Top 5 Tips For New Shooters

Welcome back everybody. This is Eric here. We’ve got another top five video for you today. I’ve got a special guest, here, Chris Cheng. You guys might recognize him from season four of Top Shot. He’s the champion that won, amazing marksman, overall great guy. If you guys know anything about the marksman industry, you know he’s one of the most well-respected guys when it comes to just being an all-around good guy.

We’re going to talk about the top five tips to make you a better shooter. He has his book out, Shoot to Win. This particular book is full of all kinds of great facts that give you a lot of information on what it’s like to be a new shooter, what it’s like to get into it. I made myself a little cheat sheet here. We’ve got top five we’re going to give you a little bit to go on out of his book here. One of them that we came up with is mentality and mindset of a shooter, like how to prepare yourself. Elaborate on that for us.

Shoot to Win is a book for the beginner shooter, someone who just doesn’t know anything about guns. When it comes to mentality and mindset, I run into a lot of new shooters who come into the experience very fearful. They’re afraid of a gun and the main message is that’s a very normal response. I remember when I learned how to shoot a gun at the age of six. I was scared.

I know that this gun has the potential to do some damage, but if you learn how to safely handle and operate a firearm—safety is a big part of Shoot to win—that will help you overcome that fear. It’s okay to come into your first-time range experience being afraid. It’s okay to tell the person who’s training you, “I’m a little bit scared. Please help me review and learn all the safety rules and safe handling and how to shoot safely and have a good time.”

What I take from that, my perspective is that being in the mentality of a shooter, getting yourself into that mentality, just like you wouldn’t go out and carry a firearm for personal defense every single day without being prepared for the possibility and getting yourself in that mindset that you could have to use that firearm to hurt someone. Just like that you have to get yourself in the mentality to be a gun owner.

Part of that mentality is understanding they are inherently dangerous objects. If used improperly they can certainly cause you and other people harm. Just understand that you are in control. When you’re behind that gun, you’re in control of that firearm. You are operating that gun. It’s no different than operating a piece of machinery, using a tool, driving a car, playing with fire, whatever it’s going to be. You’re in control and you have to remember that.

I was just thinking about a story that really highlights this point of having the right mentality. A friend of mine came up to me just about a year ago. He was asking me about him and his girlfriend buying a shotgun for home defense. They had run into some shady characters in the neighborhood. I was telling him, “You want a shotgun for home defense. That’s great. Have you considered a pistol? Have you considered a rifle?”

Ultimately it came down to this main point of mentality. I said, “Look, if you’re going to buy a firearm for self-defense and home defense, you’ve got to be ready to take someone’s like. If someone’s threatening you and your family, do you have the right mental mindset to kill somebody?”

The answer was no. I said, “That’s fine.” That’s okay. Not everybody has that mindset. I said, “If you can’t visualize yourself going to that extreme endpoint of shooting a bad guy and killing him or her in your house, then buying a firearm for self and home defense is probably not a good idea.”

It may be more of a liability than it is a help. That also lends you to think about knowing the capabilities of your firearms too, knowing what your firearms can do, what they can shoot through. That of course is a subject for another day indeed. The next one, we’re going to get onto number two, is choosing the right gun. This is where a lot of people go wrong.

As a beginning shooter, we know that there’s been a tremendous boon and a tremendous amount of growth in the firearms industry, new firearms owners. A lot of people are just getting their first gun. They’ve got a lot of questions about what they should buy. A lot of it comes down to what the intended purpose is. Is it going to be something for home defense? Is it going to be something for upland quail hunting? Is it going to be something for shooting deer three or four times a year? Is it going to be a gun to keep on your boat in a saltwater environment for snakes? What is the gun going to be used for?

I think that’s determining a lot of it. Where a lot of people go wrong in my opinion is they tend to overbuy on the gun. It’s pretty much the same thing as say I want to be a motorcycle owner. I know motorcycles can be safe and dangerous. Motorcycles can be dangerous. Sometimes it’s other people on the road. It’d be like me going out and buying a Ducati that can do 170 miles an hour and I’m an inexperienced motorcyclist.

You never even sat on a motorcycle.

I never even sat on a motorcycle and I’m going to get 170 miles an hour on a fancy bike and then probably not going to end well for me if I’m not careful. With firearms, why don’t you elaborate on choosing a proper firearm for you.

Part of being a first-time gun owner, usually the conversation starts with rifle, pistol, shotgun, and then usually caliber is the next part of that discussion. I tend to start new shooters on 22, 223, 9mm, or the calibers in that equivalent range. I’m not going to put a 500 Smith and Wesson revolver into a new shooter’s hand tell them that this is a good beginner, first-time gun for someone.

