Do you know anyone who is a gun owner and who has absolutely no idea what they’re doing? I know I do. Although some form of training is often undertaken upon the purchase of a firearm, it’s the sharpening and maintaining of your skills over time that can be lacking.
Now, you’d be hard-pressed to mount a decent argument against the need for training. Aside from the investment of a little time and cash occasionally – what’s the downside? Research has shown that most gun owners have taken classes at some point (some are State mandated) and that the majority of people feel strongly about the overall need for firearm training. Courses may include topics such as firearm operation, safe handling and storage, cleaning and maintenance, laws and regulations, plus the fundamentals of how to actually shoot. The issues arise when that becomes the extent of a new shooter’s training, or worse, they haven’t done much more than simply shoot a limited number of rounds as part of the purchase process. Remember that a gun is only as good as the training of its user.
For context, we’re really talking more about the ‘casual’ gun owner here, and not those who participate in sport-specific or work-related activities. These are the ones that shoot very rarely or have a gun in the house with some notion of protecting themselves if it becomes necessary. It’s no surprise that when these folks do shoot that they often can’t ‘hit the broadside of a barn’ as the saying goes. The notion of shooting tight groups, let alone hitting your target at all, can go right out the window pretty quickly. Add-in the stress reaction that comes along with personal defense situations, and it’s a real recipe for disaster. There are reports that indicate that even trained law enforcement officers hit their targets less than 20% of the time. With this in-mind, it would make sense to try and manage expectations when it comes to shooting performance, especially if you don’t make the effort to seek out professional training, or routinely make the effort to practice at the very least.
So why wouldn’t you want to train to become more competent and confident in your abilities? This can come down to a number of human nature related factors that often cross over with each other to create a cocktail of complacency and a lack of appreciation for the importance of proper gun handling and shooting. Although it’s one thing if you simply struggle at the range, but it’s quite another when it comes to safety standards or effectively protecting yourself. These elements may include straight-up laziness, or more often than not, having a sense that ‘everything will just work out’ simply because you want it to. This latter phenomenon amazes me and I always find it amusing. How many times has someone claimed to know something simply because they’ve done it once or twice in the past? They have a strong sense that they just know how to shoot or rock climb or ride a horse etc., because they did it on vacation years ago. It’s a ridiculous concept which is also complicated by the fact that a lot of people feel generally special and entitled when it comes to their personal capabilities (but I digress). You can also factor-in our constant exposure to gunplay in movies and television which can be unrealistic at best. This can be a powerful subconscious influence that furthers the sense that success pulling the trigger can be attained with little effort.
I’m a big advocate of regular practice when it comes to most anything worth doing well. Having said that, it’s important to create a baseline of knowledge for whatever it is that you’re undertaking. The adage of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ definitely applies, and this is why getting some form of professional training is critical. Really understanding the fundamentals of firearm handling can help to not only keep you safe, but can absolutely improve your performance and make your experiences more satisfying and enjoyable.
This should always be at the top of the list. As we know, neglect in this area can have devastating results and it should be the priority in any training protocol. You never want to make any assumptions when it comes to the wellbeing of yourself or those around you. Principles would include:
The Cardinal Rules of Firearm Safety
- Always handle a firearm as if it is loaded
- Always point the muzzle in a safe direction
- Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire
- Know your target and what’s beyond it
Secure storage & transport
Personal protective equipment
Cleaning & maintenance
Having a clear understanding of what could potentially go wrong and how to identify issues (hang fires etc.)
Understanding how firearms operate is also an important step in the educational process.
- Knowing the basics of the various gun types & formats (and what’s right for the shooter)
- How guns function, feed, fire & eject
- Parts of the gun and their purposes
- Ammunition types, features, handling & storage
Shooting Fundamentals & Performance
If you have any interest in hitting what you’re shooting at, targeted (pun intended) training can help with the following:
- Overall accuracy & consistency of your shots
- Biomechanics of shooting
- Stances & positioning
- Sights & optics
- Addressing environmental conditions (including the use of technology)
For rookie gun owners, taking a comprehensive introductory course is really essential if you want to fully understand all of the fundamentals – and unless you have a great deal of experience in your chosen shooting activities (like instructor level), do yourself a favor and look into some professional training. Even if it’s just a one-off course, there will always be hints and tips that you can take away to help make your technique better.
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