Question of the Day: What’s Your Number One Tip for New Shooters?

Kirsten Joy Weiss’ instructional video on proper trigger finger placement is spot on. Of course. Simply by moving your trigger finger to the proper place on the ballistic go-pedal (just before the distal joint) can yield a 50 percent increase in accuracy. When I’m training newbies it’s all about the stance. Getting a new shooter to bend their knees and stick their ass out just about eliminates recoil-related accuracy issues. It also teaches the shooter to get into the groove; their first, instinctive reaction to a self-defense situation should be to hunker down. What’s your number one tip for new shooters?


  1. avatar preston says:

    Don’t fear the gun. so many new shooters are afraid of the gun, which i think is the main hindrance to their learning.

  2. avatar Jim R says:

    First, worry about shooting safely. Second, worry about shooting correctly. After you have those two down (in that order) you can worry about shooting quickly.

    1. avatar Gordon Wagner says:

      What he said. Safety first. Assume any weapon is loaded, never point it where you don’t want to shoot, make sure you’ve got your eyes and ears protected… never touch the trigger until you’ve got what you want to shoot in your sights.

    2. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

      In that vein, don’t put the 1st round in the firearm until you understand how it works. Snap caps are your friend.

  3. avatar Shire-man says:

    To paraphrase the Cannibal: shoot lots.

  4. avatar rlc2 says:

    Great tip. Thank you!

  5. avatar John L. says:

    Keep calm and don’t blink.

    1. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

      I’m reminded of the time I saw my brother drinking his milk at dinner and said, “Steven,….don’t laugh.”
      The milk came out his nose.
      Everybody blinks sometimes…. don’t stress about it.

  6. avatar old-crow3 says:

    I always tell new shooters to take their first shots with their eyes closed. They need to heighten their other senses and this helps. It is also good to start big that way they get used to the big guns first. Smith model 29 is the best starter gun.

    1. avatar troutbum5 says:

      Why not a Ruger Super Blackhawk in .454 Casul? Eyes closed and one-handed. Or even a .460 or .500 S&W. Might as well make it fun.

      1. avatar old-crow3 says:

        That’s ridiculous

        1. avatar Troutbum5 says:

          As is starting someone off with a Smith Model 29…44 Mag. Unless you are using very mild loads. I was being a tad sarcastic.

      2. avatar Drew says:

        Is it so hard to assume one would use 44special ? And at 40+ ounces even run of the mill mag loads are hardly extreme or painful. Another tip though when using guns with real recoil is to load only one round at a time until the shooter can confidently control the weapon.

  7. avatar Cyrano says:

    New shooter training…
    Safely shooting first. Ear protection, muzzle control, operations of said weapon.
    Correct Hold which would include stance, finger placement, and foot placement.
    Finally breathing and respect of the weapon. People who fear the gun, hold their breath. People who focus on the target and operate the gun control their breath.

  8. avatar Jeff Dege says:

    Shoot 1000 rounds of .22 every weekend for a month.

    1. avatar Drew says:

      …and call me in the morning.

    2. avatar Mosinfan says:

      PLEASE let me know where I can get 4,000 rounds of .22lr per month!

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    “This is a loaded gun, not a cobra. It won’t turn around and bite you, and you know how to turn it into an overpriced paperweight because I taught you how.

    “The bullet comes out of the hollow end, so that’s where you do not want yourself or anyone else to be.

    “Nothing happens unless you press the trigger, so keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to press the trigger.

    “Keep your eyes open so you can see what you’re shooting. If you can’t see what you’re shooting, do not shoot.”

    The Four Rules for Noobs.

  10. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Don’t fear the recoil. By the time you feel it, the bullet’s gone.

  11. “Stop grabbing the trigger every time you pick up the gun!”

    1. avatar Shwiggie says:

      Nailed it.
      1. Finger off the trigger.
      2. Finger off the trigger!

      Well…that, and, “don’t point it at me.”

  12. avatar FoRealz? says:

    Don’t shoot your eye out.

    Don’t point the gun at stuff you dont want to shoot.

    If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t be embarrassed or too proud to ask for help. Everyone was a noob at some point.

    Go slow with everything, especially if unfamiliar with handling firearms. Go slow and think about where’s its pointing and what your hands are doing.

    Snap caps.

    1. avatar Markarov says:

      Your advice about not being too proud to ask questions is Spot On!
      The guy who taught me about firearms and shooting added one to Coopers Four Rules: Ask Questions! About anything and everything, in re firearms and shooting. He said if I asked a question he didn’t know the answer to, we’d Both research it to find the answer. That way, I’d be helping him learn, as well!

