Know These 4 Key Pistol Shooting Fundamentals – Guns For Beginners

By Nancy Thorne of the National Carry Academy

There are a variety of factors that go into shooing a handgun well. The stance, grip, aim, sight alignment, trigger control, follow through and keeping your feet firmly planted are all aspects you’ll need to keep in mind. But let’s focus on the four primary fundamentals of shooting that, with some practice, will make you a better pistol shooter.

1. Stance

A good shooting stance provides a strong, stable platform which is crucial for accuracy. There are two main upright shooting stances – the Isosceles and the Weaver – from which other stances have evolved. While the Weaver is probably better known, the Isosceles is more commonly taught to beginners.

Both the Isosceles and Weaver stances have their proponents, and both have benefits depending on the shooting situation.

The Isosceles stance is the first two-handed stance taught in most basic firearms classes. It’s a naturally defensive stance that is strong, simple and easy to remember under stress. When using this stance, remember some key components:

• Stand facing the target with your feet shoulder width apart.
• Bend your knees slightly.
• Extend the handgun fully toward the target keeping your arms slightly bent.
• With your shoulders squared to the target, your arms form the perfect isosceles triangle from which the stance receives its name.

The Weaver stance is often used by police, military and self-defense advocates because it allows accuracy while presenting a slightly smaller profile. This is the stance you usually see in movies and TV shows.

• Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with your strong-side leg slightly back in what is often called a boxer’s stance.
• Angle your support arm’s shoulder toward the target.
• Bend your knees while keeping your body weight slightly forward.
• Grasp the gun using opposite pressure with both hands.
• Keep both elbows bent with the support elbow pointing downward.

2. Grip

The two-handed grip is one of the most popular, commonly used methods for holding a pistol. Hold the pistol with the weak hand while making a Y out of the thumb and fingers of the strong hand.

Then place the back strap of the gun against the middle of the intersection of the thumb and forefinger, allowing your fingers to wrap around the grip.

Next, bring the support hand around the front of the strong hand grip overlapping the fingers of the strong hand grip, aligning the knuckles of both hands on each side of the grip.

When done correctly, the grip will provide plenty of firm holding power for aiming and firing the gun, while allowing it to remain relatively stable and in the same position after recoil.

Note that the thumbs on a semi-automatic pistol are positioned with the weak thumb positioned slightly in from or the strong hand thumb, and below the gun’s slide to protect them from impeding the sliding action during discharge. For the revolver, the weak hand thumb rests over top of the strong hand thumb for added stability and to stay clear of the cylinder.

Grip consistency is important for accuracy. Because grips are slightly different between makes and models, some will be smaller or larger than others, so you may need to make slight adjustments depending on the model gun you’re using. It’s always recommended to practice with the pistol you will use most often, such as a carry pistol to ensure consistent positioning.

3. Sight Alignment

Sight alignment is the relationship between the shooter’s eye, the rear sight aperture, and the front sight. You need to center the front sight blade with the rear sight aperture.

When aiming, the front sight is positioned in the middle of the rear sight notch with an equal space on each side. The horizontal top surface of the front sight is on the same level as the top horizontal surface of the rear sight notch. It is necessary to be acutely aware of the relationship of the rear sight to the clearly defined front sight.

Normal vision is such that most people can’t get both the rear and front sights in focus. In general, it’s best to focus on the front sight. Your rounds will generally end up where you’ve placed the front sight if your other variables (stance, grip, trigger pull) are taken care of.

4. Trigger Control

Trigger control is the skillful manipulation of the pistol‘s trigger so you’re able to hit what you’re shooting at. You’ll need to work on depressing the trigger while maintaining good sight alignment and sight picture. That can be easier said that done, but remember these tips:

● You need even, consistent pressure applied to move the trigger straight to the rear of the pistol, which isolates the movement of the trigger finger.
● Use a firm grip to maintain sight alignment and sight picture – don’t stop, hesitate or pause. The trigger pull should be one smooth press. Don’t anticipate the gun firing; let the sound of the bang surprise you.
● When the shot is fired, regain your sight alignment and sight picture as quickly as you can to prepare for the next shot in precisely the same way.

The trigger press and the placement of the trigger finger are both crucial. For the semi-auto, the middle of your fingerprint on the index finger is about where your finger placement should rest on the trigger.

When you’re shooting, if your shots are consistently landing to one side of the bulls eye or the other, check where your finger is resting on the trigger. Too much trigger finger on the trigger can pull shots toward your strong side. Too little finger on the trigger can cause shots to be pushed to your weak side.

There are other variables, but if you master these four fundamentals, you’ll be a long way toward the goal of being an accurate, effective pistol shooter. It only takes three things to get you there: practice, practice and more practice.


National Carry Academy is the nation’s premiere firearm training resource for those who decide to carry a gun as part of their lifestyle. NCA offers online and in-person courses in over thirty states, and provides our students with the resources necessary to obtain their conceal and carry.


  1. avatar john nm says:

    My dad has an old Barretta .380 that he acquired used sometime in the 60s. If it was held the way the green check marked picture is there are few problems that would occur. 1) the extra drag from having 2 thumbs touching the slide would cause loading malfunction. 2) after a couple boxes of ammo you would at least 1 very raw thumb. 3) there is a good chance that at some point the webbing on your right hand would be bleeding.

    1. avatar little horn says:

      a lot of guns are like that. its specific for that shooter and that particular gun. so its bound to happen to everyone at some point.

    2. avatar DJM says:

      I’m pretty sure that your dad has a Berretta .

      1. avatar Billy says:

        Even more sure he has a Beretta

        1. avatar anonymoose says:

          And that it’s nice and light in a lady’s handbag.

  2. avatar little horn says:

    stance needs to be removed. it is an antiquated notion and only used at ranges and should be considered a training scar. now we train to shoot ON THE MOVE. what stance is that?

    1. avatar roguesam says:

      These ARE labeled as “fundamentals”….for beginners.

    2. avatar Joe in San Antonio says:

      Shooting on the move should be trained as well. the first thing you should do in most situations when presented with deadly force is find cover/concealment whic can be dynamic. What I mean is even if you are the target standing still and drawing is rarely the best option, better to move and present a different target

    3. avatar Richard Kennedy says:

      Well let me see….if you can’t move I suppose YOU just stand there with your hand on your hip? Stances are not antiquated….they have there time for intended use just as ‘shooting on the move does’.

    4. avatar Aaron says:

      yeah, boyeee, we practise shooting on the MOVE, by holding a gun sideways out the window of a speeding low rider!

  3. avatar ironicatbest says:

    One reason I prefer autos over revolvers, they are easier to shoot over your head while jumping behind a car, spray and pray, reload, then toss out a couple hand grenades….. 9-1-1 what’s your emergency? – – – ” I NEED MORE AMMO”

    1. avatar Mike H says:

      Comment even funnier as I imagined it with my young daughter as the ninja.

      1. avatar AdamTA1 says:

        Hah thanks for that my 5 year old pretends she’s a ninja all the time so your comment made me think of her doing this. It was fan-dam-tactic.

    2. avatar Aaron says:


  4. avatar updateSC_Joe says:

    Number 5…Have Fun! I love the picture associated with this article. Look at that girl! Look at those other kids. I’ve seen that…it’s amazing. Kids learning the safety rules, learning the fundamentals and then having a blast. This is so important to our political fight, too.

    Teach kids the basics by the book…yes, even the stance. Once they learn, they can adapt to their comfort and performance. My daughter’s stance is not what you would teach a beginner – It’s not how I taught her to shoot a handgun. But she has trophies, certificates and ribbons in her room indicating she can shoot better than most.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email