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Guns are a key feature in almost every survival website. For your own security, well-being and peace of mind, being able to protect yourself, no matter what, is a vital part of your planning. But for the novice, the first time you start shooting, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Because accuracy with a firearm isn't as easy as you'd think.

In addition to learning the basics, having the right training, and spending hours and hours on the range, you can still get it wrong. But I've seen my fair share of beginners improve rapidly, and there's a few common challenges I've seen crop up again and again.

Today, I'd like to explain what you may be doing wrong, to help you become a better shot. And better yet, following these guidelines will not only improve your accuracy, but make it far less likely you actually injure yourself with all that time you're spending on the range.

Improving your aim

The correct aim technique is probably the most vital skill to develop when you're learning to shoot. Even if you've been practicing a lot, consistent accuracy is difficult, even for the professionals. When your eyes start getting tired and you're no longer focused on the sights or the target correctly, your aim will falter and your accuracy fail. It's a fact of life.

To solve it you need to take it one step at a time. My advice is to start working on the front sight, focusing on this alone, to improve your aim. Of course, you need to repeat this with both live-fire and dry-fire exercises, with a goal to rapidly shift your focus from the target to your sight, without moving your arms or jerking the trigger as you shoot.

Improving your target hits

If you're consistently hitting your target too low, that's a problem too. It happens because you're pre-anticipating the recoil of the shot, which is causing your hands and arms to tense up. Shooting while highly tensed up like this causes jerky movements, that are usually evident with a series of target hits that are too low.

To solve it you need to work on improving your aim with a laser sight, and also your grip. The gun should feel comfortable and firm in your hand, not tight, and the trigger press needs to be one smooth consistent action. Don't squeeze or snap your finger as you shoot. Make it a deliberate press that keeps your firearm as still as possible. 

Improve your trigger press

Building on the last point, it's critical to ensure you're not pressing the trigger the wrong way. Your finger should move in one dedicated path backwards, without any sideways movement. If you're struggling with this, it could be you're not pressing hard enough, or you're not moving your finger straight backwards. And that results in a jerky movement that will affect your accuracy when the gun does fire.

To solve this, I like to position the trigger just between the pad of my index finger and the first knuckle. Not the tip of your finger, the trigger should be almost "hooked" into place, so that as you pull it towards you the trigger moves in one fluid motion. Work on improving your trigger pull, until it's smooth, and your accuracy will skyrocket.

Improve your thumb position

One potential problem with your accuracy is what's known as thumbing. When you're shooting, if you're not conscious of it your thumb will rotate (usually clockwise for a right-handed shooter) which pulls all your shots to the right. It's caused from an improper grip, or a handle on your firearm that's too big for you.

To solve it, you need to work on relaxing your grip. I like to position the thumb of my shooting hand firmly on top of the supporting thumb underneath, so I know and can feel when it's in the right position. Then take a breath. The key to good shooting is calm, and if you're stiff and stressed your accuracy will suffer. As you press the trigger be wary of your wrist and thumbs, any movement and you'll need to reposition for the next shot.

Improve your response to recoil

The first time I shot a gun I thought recoil was something to overcome. A reaction that I needed to fight against, to keep my handgun in the same position. If you've ever shot a large calibre shotgun, you know how futile this is, but it doesn't stop you from anticipating and tensing right before you shoot. Doing this can push your shots down, so you hit the targets lower than you were intending.

To solve it, you need to learn to love the recoil. It's a natural reaction to your gun being shot, and you shouldn't be fighting against it. Just let it happen, as it's the next step once the bullet fires, but letting the gun move will not affect your aim. Just let it flow, let the gun rise up as it needs to, then bring it back down into shooting position for your next shot.

So, take a breath, and relax as you shoot. Being relaxed throughout this whole shooting process also makes it less likely you injure yourself. Tensing up puts stress on your wrists and elbows with every shot, and can result in pulled muscles or worse injuries if you're not careful. And that's the opposite of what you want.

Be wary of these five challenges as you're learning to shoot, especially if it’s the first time you've owned a gun and are figuring it all out for the first time. It does take time and practice to improve, but when you know what to look out for your skills will get better much quicker, and you'll start seeing positive results, every time you step onto the range.

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