Gone Outdoors

How to Be a Good Shot With a Gun

by Brooke Westphal

Firearms range widely in purpose, size and mechanism. Shooters rely on different types of guns for varied activities, such as game hunting, sport/competition shooting, personal protection and law enforcement. Knowing how to fire a weapon accurately helps ensure the safety of the shooter and those around her. Handguns and rifles without a scope require similar aiming techniques. Generally, shotguns are not precision instruments and are aimed differently. By its nature, a shotgun produces a radius of fire and thus needs less exact aiming.

Become familiar and comfortable with the firearm. If necessary, contact a firearms professional to teach specifics about the gun and its operation. Understand the action of the firearm. Know if it is single-action, double-action, hammerless, semi-automatic or any other kind of firing mechanism. Find the safety devices and employ them until it is time to shoot. With the safety on and the barrel pointed in a safe direction, load the firearm according to its type.

Assume a good shooting position. If not using a shooting bench, stand with feet about shoulder length apart. Make sure the stance is sturdy and balanced. Usually, one foot is slightly forward. When firing a handgun, both arms can be slightly bent or the trigger hand's arm can be straight with the other hand supporting it toward the side and bottom of the grip. Use a two-hand grip. The trigger hand's palm should be at the top of the grip. For a rifle, ensure the stock is tight against the trigger hand's shoulder. Do not put the other hand on the barrel. Place it on the stock for support even if using a tripod or other rest.

Aim at the target using the rear sight to the front sight, then the target. If the gun has two sights, align the rear one with the front one to ensure the gun is level. Then place that sight on the target. If needed, close one eye. Be sure find the dominant eye, which may not be the same side as the shooting hand.

Control breathing. Take several deep breaths, then breathe out and hold. Eliminate movement during the trigger squeeze.

Squeeze the trigger. Take off or turn off the gun's safety. Keep the trigger finger straight and out of the trigger cage until ready to shot. Using only the tip of the pointer finger, gently and steadily squeeze the trigger. Do not pull on the trigger or use too much of the finger, as this will cause the gun to rise.

Adjust the shot. Little things like weather, humidity, and wind speed can affect accuracy. However, more important is weapon position in the hand or on the shoulder. Also, slight adjustments may be needed.

Repetition. Practice the same shooting method repeatedly, changing as little as possible. Muscle memory will play a role in gaining comfort and accuracy with the gun.

Items you will need
  • Firearm, specifically a handgun or rifle
  • Shooting range
  • Targets
  • Ammunition
  • Protective eye wear
  • Ear plugs
  • If the firearm is unfamiliar, a firearms professional


  • Clean the firearm after every session.
  • Generally, factory ammunition is cleaner and more accurate than reloaded ammunition.
  • Although it may be difficult at first, try not to anticipate the recoil, as this will substantially decrease accuracy.


  • Assume the firearm is loaded at all times and keep it pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always use eye and ear protection.
  • When passing a gun from one person to another, both parties must check that the gun is unloaded and that the safety mechanism is on.

About the Author

Brooke Westphal has been a writer since 2008. She has experience in the aviation, health-care, archaeology and nonprofit industries. Westphal holds a B.A. in history, as well as a Master of Arts in journalism and mass communications, with specialization in marketing, communications and advertising.