Tag Archives: learning to shoot

SKILLS: Recommendations, Rules, and Essential Skills For All New Shooters, Part 2

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Team Springfield Armory’s Kippi Leatham shares her firearms education experiences. There’s a lot here to learn from! KEEP READING

kippi leatham

SOURCE: Team Springfield, Kippi Leatham

[This is part two of an article started on last edition. Last time talked about the importance of technical and safety education. See it HERE.]

STUDY TECHNIQUE
Being taught the right techniques from the get-go can make learning to shoot so much more enjoyable. Good technique also increases the likelihood that you will progress more quickly. Once you develop bad habits, they can be difficult to break, leading to poor results and possibly frustration.

FIND YOUR NATURAL SHOOTING STANCE
There are many opinions on stance, and what works for one may not feel right for you. What’s most important when you begin learning to shoot is that your balance is forward and you don’t lean back (or get pushed back) as you are firing the gun.

My natural (right-handed) shooting stance is:

Standing with my feet hip-width apart
Left foot positioned slightly forward
Knees slightly bent
Relaxed shoulders, forward of my hip bones
Both arms extended fully toward the target
Wrists firmly locked

GET A GRIP
I cannot stress the importance of a good grip enough. As you’ve heard from me before, I always grip a gun the same way, whether I’m picking it up out of the safe, drawing from my holster or shopping for a new addition to my family of firearms. I am always reinforcing my good shooting grip. If you are not properly gripping the gun, you cannot control the shot or recoil as well as you can with a perfect grip.

For more detailed info on how to achieve the perfect grip, check out our blog Mastering Grip: 5 Ways You’re Holding Your Gun Wrong.

And one more gripping tidbit for you newbies – train yourself to hold onto the gun more tightly with your support hand, as it is the hand that will likely move out of position or loosen as you shoot.

EYE DOMINANCE
Do you know if you are right-eye-dominant or left-eye-dominant? This matters, especially when shooting a pistol with iron sights. You most likely will have to close one eye to see a proper sight picture on the target. Knowing your eye dominance will help you determine which eye to close (your non-dominant eye), if needed.

Note that if you are cross-eye-dominant (i.e., right-handed but left-eye-dominant), you may need to make a slight adjustment when aligning the gun, as it will naturally point under your right eye.

SIGHT ALIGNMENT
You know where your front and rear sights are on the slide, but do you understand how to properly align them? Here is where a picture is worth a thousand words…

sight alignment

When learning to align your sights, this is what you should see:

Front sight centered in the rear sight notch with equal space on each side of the front sight
Top of the front sight level with the top of the rear sight

SIGHT PICTURE AND TRIGGER PRESS
Now, all you have to do is place that perfect alignment of sights on the target where you would like the bullet to impact (that combination is what I refer to as the “sight picture”) and press the trigger without moving the gun/sights out of position. Simple as that, right?

Actually, this is one of the more challenging parts about shooting and the technique that you will probably spend the most time on once you’ve got a good, basic foundation.

 

Recommendations, Rules, and Essential Skills For All New Shooters, Part 1

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Team Springfield Armory’s Kippi Leatham shares her firearms education experiences. There’s a lot here to learn! KEEP READING

kippi leatham

SOURCE: Team Springfield, Kippi Leatham

I wasn’t introduced to firearms until I was 23 years young. But even as a new shooter, I always viewed my pistol as another tool in my toolbox of life skills. It’s a piece of equipment, like my 9 iron, that I want to have the utmost ability and confidence with when it comes to taking that shot, whether onto the green of the first hole or to knock down that 25-yard steel pepper popper during an IPSC World Championship.

Learning to shoot pistols and getting into competitions completely changed my life for the better.

Dedicating an enormous number of my adult years trying to master proper shooting techniques in combination with speed and accuracy has been a challenge and a thrill with highs, some lows and wonderful opportunities for travel and life-long friendships. And, as another bonus, I’ve also learned a skill that could one day save my life, Heaven forbid the need ever arises.

Making the decision to enter the world of firearm ownership and learning how to shoot, whether as a hobby, for hunting or home or self-defense, should not be taken lightly, as it comes with huge responsibility and a commitment requirement. To quote the great Jeff Cooper, “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.”