  13. avatar troutbum5 says:

    Muzzle pointed downrange or down and away from feet, finger off of the trigger until you are aimed and ready to fire. Then the rest of what Robert said.

  14. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

    I tell them to go to the gun store and buy whatever gun the salesman says that the Navy SEALS use.

    1. avatar JJ48 says:

      Really? I tend to follow the Army Rangers, myself. To each his own, I guess.

      1. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

        The guy at the gun store can sell any weapon he wants to sell just by telling potential buyers that the Navy SEALS use it. My understanding is that the Navy guys can use just about anything they want, so it’s likely that no matter what kind of gun it is, a Navy guy probably used it at some point. I think the Rangers have to use whatever they’re given. Besides, the Rangers only have ONE movie (two I guess if you count Saving Private Ryan), whereas the SEALS have many movies, and don’t even get me started on the books they’ve sold.

    2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      And it has to be .45 acp, that way all you need is a good toe shot.

      1. avatar JR_in_NC says:

        Sorry, but I’m pretty sure you meant .45 mm. It’s amazingly effective from what I hear (from the MSM).

        1. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

          I think you mean the 45 mm. That’s what the Navy SEALs use.

  15. avatar Hal says:

    1) Front sight post
    2) Either summon up the gusto to ignore the recoil or shoot enough that you overcome your flinch reflex.

  16. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    Have fun, shoot the target, your going to be excited, keep it pointed down range, if you turn around and muzzle me, you will never go shooting with me again.

    1. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

      Exactly why it’s a good idea to only load one round for the first few shots. Then a couple of rounds for the next few shots.

  17. avatar Sgt Frank says:

    Place finger on trigger as described above

    exhale slowly as you take up the slack in the trigger and as your breath is gone your gun will fire, it will be a surprise, it will be a good shot.

    practice this over and over with the same gun or pistol or rifle. When your breath is totally exhaled there is no movement on you body and hence your best shot. Take your time….learn to control your gun, don’t let the gun control you.

  18. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    Easy…”Always remember shooting is just like swimming, but inside out.”

  19. avatar JJ48 says:

    Be aware of what’s going on, and always THINK about what you’re doing.

  20. avatar Patrick B. says:

    Some funny answers above… I seed the magazine (or cylinders) with a snap cap or two. Really highlights someone’s overactive trigger pull and recoil anticipation.

  21. avatar Tile floor says:

    Don’t worry about making a tight group or making a ragged hole in the center of the target. Focus on safety first, then the mechanical operation of the weapon aned recoil. After you have the basics down and feel comfortable with your gun, then we can advance to bettering your accuracy. I’ve found that throwing proper breathing trigger control trigger reset and all that at someone who is shooting for fhe first time tends to overwhelm them. I let them get comfortable handling a weapons for the first 30-40 rounds then go into that stuff

  22. avatar John M. says:

    Number one tip? Same as rule #1: You always treat guns as loaded.

  23. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

    My wife has shot several (if not many) times. We were at the range the other day shooting my Mosin Nagant. She was struggling to get into a comfortable shooting posture when she wisely set the rifle down and said “I’m not comfortable with this.”

    So, don’t be afraid to set it down and walk away until you are ready to try again.

  24. avatar another Steve says:

    Good info in the video – It seems a lot of people default to using the first crease, especially at speed. Also, how about that ginormous ring on Kirsten’s middle finger? Looks like it could double as a weapon if she needed to punch someone – lol.

  25. avatar bontai Joe says:

    After I have drilled them on the 4 rules of safety, my number 1 tip is RELAX. Relax and take a slow deep breath and relax and have fun with this. As a teacher, do not scare the student with tales of monster recoil, death and destruction, because if shooting isn’t at least a little fun, they will never want to do it again.

    1. avatar JR_in_NC says:


      With new shooters, I like to cover the 4 Rules and Shooting Fundamentals in a brief dry fire session before going “live.”

      One of the fundamentals is “relax,” as in “firm grip, but not a death grip” or “strong stance, but relaxed.” I don’t measure their feet width or elbow angles or any stupid “technical” jazz. The point is for them to

      (a) have fun shooting, and
      (b) be successful at hitting the target, which reinforces (a).

  26. avatar bozo says:

    Pretend that there’s an invisible, 1.21 jigawatt (insta-kill) laser constantly being emitted from the barrel. Watch where you’re swinging that thing.

  27. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

    Take a well rounded firearms class that covers firearms, firearms safety, range rules, laws concerning possession and use of deadly force and also includes shooting or range time where the new shooter fires the weapon under the supervision of an accredited instructor.

  28. avatar lolinski says:

    Relax and get into a position you are comfortable in. Preferably lean forward if you shoot something with recoil (shotguns, magnums, 308s and the like). Pull the trigger slowly and smoothly.

