Congratulations. Buying your first gun is a major milestone in your journey towards being prepared, as it arms you with one of the deadliest weapons available. But owning a gun isn't the important part. The trick is knowing how to use it properly, in a self-defensive situation, so you can protect yourself and your family from harm.

Without the right training, you'll dramatically increase the chances you'll actually hurt yourself, or a loved one with the gun you've just bought.

Scary right?

But there's some good news. All it takes to become proficient with your gun is to get a little training. Put in the hours with a good instructor on the shooting range and you'll quickly grow confident with your new gun, and be in a much better position to use it to defend yourself. I've spent years handling and shooting guns, and I'd like to share my favorite tips so you can level up your defensive shooting skills as fast as possible.

Here's what every new gun owner needs to know.

You need plenty of ammunition

Without a ready supply of ammunition, you're going to be in trouble. You won't have enough bullets to use your gun to fight back, and you'll be too conservative in your training sessions to learn how to shoot properly in the first place. The downside is it's expensive. For me, I started just buying one box a week. Over time, my stockpile grew, and now I have more than enough to put in as much time on the range as I like. With plenty left over for any bad guys knocking on my front door.

Your grip is critical to get right

Get an instructor to show you the right way to hold your gun before you start shooting it. It'll help you remember the correct positioning of your fingers, and ensure you don't start developing any bad habits from the start. Both of your hands should be wrapped around the grip of the gun, with your thumbs pointing forward. Bringing the gun to eye level should allow you the see straight down the sights and aim at your target.

Your focus is on the front sight

As you line up your gun to the target, you want to align the front and rear sights on your gun. The trick is to focus on the front sight only, and use your peripheral vision to align the back sight as well as the target. It's OK if these are a little blurry, but if you're not able to see either you may need a pair of prescription shooting glasses. I'd also recommend buying a couple of packs of our splatter targets, to help you identify where your shots are landing. It's invaluable when you're just starting out.

You need to shoot with your eyes open

In the movies, you'll often see the hero closing one eye as they line up to take that last final shot. Don't do this. Closing one eye not only cuts down on your field of vision, it fatigues your face and stops you being able to properly focus on the target. If you're not able to shoot with both eyes open, you can try squinting your non-dominant eye, but do your best to keep them open.

You need to keep your finger indexed

The only time your finger should ever touch the trigger is when you're about to fire a shot. At all other times, it needs to be indexed. Which means you've got your trigger finger resting on the frame of your gun, (above the trigger guard) at all times, until you want to shoot. It's a basic rule of gun safety, as too many accidents occur when shooters don't follow simple rules like these.

You need to understand your gun

I am pedantic about keeping my guns cleaned and maintained. To the point where I now clean them after every session shooting at the range. It's overkill I know, but it's imperative you know how your gun works, how to keep it in good working order, and how to clear any jams or malfunctions so you can continue to fight back against your attackers. Most jams can be cleared by tapping the magazine and racking the slide to eject the failed round, or you can try reloading the magazine altogether.

You need to practice

Ultimately, becoming a good shooter comes down to practice. But that doesn't mean just firing off thousands of rounds willy-nilly in your local shooting range. You need to do targeted lessons, that focus on specific techniques you will need to master if you want to be effective with your gun. Some of my favorites are as follows.

Train to have a steady shot

The secret to good shooting is to keep a calm, controlled confidence in your body as you shoot. There's many things that can impact your ability to relax, but the biggest one I find students struggle with is their reaction to the gunshot. They anticipate the crack of the gun, which causes them to tense, and sometimes even take their eyes from the target. You can practice this by having a friend swap out some dummy rounds for the live ammunition, and watching your reactions when a dummy round is hit. If you're flinching, you need to continue working on this, so you have no reaction to a real gunshot.

Train to reload your gun effectively

If you're ever in a defensive situation and you need to use your gun, it'll pay to know how to reload it by feel. Just in case. Imagine if you're exchanging gunshots with a criminal in your home, in the middle of the night, but you lose the upper hand as you're not able to reload your gun without seeing what you're doing. My advice is to practice reloading at every chance you get, from swapping out magazines to re-racking your slide. Do it until you're able to perform reloads quickly and effectively, without looking.

Train to shoot with both hands

For the most part, I'm more comfortable shooting with a two-handed grip. It's more stable, allows for greater accuracy, and I'm much more confident in my abilities when both hands are on the gun. But what if this isn't possible? What if you're in a situation where you need to shoot one handed? That's why you need to practice shooting with both hands. Just in case. You may be struggling with your assailant, or already injured. Put the training in now, so you're able to respond effectively and efficiently to any threat that may arise.

If I had a single recommendation for anyone interested in survival, it's to practice with their guns more. You'll build confidence with your firearms, and if you're regularly getting to the shooting range you'll quickly notice how your accuracy and efficiency with the weapons improves. Because the most important thing when it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones is knowing how to use a gun. Your ability to shoot is what counts. Not the stockpile you've got locked away in the cupboard.

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