As with any new hobby, craft or martial art, there are rules and essential skills every new shooter must learn. Let’s start with the most important aspect – safety.

SAFETY FIRST
Learn the universal firearm safety rules. And make a commitment to follow them from this day forward:

Treat all firearms as if loaded.

Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction — never point the muzzle at anything you don’t intend to destroy.

Keep your finger off of the trigger and out of the trigger guard until pointed at the target and you have made the decision to shoot.

Know your target, what’s beyond your target and what is in the line of sight.

Always securely store your firearms, keeping them inaccessible to children and other unauthorized users.

GET PROFESSIONAL HELP
I have worked with hundreds upon hundreds of new shooters over the past decade and have witnessed first-hand the challenges that newbies face. Which is why I highly recommend that first-time shooters take a class from a competent fellow shooter or professional firearms instructor as their first step.

There is so much to learn and a lot to actively think about, and the process can be downright overwhelming. So get a recommendation for a good instructor or Google “pistol classes” or “firearms instruction” to get your journey started. (Just try to avoid those Groupon deals with the picture of the woman with the low-cut shirt and improper grip.)

LEGAL UP
The legalities that accompany owning a firearm are complex, are constantly changing and vary by state. As a firearm owner, it is your responsibility to know the laws regarding purchasing, selling, possession, usage, licensing, carrying, self-defense, etc., that are in effect federally, locally (where you reside) and where you travel with your firearm.

A few good resources include:

NRA Gun Laws Map
NRA’s Citizen’s Guide to Federal Firearms Laws
Handgun Laws Website

MASTER THE LINGO
Before you attend your first class, take time to understand the terminology as it relates to your pistol and peripherals. Learning to shoot is a process, and part of the process is learning the nomenclature. You can reference your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website if you’re not already familiar with the proper terminology.

OPERATION
It’s also extremely important to understand how your semi-automatic pistol operates:

How to properly load and safe/decock it (if applicable)

How to properly unload it and check that it is empty

Next time, experiences and wisdom about getting to the shooting itself.

 

SKILLS: 4 Things Shooting Instructors Do That Drive Students Nuts

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There’s good and bad firearms training instruction, and it’s all about the instructor/student relationship. The Sheriff writes this one to offer some insight for those on the instructor-side of the equation… READ MORE.

Driven crazy

SOURCE: NRA Family
by Sheriff Jim Wilson

A while back I did a piece on the things that students do to give defensive instructors gray hair. Well, my friends, that knife cuts both ways. An instructor can easily ruin a class for his students. Being a good shot or a gunfight survivor does not automatically qualify a person to be a good instructor. If that instructor lacks basic teaching skills, a student may learn very little and be very disappointed with the class. Here are some of the common errors that instructors make.

ONE: FAILURE TO THOROUGHLY EXPLAIN…
Some instructors think that it makes them sound authoritative when they use tactical terms such as OODA Loop, EDC and Watch Your Six, to name a few. There is nothing wrong with those terms as long as an instructor takes the time to explain them instead of assuming that his students actually know what he means. It’s never a mistake to just use common English, although some High Speed/Low Drag instructors haven’t figured that out yet. I know of one instance when an instructor finished the morning lecture only to have a student ask, “What is a muzzle?” While some may chuckle at this, it is a legitimate question and indicates that the instructor and the students were not operating on the same information level.

TWO: TOO MANY WAR STORIES…
Now I love a good war story, but the fact is that too many instructors use war stories to impress the students with the instructor’s experience. A few war stories aren’t bad, as long as they are used to illustrate certain important points that the teacher is trying to get across. I know of one instructor who loves to show a video of himself killing a man during a police action. There’s no point to the video except to have the class see him do it. “Unnecessary” and “tasteless” are two descriptive words that come to mind.

THREE: EXPECTING TOO MUCH OF THE STUDENTS…
Students in a defensive class should be challenged to learn and perform tasks that often put them outside of their comfort zone. A good defensive teacher knows when the class is ready to try something new and when they are not. One must have a good handle on the basics of defensive shooting before moving along to learn other skills. Knowing when to safely push a student into something new is one of the marks of a good defensive teacher.

