How to load a handgun might be something many of you not only already know but are pretty much experts at doing. It's probably become something of a habit or simplistic for most, especially if you've been shooting for years. But when newbies are approaching the sport, hunting or tactical hobby in general it can turn out to be pretty intimidating at first. Especially true for the first time on the range, sometimes the combination of not wanting to look silly or do something incredibly unsafe can play with a beginner's nerves and make everything more difficult.

Many of us experienced can forget what it's like when tackling something new to them and we might breeze over what seems natural to us, but completely foreign to a newbie handling a gun for the first time. They may not realize yet that getting one single step out of order can lead to extremely dangerous results.

How to properly load and fire a handgun can be new and frightening territory to those starting out, whether for self-defense, a hobby, or part of your new job. We've got step by step instructions on how to correctly do this to ensure your safety and those around you and hopefully help beginners or those rusty, feel more confident.

Rules for Gun Safety

The first thing you should know and take to heart are these rules to gun safety no matter what level of expertise you are at.

  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Never point your weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Don't put your finger on the trigger until your sights are on the target.

All guns are always loaded:

Gun accidents are most often caused by thinking a weapon is empty when it is not. To create safe handling practices, so that no accidents are caused: always treat a gun no matter where it is or what you are about to or have done to it—as if it were loaded. Even if a gun has its safety on, an equipment malfunction could possibly cause it to fire.

Never point your weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy.

If you aren't pointing your gun at something, you can't and won't shoot it. Therefore, do not point the gun at anyone or anything if you do not intend to shoot. Never point the weapon at someone even accidentally. Always be conscious of where the gun is pointing and behave as if your gun could go off at any time.

Don't put your finger on the trigger until your sights on the target.

Keep your finger off the trigger unless you are ready to engage and fire. Also, by keeping your finger on the side of the weapon, you are creating a natural point of aim for yourself.

Always be sure of your target, backstop and beyond.

Be constantly aware of what is in the line of fire. At a professional gun range this may not be something you think you should be concerned about—but by never slacking off, you'll lessen the chance of accidentally disastrous results. Never shoot at a target if you do not know what is behind it.

Let's cover the basics of correctly loading and firing a handgun.


1. Verify the caliber of your ammunition is correct. Know which rounds are appropriate and safe for the model of your handgun. There are 3 places to check: The labeling on the ammunition box, the bottom of the round of ammunition which is stamped with the caliber and the caliber of the gun itself will be marked on the gun's barrel.

  1. Point your gun in a safe direction.
  2. Place your hand on the grip without placing your fingers in or near the trigger guard.
  3. Press the button on the side of your handgun to eject the magazine.
  4. Verify the gun is fully unloaded and no rounds remain in the chamber. If it is a semi-automatic pistol, after the final shot is fired, it will lock its slide open. In the event the chamber is not locked open, pull back on the rack and push up on the slide lock to reveal the chamber.
  5. Hold the magazine firmly in non-dominant hand with the tip of rounds facing forward. The back of the magazine should fit comfortably into the V between your thumb and index finger.
  6. Insert rounds one at a time. Place the bullet so that the case of it rests on the top front third of the magazine, rounded part forward. Push firmly with your thumb or index finger on the center of the round and slide it back until it is beneath the retaining lip. Repeat until full. Loading a magazine when inexperienced can be a bit difficult at first. Magazines can be tight. Feel free to practice loading for it to become easier for you.
  7. Re-insert the fully loaded magazine by pushing firmly upward into the hand grip with rounds pointing forward, until you hear a distinct, audible click.


Stance: How you are standing when firing a gun will affect everything about how you shoot. Recoil can mess up aim, you'll need to learn a stable, comfortable stand that will tilt your body in a way to handle any recoil. There 3 main stances: Isosceles, Weaver, and Modified Weaver (Chapman.) Brush up on what these are and practice them until they become second nature. A solid foundation is the key to everything else.

Handgun grip: Grip your gun as hard as you can but not-so-much that your hands or arms begin to shake.

Holding the gun: You want the web between your trigger finger and thumb to be as high as possible on the handgun's grip to contain the recoil of the slide moving back and forth. That's the piece of metal on the top of the gun that moves back and forth when firing. Because it slides, you'll also want your forearm in line with the gun to absorb more recoil.

Next, notice the gun has an empty side. Right or left. This is where you'll bring your empty hand up to the grip and fill it completely with that hand to maximize your entire grip. Thumb placement of your dominant hand is personal preference, pointed up in the air or bent and points toward the target is up to you. Experiment to see what feels more natural.

All four fingers of your non-dominant hand should be under the trigger guard.

Sight: A beginners habit maybe to squint an eye and focus on the target. Don't. Focus on the front sight of your handgun. And keep both eyes open! This allows for more situational awareness as well as combats eye fatigue.

Breathing: Don't hold in your breath when firing. Attempt to breathe naturally.


You often hear the popular phrase, "pull the trigger." However, firing a gun properly requires pressing it with control so as not to disrupt your sights.

  1. Press, don't pull. Press or squeeze the trigger straight to the rear. Apply constant, increasing pressure on the trigger until the weapon fires. Apply pressure to the front of the trigger and never the sides.
  2. Take the slack out of the trigger. Squeeze until you begin to feel resistance.
  3. Keep pressing until the gun fires but never anticipate when it will.

With these steps in mind, the rules for gun safety firmly in mind and plenty of practice, new handgun owners should find themselves more at ease with loading and firing thanks to these simple tips.

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