5 Fundamentals Of Pistol Marksmanship Partnered with 5 Key Points of Effective Learning

If you’ve ever tried to teach someone how to shoot a handgun, or tried to learn from a friend or family member, it may not have gone as smoothly as you expected.Over the last 11 years Julianna Crowder has taught thousands of people to shoot handguns, and along the way taken note of core principles that help aspiring shooters to be more effective learners. Mapped onto the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship, here are Julianna’s 5 key points for effective adult learning.


  1. Be ready to learn. Just as a pistol shooter is told to “find your feet,” the effective learner has to cultivate a mental stance of openness and decide that the time is right to acquire a new skill. The teacher should utilize this attitude of readiness by adopting a flexible approach and looking for teachable moments as they present themselves.
  2. Know the whys and hows. For the student, it is empowering to understand why learning certain information is necessary for accuracy and safety, and how mastering this knowledge puts them in control of the outcome. Awareness of these factors is important to be able to “find your grip” and productively confront fear or anxiety.
  3. Explore different learning styles. People generally favor either a visual, auditory or tactile approach to learning, and it is in the best interest of both student and teacher to identify the style that works best. The best way to do this is to start out emphasizing all three until it becomes clear which one works best. Think of this as analogous to how the pistol shooter focuses on a target by matching sight picture and sight alignment.
  4. Use a familiar framework. Just as proper trigger control requires incorporating kinetic feedback from the gun into muscle memory, the student progresses by internalizing the learning process. I like to use students’ life experiences to develop frameworks for learning. An athletic person may have an easier time understanding examples from other kinds of physical activity, while someone grappling with fear may need a psychological perspective on how to block out negative impulses from the brain.
  5. Good pistol shooting requires effective follow-through, and so does learning. It is critical that learners maintain a high level of enthusiasm and willingness to grow. A teacher can encourage that by being positive and encouraging, helping the student to deal with frustration while respecting their intelligence and maturity level.

Understanding these fundamentals of learning is important if you want to coach a friend or family member who is learning to shoot, but the that familiarity with these key points can be just as helpful to whoever is on the learning end. Both the teacher and the learner can work together most effectively if they are working on the same principles and striving toward the same goals.

If you are looking for an instructor, take a moment and read our recommendations on how to find the right instructor for you and check out our list of caring qualified instructors across the country.


A Girl and a Gun
A Girl & A Gun Women’s Shooting League (AG & AG) is a shooting club established by women shooters for women shooters. AG & AG events are intended to be fun, social gatherings where women can come together for support, encouragement, ask questions in a safe and nonjudgmental environment, improve on their marksmanship, and bond together in the shooting community.