How to shoot a pistol-Feature

How to Shoot a Pistol | Basics of Shooting a Pistol

This week I get to have a little fun, playing with this video.  It is a really quick video about how to shoot a pistol, covering just the basic fundamentals.  It took us around 3 minutes to film the whole thing. It was fun, basic, and to the point. 

Fact is, the “Special” in “Special Ops” is not about how much cool gear you have, or how many cool schools you get to go to. It is about mastering the basics. That includes the basic fundamentals of pistol marksmanship.

  • Combat Stance:   

Like you’re getting ready to fist-fight. Aren’t you fighting for your life? Think of it as shoulders over knees, and knees over the balls of your feet. You are leaning slightly forward, as the “threat” is to your front. If someone was to turn the corner and jump at you grabbing at your gun, you are prepared to withstand that rush, rather than just falling on your back. We keep our feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, along with the feet being slightly staggered front to back. This allows us to spring frontwards/backwards/left/right, all with one stance. If you have ever seen SOF guys in a bar, look at how they stand; they own “real estate.” That is their space, and don’t enter it unless you are hot with big tits. As for which foot to have forward, many schools teach to always have the support-side foot forward; so, a right-handed shooter would have his left foot forward. I disagree with this, as our end goal is to be able to “shoot while moving” across the modern battlefield. I’m not going to “Skip” forward in combat. Rather, I’m going to “walk” forward. So, I need to be able to shoot with either foot forward. From the waist up, you are the turret of a tank. From the waist down, that is the body of your tank. Accuracy up top; mobility from the waist down. 

  • Strong-Hand Grip 

Hold the pistol high on the back strap. A firm grip, strength wise, but not squeezing the guts out of the pistol. Now, that is different from what some instructors teach… then, why? Make a tight fist, as tight as you can. Now, try to wiggle your trigger finger smoothly. Hard, isn’t it? Now, relax the hand a bit, and try wiggling that trigger finger. Much faster and smoother. Isn’t that cool? So, a firm Strong-hand grip.

  • Support-Hand Grip:   

Lock your wrists, raise your strong-hand thumb and try to cover as much of the pistol grip with your support-hand as possible. This is where all the grip strength is. I squeeze as hard as I can with this hand. This is the hand that is driving the gun left or right, up or down.

  • Thumbs:   

Ensure you stack them properly (strong-hand thumb on top). We are not shooting a revolver.

  • Trigger Finger: 

Put just enough pad of that trigger finger on the trigger to pull the trigger straight back. Sounds easy, but can you do it?. Here’s a test. With your weapon unloaded (seriously double-check), grip the pistol and dry-fire the trigger while aiming at a small dot on the wall. When the sear broke & trigger clicked, did the front sight move at all? If it moved Left, then a right-handed shooter probably had too little finger on the trigger, and needs to slide more finger onto the trigger. If it moved right; then the shooter probably had too much of his trigger finger on the trigger, and he pulled it to the right. So, he needs to adjust to having less finger on the trigger. Makes sense? Keep adjusting your grip until that front sight does not more at all when the trigger clicks. Now, you would not have been able to see this if you were shooting live ammo. You can only see this dry firing.

  • Both Eyes Open 

This is combat shooting. So, practice what your body is going to do instinctively. When your body goes into “Fight or Flight” mode, your heart rate goes way up; everyone knows that. However, dozens of other things are also going on inside your body. Certain vessels are dilating, others are constricting, and all kinds are weird other things are happening, like your pupils dilating. Did it get darker outside? Nope. So, why are your pupils dilating? Well, because your body is scared and your brain is screaming for as much information as possible. Likewise, your brain is going to keep both eyes open because, again, it is scared and wants as much information as possible. So, for you to say that you are going to close your non-dominant eye in combat is the same as you saying that you are going to keep your heart rate at 60 beats per minute. It’s not up to you, you have no control over it. So, why practice with one eye closed in training? Train as you fight; train with both eyes open. 

  • Proper Sight Alignment 

Both front and rear sight blade must be aligned; equal light & equal height. Again, sounds easy. Most pistol instructors have students focus just on the front sight. I agree to an extent. However, the key to long-range accuracy, pistol or rifle, is perfect sight alignment. In the video, I hit a 50 meter plate with my pistol. It’s not magic; it’s perfect sight alignment. I usually get about 50% hits on the same plates from 100 meters. Now, let that sink in. Is it better ammo or a magic pistol? Nope, I just focus on perfect sight alignment. The sights are roughly 6 inches apart. Any sight misalignment doubles every 6 inches. So, if you are a 16th of an inch misaligned, that’s an 8th of an inch off at a foot, a quarter of an inch off at 18 inches, and so forth. There are a lot of “6 inches” between you and a 50 meter target. Again, Both front and rear sight blade must be aligned; equal light & equal height.

  • Breath: 

This is combat shooting; not the Olympics. Breathe! I like to yell.

  • Trigger Squeeze: 

Smoothly roll through that trigger. Don’t slap it. Some people say “don’t Jerk it.” Well, once you start shooting much faster, it quickly turns into a “Controlled Jerk.” Start slow and smooth. Speed will come.

  • Follow Through 

This is where people are assessing the target, in case they missed and they have to shoot again. I like to think of Follow Through a little deeper, again, because this is combat shooting.  Ask yourself: “Did I hit? Did I get Desired Effect? Are there more threats?” Ask that after every shot, and you will have mastered Follow Through.


That’s a lot for a 3 minute video. You can’t get everything off the internet. Sometimes, to reach the next skill level, you need to go and get with a real instructor, take a class, and have him access your shooting form. I can’t do that from here. If you want more help, please sign up for a class, at or at any other professional shooting site near you. 

Master these basic fundamentals of marksmanship and you’ll make yourself a better shooter. They apply to all weapon systems.

I hope you enjoyed the video. We put out a new Tactical Rifleman video every Friday. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next time.

Strength & Honor, TR.

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