Teach me to shoot: Part 9

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

Before we begin, a word about the upcoming Texas Airgun Show. Remember, it’s Saturday, August 27 at the Arlington Sportsman Club in Mansfield, Texas. AirForce Airguns has decided to donate a Texan big bore as the door prize. Every paid attendee will receive a door prize drawing ticket as part of their admission and someone will win a new Texan big bore in their choice of caliber — .30, .357 or .45. How’s that for a reason to come to the show? Now let’s get to today’s blog.

This is the continuing fictional saga and guest report of a man teaching a woman to shoot. Today, though, I’m changing it up. Instead of letting fictional guest writer Jack Cooper write, I am taking over. Jack asked me to show you how to get into position to shoot targets with a handgun, holding it with just one hand. This is the way he taught Jill, back in Part 4. Today is a very short and focused lesson, so let’s get started.

This report covers:

  • Addressing the target
  • Final alignment
  • Positioning the feet for stability
  • Anchor your off hand
  • That’s it!
  • My surprise
  • Next

Several readers requested specifically that I show them in videos how to get into position to shoot a handgun with one hand. That’s all I’m going to show today. I do have a small surprise for you at the end of the report, however.

Addressing the target

Getting into position for shooting with one hand is the most important thing you can do. For my American readers, have you ever watched a major-league baseball pitcher when he first comes to the pitcher’s mound? He will spend up to several minutes getting his feet planted in exactly the right place before he ever throws the ball. He knows that when his feet are positioned correctly, he will not miss his target — which is home plate — as long as he maintains the proper form when he throws.

The same thing is true for handgun shooters. When you are in the right position, you cannot miss the target by very much, as long as your shooting form remains true. So, let’s learn how to get into position. Step one is to address the target.

Stand at the firing line, looking at the target, and turn away from the target to the weak side of your body. If you shoot with your right hand, you will turn to the left. Watch the video.


Final alignment

In this step you will align your upper body with the target so your shooting hand points directly at the target. My video shows an exaggerated alignment. It’s not usually that large. But you will be able to tell when you are in perfect alignment.

Watch the video and especially watch what I do with my feet. The lead foot, which is my right foot (I’m right-handed) moves first, and it moves more than the trailing foot. But both feet can be moved to refine the position. Let’s watch the video, then I have more to tell you about this step.


Okay, this is just a rough alignment. After you do this the first time, pick up your gun, close your eyes and raise the gun in your shooting hand, then lower it to point at the target. If the sights aren’t perfectly aligned (you will probably have to either raise or lower your hand the first few times you do this), move the feet slightly to bring the sights into alignment. Then lower your gun, close your eyes and do it again. Keep refining the stance until the sights appear to be perfectly aligned, side-to-side, after you open your eyes.

Positioning the feet for stability

When you move your feet, the object is to point the toes of both feet in — each pointing toward the other foot. This tensions the knees to make your legs rigid, and that, in turn, stabilizes your upper body. Don’t just move the leading foot. Make sure both feet are moved in this procedure, so both legs are tensioned. Let’s look at the last video now.


Anchor your off hand

Okay — the final step. Anchor your off hand (the hand not holding the gun) by either placing it in a pocket or shoving it inside the belt line of your pants. That off hand is a weight that will move around and throw you off target if it’s free to move. And, once your feet are planted and properly adjusted — DON’T MOVE THEM!

That’s it!

That is the entire process of getting into position to shoot a handgun with one hand. Reader levans asked me to show how to hold a 1911 pistol, and I’m going to do that, but not today. When I do show that, I’ll show you how to use your upper body to hold all pistols with one hand and not have to bear most of the weight. It works for all handguns — not just 1911s. That one will have videos, too.

My surprise

I originally started this blog series because I became beyond angry at the sloppy and damaging training I saw men giving to women they were supposedly teaching to shoot. As I was researching this material, I actually overheard a conversation between two men, one of whom had bought “the little woman” a .38 Special snubnosed revolver because it fit in her purse. At least they knew better than to give her a semiautomatic pistol that even they couldn’t operate without a lot of cussing and frustration! But to hand someone a handgun that you know is going to hurt when it fires is cruel.

I thought I knew better and wanted to do something about it. As I went about my research I discovered that it isn’t just women who are having this problem. A lot of men can’t take the punishment of a lightweight .38 Special snub nose shooting hot defense rounds. Some of them have arthritis in their hands and others (like me) just don’t like the feel of the vicious recoil a small lightweight gun can have. I shoot a .357 Magnum Desert Eagle with the hottest reloads possible, so recoil by itself is not the issue. The issue is recoil that passes through a grip that’s small, and concentrates the force.