  29. avatar lewis says:

    Lesson one with a picture lern the parts of a firearm
    lesson two the 4 rules with a brom stick
    lesson three stripping and cleaning with a drill practice firearm
    lesson for range comands and drill with snap caps
    lesson five first shots

    i did two ams femilrisation corces in the navy where we never fired a shot get them comfortable with the kit and you are 99% there

  30. avatar Gene says:

    Slow down.

  31. avatar Southern Cross says:

    Sight picture, sight alignment, and follow through.

    I few weeks ago I had a “never touched a real gun in his life” new shooter calling his hits with a peep sighted rifle (my no8 trainer) after a few shots, at 100 metres prone.

    He then proceeded to get 10 of 10 into the inner zone of a SR95 target in a 3 minute deliberate match, and the group looked good.

  32. avatar DangerMouse says:

    I about fell out of my chair when she said “there’s a sweet spot between the tip and the crease”.

    I just… I don’t even… But I want to…

    1. avatar Jay-El says:

      I did fall out of my chair.

  33. avatar Russ Bixby says:

    Rule number 0: Respect your elders; we might actually know a thing or three.

  34. avatar Kerry says:

    My #1 Tip is to slow down and not ge in such a hurry to run out and buy that first gun. Rent and shoot a whole bunch of them first. The new shooter will get some valuable range time and experience with a variety of guns that will help them dispell a lot of the junk they read and hear and help them make a more informed decision when it comes that first purchase.

  35. avatar CA Patriot says:

    1a. 4 rules of firearms
    1b. Practice, practice, practice…then practice some more

  36. avatar Rokurota says:

    For the love of John Moses Browning, DON’T LEAN BACK.

  37. avatar William says:

    To my non-Marine military shooters: GET YOUR FINGER OUT OF THE F $&€¡NG TRIGGER GUARD!

    To my civilian students: You’re paying me for this lesson and I like repeat business. Forget what Mr. Tacticool in the bay next to you told you about about learning to cant his pistol at a 45-deg angle while capping Taliban with the 734th Marine Ranger Squadron…and index your finger out of the trigger guard until you’re ready to fire.

  38. avatar Drew says:

    After safety, both eyes open. I made the “close an eye” mistake when I first started.

  39. avatar Mk10108 says:

    My gig is body alinement to the target and man handling your gun. Bring your pistols up and it should square on center mass. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched hips thrust forward, arms levered out, head tilted to the side. Not fighting your body to aim improves hitting paper by 50%. It’s a bang stick, it makes noise, and yes if held losely it will move around.

    If a shooter is having a tuff time, I’ll introduce myself and ask if they would like to tighten their group. Most say yes and in about 5 mins, I’ll have them within a 6-8 inch circle. Usual stuff 12-6 = wrist. 3-9 is trigger. Usually get them into a mod weaver stance. The goal is to get them quickly confident they can hit what they aim at.

  40. avatar Mark Chamberlain says:

    Use dry fire practice to become very familiar with your trigger and do some dry fire practice following live fire to take care of any flinch you may have developed while live firing.

  41. avatar Ted says:

    Own it, live it, love it! You are now a shooter. Be proud of that fact and represent it confidently. Admit what you don’t know and graciously accept what others are willing to share. Oh, and welcome to the fold!

  42. avatar Mercutio says:

    Re: Joy’s advice on finger placement – makes sense but maybe not for many pistols. Even though my handgun is fairly good sized (Glock 34), my hands are big enough and fingers long enough that for me to use the finger placement she recommends, there’s no contact between my palm and the gun. Granted you’ve got a two-handed grip, but the grip is unstable unless you can get the pad of your palm below the index finger to snug up. – so I’m a second digit pistoleer…..

    1. avatar DangerMouse says:

      Interesting point. Have you tried a pistol with interchangeable backstraps and tried the long/large backstrap?

      1. avatar Mercutio says:

        no I haven’t tried beefing up the grip, given the distance between my palm and the right side of the grip, I’d need to block it out to adjust for about a 3/4″ gap. Didn’t seem like there’d be a big enough package on the market, and if there were, it’d make a better club than gun, so I end up using the lower crease of the finger, most often

  43. avatar Hasdrubal says:

    Number one tip for new shooters? Have fun.

    Yes, it can be dangerous, but as long as you follow the rules you can be safe. Yes, the act of shooting is a complex task involving fine motor control, but you can learn to do it just like I did. Yes, there is a good chance you will get hooked on this and spend ever increasing amounts of your disposable income on guns, ammo, and accessories, but consider it your first step into a bigger world.

    So with all that in mind for a newbie? Have fun.

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