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10 Crucial Tips for Properly Owning and Using a Handgun

As a guy who legally carries a firearm, I definitely advocate LEGAL carry. However, owning a gun is one thing, but knowing how to use effectively, is something else entirely. If you don’t know how to use your firearm in a self-defensive situation correctly, you may as well not even own one. Not only does your survival chances go down, but your chances of accidentally harming yourself or somebody else increased.

My recommendation to you is to go to your local gun range and sign up for at least a basic course on how to use your firearm. A list of topics you should look for in a basic level course should AT LEAST cover the following:

  • Safe firearm handling rules.
  • Firearm handling practice including firearm loading, unloading, and handling in the classroom using dummy rounds.
  • A complete overview of pistol types, construction, and function with classroom examples.
  • Ammunition design, function, selection, and usage.
  • Pistol maintenance and cleaning.
  • Proper and safe storage options.
  • Concepts of marksmanship skill. High round count instruction and practice at the range.
  • An opportunity to shoot a variety of pistol types and calibers (if you have not purchased your firearm yet.)

Who Should Take a Shooting Course?

If you have little to no experience with firearms, then you are an ideal candidate for a basic course. Even if you had some training, but it has been years, a refresher of basic education on firearms handling and shooting sufficiently to rebuild your confidence and a basic level of knowledge of firearm functionality and use would not be a bad idea.

Even if you don’t want to take a formal class, I HIGHLY recommend that you at least get a good video on how to safely and effectively use your firearms. Next, go out to your local range regularly where you can train with your basic and some defensive shooting skills and grow comfortable with your weapon of choice. Shooting skill can be lost very quickly, and regular practice is a must to stay proficient. In this article, I am going to provide you with 10 tips you can use no matter the type of firearm you decide to carry.

Here are 10 top defensive shooting tips that could save your life:

1. Make sure you have plenty of Ammo

Your firearm is of no use if you don’t have ammo. Yes, you can probably beat the hell out of someone with it, but is that REALLY why you bought it? So, my first tip for you is to buy plenty of ammo to get lots of practice.

Ammo can be pretty expensive, so I recommend that you look for deals online from reputable dealers. Also, it is VERY important for newbies to be aware that there is ammo for practice and ammo for real life carry. They are very different so make sure you buy the right kind of rounds.

2. Get A Proper Firing Grip

Often when I am at the range, I see many shooters weapons jamming on them. Some even ask me for help. As a former federal firearms instructor, I can tell you that one of the leading causes of this is a weak, loose grip. If you are not holding your weapon properly and you are firing an automatic weapon, its probably going to jam. To hold your firearm correctly, you need to have both hands wrapped firmly around the grip of the gun with both of your thumbs pointing forward. The fingers of your weak hand should be wrapped around the fingers of your firing hand, and there should ideally be no space where you can see the gun handle. Hold the gun at eye level so you can easily look down the sights.

3. Line Up Your Sights

Another important point it to correctly line up your front sight to your rear sight. You want the front sight to be aimed directly at the target. Your eye should then be focused directly on the front sight. Your rear sight and your target beyond the front sight should be a little blurry. When you are shooting at the target, your main focus should be on that front sight. Many people spend way too much time trying to focus on their sights or the target. That may be ok for target shooting, but in a real situation, you have to be fast. The Target should be blurred, so just place your front sight in the center of your intended target and fire.

4. Keep Both Eyes Open

Most firearm instructors would agree that you should keep both eyes open. I often see people with one eye closed on the range. They think that they should aim with their dominant eye, keeping their non-dominant eye closed when peering down the sights of a firearm. This could not be further from the truth and here is why: First, it causes extreme fatigue in your eyelids. Second, it shuts out half of your field of vision, third, if you hold something in front of you and you alternate closing your eyes, you will see that it kind of throws the item off center and can do the same to your target. Remedy this by keeping your both eyes open and on the target.

5. Keep Your Finger OFF the trigger (until you are ready to shoot)

One of the core rules of gun safety is never to place your finger on the trigger until you are prepared to shoot. As an instructor, I have had MANY occasions when people inadvertently fired their weapon because they had their finger on the trigger. If you don’t want a mishap, you need to keep your trigger finger indexed, meaning it’s resting on the frame of the handgun above the trigger guard.