I had shot a snubnosed revolver with .32 H&R Magnum cartridges several years ago and remembered what a pleasant experience it was. But after Jack taught Jill and used the same cartridge, I started to get concerned. Had I remembered correctly? So I bought a Taurus .327 Federal Magnum snubnosed revolver to test my memory. If you will recall, that is the revolver Jill chose as her carry gun.

Well I remembered correctly. The recoil is minimal for the power and actually pleasant. What I had not tested before, but did last week, was the accuracy of that cartridge in a snub-nosed revolver. At 15 yards, which is 45 feet, I was able to keep 20 shots of .32 H&R Magnums in a group that was just larger than the size of my hand. The recoil was very pleasant — not as light as a .22 rimfire, of course, but not like hitting a fastball with a cracked bat, either!

Taurus revolver group
My Taurus snubby put 20 shots into about 7.5-inches offhand from 45 feet. That is minute-of-bad-guy accuracy!

The way this series is blossoming, I am thinking of expanding it into a small book. Of course there is more to come, so we are a long way from the final book decision, but even if this is never more than just a blog, it will have served its purpose. It will be a place I can refer people to when they ask me how to teach someone to shoot.


Still to come are my explanation of how to hold a 1911 pistol and Jack has promised to teach Jill’s new friend, Jamell, how to shoot a rifle. There will be a surprise or two coming there, as well.

40 thoughts on “Teach me to shoot: Part 9

  1. Howdy Mr. BB, 1st vid clip is there, #2 & 3, are empty. Please delete this when ya fix it. Don’t wanna be one of THOSE guys. Thanx sir. Shoot ride safe.

  2. BB
    So how does that Taurus feel when you hold it?

    Kind of hard to tell by looking at the picture but it looks like it’s about the same size as my brothers Judge I shot. I did like shooting the Judge. I’m really leaning towards getting one for home defense with shot gun shells and still have the option of target practice with the bullets and a carry pistol while out in the field or woods.

    But liked the video’s and looking forward to the upper arm position video’s.

    And I found after getting the Brodax and shooting pellets through it that I really like the pull of the trigger in single action. And I’m definitely a two handed shooter after getting some shooting time on it. And thats bench resting it or free hand. I’m really glad I got that pistol. And I found as long as I keep my trigger arm fully extended and focus on the front sight and target I can see and keep on target pretty good. Oh and remember when I said I opened the package and held it the first time I thought it was big. Well it actually fits my hand like a glove. It seems to just work nice for my grip. And a very, very nice pistol for the price I will add.

    And got to ask this. Everything Jack is teaching Jill so far has been about target shooting. And I know you said there is some rifle training comming. But what about some pointers for holds with a pistol in a home defense situation when there is no time to plant your feet and get in position. Maybe more stances that can be shown is what I mean.

    • GF1,

      I admit that Jack has taught Jill a lot about shooting targets. Let me defend that.

      I have found that shooting targets teaches the basics of breathing, trigger control, sight picture and overall discipline, where defensive shooting does not. To start shooting a handgun using defensive shooting techniques is as wrong as learning how to shoot a rifle with a scope before learning to use the open sights. You’ll never understand the basics if you don’t use open sights first.

      I see guys at the range all the time who only shoot defensively. They have to move up to within 20 feet of the target, and their chief concern seems to be how fast they can pull the trigger.

      At the SHOT Show this year I went to the Smith & Wesson booth on Media Day and was handed one of their new 9mm pistols. There were guys next to me blasting away and hoping to hit the Shoot N See targets 30 feet away half the time. I shot a group of nine shots that could be covered by a silver dollar and the S&W employee who was helping me said, “You must be a target shooter.”

      Yes, I am. But before I’m that I am a shooter, first and foremost. I shoot to hit what I aim at — not to make noise and throw brass on the ground.

      Now you may have missed it but I did cover defensive shooting in Parts 7 and 8. I gave links to Babes with Bullets so readers could go there and watch women shooting defensively under the best conditions.

      What I did not do is make videos that show defensive shooting positions. I didn’t because, until Jill learns how to shoot, it is too soon for her to concentrate on only shooting defensively. Babes with Bullets did most of her defense training. Visit their website and watch some of the videos. They are most informative.


      • GF1,

        I forgot to answer your first question — how does the Taurus feel? It feels perfect to me. The grip is wide enough and rounded enough to absorb the recoil, yet still concealable. Yiou can see what I did on the target at 15 yards.

        This Taurus is a handgun that Jill will want to practice with, because it is so much fun to shoot.


