There are actually
eight fundamentals of handgun shooting. Each of the eight fundamentals is
equally important as far as shooting safely on the range. However, only
four of the eight fundamentals are important when it comes to making the
shot. If there is a weakness in any one of the four it will reflect in
your shooting. The reason most people don't like to shoot handguns is
because they can't hit what they are shooting at. And it is no fun
shooting when you can't hit your target.
including instructors, cannot name in order the fundamentals of handgun
shooting. In order to be a good shot with a handgun, you must first know
what it takes to make the shot every time you pull the trigger. You must
know what the fundamentals are so you can practice and perfect them. This
is what makes an excellent shooter. An "expert" is one who has
mastered the fundamentals. This is what makes the difference
between the guy that shoots pretty well and the guy that stands out above
everyone else. The guy that stands out above everyone else has understood
and perfected the fundamentals. Shooting is a perishable skill.
In order to shoot and shoot well, it takes a lot of work and dedication.
Everyone is built
differently, shaped differently and made differently. Some people may have
to modify a particular stance or position to allow it to fit their
physical make-up. This is why I don't try to put everyone in the same
mold. Each individual may have to make slight adjustments to do what fits
his or her physical make-up or to compensate for an injury, etc. The
following are some guidelines that will help you with the fundamentals:
When I am talking
about stance, I am primarily talking about while on the firing line at the
range. I realize that in an actual gun fight you may be kneeling, prone,
etc. while behind cover. This is why I put stance/position.
Isosceles/Modified Isosceles Stance:
The name is taken
from the Isosceles triangle - a triangle with two sides that are equal in
length. In shooting, the Isosceles is referring to the shooter’s arms
being locked straight out making them the same length. However, one may
modify this technique and bend one or both arms slightly to fit his/her
(1) Face square to
the target. Arms locked out or slightly bent.
approximately shoulder width apart. Strong leg can be slightly back.
(3) Leaning slightly
(a.) Do not stand
too erect. The recoil even on a small caliber will move you to the rear.
If your toes are coming off the ground or being lifted even a little, this
should tell you that you are standing too erect, simply lean forward a
little more. Remember this is a fight, so get in an aggressive
(4) One or both
knees slightly bent.
advantages of the Isosceles or modified Isosceles:
(1) It provides a
good base for shooting platform.
(2) It allows you to
move and react quickly.
(3) Allows you to
draw with efficient movement.
(4) Shoulders square
to target, presenting strongest part of body armor toward threat (for
(5) Allows upper
body to move 180 degrees
(6) It’s a very
grip is established in the holster.
From the time you draw until the time you re-holster, the grip should not
change; it should remain the same. It is critical that the grip is the
same every time you draw your pistol. The only exception to changing the
grip is if you have to clear a malfunction or do a mag change.
The way you become a
skilled shooter is through consistency in everything you do.
Your stance must be the same, your grip must be the same, your draw must
be the same, your sight alignment and sight picture must be the same, your
trigger press must be the same, your follow through must be the same.
Every thing you do must be done the same way every time you do it.
You can not grip the
pistol one way one time, another way the next time and a different way the
time after that and expect the same results in your shooting. It just
doesn't work that way.
your grip is different every time when you draw, your pistol will recoil
differently every time you shoot.
In order to control and manage recoil,
you need consistency in recoil. The way you achieve
consistency in recoil is to have consistency in your grip.
If you grip the pistol the same way every time, the pistol will recoil the
same way each time it is fired. Gripping the pistol the same way every
time will allow you to do two things: (1) have better recoil management,
which will allow you to: (2) obtain a second sight picture quicker, thus
faster recovery shots. I cannot stress enough to be consistent.
(A.) As you reach
for your shooting grip with your strong hand, simultaneously bring your
weak hand up approximately stomach or solarplex high. Never leave the weak
hand dangling by your side; when drawing your pistol your weak hand
should always move when your gun hand moves.
(B.) While your
hands are coming up, keep your eyes focused on the target where you want
the bullet to hit.
