Many men and women enjoy owning and target shooting with handguns. Many do it just for fun, others do it to practice and hone their skills for purposes of home defense and/or self-defense. In today's world, especially in urban areas, the need to protect your home from burglary, home invasion, robbery, and break-ins is greater than ever. So, learning to shoot a handgun safely and accurately is not only a fun recreational activity, but can also be a skill set that can help protect you and your family from intruders or muggers.
Things You Will Need
Targets or copy paper
Cardboard and cardboard boxes
Tape or staple gun
Target shooting range or safe, legal private property (see Step 2)
If you do not yet own a handgun, or if you have a handgun but aren't sure if it's right for you, it is important to get one that is suited to you and your needs. Go online and search for "guns." Visit a few sites - many offer a link to advice about selecting the correct handgun. You might also search for "which handgun should I buy." That will likely turn up sites to give the advice you need. Also, check with local law enforcement agencies for information. Do you want a gun just for fun - for target shooting, or do you want one for home defense and/or self defense?
Once you have selected an appropriate handgun, it is absolutely necessary that you obtain proper training for how to use your gun safely and responsibly. Go online and do another search for "guns" or "handguns." Many sites will offer links to handgun training courses or handgun safety. You can also contact local shooting ranges and gun shops for information about handgun safety training. Your local law enforcement agencies can also help you find certified handgun safety instructors and handgun safety training courses - many law enforcement agencies offer such training themselves.
Remember - safety first. It is essential that you learn to use your handgun safely and responsibly, whether for fun and target shooting or for home defense and/or self defense. I am not an expert on guns or gun safety, but I have taken approved handgun training courses, so although I am not qualified to teach you how to be safe with your gun, I am experienced enough to warn and encourage you to get professional training from a qualified, certified handgun safety trainer.
You can purchase shooting targets online (do a Web search) or from a local gun shop or retailer who sells hunting supplies. You can also make your own with a simple piece of copy paper, or with a piece of cardboard and a cardboard box. You can use tape or a staple gun to attach your paper target to a cardboard box. There are many types of targets other than the common paper-with-bullseye type as well, but these are generally for experienced, well-trained competition shooters.
It is important to shoot in a place that is safe: I recommend that you shoot at a commercial or public shooting range, indoor or outdoor. You might be surprised how many are right in your area. You may not find them in the phone book, but if you do a good Web search, you are likely to find some. Do a search for "shooting ranges" along with the name of the city and state where you live. Alternatively, you can do a search for "shooting range clubs," ask around at local gun shops or hunting supply stores, or ask your local law enforcement agency.
If you own a large piece of property where it is legal to shoot (check State and Local Regulations for this information,) you may be able to shoot there IF there is a high bank or hillside that you can place the target in front of. You MUST be aware that a bullet can go a mile or more, and that you should not shoot in a flat area where you don't know who or what is behind your target. Besides having a high bank or hillside to shoot toward, you need to be sure that there are no rocks, concrete, metal, or other objects that could cause a ricochet if struck. This includes water - a bullet can and will ricochet off of water.
It is also important to check State and Local Regulations regarding the transportation of your gun and ammunition to and from your chosen shooting site.
This step is not intended to replace professional training, but is rather just a brief overview of common sense gun handling techniques.
When you are at your target site, and have loaded your gun (always load your gun by holding the gun in your non-shooting hand, and inserting the clip with you shooting hand) be sure that you keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, and that the safety is on. Also, make sure nobody is in front of you on the shooting line.
Before you begin shooting, as a reminder, make sure that the area in front of you is clear of people and obstacles. Be sure, too, that nobody is standing where they can be struck by the ejected shell casings.
Make sure that you have on your safety glasses and hearing protection.
For normal target shooting, stand about 7-10 yards away from your target. Spread your feet to shoulder width, and face the target squarely. With your gun pointed in a safe direction (like the clear ground in front of you,) slowly raise the gun to point at the target. Keep the safety on. Raise and lower the gun 3 or 4 times to get the feel for it - it is important to be able to raise the gun to the target smoothly, without any wobbling or waving. Your arms can be slightly bent at the elbow. Do not hold the gun out too long, or your hands and arms will begin to move.