        • B.B.,

          Above you wrote, “The issue is recoil that passes through a grip that’s small, and concentrates the force.” How much of a factor would you estimate that to be, compared with others (weight, balance, ammo, etc.)?

          I have hands that are like the old style catcher’s mitts of 100 years ago: medium length, thick fingers, and huge palms. I wear size 3XL – 4XL gloves. The air pistols and revolvers in my collection that feel the best to me are those with thick, deep, long grips. The grip that seems the most comfortable to me is my Umarex Beretta 92FS with wood grips. Only my Umarex Desert Eagle is borderline too big a fit for me.

          Perhaps it’s fortunate that I am not a powder-burning shooter, because a conceal carry handgun for me probably does not exist, LOL.


          • Michael,

            Pain from recoil is the number one reason I am writing this series. People just don’t understand how much it affects a shooter.

            I have had a career federal law enforcement officer tell me he can’t tolerate the recoil from his ulrs-lightweight S&W snubby when it’s loaded with +P rounds, so he (like everyone I know) practices with wadcutters! The .32 H&R Magnum allows people to break out of this insanity and shoot their defense gun with practical ammo.

            Imagine a NASCAR racer who mostly drives a stock automobile, because the cost for repairs and fuel with a genuine NSACAR racer is just too much. The lesser car is also safer because it goes much slower — another bonus. How far would he get with that kind of attitude?

            If you carry you need to practice with the same gun and the same ammo. At least that is my opinion.


            • B.B.,

              First, above I forgot to thank you for providing a simple, concise set of instructions for single-handed shooting. I will immediately incorporate the foot placement technique in my use of air handguns.

              Practice with the same weapon shooting the same ammo makes perfect sense to me. If a shooter carries a revolver loaded with .38 Special but goes to the range only with the same model revolver but chambered in .22 Long (the firearm industry does manufacture certain models as such, I believe), that is arguably worse than no practice at all. If the shooter then fires the .38 Special revolver in a real conflict, that first shot’s recoil would come as one heck of an unpleasant surprise at a moment when the last thing someone needs is an unpleasant surprise!

              I believe those who say airguns that are extremely accurate representations of the firearm they carry are great for practice. It saves money and allows practice in a basement or garage. But I would hope that same person also incorporates periodic range practice with the real thing and with the real life ammo.


        • BB
          I thought you would say that about the Taurus.

          And yes I have checked out Babes with Bullets. Actually before you even brought it up in the Jack and Jill story. But yes I did forget you mentioned that.

          And totally agree that shooting safety and technique has to be learned first before going into battle so to speak. Both of my daughters have shot for about 8 and 11 years now. They have learned pesting and been on wood walks throughout time. We are just now starting to get into the home defense part of shooting. And they/we have been watching some shooting shows on TV. So yes alot of learning to do in multiple ways.

          And yes I know what you mean about the people that open fire as fast as they can. Even in a defense situation that would probably not end good. The more comfortable and controlled you are in a given situation is always best. In a home defense situation alot of weighing out the circumstances is involved. It would be one thing practicing but when the real time came and the bad guy or guys have no telling what kind of gun or guns and will be shooting back at you it’s then a whole different ball game then safely practicing.

          Oh and in my first reply about the Brodax did you see that I said that I’m a two handed pistol shooter I found out. And that I can definitely shoot better in single action. Don’t care for the double action. And rapid fire made my groups more than double in size compared to my controlled single action shots.

          So yes I know what you mean.

          • And as it maybe. Babes with Bullets is on TV right now and I’m watching it. Just thought I would mention that.

            Modern Shooter is featuring them on their show today.

      • Yes, I’ve tried to learn about tactical pistol shooting with YouTube videos, but most of them show rapid fire at targets at are about 3 yards away. Big deal.


  3. B.B.,

    Thank you for going to the extra effort of doing the videos. A couple would play, but not all the way to the end. If no one else has trouble, it must just be something on my end. All 3 did play though. Very nice though.


  4. Hi BB,
    In 2005, I got my (very) petite wife a Rossi .38 special snub nose. She is left handed and was frustrated by semi autos because she couldn’t pull the slide back on all the ones we tried. Also, we found that she is right eye dominant so she couldn’t aim well. The Rossi has thick rubber grips and cushions her hand well and pulling the hammer back with both thumbs is easy for her. I did have to teach her to close her left eye because her point of aim kept drifting. When we go shooting, she starts off two paces from the target, shoots all five rounds, steps back two paces, reloads, and shoots again. She does this until she is about 20 feet from the target and still places them all in the chest area. Last year, my father gave me his .32 Smith & Wesson (made in 1955), chambered for .32 S&W long. It is extremely easy to shoot and everyone loves i! Ammo is kind of hard to find for it so I have started reloading it. You can even find hollow points for it! This is now the pistol that I start teaching people how to shoot handguns. My 12 year old son and his 11 year old friend shot about 100 rounds one afternoon and had a ball!

    • Jdgjtr,

      Thank you for responding with that. The S&W .32 Long is the cartridge that started my romance with .32s. But the .32 H&R Magnum has twice the power at very little increase in recoil — as long as light bullets are loaded.


  5. Dear B.B./anyone. Inspired by HiveSeeker’s guest blog, I decided to order one of my own custom 2240s from Crosman’s Custom shop. The gun will cost me c. $136. Unfortunately, Crosman wants c. $105 to ship it to me here in Hawaii! If I’d known this, I’d have ordered it to be delivered to me in WA state and had it shipped with my other household goods.

    Does anyone know a way around this?

    • Joe,

      Cancel the order and re-do it with a different shipping address,…. if it is not too late. Have it sent to a secondary mailing address like Pakmail and pick up at your convenience in WA.. Call them to let them know it will be coming. That is about all I got for ideas. Good to hear from you.

  6. G’day BB,
    I never knew that stance and holding a shotgun was that important and never learnt that from the beginning. So I have spent the last year trying to get the correct form. I could always hit targets but never smoke them as I am now.No one seems to want to teach you the correct way but I learnt it from a book called “The Stock Fitters Bible”.
    My wife took a year not to be battered and bruised with correct hold, gun fit and 1150fps shells.

    What you are doing here is fantastic for pistol shooters.

    Cheers Bob

    • Bob,

      Thank you. I just got tired of hearing the same old platitudes (“Get the little woman a .38 snubnose. It’s light and she won’t mind the recoil if she ever has to really use it.”).

      Then why take driver’s training? Why not just jump in the car and go? If you don’t crash you’ll be an old pro in no time.


  7. B.B.

    For a non powder burner like me, it would be very helpful if you could say how heavy the bullet is and how fast it is going. IE how much energy does it have.
    Why is the .32 H&R Magnum a better defence load than a .32 long?


  8. A comment on stance…

    I was talking with DutchJoseph a while ago and he suggested that (for target shooting) once you thought you had your feet correctly positioned you should lower the gun, close your eyes, raise the gun to shooting position then open your eyes to check your alignment. If you are off target, adjust your feet and try again. Once you are aligned, shoot your string without moving your feet.

    While not directly applicable to defense shooting, this process would help find your correct stance.

    In the martial arts, we were instructed take a stance and feel/learn the balance, tensions and weight distribution. Practice involved going from a normal (high center of gravity) standing position into fighting stance quickly. Kata (a series of movements) were used to teach changing stances and direction smoothly.

    I mention this because, with sufficient practice, adopting stance is extremely fast and done without thought. Is a self-defence situation reaction time is critical as there is no time for bumbling about.

    Bring “hunting orientated” I will practice the shot cycle starting in a normal stance, shifting to shooting stance, shooting and going back to normal stance for every shot. Done this many thousands of times… I shoot quickly, usually within a second of committing to do so.

    Just my nickel’s worth (we don’t have pennies in Canada any more). Hope this helps.


  9. Tom,

    Thank you for the videos. It helps tremendously to see the stance demonstrated.

    That last little part for locking the knees kills my bad knee. Guess I’ll just have to keep shooting without the last step.

    Thanks for taking the time to create these great videos.


  10. Thanks for the videos, very illuminating. The stance looks a lot like a boxing stance. Jack Dempsey himself says to point the toes slightly in as a final refinement. It also looks a lot like the stance for archery that I learned from a Korean martial arts grandmaster. He just said, “Move the right foot back and turn it slightly out but not too far.” I’m eagerly awaiting the video on stabilizing your hand which is the real mystery for me. How the body stabilizes the hand when it is hanging way out there at full extension is something I haven’t figured out.

    Regarding the training of women, there is a genre of internet videos where guys will purposely give women guns that are too big for them then laugh when they get hit in the head by recoil. You have to conclude that whoever behaves like this must not really understand or appreciate guns.

    On the subject of recoil, I’ve figured out how to tame the .357 magnum! Use a Smith and Wesson 686 (K frame I believe) with a 6 inch barrel along with shooting gloves. I cannot imagine using this caliber for a compact gun, or even a .38 special. However, I have heard the most glowing reports about the Ruger LCR which can apparently tame the .38 special if not the .357 magnum. I don’t know if that is because of the polymer materials used or something else. As I recall, there were few objections to this gun when making the selection for Jill. Perhaps the decisive factor was the .32 magnum caliber. It does seem to meet the need, but I wonder if ammo availability is the problem. My local gun store no longer even carries 7.62X39 ammo although this is California! If the wide availability of 5.56 is one factor behind the popularity of AR rifles, then the specialized nature of the .32 magnum has got to work in the opposite direction.

