How to Shoot A Gun: The Fundamentals of Great Marksmanship


There has been an incredible growth in new gun owners across America. More and more people are taking advantage of their right to own a firearm, and they are happy they did. While the reasons for owning a handgun are numerous, one of the most commonly stated benefits is simply the enjoyment of shooting. Recreational shooting has almost become the new “golf” amongst many people. They plan their day around an enjoyable range session with friends or maybe even a course. It is an empowering and enjoyable event that as many find out, requires skill. The skills to shoot well are built around fundamentals just like golf. While we don’t have to worry about club selection, we do need to focus on things like grip, stance and follow through. With that full dose of analogy complete, let’s look at the four fundamentals of marksmanship.

1. Grip

shooting grip

First up, we need to look at grip. A good grip on the gun is critical if we are to enjoy any sort of accuracy and follow up shots. The best grip will have the barrel in line with the bones in your forearm to begin with. The web of your primary hand should be high on the back of the gun and fully under the back strap. Your thumb should be pointing down the slide. The support side hand will have equally as firm a grip. Your fingers will wrap over the top of your first hand and your thumb will be pointed down the slide as well. The thumb from your strong side hand will now rest on top of the muscle of your support side hand. This “thumbs forward” grip allows the large muscle of your thumb to settle up against the gun. This in turn will create a full 360° grip with no weak spots or openings. This is the key to not only accurate shooting, but to fast follow up shots as well.

2. Sight Alignment and Picture

sight picture

In order for us to be accurate, we have to align our sights correctly; otherwise the shot will be off our intended target. The correct alignment will have the front sight positioned in the middle of the rear sight notch with an equal light space on each side. The top of the front sight will be level with the surface of the rear sight. This orientation of our sights will allow us to consistently hit our target exactly where we intend. The second portion of this section is called sight picture, or what we are seeing. While it can be difficult to do, we need to focus on our sights and not the target. In fact, we need to specifically focus on our front sight. The sight picture we will get from this will be a semi-blurry rear sight, a clear front sight, and a semi-blurry target. The human eye can only focus on one object at a time. The front sight represents the closest thing to a mid-point that we have between us and the target. This in turn makes it the most crucial item in the mix.

3. Trigger Press

how to shoot a gun trigger press

Now it is time to start pressing the trigger. Finger placement on the trigger is important. The trigger should rest on the middle of the last pad of your index finger. The preferred area is right in the middle of the pad which holds your fingerprint. The trigger is not hard to depress and too much finger inside the trigger will cause accuracy issues. Now begin to press the trigger directly to the rear. We want a smooth and continuous motion. You will feel what is called “pre-engagement travel” prior to any real resistance from the trigger. Once you are past that, you will feel a slightly higher degree of tension. Take your time and smoothly press through this as well. The trigger will travel a slight distance further then the gun will fire. A smooth and consistent trigger press is the key to keeping your shots on target. If you rush or jerk the trigger at the end, your shots will miss regardless of how good your sight work is. We are looking for what is called a “surprise break.” This simply means that the gun fires when you have completed a smooth trigger press as opposed to an effort to “make” the gun fire. For many people the actual firing of the gun can cause a flinch. This is where practice and repetition come in. You must accept the fact that the gun is going to fire and embrace it as opposed to fearing it. You are in control. We will want to let the trigger reset now so we can shoot again. As the gun fires, we will slightly release the tension on the trigger and allow it to move forward. It will travel a fairly short distance at which point you will feel and possibly even hear a click. The trigger is now reset and ready to go again. What you will find is that the trigger is much further back than it was on your first press. That is because we will not need to deal with the pre-engagement travel if we have reset the trigger correctly. Do your best to not take your finger off the trigger and allow it to travel all the way forward again. This makes for slow and generally inaccurate shooting with stock triggers.

4. Stance

shooting stance
Photo Credit: The Armory Life

This is where people can really get wrapped around the axel and ideologies emerge. The stance I teach to new shooters is simply what I call a fighting stance. This is the same stance you would take if someone pushed you to the point where you were going to have to fight them. Your support side foot is forward and you strong side foot is back about shoulder width. You are bladed slightly away from the target. You will extend your arms forward with gun in hand. You should be extended but not completely locked out. Your shoulders should be engaged, but not wrapped up around your ears. Lean just slightly forward onto the balls of your feet and get ready to fight. This is a strong position and one you can fire accurate shots from. GLOCKs are lightweight guns and in turn are easy to manipulate in any stance. I have seen brand new shooters train all day with little or no fatigue. While it may seem to be inconsequential, it is a major factor in determining how enjoyable a gun is to shoot. That in turn leads to more training and ultimately improved accuracy.

Shooting a handgun may seem like a bit of a complicated dance with many moving parts. While it is true that they are not as easy to run as Hollywood would have us believe, they can be mastered if you break down the individual components and execute them well. New and experienced shooters alike have a plethora of guns to choose from when they visit their local gun shop. I am a proponent of GLOCK pistols simply because they are very easy to run and are inherently accurate. With some training and practice, just about anyone can enjoy hitting the bullseye. Throw into the mix the reliability and durability of the GLOCK and it is an easy choice to make.



Fred Mastison

By Fred Mastison
Mr. Mastison is a national magazine contributor, author, professional firearms & combatives Instructor and executive protection provider & trainer. He currently writes for 16 separate national magazines. He has been teaching in the industry for over 30 years and has divisions in the US, Ireland, Germany, and Mexico.




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