Guns for Beginners: Overcoming Your Fear During Firearms Training

Jon Wayne Taylor and Michal Idan training

Fear is important to our survival. We wouldn’t be here today if our species hadn’t developed a fear response that allowed humans to survive a wide range of threats. Threats we continue to face. Threats you face during firearms training? Maybe so.

Fear is Normal

New students taking a shooting class are often frightened. Some are scared because they’re holding a [potentially] deadly weapon. What if I screw up and shoot myself? What if I screw up and shoot someone else? Equally, some are afraid another student will violate a safety rule and injure them

That kind of fear is a close cousin to the fear generated by performance anxiety. Screwing up with a gun might not be injurious, but it could be embarrassing. Loss of face or social status is a deep-seated concern for a lot of people.

Both of those types of fear are normal and natural. Both of those fears tend to dissipate once a student realizes that the head instructor is a professional who puts students’ safety first. Someone who encourages students of all skill levels with patience and positive reinforcement.

[Note: if your instructor or instructors don’t meet that standard, if you feel your safety is compromised, act on your rational fear and remove yourself from the class.]

The student gradually realizes they aren’t going to die, kill anyone and/or make a fool of themselves.

Gauge your fear, relax your breathing

Fear comes in various intensities, from “mild anxiety” to a full-on “panic attack” — which is nothing more than a normal fight, flight or freeze response to stimulus that isn’t dangerous.

If you’re experiencing mild anxiety before or during a class, again, it will ease over time. And if it doesn’t, well, a small amount of fear can help keep you sharp. As long as you can concentrate and perform the required tasks safely, it’s really a question of feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

If, however, you’re experiencing a  fight, flight or freeze response before or during a firearms training class, you’ll experience a number of [literally] alarming physical reactions: rapid, shallow breathing; rapid heartbeat, dilated pupils, trembling, crying, an inability to concentrate, tunnel vision and more.

First, recognize that all of these “symptoms” are designed to save your life. Rapid breathing oxygenates your body. A rapid heartbeat spreads the oxygen to the muscles. Adrenaline gives you strength. Crying alerts your pack to danger and recruits their aid, and so on.

The easiest way to combat an inappropriate survival response: focus your mind on your breathing and force yourself to breathe slowly. Control your breathing and your body will eventually get the message: stand down.

If your fight, flight or freeze symptoms don’t ease, take a break from the class, go someplace quiet, control your breathing and quiet your mind with positive thoughts. Take your time and don’t worry…everyone knows how you feel.

Understand your fear; explore it, embrace it, conquer it

Whether you’re anxious or downright scared before or during a firearms training class, ask yourself, what am I afraid of? Then don’t be afraid to ask the instructor to directly address your fear.

If you’re afraid the gun will jump out of your hands, ask the instructor, “How do I stop the gun from jumping out of my hand?” If you’re worried about shooting the gun by mistake, ask the instructor, “How do I stop myself from shooting the gun by mistake?”

It’s as simple as that, as long as you check your ego at the door. There are no stupid questions.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you there’s nothing to be afraid of. In my experience, students who recognize their fears, put their ego aside and address their concerns with their instructor become competent and safe shooters.

 

Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned to the world at large. He is the president of Trident Concepts in Austin, Texas. 

comments

  1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

    That was his audition for GySgt Hartman. He didn’t quite get the part.

    1. avatar Geoff "The witch finally met her bucket of water" PR says:

      Why, was he from Texas? 🙂

  2. avatar former water walker says:

    Ya know when I bought a gun some 10 years I hadn’t shot a gat since maybe 1972. Never a major caliber either. I just jumped in. I was highly motivated (I was 56 years old). Having an explosion close to my face took a bit getting used to but I was hooked. It helped a lot that I was still big & strong with a good grip. I got NO help at any range…

    1. avatar Durrrr says:

      Geoff the Goof PR likes to go down to the local gay bar and get sexy time explosions close to his face.

