To use firearms properly, regardless of the application, requires an education. It doesn't matter whether you're plinking at targets, shooting for meat, competing or preparing to defend yourself and family, you have to know what you're doing. The alternative, ignorance, can be tragic. This process is achieved one step at a time.
Step one is learning the four safety rules. We never get to a point that these rules don't apply, and the longer we handle firearms or the more complicated the application the more important they are. Not only do you have to learn them, you have to actually apply them, all the time. I consistently see people who know the rules, can recite them forwards and backwards, but break them on a constant basis. "Don't point the muzzle at me," you say. "Don't worry," they reply. "I checked," they add, "it's unloaded." That won't cut it. If you know better then act like it. Step one is learning and applying the safety rules.
You learn to manipulate the weapon. There are proper and safe techniques to perform all the manipulations necessary. Learn to safely load and unload. After that comes reloading, followed by malfunctions. I think you should know how to operate the weapon thoroughly before ever firing a shot. Shooting is the easy part; it's all the other skills that make things complicated.
Next comes marksmanship. You have to be able to apply the fundamentals for every shot. You may not always be the best most accurate shot, but you're always consistent. With consistency comes growth and progress. The more you practice the better you get. When a true marksman presses the trigger they know the shot is going where it needs to be. "Can you," the instructor asks, "make that shot?" "Yes." Learning how to shoot accurately, under all conditions, creates confidence.
After learning these skills, one at a time and in the proper sequence you can begin to apply them. For example a good marksman has no problem shooting and moving for defensive drills. They know how to shoot, so now it's just a matter of learning how to move.
Learning these skills is like anything else. You start from the bottom and one step at a time progress through a learning sequence. It's a time consuming process. Don't be fooled into thinking you're going to hit a two or three day class and become an expert. It takes resolve. There is no substitute for practice and repetition. And once that's done comes the next level.
Am I preaching to the choir? I don't think so, and I write this as much for me as anyone else. Sometimes I get sidetracked by a lot of other things like this sight or that type weapon. Often I'm moving it different directions without much progress in any of them. And then I think about the fundamentals. "Oh yeah," I remember, "This
is the good stuff." I go back to the beginning and focus on one thing at a time.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns" - http://shootrite.org/book/book.html writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html Website: