5 Mistakes Handgunners Make and What To Do About It

5 Mistakes Handgunners Make and What To Do About It

5 Mistakes Handgunners Make and What To Do About It

Former police chief Joe Saxon is one of the top shooters in Georgia with a handgun and a sought-after instructor. His list of credentials covers pages. We sat down with Joe to find what are the biggest mistakes hand gunners make and how to correct them.

Top Shooting Mistakes

The No. 1 mistake most people who have a handgun make is also the easiest to correct.

1. Not Shooting / Practicing Often Enough

The actual physical act of going to a range, loading the handgun and shooting it is the biggest problem. Most people who CCW simply do not shoot enough.

Once a year, or less, at the range and a box of shells is not enough. Spend time and shells at the range and some, perhaps all, of the problems these experts identify will go away. The reasons to shoot are far too numerous to mention here, but one reason does merit publishing.

Shooting regularly teaches you how your firearm reacts and trains you how to work with it instead of against it.

2. Anticipating recoil

“This more than any other thing (except practice, see #1), creates problems for the shooter. Instructors often do a bad job, with novice shooters by not fully explaining what is going on when you squeeze a trigger,” said Saxon, a firearms instructor with multiple certifications and more than 600 classes as an instructor in his holster. “They then begin trying to anticipate or control this occurrence which leads to the bullet not striking the intended target. Shooters have to learn to allow the gun to go off, and not to try and make the gun go off. The distinction is real and important.”

3. Jerks

Saxon, a certified three-gun instructor since 2000, links this problem to recoil. Too many shooters either think they need to bear down the trigger to make it shoot or they anticipate recoil and start the jerk-and-flinch reaction before the hammer ever drops. The jerk motion causes the gun to dip down. Pulling the trigger and the resulting controlled “chemical explosion in your hand” should not come as a surprise, he said.

True, in some double-action revolvers pulling the hammer back by way of the trigger is a Herculean task. My CCW is a “hammerless” Charter Arms .38. I’ve put it into the hands of some small-framed people who simply could not pull the trigger. I suggested they consider a smaller caliber autoloader. Saxon recommends the Glock 19. “An easy portable package with 15 rounds of felon repellant in a standard magazine. Light, easy to carry, easy to practice with; practice 9mm ammo is cheap. Good combinations,’ he said.

4. Bad Shooting Stance

Saxon calls this “body weight distribution,” but in shooting terms stance does just as well.  “Most people know guns are serious and can be dangerous. This leads to people leaning back, or shifting their weight away from the gun, instead of leaning forward and providing a firm platform for the operation of the firearm in question,” he said.

Your center of gravity should be slightly forward. This will help you handle the recoil.

5. Too much gun

This is a major problem for novice shooters. They head to the range with a hogleg. The recoil, muzzle blast and the report are literally stunning. “I have lost count of the times I have seen individuals give someone a magnum chambered gun to shoot with little or no instruction. The shooter is immediately turned off of guns in most cases. What should have been a chance to gain an ally in our sport did go well, because someone decided to be, forgive my language, an asshat,” said Saxon who trained as a civilian at the Ft. Benning Army Marksmanship Unit under Sgt. Merle Edington.

Correcting these Shooting Mistakes

The top problems identified, how do we correct them?

1. Shoot Regularly

The first step is to shoot and shoot more. The more you shoot, the better you will become. Burn some ammo. If the cost gets to you, start hand loading. Beginner reloading kits are inexpensive and will last for decades. If you are concerned about reloading, find someone nearby to help you run a few batches. Check gun shops and shooting ranges to find someone who reloads if you do not know anyone personally.

Dry fire of a triplesafe-checked firearm is always a plus; except don’t do this in rimfire weapons. Place a dime on the slide of your pistol when you can pull the trigger without making it move or drop, you are on the way to understanding your trigger, which leads to much better shooting,” said Saxon, a competitive shooter since he was 11.

2. Work the weakness

“You should always practice what you are not good at or comfortable with. Good shooters work on their weaknesses first,” Saxon said.

Of course, work on the stuff you are good at too. But the whole idea of practice is to improve everything.

3. Video Yourself Shooting

Smartphones today can capture all the video you need. If you don’t have a smartphone, ask a shooting buddy who does to get some clips of you. He may ask you to do the same for him. Keep in mind that some ranges don’t allow cameras so be sure to ask first.

Study the video and watch for the problems mentioned above. Work on correcting the problems with a triple-checked handgun.

