As I mentioned in my post All Wrapped Up, I attended a Women on Target class with a good friend.
Our husband’s stayed at home with our boys and we made a day of it, first in the classroom, and then in the range.
We were not newbies to firearms. I had attended an Appleseed course and learned how to comfortably handle and fire a rifle. The handgun, however, is a different story.
I’ve shot a pistol 2 or 3 times. My husband and I took a conceal carry course in Michigan where we practiced some drills on the range, but that was awhile ago. I was a little nervous, but eager to try it out and get more comfortable around handguns.
The classroom portion was much like the initial half day at the Appleseed shoot. The first hour or so was spent discussing, repeating and learning all of the safety precautions on storing, handling and firing a gun as detailed by the NRA.
- Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.
- Keep your finger off the trigger ’til your sites are on the target.
- Keep your gun unloaded until ready to fire.
The three above rules are the most important for safe handling of a firearm. Ignorance of handling a gun and carelessness or negligence are two major causes of gun incidents/accidents.
I’ve heard and repeated these rules so much that I can chant them in my sleep. They were drilled in all of the classes I have taken: conceal carry, Appleseed and now the Women on Target class.
There are 8 additional rules on using and storing a gun safely:
- Know what is before and behind your target.
- Know how to use the gun safely.
- Be sure the gun is safe to operate.
- Use only the correct ammunition for your gun.
- Use eye and ear protection.
- Never use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting. (Seems like an obvious precaution to me).
- Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.
- Be aware that certain guns and shooting activities require additional safety precautions.
After a half day of safety drills and learning how to handle a handgun, it was time to go to the range and learn the ins and outs of aiming, firing and hitting your target.
First, we determined which eye was our dominant eye.
I am cross dominant…I’m right-handed with a dominant left eye. While good to know for shooting long guns like rifles, it is not as important for shooting a handgun.
There are many ways to “fix” this…learn to shoot with your non-dominant hand, learn to shoot using the non-dominant eye. The method I chose was to use my right hand and cock my head so that my left eye was on the target.
Next, we loaded 10 rounds into the magazine, or cartridge. This is the storage and feeding device for the ammunition. We were using .22 ammo…the most common small “round”, or fully loaded cartridge.
Finally, we learned how to aim and fire the handgun.
- Position and grip- There are 3: benchrest, one-handed or two-handed stance. For this class, we implemented the two-handed stance.
- Breath control – Basically, breathe. There is more to breath control than that, but since we were all relatively new to shooting a handgun, we focused on just breathing in and out slowly.
- Sight alignment – Dominant eye and stance.
- Trigger squeeze – You don’t “pull” the trigger, you squeeze the trigger so that your gun remains steady and pointed at the target. Pulling it could cause you to jerk it up or to the side and miss your target.
- Follow through – Don’t immediately lower the gun after firing. Keep it aimed at the target for a few seconds. Otherwise, you might start to lower it while you squeeze the trigger, thereby missing your target.
At first, my stance was kind of goofy. I had my hip out and my left leg bent and above my right leg.
But after my instructor showed me the proper way to stand when shooting two-handed–feet shoulder width apart, left foot slightly behind the right and non-dominant hand bent for stability–I was more comfortable and hit my target more accurately.
The targets we were using were kind of awesome. The color exploded and showed me exactly where I hit–instant feedback so I knew what corrections I should make before firing the next round. Pretty cool.
I had some good “groupings”. This means that my shots hit the target very close together, telling me that I was hitting where I was aiming. Even on the smaller targets I was able to group my shots…for the most part.
Why did I take this course?
I wanted to learn more about handgun safety and handling so that I could be more comfortable around them. My husband and I plan to get our conceal carry licenses…not because we are afraid or paranoid of being in an active shooter situation, but because we want to be prepared in every way.
We store food. We practice fire drills, tornado drills and other safety drills. We make preparations for every eventuality–from the most possible to the most unlikely. We do this to stay prepared. Being comfortable using a firearm is no different.
Shooting any gun requires practice. It’s not like riding a bike, you have to practice continuously to keep your skill, comfort and knowledge fresh.