which is not good with recoil control. If your elbows are slightly bent, they will act as shock absorbers helping with some of the recoils.

Determine your dominant eye

It is almost impossible to look through your iron sights with both eyes. This is the reason why you only need to use one of your eyes. The best one to use can also be called your dominant eye. Below, I will show you how you can find just that.

To find your dominant eye, you need to place your finger over an object. If you are a right-handed shooter, then put your right index finger on an object. Close your left eye and only look through your right eye.

If your finger still appears on the object, your right eye is dominant over your left eye. You can also confirm by closing your right eye and only looking through your left eye. If your finger shifts off the object with your left eye, it establishes that you are right eye dominant.


How to aim your iron sights

Sight alignment is one of the most crucial aspects for when you want to aim more accurately. It is also shocking to know that most people do not even know how to align their iron sights properly.

Let’s start with the mechanics that are involved. The front side post will be the part of the sight that is on the tip of the nozzle at the end of the barrel. It will represent a small pin.

The rear sight will be right before the hammer of the pistol and represent two small bars. Your job as a marksman should be to align these two parts of the iron sight so that they are both vertically and horizontally center.

You should also remember to bring the focus to your sight and not your target. Most experienced shooters can quickly switch the focus from the target to the sight and vice versa. You should also test whether the front side post should be on the target or just below it.

The distance of your target will also affect the position of where your front side post should be.

Get familiar with recoil control

I have already mentioned how vital your stance is when managing your recoil. Remember to keep your feet at shoulder width, knees slightly bent, chest slightly forward, and also keep your elbows bent. This part is very crucial, and here is a second video that will explain it all again.

Diagnosing Accuracy Problems

Most experience marksmen will experience some accuracy problems over time. Even some of the slightest changes in form or grip can cause a deviation in your accuracy. What is the best way to tackle inaccuracy problems? You need to diagnose them.

a) Create a grouping on a target

First, you need to shoot a couple of shots in a target (3-5 shots) to create a grouping. From there on, you can diagnose your current problem by the location of the gathering. You also have to make sure that all of your shots are landing in the same place otherwise, this process will not work. If your shots are all over the place, then it means that your form is inconsistent and needs more work.

b) Divide your bullseye into 4 quarters

The target that you will use will have a bullseye which is divided up into four quarters. Now aim at the bullseye and have a look at which quarter your grouping is located.

Now that your target is set and you have your first grouping, let’s start with the diagnosis:

  • Your grouping is located on the left (9:00 clock) position next to the bullseye. This means that you have “too little trigger finger” on the trigger. Too little trigger finger means that you are pulling from the tip of your finger.
  • If your grouping is located on the right side of the bullseye (3:00 clock), then it means that you have too much trigger finger on the trigger. The video above will explain all about trigger finger placement.
  • Your grouping is located above the bullseye (12:00 clock) position. This can indicate that you are anticipating the recoil, and you are pulling the gun upwards.

Squeeze the trigger instead of pulling it.

It is important to remember to squeeze your trigger instead of pulling it. This is some excellent advice, along with the position of your trigger finger. When you start to pull the trigger, your shots will be inaccurate. It will be inaccurate because your gun will jerk to the position of that of your trigger finger’s location, as explained in the above section. By pulling your trigger, you will only make things worse.

Remember to breathe

Breathe control is where you combine your trigger control with breathing. The biggest problem with breathing control is that your chest will expand when you inhale, and in turn, your whole body will move. This entire body movement will also influence your aim. The gun will move up a little bit when you inhale and drop when you exhale.

Here is the solution:

The first thing to remember is to keep breathing. The only difference is that you will time your shots at the point when you have fully exhaled. So what you need to do is to breathe in deep and then slowly exhale. Once You have reached the body of your breath, you then squeeze the trigger.

The reason for this is that your body is the most still when your lungs are empty.

Practice makes perfect

Did you know that you get more out of dry fire practice than shooting with live ammunition? It is also a much cheaper way to practice as well. Dry fire practice is where you shoot with your gun without any ammo inside. You can shoot as many times as you want without spending any money.

a. The dry fire drill

It is also important to note that you can practice all of the points that I have mentioned above with the help of dry fire. Before I start with the drill, let’s consider safety first.

Ensure that your gun has no bullet in the chamber and that there are no bullets in the magazine. As a general rule, make sure that there is no ammunition in the area where you practice.

Here is what you can practice while doing dry firing:

  • Your stance
  • Your draw
  • Your grip
  • Your aim
  • Trigger placement

With this practicing method, you can train all of your fundamental techniques, which will improve your shooting in the long run.


b) The First Shot Drill

This drill is handy for the defensive shooter. First, you will start with a pistol in your holster while keeping your hands off the gun.

The second step is to take the pistol out of the holster and then aim it towards the target.

The third step is to fire a bullet at the target and then putting the gun back inside the holster. You can practice this technique along with dry firing if you do not want to spend too much on ammo.

You can start very slow until you have the basics right and then increase your speed once you become more efficient at using this technique.

c) The Double Tap

The double is very useful at training your trigger finger to have more control over it. Make sure that your grip is decent, and then shoot at a target twice in a row. Once you have double-tapped, you need to reset your trigger finger by moving it away from the trigger.

You can also use this technique along with dry firing to save money. The double shot training will also prepare you to shoot two shots in a row which will deal more damage to an attacker. You can also use this along with the first shot drill, which will train your draw as well.

d) The Mozambique Drill

The Mozambique Drill is very similar to the double-tap but also incorporates a third shot. First, you need to deliver three shots to the chest and then one more to the head. This is one of the most effective self-defense training drills that you can follow with a handgun.

You also need to remember that this technique is used to take down an attacker because of the last shot. Also, make sure that you know the laws in your country regarding self-defense before you practice this drill.

Final word

Whether you are into self-defense, hunting, and recreational shooting, you need to read this article. I covered all of the safety aspects regarding a firearm and some lessons on improving your shooting.

Please leave a comment below if you want to add something to this article that might benefit all of us.

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