FOUR: FAILURE TO MAINTAIN A SAFE RANGE & TEACHING ENVIRONMENT…
Some instructors run a hot range (guns are always loaded) and others do not, preferring to have guns unloaded except during actual firing. Neither one is less safe than the other, as long as everyone understands the safety rules and adheres to them.

A safety lecture should be the start of every defensive class. Students should be reminded of the required safety rules throughout the class. More importantly, the safety rules should be strictly enforced at all times.

There is never a good reason for firearms to ever be pointed at students, instructors or range assistants. Nor is there ever a good reason for students, or anyone else, to be downrange when guns are being fired. I know of these things being done at some schools in the past, and my only hope is that this no longer occurs. I can’t imagine what kind of defensive instructor would allow this sort of thing to happen.

Editor’s Note: Looking for training? Check out classes from certified NRA Instructors here and here.

A good defensive school and a good defensive instructor should be all about the students. The instructor should be as good at his teaching skills as he is at his shooting skills. His job is not to be cool; his job is to help people learn. In short, his job is to save lives. Fortunately, we are blessed with a large number of defensive instructor/teachers who fully understand this important fact.

4 Things You Need to Know When Picking a Kid’s First Rifle

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It’s true: there’s one chance to make a good first impression. Choosing your child’s first rifle wisely goes a long way toward ensuring their lifelong interest.

by Drema Mann, NRA Family

Frist rifle

Have your kids ever asked to hunt or shoot with you? If so, you’re like a lot of other folks, and might be wondering where to start. To really feel involved, kids need their own gear — everything from hearing and eye protection to their own rifle. Choosing safety gear is straightforward enough, but when it comes to the rifle, you’ll want to make the best choice to ensure their success and enjoyment.

One: Size it Correctly
The rifle should not be too big or heavy, and the key to that is to make sure to involve your child in the selection process. Many parents purchase a rifle as a birthday present, and that is a wonderful idea. Years down the road it will be a special heirloom. But remember that predicting the arm length of a seven or eight year old is pretty difficult to do, and when the time comes, that rifle might not fit.

When my daughter, Montana, was about seven, she decided she would like to try her hand at shooting. We quickly found most youth guns were too long, and too heavy for her. Her first shots had to be taken from the bench, which was fine, but soon she wanted to shoot standing up like an adult. It took some searching before we found the right rifle. I suggest you visit a well-stocked gun store with your child to try rifles on for size. Much like their jeans, the gun must fit the child, or you could have a problem on your hands.

Two: Get a Good Trigger
Trigger pull weight is crucial too. A good starting point is to try a trigger with about half the pull weight of the gun. Take into consideration the size of the child, and remember, what works for one 10-year-old might not work for another. Some youth rifles have heavy, gritty triggers, and will only lead to frustration for you and your child. Avoid them. A crisp trigger with a light-to-moderate pull weight simplifies the complexities of learning to shoot.

Three: Match Their Personality
Probably the most important part to Montana was that the gun fit her personality. It was by no means one of the most important things to her daddy or me. No flat black or green camo for this girly-girl. She chose, you guessed it, a pink rifle. Maybe she gets that spark of personality from me but, for whatever reason, pink fits her perfectly.

Four: Invest Some Money
And finally, don’t be afraid to invest some money into this new-found interest. The Xbox you bought your child for their birthday cost just as much as a good rifle. The rifle will probably last longer and mean more in the end than any electronic gadget that could be obsolete in a month or two. If the gun doesn’t fit and they don’t like it, they won’t stay interested for long. Involve your child in choosing their rifle. Use it as an excuse to spend some quality time together, and you just might have a hunting and shooting buddy for a long time to come.

For Montana’s first rifle we settled on a Pink Platinum Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22. It weighs only 5.5 pounds and the stock has 1.25 inches of adjustability. She’s proud of her pink first rifle and proud to hunt and shoot. She’s since graduated to bigger guns, but still treasures her first rifle. On crisp fall mornings, you can now find her in the woods with her daddy or me. I can only hope I’m the one lucky enough to be in the stand with her when she takes her first West Virginia whitetail!