To your point of overbuying, a first-time gun owner, you may look at that 500 Smith and Wesson and be like, “Whoa, that’s a badass gun. Look at how big the bullets are,” but it’s generally speaking not going to be a good gun to learn the finer points of marksmanship. It’s great to blow stuff up with, but from the finer points of marksmanship, usually a 22 piston, a Ruger 10/22 rifle, or even an AR-15, are great first guns to buy.

The main point is what are you buying the gun for? The answer to that question, that will then answer all the other subsequent questions, pistol, rifle, shotgun, and what kind of caliber.

One part of it too is to make sure that you’re choosing a gun that fits you properly. Take an experienced shooter or someone that works at a gun shop that can really walk you through the process of making sure you’re selecting a firearm that’s right for you, the way it fits your hand if it’s a pistol, the way it comes up to the shoulder if it’s a shotgun, the size and weight and caliber of the gun if it’s a rifle.

Guys there’s a lot of factors to choosing a gun, but just make sure you choose something that is a good starting point, to really allow an instructor to take you under their wing and help you become a better shooter. I think that’s a very big part of that. That leads us to number three, which is to seek help and learn safety.

That’s where a lot of entry-level shooters go wrong. They’re too proud to ask for help or they don’t understand the safety rules that it comes down to making sure you’re being safe behind your firearm, making sure you’re not hurting anyone or yourself.

This ties back into the earlier point about most new shooters come into this experience afraid. It’s because of a lack of knowledge, lack of knowledge, lack of experience. When I’m teaching a new shooter, the first thing that I always mention is safety.

That is the number one priority and of course we’re here to have fun as well, but fun takes a back seat to safety. Any instructor who works with a lot of new shooters, the two rules that get violated the most frequently are finger off the trigger until you’re ready to actually shoot the gun, and then keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction.

Muzzle discipline guys, very important.

As a new shooter—again it’s okay to ask questions. Ask the person who’s training you, “Am I doing this correctly? Can I be doing it better?” Any instructor will be happy to either confirm or correct any things that need to be worked on.

An interesting point to add to what Chris said there is, don’t get just one training class and assume that, “I’m good with one training class.” Don’t get me wrong guys; one class is better than nothing. If you go and you take a class from Frontsight or if you take a class from somebody like James Yeager, you go up there and take his class, he’s going to give you a lot of great foundation to go on.

He’s also going to explain to you how mental preparation is a big part of it too, like we discussed earlier. Guys, get some training. Don’t be afraid to take a class or two or several classes. Don’t be afraid to allow those classes to reinforce what you’ve learned by taking them sometimes multiple times. Even experienced shooters who’ve been shooting for ten or 15, 20, 30 years even have been known to take even a basic refresher course just to reinforce things that they already know.

Guys it’s not a big deal to do that. It’s perfectly normal. Don’t think just because you’re taking training that it looks funny or looks bad. Training’s completely normal. You wouldn’t go and take on a job as a heavy-equipment operator running big, dangerous Bobcats every day if you didn’t get a certain amount of hours of training to make sure you know how to operate that piece of machinery properly, not only so it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else, but so that you’re keeping a certain degree of safety and efficiency.

Guys, firearms are no different. You want to make sure that you’re maintaining that level of efficiency through good training. That leads us to number four. Guys this is one that a lot of people violate, even experienced shooters. I’m sure Chris will elaborate on this, but get out and shoot. That’s number four.

This is, like any skill set, you’ve got to go and practice. Everyone is busy. Maybe you’ve got a family, a significant other; you’re just busy at work. Firearms for a lot of people, they’re a hobby. That’s not your job to go shoot guns, but even for people such as myself where it’s my job to shoot guns, but sometimes I don’t have a ton of time to practice. Sometimes I show up in a match and the match is my practice.

That is not the way I intend things to be. The reality is that’s just the way things turn out. To do things right, I have to set aside time on my calendar. For me, I use Google Calendar and if I don’t see an event show up on my calendar then basically it isn’t going to happen. I’ll block off an hour or ten to 15 minutes, ten to 15 minutes every single day or even just a few times a week.

Work on trigger control, sight alignment, sight picture, transitions if you’re a shotgunner, just mounting the gun over and over and over. It’s that repetition. You don’t even necessarily need to go the range. You can do a lot of practice at home. Dry fire practicing is a huge, huge beneficial approach.

For those of you who don’t know what dry firing is, it’s taking an unloaded gun and either without any ammo in the gun or using plastic dummy rounds going through all the motions as if you were shooting the gun, and pulling the trigger. All of that repetition through dry fire builds in the muscle memory and the muscle strength. It’s one of my key training tools in my toolbox.

Try this. If you’re watching this video and you’re thinking, “I don’t get to go out and shoot as often as I’d like, but I want to train more,” everything he said is completely valid and makes perfect sense. Try a dime drill. Take your favorite pistol. Of course make sure it’s unloaded. Use whatever snap caps you’re going to use if you’re going to use them. Place a dime on the center of the front sight post.

