How do you become an expert at any physical endeavor? Here’s a hint: It’s not by reading about it or by visualizing it. Rather, it’s by actually participating in the activity.Becoming an expert with your handgun is no different! You should become so familiar with your handgun, that you can load, fire, manipulate and unload it in any situation. For this, you’ll need plenty of practice on the range with Winchester ammunition.
However, becoming an expert doesn’t stop when you leave the range. You’ll also need to continue practicing with plenty of hands-on time with an empty chamber.
As much as some of us loathe reading instruction manuals, if you are new to handguns, you must. Study the diagram where it lists all the external parts and controls of the gun so you can speak, listen and learn about it more efficiently. For example, on a semi-auto handgun, the “little thingy on the left side of the barrel” is actually called the “slide release lever,” and you need to know what does, what it’s called, where it’s at and how it works.
Familiarize yourself with the major components of the handgun; including the barrel, slide, frame, grip, backstrap, trigger guard, trigger, magazine release button, hammer (if it has one), firing pin, safety (if your gun has one), cylinder release button (on a revolver), ejecting rod (on a revolver), decocking lever (if it has one), slide release/slide lock lever, sights and magazine.
Next, after making doubly sure the gun is unloaded and pointed in a safe direction, spend five or ten minutes simply handling the gun. This doesn't mean play with it, but rather explore and manipulate all of its moving parts, and by racking the slide repeatedly to find out what technique works best for you. It’s a tough hunk of steel, so don’t baby it or think you’re going to hurt it. You need to know its contours just by feel, and how much force is required of each control. It’s best to do this now.
For example, remove the unloaded magazine. While keeping your finger off the trigger, pretend to load your semi-auto handgun by re-inserting the mag with your left hand (for right handed shooters). Then, use your right thumb to depress the slide lever while simultaneously pulling the slide back and letting it slam home. Raise the sights to your eye and dryfire the gun. Then rack the slide to lock it back before removing the magazine. Do simple and safe manipulations like this over and over, until the controls feel so familiar that you could work them blindfolded.
Next, disassemble the gun. When doing so, try to get a decent understanding of how its parts work. Remove the slide, the barrel and the recoil spring. Lay out all the parts, then reassemble the gun. Repeat this process until it is committed to memory.
Becoming absolutely familiar with your handgun is key to mastering it. Mastering your handgun will dramatically increase your odds of using effectively in an emergency.