When you are pointing at the target, line up the front sight with the rear sight, but focus on the front sight. The target may be slightly blurry, but you will still be able to make it out clearly. Remember, focus on the FRONT sight.
When you feel ready, release the safety, raise the gun to the target as in the previous paragraph, and fire 5 rounds. It is important that you SQUEEZE the trigger - do not abruptly pull it. This will cause the gun to jerk. Don't hold your breath. Instead, fire at a natural pause in your breathing. Many shooters will breathe naturally, wait until they exhale, then fire during the natural pause that occurs when you exhale. Put the safety on, then holster your gun, always keeping it pointed in a safe direction. Make sure that no one else is on the firing line getting ready to shoot (call out something like "checking target" to be sure anyone else notices you and understands that you are going to enter the shooting zone. Check your target to see where your bullets hit. Are they near the center? "Are they scattered all around the center? Are all above, below, or to the side of the center? Adjust your aim to fix this. You may want to put up a new target or circle the holes so you can distinguish new shots from old shots. You can also purchase stickers to cover target holes.
Next, get prepared to fire again. Go to the firing line, and repeat the shooting process in the paragraph above. Follow the same safety procedures to check your target. See if you have done about the same, or if you have begun to improve your "shot pattern" or "grouping." Don't get discouraged. Just repeat the previous steps until you are finished. You will improve with practice.
When you gun is empty, hold the gun in your non-shooting hand, remove the clip, then check the chamber carefully to make sure that it is empty. Holster your gun, reload the clip, and get ready to practice some more. When you are done shooting, clean up as many of your shell casings as you can, take down your target, and leave the area clean. Exit the shooting area safely. Be sure to transport your weapon legally when returning home.
Whether you use your handgun for fun target shooting, or for home defense and/or self defense, you need to know how to handle your gun safely and responsibly, and how to shoot accurately. Both safety and accuracy need to be "second nature." After enough practice, you will develop what is called "muscle memory," and it will become second nature. Enjoy yourself, be careful, be safe, and be responsible. Target shooting can be a fun and safe hobby if you take the steps to make it that way.
Tips & Warnings
First and foremost, get proper and appropriate training in the safe and competent use of your firearm.
Take a handgun safety course from a professional, certified handgun trainer.
If you intend to use your gun for home defense and/or self defense, you should take a training course that is specifically for such use.
Make sure that you have the proper permits, licenses, and legal right to possess and use a handgun.
Check with your local authorities (both law enforcement and local government) for information about who can own a gun, how and where you can take it and use it, and what kinds of permits, licenses, and legal guidelines you need to follow.
Always store your gun in a safe place, away from children, and in a safe (preferably unloaded) condition. You may want to purchase a gun safe for this purpose.
Keep your weapon clean and lubricated. Check online and at gun shops and retail stores that offer hunting supplies for handgun cleaning products and for handgun maintenance procedures. Read the handgun owner's manual carefully, and keep it handy for reference.
If you intend to use to use your gun for home defense and/or self defense, be sure to check with local authorities as to the law. Also, consider checking out non-lethal ways to protect your home, such as burglar alarm systems, home alert systems, motion detection devices, infrared devices,etc.
As to personal protection, check into the types and use of tasers, pepper spray, and other non-lethal defense products. These can be found online, at many gun shops, and at many retailers who sell hunting supplies. As before, check with local authorities as to the legal status of ownership and use of such products.
DISCLAIMER: The author does not intend for this article to replace, but rather to encourage the use of professional, certified handgun safety and shooting courses. The author in no way makes any claims of expertise, and accepts no personal responsibility for any consequences arising from the practice of any ideas, suggestions, or methodology within this article. The sole purpose of this article is to point out that guns can be used for recreational target shooting and for home defense/self defense, and that anyone who chooses to own a handgun, for whatever purpose, should obtain proper training in its use and be aware of and abide by all laws regulating the ownership and use of handguns.