The OCAT Marksmanship Trainer and Working with New Shooters
To a new shooter, firearms can be intimidating and at times, downright scary. Learning how to safely handle a firearm takes time, practice and a good instructor. Learning to shoot is not an endeavor someone should take on by simply heading down to the local bookstore, purchasing “Shooting for Dummies” and taking the ‘show’ to the range. Training a new shooter on how to use firearms safely and effectively can often be a long and daunting process.
The first thing that every new gun owner must learn is how to safely handle a firearm. This all begins with the “Firearm Safety Rules.” You can find lists of these ‘rules’ on nearly every training website and blog, so I will take this opportunity to highlight the ones I find most important when working with a new shooter:
- We handle all firearms as if they are loaded. This includes treating training firearms as if they were real and ready for live fire. We never want to let our guard down and must ensure that the new shooter is learning the importance of handling the firearm safely each and every time they pick it up.
- Establish a precedent that the new shooter keeps the firearm pointed in a ‘safe’ direction at all times. When training with lasers and other firearm trainers, designate a “safe wall,” one that if an accidental discharge were to happen, it would be in the direction least likely to cause injury.
- Stress to the new shooter to keep their finger off the trigger until on target and ready to shoot.
There are additional safety training tips for new shooters, but for our purposes, the three mentioned above will do.
Another important aspect of the training process is the new shooter learning how to hold the firearm. There are many different ways for an individual to do this comfortably. It comes down to basic physiology and will be dependent on a range of factors such as the size of a person’s hands, the firearm they are holding and personal preference and style. As an instructor, just be aware that what may work for you, might not work for the person you are teaching. Being flexible and open to different stances and styles is necessary.
While safely handling the firearm, the new shooter will raise it up and attempt to get a sight picture. They can use either the one eye technique, or both. I prefer teaching new shooters to have both eyes open, providing a larger field of view while shooting. Have the new shooter focus on the front sight, while allowing the rear sights to blur slightly. Explain to them that the target will also be blurred. Let them know that initially this may feel unnatural as they will want to keep moving their focus to the target and rear sights. Have the new shooter lower the firearm and bring it back up to acquire the front sight again. Have them practice this process until they are able to locate the front sight more naturally. Most people are able to do this quite comfortably after ten to twenty attempts.
Now it’s time to “pull the trigger,” although most people would say squeezing the trigger is more accurate. The trigger squeeze should be smooth and even, taking between one to two seconds to fully depress.
In the next article, we will continue going over getting the new shooter comfortable with the firearm, sight picture and trigger pull before moving on out to the range.
Keep Practicing. J. Cline