No one expects you to have perfect form and technique the first few times you put a gun in your hand. We all have to start somewhere, and it’s perfectly understandable to make some mistakes when you’re a beginner. Once you’ve got the basics under your belt, it’s time to identify and shed those bad habits to make real progress with your shooting.
Here are a few of the biggest mistakes I see new female shooters make and some friendly advice on how to correct these issues.
The first two mistakes are part of the foundation of shooting and should be corrected before you move on to more advanced techniques. You’re not going to get very much out of any training if you don’t spend some time fixing these:
Mistake #1: The "Lean Back"
I don't know why such a large percentage of female shooters do this (I certainly did it), but we do. I've been told it's because we are scared of firing the shot, so we lean our upper body back and lock our arms out way in front of us to move away from the gunfire. I don't know if I buy that explanation, but for whatever reason, it's a common mistake that most new female shooters make.
Why It Needs to Be Fixed: When you lean back while firing a gun, the only thing you're doing is helping the recoil push you back farther and throw you off balance. It's unsafe for several reasons - you're at a greater risk of falling with a loaded gun in your hand, and I don't have to tell you how potentially bad that is. It also puts unnecessary stress on your arms, which can cause muscle and joint problems further down the line.
Mistake #2: The "Tush Push"
This is inverse to the lean back, and it's something that a lot of new female shooters are being taught. It’s almost as bad as the “Lean Back”, and for the same reasons. This is the stance where you stick your rear end way out behind you and then lower your body into an exaggerated crouch. This is something that I was taught - it seemed to help when I was just getting started, but I didn't realize how much it was holding me back until I changed my stance.
Why It Needs to Be Fixed: While you won't have to worry about falling backwards, you're still unbalanced in this stance. You may have been told that a female's muscle structure can't handle the recoil the same way a man can, so you need to get your center of gravity down and brace yourself. Nope, it’s just not true. It's also not a practical stance in a self-defense situation - you’re just not going to be able to get into this stance if you have to solve a problem with your firearm.
How to Fix Both Stance Problems: In a proper stance, your feet are firmly on the ground, spaced apart naturally, and your weight is slightly forward on the balls of your feet. Stand upright, like you naturally would, with just a slight lean forward. Check your shoulders - they should be aligned with the rest of your body, not shrugged upward or sloped down. This may not be the exact stance you'll have in a self-defense situation, but it's the foundation you need to learn how to shoot well and it's a lot closer than either stance above.
Mistake #3: Finger on the Trigger when you're not shooting
I blame movies and TV for this one. The inside of the trigger guard and our finger seem to have some kind of magnetic attraction when we first start shooting.
Why It Needs to Be Fixed: You only have to look as far as the basic rules of gun safety to know why this one needs to get fixed ASAP. It's unsafe at the most basic level and needs to be corrected to ensure you're always being a safe shooter.
How to Fix It: Don't get down on yourself for not being able to fix this one right away, it's harder than it seems. Repetition is the only thing that's going to break this bad habit. Practice being mindful on the range, thinking about everything you’re going to do right before you do it. Before you know it, you’ll be laying your finger along the slide without ever having to think about it.
Bonus! Mistake #4: The "Get This Thing Away From Me" Reload
This is a bad habit I see women shooters make during competitions, but it can have ramifications in self-defense situations, so it's worthy of a mention. I see this a lot with women that are new-ish to competition - when reloading, they bring the gun way out to their side, push the mag release button, then bring the gun back in to place the loaded magazine in the gun.
Why It Needs to Be Fixed: In a competition setting, time is your biggest enemy and this bad habit just puts more time on the clock. In a self-defense situation, it could be deadly - at best, you're wasting valuable time, and at worst, you're giving the bad guy an opportunity to reach for your gun.
How to Fix It: Reloads should be started and completed in front of your body, not out to either side. When you're ready to reload, hit the mag release while bringing the gun toward the middle of your body and somewhere near your face so you can see what you're doing. Your arms should be slightly bent to bring the gun toward your body, not way out away from you or tucked to tightly in. While keeping your gun pointed in a safe direction (straight up in the air is not a safe direction), insert the magazine into the gun, reestablish your grip and press straight out to fire again.