Mount the gun, point it, maintain your sight picture, treat it like you’re going to shoot the gun, squeeze the trigger, break the shot, the dime should stay on the front sight, simple. If you’re holding the guns steady and you’re following through with all your fundamentals, the dime shouldn’t move. Dime drills are a great way to practice rifle, shotgun, and pistol. Try it. See if it works for you. That’s a great little tidbit.

That’s one of my favorite drills as well.

We’re getting on to number five here. Practice consistently, so all of the above. Notice that we haven’t even gotten into anything involving physical technique as a direct topic. Once all of those things are put together and you figure out a way to apply them, applying them in a consistent manner and applying the things you’ve learned in a way that will improve you not hinder you, that is the name of consistency. How would one practice consistently?

It all depends on your personal schedule. If you’re working a nine to five job, Monday through Friday, then setting aside some time either at home after work in the evenings or perhaps going to the range. I know for a lot of people, they join their local gun club, become a member of your club.

You get to meet many other like-minded people who enjoy shooting. You get to go arrange practice sessions together. You learn from people who are better than you. For me, I’m always seeking out people who are better shooters than me because that’s the only way I’m ever going to get to that next level, improve my skillset is by learning from people who are better than me.

You got that right. One thing that I will elaborate on with what Chris just said there is that you want to weed out bad habits in your practice regimen. One way you’re going to do that is for one to have a shooter that you can partner up with. It’s always good to have a shooting partner, somebody that can observe you while you shoot that is knowledgeable enough to know what you’re doing wrong, and they can weed out problems in your practice regimen.

They can go, “Look man, you can cut some time by doing this. You can be more efficient doing this. You can improve your accuracy by doing this.” That can come in the form of hiring an instructor that can maybe work with you once a week or just finding a buddy of your who is on a very similar level as a shooter as you are that you can partner up, go to the range, and share in some training together and make it meaningful.

That would be a pretty good piece of advice to practicing consistently is to have a shooting buddy, someone you can go to the range with. If you’re married, it can be your wife. Get your wife into shooting. Women tend to be very meticulous on a lot of different things. Women, when it comes to technical fields, they tend to be very meticulous to the point where they’re not afraid to call you out if you’re doing something wrong.

Get your wife into it. You may find that she ends up being more of a gun person than you are even. That’s top five there, but we always have to have one little wildcard. The sixth one—we were thinking about earlier what we would make number six in terms of this list. I would say that number six would have to be seeking out quality information from quality outlets and getting a wide variety of different perspectives on not only potential purchases, but different training regimens or things you can do to improve your skills.

Don’t be afraid to take information from a wide variety of different resources if those resources are good. From my perspective quickly, I would say watching good-quality YouTube videos—let’s say you’re interested in purchasing guns. Of course you’re going to get on there and you’re going to watch the latest Hickok45 review or the latest Iraqveteran8888 review I hope, or you’ll watch Tim at Military Arms Channel, you’ll watch Sootch00 over there, great guy.

There are tons of great YouTube channels that put out so much good content on a regular basis, that you can really glean a lot of information and learn a lot of things from. It’s not about learning different things, it’s about learning about different perspectives about the same thing, different ways of looking at one side of the coin and learning where everybody’s coming from on that one given subject.

Ultimately, taking all of those different perspectives and finding out what works for you. For me, if I’m teaching someone how to properly grip a pistol, there’s your textbook way of doing things, but there’s a lot of flexibility and room there. Where do I put my thumbs? Do I rest it on the slide? Thumbs out? Thumbs forward? These are some of the finer points that I would say there’s no right answer.

There may be right answers for certain applications, but ultimately what I tell new shooters is, “Learn as much as you can from different perspectives, different techniques. Try them all. Don’t be afraid of trying something new.” If someone says, “This is the only way. This is the best way to do something,” take that with a grain of salt.

Try it, but don’t get locked into, “I’ve now learned the best way to do it. Therefore I don’t need to learn any other techniques.” Learn as much as you can and ultimately if you’re able to safely handle and shoot the gun and you’re hitting your target as fast as your potential, then that’s great. Ultimately find what works for you.

That’s right. Guys I hope that you enjoyed today’s video. I want to thank Chris for taking a moment to come on the channel here and give us some tips from his book here. If you’re interested in checking it out, check out the description box below for a link to buy his book if you’re curious. There’s a lot of great information. I know I’ve got my copy, so I’ll be thumbing through it.

Guys, it’s all about keeping an open mind. If you’re an experienced shooter, guess what? You still need to keep an open mind because you’ll learn techniques from places. You’ll be inspired in the places that you would least expect. If you’re a new shooter, guys this age that we live in with social media, YouTube, video, different books out there, authors, great magazine content, there’s never been more information out there to educate a new shooter than there has been in recent years. Guys there’s no excuse to be uninformed when there’s all this great information out there. We’ll leave you with that. thank you for watching. We’ll catch you next time.

Thanks for having me. See you everyone.