(C.) Place the "V"
(the web of the hand between the thumb and index finger) of your strong
hand high on the back strap of the pistol.
(D.) As the pistol
is being drawn from the holster, wrap fingers (middle, ring and little
finger) around the grip of the pistol and below the trigger guard.
(E.) Keep the index
finger straight along the slide of the pistol and off trigger.
The Draw / Presentation:
(A.) As the muzzle
clears the holster, it is pivoted toward the target and brought up
about solarplex high. This position is known as the "close guard
(B.) Weak hand meets
gun hand approximately solarplex high to establish a two handed grip on
the pistol. The heel of the weak hand should be placed on the open portion
of the weak side pistol grip. You want as much of the pistol grip enclosed
with both hands as possible. Weak hand fingers wrap around gun hand
fingers, below the trigger guard. Strong hand thumb lies
underneath the safety and on top of weak hand thumb. Both thumbs should be
relaxed and parallel to the slide. (Be sure not to allow contact with
thumbs and slide stop of pistol during the operation of the pistol or you
can and will cause a malfunction.)
(C.) As you push the
pistol out toward the target, safety now disengages. Bring the pistol up
to eye level to establish sight alignment and sight picture. Your index
finger should be on trigger ready to fire.
(D.) Both arms can be
straight or weak arm can be slightly bent. All this should be done in one
smooth fluid motion.
Note: While on the
range always draw from your shooting position, not into your shooting
position. When you draw, if you are going to shoot with knees slightly
bent, then they should be slightly bent before you draw not while you are
drawing. Do not drop your head position while you are drawing, get your
head in position before you draw. Do not squat or lean as you draw, get
into your position and then draw. Always get into your shooting position
first. Then draw from it without moving your body. Again, remember we are
talking about while on the firing line. I see people all the time draw and
squat. Squatting has no significance whatsoever. It does not help you
shoot more accurately or faster. It is added unnecessary movement. If you
are squatting as you draw, it is probably due to you watching too much T.V.
Note: If weak hand
index finger is allowed to rest in front of the trigger guard, you could
easily steer the gun off target during recoil without realizing it. If you
start pushing shots off to one side, check the placement of your weak hand
index finger, and make sure it is below the trigger guard.
Another reason to
keep the index finger off the front of the trigger guard is for putting a
light or laser on the rail. A lot of people have a rail on their pistol
for a light or laser, but they shoot with their weak index finger in front
of the trigger guard, this makes it impossible to mount the $300.0 or
$400.00 light and laser on the pistol, unless you change your grip.
Another thing you will want to avoid in the shooting grip is interlocking
your thumbs. Again, if you put a light on the rail you will have to change
your shooting grip in order to work the light. The last thing you need to
do in a gun fight is change to an unfamiliar shooting grip in the dark
when there is a 50% chance of multiple adversaries.
alignment - the front sight evenly spaced in the rear sight and level at
the top of the rear sight.
alignment is another one of the critical parts of the fundamentals. The
slightest movement of the front sight can result in a miss at surprisingly
picture - the front sight is center mass of target, evenly spaced in the
rear sight and level at the top of the rear sight. The front sight should
be crystal clear and the target fuzzy.
The reason the
target needs to be fuzzy is because the human eye cannot focus on two
objects at different distances at the same time; one or the other will be
unclear or fuzzy. You must see your front sight. You have to know where it
is in reference to the target. Trust me: if you have a clear front sight
you will be able to see the target beyond with your peripheral vision.
Several years ago, I
was deer hunting and I saw an eight point buck. I looked through the scope
and kept watching his antlers. As I squeezed the trigger, the deer just
kept walking. I kept waiting for him to fall. Then I realized what had
happened, I never looked at the cross hairs in the scope, I just looked at
the target (the deer) when I squeezed the trigger. I totally missed the
deer. Luckily for me he didn't run off. The next shot I watched my cross
hairs in the scope, placed them where I should have, squeezed the trigger
and killed the deer. This same principle applies with the pistol. The
front sight on the pistol is what the cross hairs are to your scope.