SKILLS: Shooting Range Etiquette 101

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Don’t be “that guy” who threatens others enjoyment and safety at the shooting range. Here are 7 “always” and “nevers” to fit in like a seasoned pro. Keep reading…

Adapted courtesy Team Springfield Blog

Team Springfield

So you just bought your first pistol and cannot wait to get some rounds downrange? Congratulations and welcome to the exciting, wonderful world of firearms and shooting! If you’re like most of us, though, you probably don’t have your own private land to shoot on, which means you will be heading to a range on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of stories out there about poor shooting-range conduct. When range rules get broken, it’s usually because of the lack of education and the lack of practice of proper techniques.

So we’re here to help you avoid being “that person” — the unsafe and disruptive shooter.

Being a conscientious firearm owner comes with many responsibilities, safety being the main priority, of course. And understanding range etiquette is an integral part of firearm safety.

Following and practicing good range etiquette, whether at an indoor or outdoor range, is always the way to go. It only takes one bad apple to reflect poorly on us all. Here are a few simple rules and courtesies to keep in mind when you hit the gun range.

ONE: FUNDAMENTAL SAFETY — FIRST AND ALWAYS
While this may seem obvious, it’s vital to learn and always practice firearm safety. Sometimes even experienced shooters get too comfortable in their routines and become lax with gun safety. This is never acceptable. You should always be a good student and ambassador of the universal firearm safety rules. And always, always be aware of the moment.

Treat all firearms as if loaded.

Never point a gun at something you are not willing to destroy.

Know your target and what’s beyond it.

Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on target.

TWO: FOLLOW RANGE RULES
This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway — follow the rules of the shooting range you’re on. Shooting ranges all operate on fairly similar rules, but each individual range will most likely have one or more unique rules. If you have a specific question, call the range before heading over. This could save you some time and grief. If you’re wanting to shoot your new AR-15, for instance, some indoor ranges may not allow rifles. Most ranges have specific rules about ammunition also, and don’t allow steel-core (armor piercing) ammo.

THREE: LISTEN TO THE RANGE SAFETY OFFICER (RSO)
Range safety officers are present for everyone’s safety. Unfortunately, they sometimes get a bad rap for yelling (remember, we all have ear protection on) or being mean. Trust us — they have a hard, risk-filled job full of responsibility — a job most people would probably not want. Help make their job easier! If you follow firearm safety rules, practice good range etiquette, and are always listening for and following the RSO’s commands, you should never get singled out or yelled at by the “mean” RSO.

FOUR: SLOW AND EASY
If you are a beginning shooter, you are undoubtedly experiencing a lot of new rules, terminology, techniques and procedures. Simply put: it can be overwhelming.

Slow down! Take the extra time to think about what you are doing — everything you are doing at all times. Think about where the muzzle is pointed, think about where your trigger finger is, the status of your firearm, and your neighbors on the range.

FIVE: LOADING AND UNLOADING
When you are on a shooting line, there are going to be other shooters next to you. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that the muzzle never points to the right or left of you.

Take extra care when loading and unloading your firearm, making certain to keep the muzzle pointed downrange. If you need more leverage to manipulate the slide, turn your body sideways (instead of turing the gun sideways). This enables you to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

CEASE FIRES
During a “cease fire” RSOs require you to unload your gun and lock the slide/cylinder open and then ask you to step behind a visible line on the ground while shooters go downrange to tape and set targets. Firearms are not allowed to be handled during a cease fire. Once unloaded, leave the firearms alone and grab everything you need from the firing line before backing across the line (phone, water bottle, etc.). Cease fires are a good time to chat with the shooter next to you, hydrate, send a text or check some emails. Just do all of this behind the cease fire line!

SIX: DON’T BACKSEAT SHOOT
How many people are fans of backseat drivers? Probably not many. The same goes for the gun range. Unless someone asks, it’s courteous to keep the technique corrections and tips to your own lane, even if the person next you isn’t using the stance you would.

However, if someone is doing something dangerous, it needs to be addressed immediately. Report the incident to the RSO, or, if you are comfortable doing so, deal with it directly.

SEVEN: ONE LAST THING…
Make sure to clean up after yourself when you’re done shooting. Any brass, ammo boxes or miscellaneous trash should be picked up. It might seem like a small ordeal, but leaving your mess for someone else to clean up is frustrating for the next person and leaves a less-than-stellar impression. And make sure you wait for a cease fire before venturing forward.