Basic Handgun Skills and Tips For Beginners

So you have recently decided to buy yourself a handgun. Probably either for self protection or because you want to start target shooting recreationally.

However, a handgun is a deadly weapon that you need to understand and know how to use it safely and effectively. It is no use having the best and deadliest handgun and not knowing how to use it properly. For that, you need to start with some basic skills and knowledge.

Before You Start Shooting…

Get The Right Handgun

If you decided to get a handgun, make sure you get the right handgun for your needs. People sometimes think when they buy a gun that they need to buy the biggest and most powerful handgun available. However a huge gun that will blast a whole through a wall is probably not going to be a good gun for most people who want to do concealed everyday carry for self defence. Also, the smaller caliber handguns are usually more accurate handguns than the big caliber handguns.

There are many many different types of handguns out there that have different features and designs for different needs. Usually the folks at your local gun shop will be able to give you some good advice on which handgun will best suit your needs.

Learn The Safety Basics

From watching movies and TV shows, people often think that shooting a gun is pretty easy and straightforward…simply point the gun at the bad guy, pull the trigger and the day is saved. However someone new to owning and using a handgun should do a proper course provided by a certified instructor on how to safely use your handgun (some states require new gun owners to do such a course by law). We recommend doing the NRA Basic Pistol Course when you start out. You can have a look at our guide on how to find and choose a NRA basic pistol course here.

Protect Yourself

best handgunIf you want to shoot like a boss, you are going to have to practise. A Lot! Guns are loud and sometimes there is danger of shrapnel flying around when you are doing target shooting. So be wise and invest in some good quality ear protection to protect your ears from the excessive noise (check out our article on how to effectively protect your ears during shooting here), and some quality glasses to protect your eyes from any flying pieces that might shoot into your eyes (check out this guide on how to protect your eyes when shooting here).


Once you have the right handgun and you know how to handle it safely, you can start practising shooting.

Getting The Stance Right

Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with the foot opposite your dominant hand about a step past the other foot. Lean forward slightly with your knees bent, making sure you’re firmly balanced. The elbow of your dominant arm should be almost completely straight and your non-dominant elbow should be flexed at a slightly obtuse angle.

Safety caution: Never aim the gun sideways or with a bent wrist like in the movies. This is extremely dangerous and unsteady.

Getting Your Aim Right

handgun sightWhen aiming at a target, beginners often get confused is where to focus their eye. Should they focus on the target or the sight?! The front sight is the most important part of the sight picture. While the target and rear sight may be fuzzy by focusing on the front post, maintaining this sight picture is the most accurate way of shooting.


This sounds simple, but remember to breathe! Some beginners who have not shot a gun before takes some getting used to the loud noise and power. For accurate shooting we recommend you to time firing with your breathing, but holding your breath or being overly conscious of your breathing will make you shaky and inaccurate. Practise pulling the trigger and shooting immediately after exhaling, just before you feel the need to take another breath. Practice this cycle several times, getting ready to pull the trigger at the “bottom” of your breath cycle.

Squeeze The Trigger…Gently

nra basic pistol courseIf you are nervous about taking a shot, chances are your hands are going to be stiff and jerky. As we mentioned above, just breathe and get to a relaxed state. If you jerk at the trigger it will throw off your aim considerably, so when you are ready to pull the trigger you want to make sure you gently and slowly squeeze the trigger.

Follow Through

Not only should you follow through properly on your golf or basketball shots, but you should focus on a good follow through on your handgun shots too. As you squeeze the trigger, the gun will go off, but don’t release the trigger suddenly or drop your posture and your stance and your arms. Be still. Release the trigger after you’ve taken a breath and prepare for the next shot.


We hope this article helped you on your path to becoming a safe and competent handgun user! Please remember to always put safety first! Good shooting!