You must see the front sight clearly every time you shoot. This is
probably another one of the main reasons most people can't hit with a
handgun. One time they see the front sight clearly and the next time they
don't. You can't have a clear front sight one shot and not the next shot
and expect good results every time. Again you have to be consistent
in everything you do. Front sight, front sight, front sight. This is so
vital to having good shot placement. Always be aware of your front sight,
its relationship to the rear sight, and its clarity.
aiming with the front sight, do not use the dots!
I always get funny looks when I mention this in class. When using the
front sight you should use the very tip top of the sight where it breaks
over and is flat. That should be your point of aim. So, what are the dots
for? They are for low light conditions to give you a reference point so
you can see their relationship to each other. In the dark you will not be
able to see front sight evenly spaced in the rear sight and level at the
top of the rear sight. But you will be able to see front dot evenly spaced
in the rear dots and level with the rear dots. That is what the night
sight is for: so you can reference the front and rear sights’ relationship
to each other in low light or dark conditions. Yes, in low light
conditions you have to use the dots for aiming, but not in the day time
when you can see the sights clearly. If you use the dots in the day time
for aiming at close range, it will not matter so much; but if you want to
shoot smaller groups, use the very top of the front sight.
Let’s be real
honest: in a gun fight none of us, myself included, are
going to be breathing properly. If you think you will be, you are sadly
mistaken. Professional boxers who box for a living and train every day
know they have to breathe; but when they get back to their corner, one of
the first things the trainer will tell them is to breathe. So, do you
think any of us (my self included) are going to have the clarity of mind
to breathe properly when someone is trying to kill us? I really doubt it.
The best advice I can give is to take deep breaths throughout the
encounter. It’s not that I don’t think it is important, I just highly
doubt if any of us are going to do it properly. The main thing is to keep
the oxygen flowing through the blood stream.
You want to try to
avoid holding your breath. If you do that, you will rob oxygen from the
major muscle groups in your body and several things will happen: (1) your
eyes will quickly lose their ability to stay focused, (2) you will get the
shakes, and (3) your fine motor skills will rapidly diminish. You must
breathe to keep the oxygen feeding your body. Breathing helps oxygenate
the body and helps reduce the effects of stress. When under stress, the
abilities that we need the most will disappear first.
(A.) Ocular focus
(especially for those of us who wear glasses.)
(B.) Tunnel vision
will likely occur.
(C.) Thought process
may be affected (Things may seem like slow motion.)
dexterity/Fine motor skills will be affected. If your fingers are already
cold, it will make it worse. Things like loading bullets in a mag or just
doing a mag change may become difficult.
(E.) Speech may be
(F.) Hearing may be
diminished or lost.
(G.) Muscle tremors
begin. You get uncontrollable shakes.
Breathing will help
you recover. Take long deep breaths.
For snipers and long
range target shooters, breathing is as important as trigger control. A man
in a handgun fight at close range does not have the luxury to take his
time to breath properly. The best he can do under that much stress is take
deep breaths through out the encounter to keep the oxygen flowing
throughout the body.
"The skillful manipulation of the trigger which causes the pistol or rifle
to fire while maintaining sight alignment and sight picture."
(A.) Even, crisp
pressure applied to move the trigger straight to the rear of the pistol,
isolating the movement of the trigger finger.
sight alignment and sight picture, do not stop, hesitate or pause. Make
one smooth press. Let the shot surprise you.
(C.) When the shot
is fired immediately, regain sight alignment and sight picture and prepare
for the next shot in precisely the same way.
Not only is the
trigger press itself crucial, but also the placement of the trigger finger
as well. For the semi-auto, about the middle of your finger print on the
index finger should be about where your finger placement should rest on
the trigger. Earlier under the section about the grip, I mentioned that
the if weak hand index finger is allowed to rest in front of the trigger
guard, you could easily steer the gun off target during recoil without
realizing it. If you start pushing shots off to one side, check the
placement of your weak hand index finger, and make sure it is below the
trigger guard. This is also true about trigger finger placement. When you
are shooting, if you notice shots off to one side or the other check where
your trigger finger is resting on the trigger. Too much trigger finger on
the trigger (Trigger finger too far inside the trigger guard) can pull
shots toward your strong side. Too little trigger finger on the trigger
can cause shots to be pushed to your weak side.