4. Don’t Over Do It

“Don’t shoot past your wall. Everyone I have ever known who is good with a gun, knows when they hit their personal wall. It is time to call it a day. Staying on the range shooting while having a bad day, or tired, or simply not on, reinforces bad habits and leads to frustration,” Saxon said.

That’s certainly an issue in the Deep South where I live. Shooting in the summer is best done in the early morning or late evening. In the middle of the day when temps hit triple digits and the heat index soars higher, being on the range turns from fun to misery in short order.

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Ben Baker is a newspaper publisher and syndicated columnist in South Georgia. His favorite guns are his .45-70 Marlin, .50 BMG State Arms and the Stevens double-barrel 16 gauge that belonged to his dad. His CCW is a .38 snubbie.
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Ben Baker

Ben Baker, not Barker.

I’m still laughing over that.


To show how LITTLE I sometimes pay attention..”ON LINE”… I first thought “RUDE, LAUGHING AT ME”…lol then I READ it…. lol

Ben Baker

Laughing at misspellin of my name.


I did finally got it…lol sorry for the misunderstanding, I didn’t try to come off as such.

watch mayweather fights

Shooting regularly teaches you how your firearm reacts and trains you how to work with it instead of against it.

Green Images Instagram

I had some plastic I used on my heirloom garden, pretty sure I have a small roll, yet. THANKS.


I have tried to practice, but I live out away from anyone, and when I shoot 36+ rounds… I tend to ONLY FIND 3-8 brass after – EVEN IN SHORT CUT grass!

Ben Baker

Watch where the brass falls. Spread a sheet or two to cover that general area.


Thanks, I had some plastic I used on my heirloom garden, pretty sure I have a small roll, yet. THANKS.

Ben Baker

Most welcome


I’d like to hear from other shooters, I’m “fairly NEW”… What distance is suggested, I am on a SMALL area, .8acre of corn in BACK even though HILLS practice my new TP9v2 and I SHOOT on DOWNWARD ANGLE. I used to rifle practice into a tree… lolcomment image

Fred Miller

I range between 5 to 25 yards.


MY MAJOR CHALLENGE is I have houses about 3/4 a mile away nothing to back stop

Fred Miller

The average shooting is considered to be within 7 yards, and close enough for an assailant to touch you. This distance is pretty much where most people should concentrate their practice. At this distance, speed is more important than accuracy because of the the time involved and the size of the target. It’s important that you practice pulling your pistol and arming it. I am not an advocate for carrying with a chambered round unless you believe you may be entering a situation where those extra seconds may be necessary. We are not police, or wear armor or have backup. Our main course of action is to get out of harm’s way, find cover and then protect ourselves (and others) Still, it’s very important to be able to lock and load quickly and efficiently. That includes reloading, as that may also be a possibility. It’s all part of carrying a gun adeptly. That being said, the most important thing you can do is prepare for as many scenarios as you can. One of our worst nightmares is to be the potential victim of an Active Shooter situation, an all-to-common occurrence today. In this case your range may be more like 20 to 30 yards. This is where accuracy becomes more important than speed as your target is further away, smaller and more difficult to hit. This is why you should practice like I do. I shoot while stationary, AND while on the move (forward, backward and side to side).


I HAVE SHOT longer with RIFLE but pistol, I was told 7 yards was more realistic

Big Mike V

Great article, although I would add one thing that also can get lost in the mix.
I shoot regularly at least once a week at an indoor range.
What my buddy and I just recently discovered was although we shoot regularly, we each have “range weapons” 1911’s,22 target, full size 9mm etc. We also have our EDC.
We recently realized that we’ve been shooting the range weapons so often that our proficiency with our EDC had dropped a bit. I had originally started only with the EDC and added more as time went on usually leaving the EDC in the holster (or having a new shooter try it as we try to get more gun owners in our ranks).
I have since revised my plans for the range and have worked a schedule that rotates the EDC in at least once a month, instead of going 6months without firing it myself.
After a little time I’ll know how this works for me — hoping it solves the minor issues I had with the EDC.
We were still on target with the EDC’s just not as well as we prefer to be,

Fred Miller

I shoot once a month as that’s all my schedule allows. I find it to be relaxing and allows me to concentrate, temporarily forgetting all the everyday things that cause me stress. But, with practice comes perfection. I fire 25 stationary rounds at targets, then 25 on the move with each gun I bring. I practice drawing, cocking and reloading under stress. Needless to say, I’m a pretty damned good shot, if I say so myself.