There are large quantities of books written by those with far superior knowledge to mine on the subject of learning how to effectively shoot a pistol. While I am an NRA Certified Instructor in handgun, home firearm safety and Personal Protection, I find that the more I learn, the more I understand how much more I need to learn.
My purpose in building this page is to collect the information that I find most relevant to handgun shooting (not just based on my own experience, but the collective experiences of many others that I trust) so that others may find more of that information in one place, and to help me organize my thoughts.
The first item that most of my sources agree on is:
Obtaining instruction does not mean nor imply you should find your local Billie-Joe-Bob-Sam-Fred-Al back woods authority. It does mean that you need to find qualified instruction in the safety and handling of any firearm. The habits you build (and many would say "UNSAFE" habits you build) from improper instruction can be life threatening.
Virtually all of the gun clubs in America have NRA Certified instructors. Especially when they "team" teach (one instructor presenting but others available to assure continuity of material presented) you are most likely to have a good learning experience. I will add one word of caution, they know the material and will be severely unimpressed with you attempting to show how much you already know. On the other hand, well placed questions can enhance the learning experience for everyone.
A few good videos that I have run across are:
Practice is required to hone, and eventually perfect your skills. In addition, unlike what some would have us believe about riding a bicycle (once you learn to ride a bicycle, you never forget - wrong!), you do forget the finer techniques in shooting if you do not practice regularly.
How much practice is necessary? That varies with the individual, how long they have been shooting, and if you are planning on concealed carry.
A VERY cost effective technique to learn from and maintain skills with, is to dry fire.
Many people are apprehensive about dry firing their gun more than a few times. The easiest and low cost way to handle that is to purchase "Snap Caps", or dummy rounds that are made to maintain the structural integrity of your gun, while dry firing. They cost from $1.50 to $2.00 each and you will want a minimum of five (the way they are normally packaged).
The Snap Caps allow you to learn how to load, unload, and go through
the proper motions to fire your gun, without the noise or any danger.
I highly recommend their use. They also promote learning safe gun
handling by having you handle the gun with little or no danger to
others if you "forget" proper muzzle awareness
(DON'T POINT THE GUN AT IT, UNLESS YOU PLAN ON SHOOTING IT!).
Gabe Suarez in his book on "Tactical Pistol Marksmanship" recommends eight to ten THOUSAND dry fire cycles to bring your techniques up to where you will want them if you carry concealed. I noticed the improvements in my techniques and scores well before 10K.
One very important item mentioned by Suarez in his book is to make every practice session a "perfect" session. He then quickly mentions that none of us is perfect, thus to approach perfection we need to add new techniques one at a time. This enables us to make each session as perfect as we can.
Going to the range to make noise and hurl lead down range is fine if you care to spend money in non-productive activities. While this is fun to start with, it soon becomes frustrating because you find that your techniques are not improving. You shoot at about the same level you did last month, last year or fifteen years ago. I've heard several comment about not being able to improve, even with LOTS of practice. Some even go so far as to blame the gun or ammunition they use. I'll bet you have heard someone like that.
The reason for no improvement is from two items:
If you do not have access to good instructors then you can have someone else video-tape you as you shoot. It is amazing how many times you will look at what you did and say (at least to yourself) "DANG, I didn't know I was doing that!" and be able to make improvements from there.