Learn to Shoot

Basic Pistol

Learning to shoot a firearm is a psychomotor skill much like learning to drive a car, fly an airplane or do anything else that requires hand/eye coordination. It isn’t difficult provided the student is trained correctly. My undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Illinois are all in technical training: I specialized in teaching students psychomotor skills and most of SAFER USA’s NRA instructors trained and were certified by me. Those that did not were chosen for their ability to work with people and their teaching and firearm experience.

When we talk to people interested in learning to shoot we try to impress upon them several important issues.

First, and by far most important, do not purchase a firearm until you’ve taken a basic shooting course. There are things about firearms you’ve never heard about that will significantly influence your decision on what the proper firearm is for you.

Several times we’ve had women students come to class with what some gun store sold them as the perfect firearm for them. It wasn’t; it was disastrous and every one of those women regretted the purchase by the time the class was over. Please, do not purchase a firearm before taking a basic class. Gun stores are in the business of selling guns; we’re in the business of teaching you how to use them responsibly. Let us teach you the elements you must consider when trying to match a firearm to your physical requirements and needs.

The second issue we often encounter is the inappropriateness of who teaches a new shooter. This is divided into two concerns: The individual who proposed to do the teaching and the firearm that person intends to use.

The first concern is who provides the instruction.

“My husband has been shooting since he was a kid,” “My sister in law is a cop,” “My brother was in the Army,” and on-and-on. The problem is that knowing how to shoot and teaching someone how to shoot properly and safely are two very different things. We have invested heavily in training aids to help you understand what can often be complex concepts that appear at first glance to be simple. Also, in our experience, many long time shooters have some very bad, even unsafe, habits.

The second concern is the choice of firearm.

No one should ever fire their first shots from any handgun or rifle larger than a .22 caliber. We provide .22 caliber firearms and ammunition for our beginner courses because it is the smallest size cartridge and therefore provides the easiest and most comfortable learning environment; it has very little recoil.

We have worked with many individuals who had an anticipation problem as a result of someone having them shoot a higher caliber firearm. Firearms larger than .22 caliber have increasingly greater recoil combined with a very loud noise. The result is the student unconsciously jerks the trigger in anticipation of the sound and recoil causing the shot to miss the target. An instructor can look at where your shots fall on a target and immediately know what you’re doing incorrectly. This is very important when it comes to shot anticipation because the shooter typically doesn’t know that’s what’s happening. Unfortunately, some students are never able to overcome the problem and end up very poor shooters or get out of the shooting sports completely.

Teaching someone to shoot requires training and experience. Our instructors are chosen for their subject knowledge but equally important for their ability to work with beginners and create a friendly enjoyable atmosphere.

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