Our Beginner Pistol Classes 101: Introduction to Pistol Safety, Operations, Shooting, and Maintenance

Image: Idaho Pistol Essentials Class 101 Logo

Beginner Pistol Classes 101 introduces basic pistol concepts to the beginner pistol student. This class is an introduction for the new pistol student to understand the bare essentials of pistol ownership.

Safety is the primary focus of this class along with being a responsible gun owner who secures their firearm when not in use.

This class meets the minimum pistol requirements for every state. It is not designed to meet concealed carry requirements but may in certain states.

This is a family-focused pistol class. We encourage you to bring your family members, neighbors, and those interested in understanding basic pistol concepts.

Safety First

Safety is always the primary concern when handling and storing a firearm. These two topics are mutually important and vital for the responsible Idaho gun owner to always follow depending on the circumstances.

Five Essential Gun Safety Rules:

  1. Keep the Firearm Pointed in a Safe Direction at all times. 
    • Some training academies will state the number one rule is to always treat the gun as if it is loaded. This is an unnecessary statement. Pointing the gun in a safe direction is treating it as if it is loaded.
  2. Always Keep the Firearm Unloaded Until Ready to Use. Your firearm does not need to be loaded if it is not in use. In fact, it is best practice to keep your ammunition stored in a separate safe away from your firearm so the two are never accessible at the same time. While there are times when the firearm should be loaded, such as when carrying for personal protection, the general rule of having it unloaded apply to most circumstances.
  3. Keep Your Finger Off the trigger. Modern firearms, and even older ones really, will not discharge a bullet unless the firearm is prepared for firing and the trigger is pressed. By keeping your finger up high on the frame while handling a firearm there is no chance the firearm will discharge by itself. Even if it were to discharge, no one and nothing would get damaged because of rule number one.
  4. Know Your Target and Beyond: Whether you are at an indoor or outdoor range, it is very important to know what’s behind your target. Bullets can travel over a mile, others even more. It is your responsibility where that bullet impacts no matter the situation. Be sure to know your bullet will not hit an innocent person or someone’s property.
  5. No drugs, Alchohol, nor cannabis should be consumed before and during the handling of a firearm.

Keep Firearms Secured At All Times

Image: Various Gun Safes and Sizes

You hear it all the time, you see it in the NEWS almost every day – a mass shooting takes place. Blame the guns, take them away, it’s for everyone’s safety.

The truth is, if we allow the government to take away our guns then only criminals will be armed.

It is every gun owner’s responsibility to keep their guns secure. We must demonstrate a reasonable, responsible, and common sense approach to securing our firearms from theft and being used in a crime. This means we must keep them in a safe, locked, and secured location at all times.


If it’s not on your person,

It’s in a safe.”


Types of Pistol Actions

Training starts with understanding the three common pistols available, their actions (how they behave), and how to load, shoot and maintain their firearms for a lifetime of enjoyment. The class is specifically designed for the gun owner who wants to have fun on the weekend and target practicing at the range.

The Double-Action Revolver

Pictured to the left is a Ruger Double-Action Revolver. Because of its short 2.5″ barrel, revolvers like these are oftentimes referred to as “snub-nosed” revolvers.

The Double-Action revolver is unique because it can be fired in two different ways. One method is similar to the Single-Action revolver where the hammer can be pulled back rearwards into a firing position. When pressed, the trigger releases the hammer causing the gun to fire.

The “action” refers to what happens when the trigger is pressed in a rearward fashion towards the handle or grip. For the double-action revolver, the trigger performs two functions: Cocking and Releasing the hammer. Unlike the single-action revolver where the hammer must be placed into a firing position before pressing on the trigger for discharging, the double-action revolver will both cock and release the hammer in one smooth continuous motion. Because the trigger will both cock and fire the gun, it is appropriately called a “double-action” revolver.

