Navy SEAL shooting a target

Best Firearms Instructors: #1 Handgun Shooting Tips

I get asked all the time if out of all my handgun shooting tips I have a #1 piece of advice for marksmen. Have you ever wondered if there is a secret shooting tip that could help unlock your great human potential as a marksman? Is there one shooting tip to rule them all? Well, I wondered that myself so I decided to ask them! Here are the replies I received from some of the best firearms instructors in the world with backgrounds including Army Special Operations, an Olympian, Top SHOT contestants, and of course myself, a Navy SEAL.

Most people have to pay hundreds of dollars and attend a course to get shooting tips from instructors of this caliber, but they were kind enough to share them with me (and you) for FREE! 

Without further ado, here are the #1 shooting tips from the world’s finest firearms instructors.

Top Firearms Instructors

Handgun Shooting Tips from Chris Cerino

Chris Cerino: Make the Sights the Mission

Owner, Chris Cerino Training Group

image of Chris Cerino holding a pistol

Handgun Shooting Tip #1: Sight Alignment

Most people understand what sights are for on a firearm, and almost everyone knows how to align them. Once aligned, they are placed on an intended target where we want the bullet to ultimately impact. Sight alignment and sight picture are easy concepts to understand. It’s the discipline to stay with that sight picture, through the break of the round, that gets people in trouble and makes this one of the important handgun shooting tips.

By trouble I mean, that lack of discipline gets results other than what they want. If you can understand sight alignment and sight picture, you next need to build discipline and trust — trust in the weapon platform and trust in yourself. 

As one of the top firearms instructors, Chris Cerino wants you to trust that if you do your job the gun will do its job. Make those sights and sights picture the mission. It’s your mission to ensure that the sight picture remains until after the gun goes off. Don’t change your focus to the trigger finger to fire, or to the target to see the results.

Your mission is to see those sights with a target beyond them before, during, and (if there is time) after the shot breaks. Then and only then will you know if you hit or missed and whether you should move on to the next target or send another round to neutralize the target. Paying attention to this great shooter tip and making the sights your mission will enable you to begin to learn not only what it takes to hit a target but also help diagnose why you missed it.

Handgun Shooting Tips from Kyle Lamb

Founder and President, Viking Tactics

image of Kyle Lamb reloading a pistol

Get His Book: Stay in the Fight!! Warriors Guide to the Combat Pistol

Handgun Shooting Tip #2: Push Your Limits

As a trainer and one of the best instructors, I am constantly pushing students to attain higher levels of performance. My #1 shooting tip? The first is accuracy, without it—we can’t continue to build. Once students have demonstrated the ability to shoot tightly when not under the stress of competition or the clock, we start to push them harder and harder. Ideally, we want to find the breaking point. How fast can you drive the gun and drive yourself before, as I normally say, “the wheels come off”? If you never push to your limits, you won’t really know your capabilities.

Some trainers always want students in their comfort zone, shooting tight little groups. This is great up until you enter a gunfight. When the cards are down, it is a race to put accurate fire on your enemy. The only legal way we can train for this event is by inducing stress into our training regimen. Always push your speed but don’t sacrifice accuracy. If you see accuracy start to fade, you may have just found your 101%. Push to bypass the breaking point. When you end up in a confrontation, hopefully, your 80% or comfort zone is 125% of the bad guy’s capabilities. Drive the gun, push the speed, and get good hits. This is a race. When you push yourself, you not only learn your limitations but expand your capabilities. You don’t want to discover your limits in a dynamic combat situation. Of all the handgun shooting tips I teach, I always want to remind marksmen to push their limits.

Handgun Shooting Tips from JJ Racaza

World Champion Competitive Shooter JJ Racaza

image of JJ Racaza shooting a pistol

Handgun Shooting Tip #3: Trigger Control

In my opinion, this is one of the most important and difficult skill sets to master. The way a person manipulates the trigger will greatly affect the placement and speed of shots. This is the most common area where shooters will lose their accuracy when applying speed. Just remember this, squeezing the trigger is the last conscious movement that could potentially affect your sight picture. As one of the best firearms instructors in the world, JJ’s #1 shooting tip is to work on trigger control.

In terms of gaining speed, the trigger is where you see a ton of inefficiencies as well. There are many techniques and styles on how to manipulate the trigger. Unless it’s really affecting his or her accuracy I focus more on the process. For this handgun shooting tip, I simply ask my students to pay attention to when the gun is “ready” to fire vs. you being “ready” to fire after each shot. The gun being “ready” means the sights are back on target. The shooter being “ready” is when the shooter has the trigger “prepped” and ready to fire the shot with acceptable accuracy. The goal is to lessen the disparity between the two and once mastered, you will see how your speed will increase and you haven’t sacrificed your accuracy. The magic of this shooting tip is in its simplicity. With Just a little attention to the details of your trigger control, you can unlock tremendous potential for speed and accuracy as a marksman.

