It came to me one day on how to teach basic handguns to women who are beginners and hesitant on how to start their journey of personal safety. Remembering how in the beginning I was treated and talked to by instructors with military and/or law enforcement backgrounds; which I am neither of and totally didn’t appreciate their attitude towards women one bit. I am just a mom with three daughters that I love dearly and realized that it was up to me to protect them and myself. I became captivated with the subject of firearms training and really starting learning how the handgun or semi -automatic pistols works and how to teach other women how to safely handle them.
Soon, I began to realize I could totally relate to other women that were unsure of themselves, anxious, nervous, along with many other emotions on the subject of guns, because I was the same in the beginning. I decided I wasn’t going to be unsure and scared of something I did not understand. So, I set out to learn all I could about handguns and their proper use simply because of what the pistol offered me and my girls. To me It offered these four things: distance, equalizer, reliable and dependable.
I love asking questions, I am curious what brought them on this new journey and challenge of self-defense . I want to know why they think it’s time to learn and demystified the dangers about handguns.
I visit with my students for a short time about their and my journey that got us to this place as we begin the conversational training about handguns. We start with firearms safety discussing Col. Jeff Coopers four “Cardinal Rules” about safety and why and what they mean to me and them.
- Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
- Never let the muzzle point at anything we don’t want to destroy
- Keep your finger off and away from the trigger until you have decided to shoot.
- Know the backstop and what could be beyond that area.
I generally start with; So, let’s start with discussing how we most often find a handgun. It’s usually in a safe, possibly laying on its side. So how do we handle it, inspect it and treat it as all guns are always loaded? It’s simple but so many times important points are overlooked. We make a gun with our dominate hand to pick-up a gun. We always pick-up a handgun in this manner so it will become a trained habit. This is when we keep our trigger finger away from the trigger and trigger guard. We then keep the muzzle pointed in the safest direction and open up the slide to inspect, and verify the status of the handgun. We also look in the chamber and put the small pinky finger in the chamber so we know for sure the handgun is empty.
We want to believe the handgun is empty, but we must verify the status of the handgun. It’s nice for someone to say it is empty, but it’s much safer to verify the status and confirm that it is unloaded.
We have just done all four safety rules, covered them, explained the value of them and the safety each rule creates for yourself and others around you. If you are careless, and don’t respect the handgun as you would any other tool, whether it’s a shovel, rake or car; you are a tragedy waiting to occur.
Then I move to the next part that many people do not spend time on. That’s the name of the handgun parts and proper thermology of the handgun. Such-as the front sight, sight radius, rear sight, slide, slide stop, slide lock, magazine release, frame, serrated groves in the slide and what there for and the texture of the handguns frame.
Here’s the fun part; we open it up, field strip the handgun. We open the hood and discuss the internal safeties. I also relate them to things like the airbags in cars, anti-lock brakes, the moving parts on the inside that show how much thought has gone into safety. So, we now know it’s function and we are now more interested and comforted in wanting to learn how to use it.
When we put it back together, we talk about the make, model, caliber and how to understand it like knowing what gas our car takes. We should know this information just like we know the gas mileage we get on our car. I show where to find this information on the handgun; such as the slide, barrel and frame.
At this point we move to ammunition. This is the “show-and-tell” part of the four parts of a cartridge: the primer pellet, cartridge case, power, and bullet. I have all these parts to show my students so the can see and touch them.
I explain how, where and why we have safe storage practices. We discuss how to store your handgun, your ammunition and keeping them out of reach of untrained and unauthorized people. We allow time to talk about their season of life and some options that may work for them.
Moving on, we get to have more fun, we talk about the purpose of the handgun. How, why, where and what they are concerned about in having it for their protection. Then we start with the fundamentals of shooting such as stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, breath and follow through.
I explain that hand size and gun size do matter. One size handgun and it’s caliber will not fit everone. I always take the time to see what would be the best options for them. When talking about and demonstrate the proper grip, I also explaining the frame size of the handgun, single stack magazine width vs. double stack magazine width. The size of their hands, their strength and ability. To be able to confidently operate the handgun is what really matters. Ability to use it, confidence with how it feels in the hands, along with talking about managing the felt recoil of different calibers.
Stance; we stand much like we did when younger. (bring back high school standing memories) feet, hips and shoulders all face target.
Next; we discuss the trigger, (which is so scary to many women) how and where to place the trigger finger on the trigger and how to consistently press the trigger straight to the rear. I use the analogy of the gas pedal of a car to help explain pressing the trigger. We always place our foot on the gas pedal at the same spot on the pedal, and we do not lift it off the pedal to slow down or speed-up. The trigger is managed just like the gas pedal, controlling the trigger press straight back and forward to reset. I discuss the trigger safety, the take up, or the amount of movement (slack) the chosen pistol has before the actual trigger press starts and how to reset the trigger. I also explain depending on manufacture, handgun type, size, weight and much more will determine how much strength it takes to smoothly press the trigger.
We move to sight alignment and sight picture. Looking through the rear sight, like it’s a window at the front sight. Total concentration and focus on front sight, not the target.
I spend a little bit of time on breath control, this skill takes more time and practice to master.
We do all these things in the classroom before we do live fire. We practice range etiquette, moving handgun from range bag to firing line and ready table. We practice picking it up, (make a gun to pick-up a gun), loading and much more; all with dummy ammunition. The student gets the feel of how the handgun works, how the parts moves, how to rack the slide, or open the cylinder. How to lock the slide open and why we do that. The act of firing is achieved in the classroom with dummy ammunition before moving to the range.
Now the range isn’t so scary, the unknown has been explained and the student has handled the pistol, and experienced doing everything they want to know without the loud noise, felt recoil and much more.
All the time needed to ask questions, allowing them to be relaxed, deal with their emotions, and slowly move through the unknown skills of firing a handgun for self-protection is allowed. It is so awesome to witness and enjoy the time we have together and learn how each student processes the information that may become a live saving skill for them.
Tammy Stein is the Chapter Facilitator of the New Braunfels TX Chapter and Owner & Senior Trainer of 1840 INC Training.