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How To Properly Hold And Fire A Handgun

All Photos: HiConsumption

We’ve all been glued to the television rewatching our favorite action movies, where the hero is wielding two Beretta 92 handguns — toothpick in mouth — going to town on 50 baddies without reloading. Watching those action flicks is without a doubt a perfect way to spend part of your weekend, but it’s far from real life. Despite what you see in action films, guns don’t make you tough. We hope you never end up in a situation where you have to use a firearm in self-defense. But if that moment arises, it’s better to be trained than untrained.

From where we’re sitting, guns can be both dangerous weapons and necessary tools for protection. We wholly believe that handguns are to be used strictly for self-defense purposes, which is why we’ve put this guide together. By no means is this a comprehensive guide, but rather a walkthrough for beginners who are considering investing in a handgun for self-defense. We do not recommend printing this bad boy out, reading it at the range, and blasting away. However, we’ve set up this guide on how to hold and fire a handgun properly to usher you through the proper mechanics of handling a firearm. The goal here is to ensure your safety when firing a loaded weapon at the range or in an appropriate self-defense scenario after all other options are exhausted.


Safety And Etiquette

Reading a guide on how to hold and fire handgun is one step toward achieving the intelligence of handling a firearm. You’ve come to the right place, but this shouldn’t be your last stop before you practice shooting rounds at the range. We highly recommend you seek out training from a certified firearm professional. There are plenty of local gun ranges that offer one-on-one training at a reasonable rate. Relying solely on this guide simply will not suffice. However, this guide will help you become much more familiar with a handgun if you’re a novice. The more knowledgeable you are about handling firearms, the easier it will be when you go to the range and improve your marksmanship.


Before we get into the main attraction of this guide, we have to relay the cardinal rules of gun safety. By following these rules strictly, you will keep yourself and others safe while squeezing off some rounds at the range to practice your technique. Here are five critical rules to live by while you’re handling a firearm:

Imagine it’s Always Loaded: Treat every single firearm as if it were loaded. Even if you’ve triple-checked the gun, you should still act like there’s a round in the chamber as a precaution.

Point it in a Safe Direction: Keep your handgun pointed in a safe direction at all times. Judging by your surroundings, point the barrel in a direction where an accidental discharge will cause no physical injuries and minimal property damage. At a range, the safest and most logical direction to point your gun is downrange, as long as there’s nobody fixing something in that area.

Practice Trigger Discipline: Keep your finger off the trigger, as well as outside the trigger guard, until you’re pointing your gun at your target and you’re ready to fire. Do not move your finger from outside the trigger guard to the trigger until you have made a fully conscious decision to shoot the weapon.

Mind Your Surroundings: Be aware of your target, backstop, and what’s beyond both before you start firing off rounds. This isn’t usually a major concern if you go to a gun range, as they will take extra precautions to ensure everyone’s safety, but you should always keep your line of fire in mind. The idea is to be overly cautious to prevent and slip-ups that may occur while you’re handling a lethal weapon.

Holding A Handgun

Get A Grip

Before you learn how to fire a handgun, you have to know how to hold one. Try to erase all the fancy gunplay you’ve seen in blockbuster action movies, as there are only a few popular action films where the stars are holding their firearms correctly. And even in those movies, such as John Wick, the gunplay is not entirely realistic. Follow these steps as closely as possible to ensure a secure, reliable grip on your handgun.

1. Use your dominant hand’s thumb and index finger to form a V-shape and grip the gun high on the back strap. By doing so, you’ll gain more leverage — which will allow more recoil control when you fire rounds.

2. Rest the pointer finger of your dominant hand on the side of the gun and outside of the trigger guard.

3. Wrap the other three fingers of your dominant hand around the grip and beneath the trigger guard.

4. Place your supporting hand as high as possible on the grip, and point your supporting hand’s thumb forward.

5. If you’re holding the gun correctly, both of your hands should fit together like a puzzle.

To hold the gun in a way that will allow more precision when you fire, utilize isometric tension. This means when you grip the handgun, push forward with your shooting hand and pull back with the supporting hand simultaneously. It’s also important to note the 70/30 rule when you’re holding a firearm. The squeezing intensity of your support hand should be 70% and your dominant hand can cover the other 30%. Your supporting hand creates a majority of the tension so it can help control recoil. The shooting hand can stay more relaxed, so it can concentrate more on trigger control. If you assign the shooting hand more squeezing power, its muscles will be too tight, making it more difficult for you to press the trigger smoothly.

There are slightly different variations of holding a handgun, especially when you’re handling a revolver, but it’s relatively the same. The method we discussed applies to a wide variety of semi-automatic sidearms from the Springfield XD to James Bond’s Walther PPK. Although you should follow the basic guidelines of holding a firearm, you can tweak them slightly to allow your hands to feel comfortable. A technical and snug grip on a handgun plays an important role in firing the weapon.