Handgun Shooting Tips from Gabby Franco

NRA News Commentator | Olympian & Firearms Instructor

image of Gabby Franco aiming using a pistol

Get Her Book: TroubleShooting

Handgun Shooting Tip #4: Learn From Your Mistakes

It is extremely important that at the range you have high-quality practice. While shooting, you need to be able to identify what you did wrong so you can avoid making the same mistake. When I am instructing, I try to express to my students my #1 shooting tip not to hide from their mistakes, but to study them. Identify what you did right so you can repeat a good shot over and over again, and look at what you did wrong to eliminate the problem and have a better outcome as a shooter. Remember that our time is very limited for everything we do during our life, and for that reason, our practice time is very valuable. For my shooting tip, make sure you are learning from every second you spend training, and make sure that when you spend your time doing something, you do your best!

Handgun Shooting Tips from Chris Sajnog

Former Navy S.E.A.L. | Firearms Instructor

image of Chris Sajnog holding a gun

Author: Navy SEAL Shooting

My advice would be for shooters to go slow and practice every manipulation of the weapon perfectly. Each time you do something, right or wrong, you’re literally paving a neural pathway in your body and telling your body that is exactly how to perform that movement in the future. Your body doesn’t know if that repetition was right or wrong. It’s just laying down the pavement to make that path smoother in the future. It also makes no difference to your neurons how fast you do the movement. So when you’re learning any technique — speed kills. Once you’ve done the same movements exactly the same way enough times, the path will be smooth and you’ll be able to drive the gun down that road as fast as you like. So for my #1 shooting tip, practice slow and pave a perfect pathway. Speed is second to perfection. Don’t just do it fast, do it right. The best shooting instructors agree that your speed training is worthless if it causes you to sacrifice accuracy or function.

Top Firearms Instructors And Their Best Handgun Shooting Tips

Let’s recap those great shooting tips one last time for all you marksmen out there training to be the best you can be.

  • Practice your sight alignment
  • Push your limits
  • Master trigger control
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Pave a perfect pathway

These 5 shooting tips from some of the best firearms instructors should help you on your journey to becoming an expert marksman and a highly effective shooter. What’s your #1 shooting tip? Any shooting tips you would like to share that have worked for you? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. would practicing with a 22LR pistol, due to costs, still help . I use a 357 SIG p226 as my HD/carry pistol.. Not cheap to shoot.

    1. Joe, I tried that with my wife using a beretta neos auto. It helped her in many aspects of shooting but she is carrying a 38 revolver and she needed a lot more practice after using the .22. I do think we saved a lot of $$ but she was a rookie.
      Big difference in recoil of a .22 compared to .357.

  2. I will shoot mt Beretta 96A1 which has a stiff DA pull for 50 rounds then switch to my IDPA/Servic Pistol a H&K45…after the Beretta the H&K feels like a race gun and even though a respectable DA it seems to be improving my grouping just by
    shooting the heavier trigger handgun before the match handgun.I am finding the difference in trigger reset.recoil control and grip are tools that become sharper because of the difference.My question is as the sight picture presents itself sooner because of the continuity by this increased control…it seems to be the transition time to the next target the needs to be engaged that isn’t improving.As you have mentioned to sacrifice speed for accuracy is not the idea. Can you recommend some drills to address this issue.Have your eBook and in hardcopy.
    Your approach on sticking with the fundmentals is a proven frame of thought since I have had your book.

    1. If I read your question right, you’re trying to increase the speed of transitioning targets.

      Three things to work on:
      1. Make sure you are looking at the next target as soon as you can. Find the smallest aiming point you can. Then drive the sights to your eyes.
      2. Work on shooting on tempo. I talk a lot about this in my new book, but shoot with rhythm.
      3. Change the sound you hear in your head before you shoot. The faster you think (hear in our head), the faster you will shoot.

      Hope this helps.


  3. Your book, “How To Shoot Like A Navy SEAL” was great, and I added a lot of solid habits into my toolbox because of it. Thank you. I’m always looking for techniques that make sense and can supplement my existing skills, and I have recently come across Paul Castle’s C.A.R. system and wondered if anybody else has tried it, or if it measures up to its claims? Some aspects of it seem counter intuitive (like using your left eye if you are right hand dominant), but some aspects of the system seem smart (like blading yourself to your target to minimize being a target and allowing you to move). Some videos seem great in a static environment, but I don’t know how they would work in a real life/death situation. Any thoughts would be appreciated. I enjoy the content you put up and value your real world experience. Thanks again, sir.

    1. Dave –

      Always glad when I hear the book is helping.

      As for the C.A.R. system, I’ve tried it but am not a fan. This doesn’t mean that if someone puts all their energy into that method of shooting that it can’t work great.

      Everything is something, but nothing is everything – It sound like you’re on the right track of being open to new ideas and using what works for you. I agree there are some good parts to that method, but for me, as a whole, it goes against some of the mechanics of shooting that I believe are foundational.

      Hope this helps.


      1. Thank you. That does help. I was working with it during my dry fire training and I’m finding that my body’s natural muscle memory has been trying to override what the C.A.R system demands. Case in point, spending so much time and energy finding my natural point of aim takes over so when I try the bladed C.A.R system by gun’s barrel keeps canting off target. Thanks for your input and I look forward to your future publications.

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