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One of the problems I see most often, in my firearms training classes, is the student not using the proper grip on his or her handgun. Gripping improperly can cause missed targets, malfunctions and even injuries. The grip must be firm, but not so tight that your hand is trembling. A two handed grip on a gun is a “love hate” or push pull arrangement. Actually the same applies also to rifles and shotguns. Years ago when I was working in a “Big Box” sporting goods store, a father with his 10 year old son came in. The father told me his son already had his own 22 rifle. Now dad wanted his son to have a shotgun. But, the slightly built boy had become fearful of the recoil from his dad’s 12 gauge pump. Dad asked me about getting a 20 gage or 410 gage in a “youth model.” I did recommend the youth model as the stock would be shorter to fit the shorter arms. Popular gun manufacturers often have the exact same model as designed for adults; they just make the stock shorter. An adult sized stock can be installed in just a few more years. But even more important is the “grip” the young man was using. I pulled a youth model down off the rack, opened the action, showed them it was empty and with dad’s permission, handed the young man the gun. Kneeling down next to him, I explained how to push forward with the hand holding the forearm, (weak hand) while pulling back on the grip with his other hand. I also instructed him to ALWAYS keep his finger OFF the trigger until ready to shoot. Pushing forward with the forearm will absorb a lot of the recoil. I also showed him how to hold the stock firmly against his shoulder, so the gun would not punch him when it fired. Dad bought the youth sized 12 ga, and the boy’s smile lit up the store as they left. The next day, the father and son came back in. They were anxious and excited to tell me about shooting some doves the day before and now the young man was no longer fearful of the shotgun!

Gripping a handgun should be the same, only you have both hands wrapped around the grip and trigger guard. Especially on semi auto pistols, the grip must be high on the back strap, but not so high that the slide comes back and hits your hand. Semi Autos have what is called a “Beaver Tail.” This is located all the way at the top of the back side of the grip. The fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger is called the web. The web of your strong hand should be all the way up as high as it will go, right under the Beaver Tail. Gripping your gun too low can cause all kinds of problems. Again, the grip is a push pull, love hate affair, so that one hand does not absorb all the recoil. With your trigger finger pointed forward alongside the frame, you grip the gun with your strong hand. Your thumb is pointed forward above the trigger area. Now with your weak hand, wrap your fingers around the strong hand, with your thumb just below your strong hand thumb. On Semi autos do NOT put your thumb above the “Beaver Tail”. This mistake can cost you some skin as the slide comes back with quite a bit of force.

Only when you are absolutely sure of your target and what is beyond, are you ready to shoot. You have lined up the sights with the target. Your trigger finger comes off the frame and down into the trigger area. The part of your finger that touches the trigger is the pad of your finger, about half way between the first joint and the tip. If your finger is too far over on the trigger you will pull your shot off to the side. The finger is moved to the rear to fire the gun. It is not a jerk, or a snap. When the trigger actually “breaks” or releases, it should be one smooth movement. The best way to learn this trigger action is to practice with and EMPTY unloaded gun. If you are worried about dry fire damaging your gun, invest in some “snap caps” specific for your caliber gun. Even better, add a cheap laser aiming devise. This will allow you to see exactly what is happening as your pull the trigger. Practice and practice some more. Dry firing practice will make you a much better marksman. Always make sure your gun in unloaded when doing this kind of practice. If someone is with you, show each other that your gun is indeed UNLOADED.

Have a plan. In my Home Defense Class, I teach you how to have a plan, in case of a home invasion. What would you do? Imagine awaking during the night to discover some demented drug crazed thug has broken into your home. Do you have a gun? Is it loaded? Is it locked up somewhere? Can you get to it in time? Do you know how to use it safely and properly? Yes, you need to call 911, but after all, when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away.

Recently in North Carolina, and eleven year old girl retreated into an upstairs closet when she heard two men breaking into her home. She dialed 911, but when the two bad guys forced open the closet door, they found themselves staring down the bad end of a 12 ga shotgun! The brave criminals fled the home and were arrested a short time later.

Out west recently, a 14 year old young man followed the plan his parents had taught him. When two thugs broke in the front door in broad daylight, the 14 year old took his 6 year old brother and retreated to a closet. In the closet were a 22 cal rifle and a cell phone. Same as above, when the thugs opened the closet door and saw the rifle, they fled like scared rabbits. Have a plan. Teach everyone in your home the plan and practice it often.

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