    The only other thing that I can think of in favor of heavier defensive calibers is that maybe people are counting on the adrenaline of a fight to override their sensitivity. In an era that is focusing on super-light close quarters rifles, the BAR at 16 pounds was beyond the pale. Even the soldiers who used it complained and tried to avoid carrying it. But once the battle started all this was forgotten and the BAR received rave reviews. Just to show the extent of battlefield adrenaline, there is another story that, admittedly, stands alone. Sergeant Mitchell Paige, a descendant of Serbian immigrants won the Medal of Honor for his actions on Guadalcanal. After fighting off banzai charges more or less singlehanded all night by leaping from one machine to another, the order came for a bayonet charge to retake some ground. So Paige picked up a Browning heavy machine gun, cradling it in his arm, and led the charge. It was only afterwards while smoking a cigarette that he noticed a gigantic blister running the length of his forearm where he had made direct contact with the metal.

    Fido3030, yes, I can believe that the speed of sound varies with a number of factors like altitude, humidity, and temperature, but I wonder by how much. That is why I associated the sound barrier with around 1000 fps. And right you are that the problem is not in being above or below the barrier but crossing it with a change of velocity. Applying this to airguns, I suspect that any gun that manages to pass the sound barrier at the chronograph is not going to stay that way out to 50 yards. Moreover, affects appear even when you approach the barrier which make me wonder why the Gladius is coming so close. The p38 Lightning fighter first encountered these effects called “compressibility” when they approached the sound barrier in test dives and the controls locked up killing the pilots. I don’t know what was happening physically although I guess that the air was flowing fast enough over the control surfaces as to pin them in place. If a whole airplane is affected by the sound barrier like this, I can’t imagine the effect on a pellet. But maybe the engineers at Hatsan have figured this out.


    • Matt61
      I think it’s more to do with the design of the pellet allowing the pellet to still work good at different velocity’s. Not the engineers having something figured out on the Gladius. Besides BB has not had the Gladius out shooting groups yet. Well I mean he hasn’t reported on groups yet from the Gladius. So we really don’t know if it can shoot good groups yet.

      And yes that’s why the control surfaces lock on the old cable linkage operated planes. The wind speed over powered the mechanism. Then next thing that happens when to much speed is encountered for the mechanics of the control surface is flutter. The control surface will vilontly start moving back and forth. If the plane is not slowed down it will vibrate the control surface off and start shaking the plane apart. How do I know that you ask. Well the R/C racing planes would do the same if you didn’t biuld the plane strong enough to over come the speed you were flying at. Yes I had that happen on my racing planes before. And they are in the ground quicker than you can blink a eye when the high speed flutter happens.

  11. BB
    I’m certainly not an expert having had only one gun fight, where i had to draw and shoot at someone who was pointing a gun at me and was apparently about to use it. But when you think about how Jill is to carry, consider that if she, as a civilian, has to use her gun she will probably have little warning and have to use her gun quickly or not be able to use it at all. I suggest a snub nose revolver (perhaps with a partially covered hammer) that can be carried in a coat pocket with her hand on it if necessary. (as when walking out to her car) the gun can be drawn quickly and aimed or fired through the pocket if necessary. The fastest draw is a gun in your hand. After my shooting in my place of business i carried a .38 snub with moderate loads in each sport coat pocket and i kept one hand or the other close to a pocket most of the time. Sounds paranoid but a shooting experience changes things.

  12. Hi BB
    Just reading your comments on your Taurus snubby and decided to do a quick comparison with my 2.5″ Dan Wesson Gold Co2 steel BB snubby. The results were identical to your Taurus shooting .32 cal. H&R Magnums. 24 shot groups at 7.5 inches at 15 yards. Not to bad for a 320fps BB pistol.

  13. Hi B.B.,

    Thanks for including those videos. It’s crazy how much easier it is to understand when seeing it on a video. Can’t wait to get to the range and practice it with my guns.

    Do you think it would be good to practice the stance with an unloaded gun and dry fire it with a weapons mounted laser? I’ve been dry firing with the laser, but with a two-handed grip…


    • Levans,

      I absolutely do think you should practice getting into this stance with an unloaded gun. Try it without the laser first. Just use the open sights. The laser will show movements that will rob your confidence in the beginning.

      But after you feel comfortable getting into position, then turn on the laser and see how close to the centerline you got.

      Be sure to tell us your experiences.


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