6. Control Your Firing

Often in movies, you see people doing what I call “spraying and praying” with guns hoping they will hit their target. This may be great for tv or video games, but it’s a horrible shooting technique for real-life situations. When I was in law enforcement and the military, I HOPED this is what bad guys would do while I carefully took aimed and placed my deliberate shots. Doing this makes the gun uncontrollable, decreases the chance that you will hit your target, and increases the likelihood that you will accidentally hit someone you did not intend to.

Instead, what I want you to do is control your firing so that each shot is deliberate. I want you to practice double taps, and even triple taps which we practiced in law enforcement, which consist of 2 rounds to the chest and one to the head (eye to be exact) in case the bad guy is wearing body armor. However, you should never fire any rounds that you didn’t intend to or that were out of your control.

Another thing I see people doing is flinching (where you jerk the gun when you fire). This will surely make you miss your target. This happens when you anticipate your shot. I really see this when I remove the rounds from the firearm and then ask the trainee to pull the trigger.

Here is how I taught agents to stop flinching, and it will work for you too. Load some live rounds and dummy rounds into your magazine in random order. When the primer hits a dummy round, and you flinch, you’ll know it and can work on correcting it.

7. Reload Without Looking

One of the coolest things you see in the movies is when a shooter reloads his or her weapon without looking. It shows they are pros and know what they are doing. Looking at your gun while fumbling around with a reload is a bad thing not just in the movies, but in a real gunfight too. It takes your focus off your target, and it shows that you’re not a properly trained shooter. Therefore, when practicing your shooting skill, you should also practice swapping out magazines and racking the slide to re-chamber the weapon, or smooth reloading if you are using a revolver.

Get to know your weapon so that you can keep your eyes focused on the target while you eject the spent magazine, draw a fresh new one, insert it into the gun, and rack the slide. Or if you are using a revolver eject your spent revolver cartridges and smoothly reload. I recommend you get a reloader for your revolver like the ones shown in the photo.

Whichever type of handgun you use, automatic or revolver, draw the gun in closer to you when you reload as well before re-assuming a natural and proper firing stance.

8. Know How to Shoot One-Handed and Using Your Weak Hand

In a gun battle, you could be shot in one of your arms. It could be the strong or weak arm. Whichever, it is crucial that you be able to shoot with either hand. This is a critical skill I taught my agents. Of course, you should always try to get a two-handed grip if possible, but some defensive scenarios may require you only to shoot one-handed. Therefore, you should practice shooting one handed as well.

When shooting one handed, keep your firing arm stretched out, while your non-firing hand should be clenched into a first and held to your torso. This way you know where your non-firing hand is, and you don’t risk it being out in your field of fire.

9. Learn How to Clear Jams

I mentioned earlier that holding your weapon with a weak grip can cause a jam. Of course, there are other reasons a jam might occur. Ammunition can be a significant cause as well. It doesn’t matter if you purchase the most reliable pistol and ammunition in the world; you will likely experience a jam. Just as you must practice reloading, so must you practice clearing jams so that you can quickly get back into the fight.

For agents and in the military, we knew this term like the back of our hands “Tap, Rack, and Fire.” This was standard procedure for clearing a jam. This means that while keeping the gun pointing down range (because it could be a slow-burning cartridge which could still fire), you firmly tap the magazine (to make sure the magazine is fully inserted into your gun) and then rack the slide to eject the failed round and fire. If this does not work, you then eject the existing magazine and load a new one and rack it again (to put a round into the chamber.)

10. Practice a Lot

Finally, you should practice a lot. Practice might not make you a perfect shot, but it can make you proficient and comfortable with your weapon. I like to go to the range at least once per month and expend 100 rounds.


Hopefully, these ten tips will make you more proficient with your weapon. Having a gun and not knowing how to use it can be very dangerous and we here at Fight fast want to make sure our readers are protected and well educated these matters. Take the tips you have learned in this article seriously and apply them during your real-life shooting range time.

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