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        You really need to get a life.

        1. avatar Durrrr says:

          …writes the ‘man’ who’s so fat and out of shape he gets winded going from his sofa to the fridge. Drop 150 lbs before you start judging other people’s lives, fatso!

        2. avatar Darkman says:

          This @Durrrr is definitely some kind of manchild. They always revert to name calling. He started the string with an attack on someone by accusing them of activities he most likely partakes of himself. It’s a Liberal sickness where they( Manchild or Toxic female) accuse other people of things they do so as to make themselves feel superior or in most cases a way to justify sick/illegal habits. It’s called Guilt Transference. It is a mental disease that is treatable,but usually requires a Full Frontal Lobotomy. Don’t bother cause I Don’t Care…

        3. avatar GS650G says:

          Thanks for the laugh!
          I’m probably in better shape than you are.

          And I’ve got a great life!

        4. avatar Geoff "The witch finally met her bucket of water" PR says:

          “This @Durrrr is definitely some kind of manchild.”

          Widdle ‘durrr’ has some embarrassing ‘issues’ he’s dealing with.

          Good thing I’m always happy to kick it square in the teeth every time it needs it.

          Right, widdle ‘durrr’?

          *snicker* 😉

        5. avatar Durrrr says:

          Uh, what on earth are you Rambling on about? Take your meds boomer and then come back and try again you 🤡.

        6. avatar Geoff "Trolls, the other white meat" PR says:

          I’m no boomer, boy.

          Now go to your room and jerk off… 🙂

      2. avatar That's nasty says:

        He’s nasty mofo sounds like…. gross…

      3. avatar Southern Cross says:

        A classic case of projection.

        Weren’t you taught if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, then don’t say anything?

      4. avatar Someone says:

        What is it with you leftist sickos and your fixation on weird sexual fantasies?

  3. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    I think day zero of training is not to have formal training on that day.

    Take the person to a private field, a range if you have to, with no onlookers around. This is about noise and getting familiarized with the scary parts. Touch, feel, hear, see, explore unloaded weapon, weight, off the wall questions…taking away the ‘unknown’.

    Showing how and what a weapon will do..Balloons, watermelons, various things. If the person is receptive, allow them to shoot with your help.

    Allow a couple of days to allow the new shooter to process all of this mentally…Then formal training or what have you can start if they want.

    only my opinion.

    1. avatar Uppity Pervert says:

      You seem like you might be a pervert…. taking someone to a field to touch the scary parts?…. this kind of talk has no place in training someone to use firearms……
      Contrary to popular belief, some people just have no business EVER touching a firearm…. and adults who are scared of touching the scary parts and can’t handle the “noise” should NEVER handle a firearm… they need a psychiatrist, not a gun….

      1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

        “..You seem like you might be a pervert…”

        Might be.. or might be someone that has taught women who were traumatized by a sexual assault (A/K/A rape) and males that were robbed and beaten badly enough to require surgery and rehab. I guess the 1911 purists call me a pervert since I carry a Glock. Lots of things probably make me perverted and I’m ok with that.

        But enough about me, what about you?

        I’ve always been kinda jealous that a couple posters on this board have their own troll. Are you stepping up because that would be freakin awesome.

        1. avatar GS650G says:

          I might have bagged a fan boi, sure hope so. It’s nice to have a bot that says dumb stuff after every comment. James Campbell blazed a trail.

          That’s how you prove you’re getting under their skin.

      2. avatar Geoff "The witch finally met her bucket of water" PR says:

        “Contrary to popular belief, some people just have no business EVER touching a firearm…. ”

        Oh, I *agree*. Do your part and never, EVER touch a gun again.

        And just who the fuck made you the judge who gets to say who can or cannot exercise a civil right? 🙂

        1. avatar Durrrr says:

          Once again Geoff the Goof forgot to take his meds before posting on TTAG.

        2. avatar Manse Jolly says:

          Darn’it Geoff! What is your secret?