(A.) There are three
stages to follow through:
Watch the front sight until the weapon is fired.
Re-establish sight use immediately (both sight alignment and sight
picture) and prepare to shoot again if necessary.
The attacker you shot may require multiple shots to stop life threatening
(B.) Just because
you shot does not mean: (1) that you hit your attacker. (2) That you
incapacitated your attacker to the point that he /she no longer poses life
How many shots should
you fire at someone who is trying to kill you? There is no set number of
shots to fire. You shoot until that individual no longer poses life
threatening activity to you. You shoot until the problem is solved.
Every person that is
shot will react differently. Your attacker may be drunk or on drugs and
may never feel the impact of the bullet even on a well placed shot. It may
take 12 – 15 seconds for him/her to bleed out and they could still be
cutting at you with a knife or shooting at you with their pistol. Even if
you make a well placed shot or two, that doesn't mean the fight is over
and you have won! Make sure the problem is solved before you re-holster!
Ask yourself: do I
need to take another shot? If so will I hit my target? Assess the
Scan the surrounding area immediately for other life threatening targets.
(A) Remember that in
approximately 50% of all gun fights there will be multiple
Even if you shoot and
neutralize the bad guy that was trying to kill you, this still does not
mean the fight is over! There is a 50/50 chance he has another accomplice
or two with him. Do not re-holster thinking the fight is over. I recommend
that you keep your pistol or whatever weapon you have drawn until the cops
arrive (do not meet the police at the door with a weapon in your hand) and
of course when they get there, do exactly what they say. Remember: when
the cops arrive on the seen, they don't know what the situation is. They
don't know who you are, who the bad guys are or anything else. Co-operate
fully be patient, and they will sort it all out.
This should give you
a better understanding of what the fundamentals of handgun shooting are
all about. If you have trouble in your shooting, it will be in one of the
following four areas: sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press or
follow through. Of the fundamentals these are what matter. I can have a
sloppy stance, a sloppy grip, and a sloppy draw stroke and still make a
good shot if I have sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and
follow through. I often demonstrate this on the range in most all my
courses by holding the pistol upside down in my hands and hit a head shot
out to 25 yards. My stance may not be the best, my grip definitely is not
best, and the draw stroke does not matter; but in order to make a 25 yard
shot with the pistol upside down in my hands, I have to have sight
alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through. I am not
saying that stance, grip and the draw and presentation are not important;
but I am saying that they have little to do with you hitting your target.
The last four fundamentals have every thing to do with you hitting your
Again, if you are
having some problem in your shooting, it is more than likely in your sight
alignment, sight picture, trigger press, or follow through. Start first
with your trigger press. The vast majority of the time that is what you
will find to be the problem. Make sure you are pressing the trigger in
"slow motion" as slow as you possibly can. This, for some reason, is the
hardest thing to get people to understand. Everyone seems to think they
can slowly take up the slack in the trigger and then hurry up the trigger
press when they have all the slack out. You can not hurry the press
at any time. A good drill to do is put a coin out on the end of
your muzzle and dry fire the pistol and see if you can press the trigger
with out the coin falling. That is what you should be able to do every
time you press the trigger.
Next, check your
follow through. Make sure you are watching the front sight until the
pistol is fired. Let the gun surprise you. It is what is known in the
shooting world as the "surprise break." The gun should surprise you each
time it goes off.
The next thing you
should do is make sure you are watching the front sight and not the
target. Remember: the front sight is to the pistol what cross hairs are to
the scope. You must see the front sight each time you shoot.
It takes one thing
to shoot any handgun and that is fundamentals. If you practice and perfect
the fundamentals as discussed here, you should be able to pick up any
handgun and shoot a very good group with it. I sincerely hope this article
helps you. Train hard, Train safe. Greg McLaughlin.