Handling a handgun quickly, whether in an emergency or in a competition, requires quite a bit of skill and practice. Drawing, aiming, firing, and reloading are a matter of well-honed reflexes and muscle memory. While some people have an innate talent for handling a sidearm, it only takes routine practice to understand the basics and train yourself to handle the weapon properly.
Here’s an overview of a few drills you can do at home to become more proficient in handling your handgun. Any drill conducted without live rounds is referred to as a dry fire exercise.
- Make sure your handgun is unloaded! None of these drills require any live ammunition. The rest are purely done to help sharpen your reflexes. As always, make sure any ammo you take out is kept secure and safe out of the reach of children.
- Familiarizing yourself with your weapon’s functions is going to be a big help. Knowing how the safety works is a must, especially with handguns, which have a wide variety of mechanisms to put the weapon on safe, ranging from a pistol grip squeeze safety to none at all. Ensure you know not only how to load your weapon, but how to disassemble it, too. This will help you keep it in a good repair, as well as be able to fix any malfunctions.
- It is very important to learn how to draw a handgun properly. You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot, or injure someone else when you’re trying to defend yourself or shoot at the range. It will not be as funny as it seems on comedy television.
- There are many different location to carry from, especially with concealed carry. You can have a holster on your hip, in a variety of positions, at your ankle, on your side, in a purse, in just about location if you can find the right set up for it. The important thing is that the holster’s location must work for you. The same principles apply across the board.
- The first thing you need to do is get a solid three-finger grip while the gun remains in the holster. No matter how badass you think your holster is, if it doesn’t allow you to get a good grip, its only use is for a Halloween costume. After you’re able to get a solid grip consistently, you can start on the next step.
- Pull the gun straight out of the holster and immediately rotate it to the target. Have your hands then meet in the middle of your chest to get a solid two-handed grip so you have complete control of the weapon. From there, press the gun forward in a straight line, fully extending your arms. You should be able to sight the target as you’re doing this, which means you can fire that much sooner.
- No other part of your body should be moving. Move your head or legs and you might ruin that natural point of aim mentioned above.
- Once you’ve got these steps down, the next step is to do a dry fire, pulling the trigger as you have your target in your sights. If you have drawn correctly, your sights should be right on target as you are completing the draw.
- A mirror or a buddy is useful here to catch any mistakes you make while you’re concentrating. Drawing a weapon correctly is a matter of practice- but only perfect practice makes perfect. Don’t move on to live rounds until you are certain you have the motions down, and when you do, move carefully all over again to be safe.
- Reloading is something that needs to become automatic and fast, both for competition and self-defense. Reload drills are easily completed at home. There are two kinds: emergency and tactical.
- Ensure both the gun and the magazines are unloaded.
- Emergency reload is done when the current magazine has been expended and the slide has locked back. When doing your dry fire drill, start with the slide locked back and an empty magazine in the gun while in a firing stance. You need to have a new one on hand (I’d recommend having it wherever you would actually keep an empty magazine.) Drop the magazine, lock the new one in, and resume your firing stance.
- Tactical reload is done when the current magazine has not been completely expended. Draw the new magazine, eject the current one into your support hand, and insert the new magazine. Make sure you stow the old magazine. In a tactical situation, every round counts.
- These drills can be done, and should be done, while standing, sitting, or moving. They’re all about muscle memory and speed, which will come with practice. Once again, don’t try these drills with live rounds until you are ready and begin at a slow pace when you do.
Dry Firing With Snap Caps
- Snap caps are simulated spring loaded simulated rounds with a spring primer that can absorb the force of the firing pin so you can test fire a weapon without damaging parts. If you look at a clear one, you can see the spring running down the center from where the primer would be on a real bullet. They’re excellent training tools for your handgun.
- Snap caps are a great way to practice your trigger squeeze. Trigger squeeze can be a difficult part of firing a gun. Doing it wrong that can throw off your aim entirely. Many people flinch as they fire, and tend to jerk the trigger rather than squeeze it (‘slap’ rather than ‘press’). Even if you have your target sighted perfectly, a bad trigger squeeze can lead to you missing it completely.
- Your trigger squeeze should be smooth and gentle, not jerky and forceful. It starts with a relatively light amount of pressure that increases until you can (in this case) feel the firing pin hit the false primer of the snap cap. This is another drill that begins slowly, with practice allowing you to pick up the pace while maintaining the correct motion.
- Dry firing with snap caps in will instill the muscle memory that is easily forgotten when firing live rounds. You’ll be able to break yourself of bad flinching or trigger slapping habits, making it that much easier to hit your target when you want or need to.
- For drawing and reload drills, snap caps can also add a bit of weight while staying safe. There’s a lot difference between a loaded and unloaded magazine, which will affect your aim, your grip, and your muscle fatigue after repeated drills.
- Snap caps are a good way to practice loading and unloading your weapon with “ammo” in the mix. You’ll be able to see what the ammunition is doing. For tactical reloads, you’ll see a round flying out when ejected (if you have decent quality snaps caps; some are cheap and will not eject as easily).
Practice, Practice, Practice
Even when weather or time mean that the range isn’t a viable option, you can still do these handgun drills at home. They’re great for muscle memory that you’ll need in competition, on the range, or in a dire emergency.