          ….sigh. grumble …”everyone’s got a personal troll but me”.

        3. avatar Geoff "The witch finally met her bucket of water" PR says:

          “Darn’it Geoff! What is your secret?”

          All you have to do is kick it square in the teeth every time it snivels.

          Just remind it what a waste of viable protoplasm it is every time it babbles something incoherent… 🙂

        4. avatar Durrrr says:

          Geoff the Goof PR is a hero in his own mind. To everyone else he’s a joke. But what would you expect from a ‘man’ who has never, ever known the pleasures of a woman?

    2. avatar Chadwick says:

      I don’t disagree. When I’ve introduced people to shooting I don’t start with hitting targets under stress or even really hitting targets. I show them how it works, how it is safe to handle, where your hands go, what to watch for, and what each firearm has that makes them unique. The suppressed 22s are a great place to start. After an introduction the new shooter decides how far they want to go. Some decide it’s fine to have a gun and keep a box of ammo and shoot once a year or two and some bug me about going shooting and hitting steel targets while moving and such. It comes down to the person’s ability to process their lack of skill and the reality of a threat to their life.

  4. avatar possum says:

    Here , you load it like this, you pull this thing back, then you pull this thing. Watch I’ll show you, clikclackpowpowpowpowpowpow, pahpow. Here yah go, have fun, I’ll be right behind this concrete wall and bullet proof glass watching you in case u fck up.

    1. avatar Geoff "The witch finally met her bucket of water" PR says:

      You have an advantage, the ditch provides natural cover from flying lead… 😉

  5. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    I don’t know. I’ve trained a lot of new shooters. Never saw more than mild apprehension. If you can drive a car you can shoot a pistol. Driving a car is more complicated. Most of those I trained had a really good time. I often included an automatic weapon in the class. Shooting a pistol effectively, as well as automatic weapons, is not difficult.

  6. avatar stayinyolane says:

    just because you were a seal doesn’t mean you know anything about teaching others anything…. just saying

    1. avatar possum says:

      what if he was a walrus instead of a seal?

      1. avatar Seals or walruses says:

        🙂

        If not a walrus, how about a manatee?

        1. avatar stayinyolane says:

          I was thinking platypus – see what I did there
          🙂

      2. avatar LazrBeam says:

        Koo koo ka chu.

    2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Stay, I wasn’t a SEaL. Just a lowly paratrooper. What I was, is a student of the firearm. All of my life. Many on this site know I was also an LEO for 23 1/2 years. And an LEO firearms instructor for 22 of those years. I took vacation time to take advanced firearms training whenever I could. Don’t think training is important? Then why do the SEaLs train?Within months of graduating the academy (with the Top Gun trophy) I went back for Law Enforcement firearms instructor, advanced firearms instructor, officer survival, marksman (sniper) for a simpleton like you, patrol carbine, tactical pistol, tactical rifle, ad nausium. I could paper a wall with the training certificates I have. I was also dual sworn as a Deputy U.S. Marshal on the N. FL Violent Fugitive Task Force. I chased a 1911 through a dark door many a night. What do I know about teaching anyone anything? I taught everyone from pro NFL players (one had a Superbowl ring) to grandmothers for their CCW. They shot a variety of handguns, and I mean more than a few, in my class. My handguns. $100 tuition. $0 if they couldn’t afford it. Two questions at the end of each class. “Did you have a good time?” “Did you learn anything?” “No” to either of those got you a refund and your CCW paperwork. I never gave a refund. So, stayinyolane, go fuck yourself. Those that know not of which they speak should hold their tounge.

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        Oh, I also had a class called Instructor Techniques. It was a bitch. A lot of papers to write and lectures to give. My lectures were on the subjects of rifle ballistics, edged weapons, etc. My classmates voted me most informative.

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Stayinyolane, is a good screen name for you. You should take your on advice.

        2. avatar Gagsden Fag says:

          This isn’t about you, and no one asked about your CV. Also, stop lying.