Firing A Handgun

Target Practice

Now that you know how to hold a handgun properly, it’s time to discuss firing the weapon safely and accurately. Always remind yourself to keep your finger off the trigger and outside of the trigger guard until you are 100% sure you want to fire at the target. Exercise extreme caution when handling the firearm and never point it in an unsafe direction. This may sound repetitive, but it’s crucial to your safety and can’t be stressed enough.

Shooting Stance

In shooting a firearm, the position of your body plays a pivotal role. There are two basic stances: the isosceles triangle and the weaver. For the isosceles triangle stance, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly in an athletic position. Both of your feet should be lined up with your shoulders. Raise the firearm, keeping it close to your body initially, and extend your arms out toward the target. Both of your feet and the extended weapon make up three points that form an isosceles triangle. If you want to shoot in a weaver stance, both of your feet will be shoulder-width apart but are staggered like that of an orthodox boxer. If you’re right-handed, the left foot should be in front, leading the way, and most of your weight should be on it. This stance was developed by Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Jack Weaver in Southern California during the late 1950s.

Rack the Slide

1. Remember to keep your finger off the trigger and outside of the trigger guard before you rack the slide. This will prevent accidental discharge of the weapon, as it’s natural for you to squeeze the gun when you rack the slide.

2. Before you rack the slide, insert the loaded magazine into the magwell. You should hear a clicking sound, ensuring that the magazine is in place securely. The magazine should slide into the magwell with little to no resistance.

3. Hold the handgun close to your midline, but keep it pointed in a safe direction, which is usually downrange or at your target.

4. There are serrations at the end of the handgun’s slide to assist you. Grip the slide serrations with the fingers of your supporting hand.

5. Rack the slide back and release it to load the first round from the magazine into the chamber. The motion should be more punching the gun forward than pulling the slide back.

6. Do not let your trigger finger slip into the trigger guard. The strict discipline of your trigger finger is vital to your safety.

Aim the Weapon

1. Use your dominant eye to aim the gun. You can determine which is your dominant eye with a quick, simple test. Make a circle with your thumb and pointer finger using one hand. Hold it at arm’s length, choose a distant object, and frame it within the circle. With both eyes open, look at the object through the circle while bringing the circle toward your head slowly. Your hand will move toward the dominant eye. You can aim with both eyes open, which is preferred, but it’s easier for beginners to start by keeping their dominant eye open and their non-dominant eye closed.

2. Extend both of your arms forward and raise the handgun at eye-level, so you can see your sights and target easily.

3. Bend your elbows slightly, as they shouldn’t be fully locked. This will help you absorb the recoil of the weapon.

4. Align the front sight with your two rear sights. Make sure there’s an equal amount of space on both sides of the front sight.

5. Focus on placing the front sight on the target. It’s impossible to keep everything in focus, so your target will be a little blurry. However, your front sight should be crystal clear.

Press the Trigger

1. When you are 100% sure you want to shoot at the target, place your finger on the trigger. The first segment of your index finger (aka the distal phalanx) should be on the trigger.

2. Do not hold your breath right before you press the trigger because that may increase tension. Wait until you’re done exhaling, as you will experience a respiratory pause in the breathing cycle. At this moment, you’ll feel more relaxed and steady, which is the perfect opportunity to fire.

3. Press or squeeze the trigger, but do not pull it (yes, even though most people refer to it as “pulling the trigger”). Increase your pressure on the trigger steadily until the round fires.

4. Do not anticipate when the handgun will fire. Let the discharge of the firearm surprise you, but make sure your grip on the weapon is secure at all times.

5. Maintain your contact with the trigger as the handgun fires, and then allow the trigger to reset.

There are two trigger control techniques to keep in mind when you are aiming and firing a handgun: the uninterrupted trigger pull and the interrupted trigger pull. When you’re using the uninterrupted trigger pull, you’ll want to apply pressure on the trigger smoothly until the weapon is discharged or stop if the sight picture (the alignment of the three sights and the target) is unsatisfactory. If the sight picture is subpar, relax your pressure on the trigger and reset your aim. However, if you choose the interrupted trigger pull, do not reset if the sight picture is sloppy. Pause and adjust your aim on the target, then resume pressure when you’ve corrected the issues. The type of trigger pull you choose is up to you. Try both of these methods, and then choose which one suits you the best.

Abide By The Rules

A Serious Matter

Handling a firearm is a dangerous activity, so you should take extreme caution every time you’re at the range firing any weapon. Stick to the rules and steps in this guide, but don’t let this be your last stop before squeezing out a few rounds at your local range. Seeking out the help of a trained and certified firearm professional is the best way to go. Safety is your primary concern when you’re handling any handgun, so take it seriously, but don’t forget to have fun at the range.

10 Best Non-Lethal Self-Defense Weapons

Now that you know how to handle a handgun properly, it’s time to look at other self-defense options. Check out our picks for the best non-lethal self-defense weapons on the market.