How to Aim a Handgun

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

Learning to properly aim a gun is not only crucial to hitting your intended target, but is a vital part of gun safety. Should you ever need to defend your life using a handgun, you'll want to be confident in your ability to hit your target, and only your target. With consistent practice, aiming your handgun becomes a finely honed skill, not a hit-and-miss affair.

Step 1

Practice safety first. Know how the mechanics of your gun work, how to check whether it is loaded, and how to use the safety. Practice at a local gun range or another safe location with a solid, bullet-proof backstop where missing the target won't endanger people, animals or property. Avoid setting up near water or rocks, which can cause bullets to ricochet. Practice trigger discipline by keeping your trigger finger extended in a straight position along the side of the gun until you are ready to fire a bullet. Keep your gun pointed in a safe direction at all times, even when you are sure it's unloaded.

Step 2

Sight your target using the sights along the top of your handgun. The front sight on the end of the muzzle has a dot or blade that you will align in the center of the notch found in the rear sight. When taking aim, position the front sight on the part of the target you desire to hit. The top of your front sight should appear level with the top of the rear sight as you look at it, and centered within the notch of the rear sight. Keeping your eye focused on the front sight, not the target, will improve your aim.

Step 3

Stay steady. A certain amount of recoil or kick may cause your hand to jump and make you miss your intended target. Extensive practice will help you strengthen arm muscles and get used to the gun's kick. Other factors such as squeezing the trigger too hard, anticipating the recoil or pushing your arm forward when shooting may make you miss your target. A certain amount of wobble when aiming is normal, especially when your muscles get fatigued from repeated shooting. Sometimes exhaling a deep breath can help steady your hand, but your best bet is to learn to aim and pull the trigger smoothly despite the movement.

Step 4

Dry-fire practice with an unloaded gun to help proper aim become second nature. Practice aligning the front sight within the rear sight, keeping your eye on the front sight instead of the target. Force yourself to stare at the properly aligned front sight for 30 seconds at a time so it feels natural when you're shooting at the range. You'll know you're taking your eye off your front sight if you get scattered results. Use practice drills such as drawing an unloaded firearm and getting into a two-handed firing position for 30 seconds, focusing on the front sight, or holding a pen out in front of you and practice switching your gaze between the tip of the pen to the target and back.

Step 5

Develop trigger control. Anticipating the gun's recoil can result in a jerky trigger finger that makes you shoot downward and to the side of your target. You may also be pressing forward with the heel of your hand, causing the bullets to group near the 12 o'clock position on the target. Use an unloaded laser-equipped pistol to help you see where your bullets would hit while dry-firing. Make sure the pad of your index finger sits squarely on the trigger and that you are moving your trigger independently without your thumb, other fingers or palm moving. Practice dry-firing until you build the muscle and coordination to pull, press or squeeze the trigger without moving anything but your trigger finger.

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