        3. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Fag, no lie. Well, we called it woffing shit in the Army, but what would you know about that? I’ve saved children’s lives. Parents too. Put a lot of really bad guys in prison. That may have saved you soiling your pants and having your significant other from being raped. Who knows? Has anyone ever woke up the next morning and thought themselves, “I’m glad that man (maybe you, but unlikely) was there. No? Didn’t think so. Get up tomorrow and count some nickels. Someone has to.

      2. avatar Wtf???? says:

        Hold on a sec….. you just said if they answered no to the question of learning something…..
        So, if the student answered no, then how TF does that qualify to give them their CCW paperwork?????
        I’m confused….

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          wtf??? I said if you didn’t have a good time and didn’t “learn anything.” They all did both. The English language is not very complicated if you pay attention. Besides the CCW I was hoping to create new POTG. Maybe you should try it.

        2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Wait! I get it. Well, my 25 y.o.a. son told me. Forgive me. I usually think people are who they claim to be. He said that Stay and wtf??? are probably just trolls. Best just to leave them under their little bridges over their little creeks. He said they’re like stray cats. If you feed them, they’ll never go away.

        3. avatar Gagsden Fag says:

          GF is the kind of person who ‘can’t talk about specifics’ of all the ‘terrible things he’s done’. The guys who really served tolerate his nonsense because 1) they think it’s funny that someone has to steal valor to feel relevant and 2) he pays for the drinks. The kind of guy who ‘would have won the MOH if the shit had t of hit the fan ‘over the wrong line on some map’.

    3. avatar Defens says:

      Actually, Jeff was a BUDS instructor as well as a team member. And having taken several of his classes, I say he’s a very capable instructor – among the best I’ve had.

  7. avatar Wally1 says:

    I agree, we used to have some firearm instructors who could barely qualify on range day. One of our officers who was a gun collector had no muzzle awareness at the range .I hated being there when he was on the firing line. Much like most that have degrees on the wall but are dumb as a post. Known a few of those.

    Perfect practice makes perfect. Just my opinion.

  8. avatar enuf says:

    Have never had a newbie that apprehensive in their first time shooting anything.

    I’d imagine my method is similar to many. I prefer to begin on the tabletop. Field strip the gun right there, no ammo in the room at all. Then we go over the simple mechanics of what does what,the newbie being guided to assemble the gun. I find giving a new shooter an understanding, however basic, of how this mechanical thing works takes the mystery out o fit. All along the way emphasizing safety first, familiarity and fundamental technique second.

    Dry firing there at the table with snap caps is always a good idea. Practice putting the into a magazine, no more that 3 to 5 snap caps.

    Shooting day begins with me demonstrating the first few rounds. Then presenting an empty gun, newbie loads one round in a 5 round magazine. Experiences that first shot, and I can assess follow-thru on maintaining muzzle orientation upon recoil. Sometimes a bit of instruction is needed to reinforce not being distracted by the boom of the boomstick, keep the muzzle and trigger finger discipline smoothly in control while holding the gun.

    After that, full mags and working on marksmanship and having some fun with targets that ding or break. Last family member I taught was a 12 year old young lady, must say she did a fine job of learning indeed.

    About this YouTube video, the hot babe in the video is an Israeli model name of Michal Idan, I looked her up. Does some fine swimsuit work. Have to say if she had to have her left hand taped like that, maybe the grip of that gun was a whole bunch rougher than it needed to be.

    Anyway, if she’s going to practice dressed like that, she deserves a big sidount on the range fee!

    1. avatar Hotrussians says:

      I agree…. she’s fkn hot!

