OK, first things first hotshot. What is a semi-automatic weapon? Put simply it’s a gun that ejects a spent shell then loads a bullet into the chamber after the first one is fired (if there’s one available). Unlike those dang muskets that I’ve been favouring lately, which are a pain to load, but do look really nice. They can come in pistol, shotgun or rifle varieties (semi-automatics, not muskets). They are different to automatic firearms, as they are the ones that go NER-NER-NER-NER-NER-NER-NER in a very satisfying way. So, once you are in the vicinity of a semi-automatic gun, how do you fire it without looking like a doofus or making blood come out of yourself?
BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING
I know how badly you want to shoot that lovely gun that you have in front of you, but first remember a few important safety rules. Never point a gun, any gun, at anyone ever. Even if you know it isn’t loaded. In fact, always assume that any gun you ever handle is loaded and act accordingly. Be concious of where the bangy end of the gun is pointing at all times. Never have your finger on the trigger, until you are ready to shoot. And be aware of where you are shooting. Even on a totally legit shooting range, know what you’ll be shooting at, what is between your gun and your target and what is beyond the target. And always have ear and eye protection on at all times and keep the safety catch activated when you’re not actually shooting.
With a pistol, you don’t want to be doing any fancy shooting, so both hands need to be on the gun. With your writing (and shooting) hand, you should have your palm fairly high up on the handle and grip of the gun. Your other hand should be placed on the exposed part of the handle, with the fingers supporting the trigger guard. Make sure your thumbs are well clear of the slide (the bit where the used shell pops out). Most semi-automatic rifles have a similar sort of pistol grip, so grip the handle high with your shooting hand, just as with a pistol. Your other hand should be on the forestock. Then bring the handle of the rifle back so the butt is resting comfortably in your shoulder and your cheek is pressed against the buttstock.
When preparing to shoot a pistol, stand with your feet apart, about shoulder width should do it. Always be face on with your target and your gun should be upright. No matter what you’ve seen on Miami Vice, don’t fire the gun from beneath your legs or that ‘sideways’ style so popular with Gangsta Rap films from the early 1990’s. Keep you knees slightly bent, but feel comfortable with your balance. Keep your shooting arm straight with the elbow of your other arm bent slightly. Again, with rifles, the face-on stance is the most reliable option, with the weapon held quite high up on the chest and the foot on your support hand side slightly in front of the other. Though in every film you’ve ever seen, people always hold a rifle with a ‘bladed off stance’ where the shoulder on the non-trigger side of the body is facing the target, so the body is slightly more side-on. This works well if you are firing off a single shot in a competition scenario, but not so effective with a semi-automatic.
Your semi-automatic pistol should have two sights, a front and a rear. When aiming at a target, the front sight should fit perfectly between the two edges of the rear sight with equal space appearing on either side. It’s always tempting to focus on your target on the distance, but you’ll be more accurate if you keep your aligned sights in perfect focus and the target in the distance slightly blurry. Rifles have a variety of different sights. Some will have a scope, which looks something like a telescope, where by you pinpoint your target in the crosshairs and fire. Others will possess an aperture sight, or a circle of metal on the mounted instead of a rear sight, which is lined up with a notch at the front of the barrel. As with pistol sights, the front and rear sights are aligned and aimed at the target. Rifles can also have the open sights that are used on most pistols, which I’ve already explained, so won’t go on and on.
PULLING THE TRIGGER
As you have heard endlessly in every Police Academy film (I think there are at least 14 at the last count) you don’t ‘pull’ the trigger, you ‘squeeze’ it. What’s the difference between ‘pulling’ and ‘squeezing’? Well, with your nearest and dearest, do you caress them tenderly, or do you yank them all over the room? If it’s the latter, I believe I may have seen your relationship featured on a Channel 5 documentary. If it’s the former, then you already know what to do. By being too aggressive, your sights will be affected and you’ll miss the target. Always keep your eyes open (of course), don’t hold you breath and try not to think about ‘the bang’. If you are conscious about the fact you gun is going to make a loud noise, your body will tense in anticipation. If you’re relaxed, you’ll have far more successful results.
ONCE IT HAS GONE BANG
Yes, the gun will act in a dramatic manner if you pull the trigger and it has a round in it. But don’t overreact, even if it is your very first time. Don’t immediately let go of the trigger or let the gun drop. Just as in golf and snooker, if you hold your stance for a few seconds after the shot, your accuracy will be improved. Wait, take a breath and then let go of the trigger. If you master this technique you will soon be able to fire off several successive rounds from your semi-automatic with ultimate accuracy. When you have finished, ensure all cartridges are out of the cylinder and slide. Remove any magazines and clips and make sure the safety is on. Even after all that, keep your gun pointed away from anyone and anything, until it is safely back in the hands of a professional.