    2. avatar Bloving says:

      I was wondering if I was the only one who noticed that bandage. Placed exactly where a Slide Bite would occur if she had made the noobie mistake of crossing her left thumb over her right wrist while learning pistol techniques a little while before…
      A nasty slide bite resulting from an inattentive instructor could put any beginner on edge when switching to a different firearm later in the lesson.
      🤠

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Nope. The bandage was actually on her left palm. It was from the nails on her right hand digging into it.
        I thought I was going to show up and shoot. I didn’t know that I was going to be teaching someone else to shoot, and I don’t think she knew that either. Neither one of us knew that we were going to be videod. It was damn annoying.

        1. avatar hawkeye says:

          Annoying having that sprung on you, but excellent coaching nonetheless. That’s how we save young ladies from becoming little old ladies who are bent on disarming the country. May be a different place if someone had taken such pains with RBG, Pelosi, et. al. Perhaps not, but worth the effort for this one.

    3. avatar Someone says:

      There used to be a lot of Israeli models on this site once. Good old times…

  9. avatar Russians are scum...(except mikhail) says:

    I could put her through some pistol handling technique training….. it wouldn’t take place at the range though….

  10. avatar CplCamelToe says:

    I just came for the tag pic.
    Girlfriend’s packing a serious rack.

    Well played, Dan.

    If you can’t catch us with content, then catch us with the ti-tay-tays.

    1. avatar Geoff "The witch finally met her bucket of water" PR says:

      Are “ti-tay-tays” anything like ‘Bodacious Ta-Tas”?

  11. avatar GS650G says:

    I just trained a friend on an AR10. Disassembly, operation, etc. A bad magazine gave an opportunity to show clearing jams and safe clearing. It’s a bit intimidating with all the rules, operations and then the noise but in the end it was called awesome.

    There is a lot of hype and myth about guns, especially black rifles. They are only machines but pop culture has made them into mythical beasts. Actually operating them dispels the myths.

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      GS650G, while an AR-10 is superior to an AR-15 it is only an AR.

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        To someone that never held one and has been subject to a barrage of misinformation it’s a mountain to climb.

  12. avatar Ralph says:

    I’ve taught more women than men (lucky me). The ones who were apprehensive became eager shooters within one or two rounds. Once they realized that they were in control, fear turned into empowerment, and it turned fast.

    1. avatar Geoff "The witch finally met her bucket of water" PR says:

      “Once they realized that they were in control, fear turned into empowerment, and it turned fast.”

      And that right there is why they fear one of theirs to pick one up. The ‘Magic Spell’ they have cast will be forever broken, and it scares the crap out of them… 🙂

  13. avatar GS650G says:

    If she’s afraid to shoot that rifle why us she wearing a pistol? It seems to me she’d never use it.

    Nice belly ring.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      She had never shot either, but for some reason she wasn’t scared at all of the pistol. She was terrified of shooting a rifle though.

  14. avatar Random says:

    I come to this site to learn all I can about firearms and to get opinions from people with more experience than me. It’s sad to see everyone devolve into name calling and personal attacks against people they don’t even know and have never met. The trolls are bad enough but when I see the ones that I used to respect sinking to the same level as the others it’s just too much.

    1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

      Happens sometimes….but I will tell you that I own a Ruger PCC and bought a Acme scope based on reviews and what posters thought. Many of those posters are still here.

      Yes it gets a rambunctious and sometimes goes all cattywompus but it will be ok.

      Oh! and a belt. Best belt I have ever owned, strong and thick enough to support a 1911 without sagging my pants. Belt will probably still be going strong after I’m gone.

  15. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    I got lucky having a dad who was an instructor, and a couple of super cool uncles who just liked to shoot.
    Then being on a small bore rifle team in high school kinda cemented my love of shooting.

    Good job Jon. Teaching shooting goes hand in hand with sharpening ones own skills.

  16. avatar Accur81 says:

    Wow, she’s gorgeous!

    For first rifle and handgun, I like 22 short or 22 LR for adults and a .177 BB gun for kids.

    I’ve introduced a few on my Henry 22 gallery gun – subsonic shorts are quiet and fun.

    @Random, TTAG has trolls, and grumpy old dudes, and some creepers. It’s the internet, after all.

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