Loading, Cocking, Shooting, Decocking, and Unloading a Pistol

These are all processes involved when preparing, shooting, and emptying a pistol or revolver. As you can see, there are at least five different actions you must perform at any given time. Since there is such a wide variety of pistols and revolvers, each gun that is brought to your Beginner Pistol Class will be demonstrated to the class and the owners. We will work with you on an individual basis to ensure you understand all the processes involved before you go to the range. As a general overview, here is a description of the steps:

  • Loading: Loading consists of placing cartridges into the holding area of the pistol and revolver prior to shooting. For revolvers, this involves placing the cartridges into the chambers of the cylinder. For semi-automatic pistols, you place the cartridges into the magazine.
  • Cocking: Cocking is preparing the gun to shoot. For single-action revolvers, the hammer is pulled back. For double-action revolvers, you press the trigger until the hammer drops. For semi-automatic pistols, you pull the slide and release one into the chamber.
  • Shooting: The process of shooting a pistol or revolver is relatively the same for all revolvers and pistols. At the press of the trigger, the hammer drops, and the bullet is discharged from the firearm.
  • Decocking: You can relate decocking to the opposite of cocking your pistol or revolver. When you decock, the firearm is essentially placed into a state where it can not fire. There are several ways of decocking depending on your firearm, which will be discussed in class.
  • Unloading: Unloading brings us full circle to the beginning when we loaded our pistol or revolver. In this case, we reverse the process of loading by removing cartridges from the revolver chambers and the magazines placing the ammunition in a locked and secure safe for the next time we plan to have some fun at the range.

Ammunition Fundamentals

Image: Various Pistol Cartridges

Ammunition is not overly complicated for the average user, especially when they are considering options for target practice.

Self-defense ammunition can be a little more complicated but once you understand the basics it’s really very straightforward. We discuss ammunition options in-depth during the Idaho Pistol Essentials course.

Ammunition Essentials

Understanding ammunition is an essential building block for any beginner pistol student. Like anything new, ammunition options can appear confusing at first because there’s so much ammunition available it’s hard to decide what to use. Our Basic Beginner Pistol Class covers ammunition in-depth to clear up the confusion and to help you make the right choice. Some ammunition considerations are:

.9mm Luger – aka – Parabellum 9×19

The 9 mm Luger, also known as the Parabellum 9×19 came about in 1902 for the very popular Luger pistol. The 9 mm caliber is very a very popular choice for self-defense firearms. Its size allows for the maximum amount of ammunition that can be packed into a pistol magazine.

Fun Fact: Parabellum means “Prepare for War” and is the most popular caliber used by the U.S. military and our NATO allies.

The Five Fundamentals of Pistol Shooting

Essential to the beginner pistol shooter is a solid foundation of what is referred to as “The Five Fundamentals of Pistol Shooting”. Every instructor has a way of referencing them, some have their own special title for them, but every student will be taught these fundamentals at some point.

By leveraging our unique nationwide training experience, incorporating Modern Gun Training Techniques, and working closely with beginner pistol shooters, Level 1 Firearms Training LLC will have new pistol shooters shooting accurately in no time.

Trigger Control

Finger Trigger Position for Semi-Automatic Pistols

Trigger Control is considered to be one of the most fundamental concepts to understand when shooting a firearm. Trigger control references where you place your finger on the trigger prior to shooting.

If the finger is resting too far onto the trigger, shots will tend to miss to the right of the target. Not resting far enough tends to cause misses to the left of the target.

Proper trigger control also refers to where to rest the finger on the trigger as well. For example, with a single-action revolver or a semi-automatic pistol (ready to fire) finger position tends to be in the middle of the first pad of the index finger. For double-action revolvers or semi-automatic pistols (not ready to fire), the trigger should rest on the first joint of the index finger.

Additional Opportunities for Pistol Shooting

Training Simulator

Now that you have learned how to shoot your pistol or revolver, it’s time to build on those shooting skills.

Using Modern Gun Training Techniques, our Pistol Class 102 “Shooting With Confidence” class will build on the previous lessons you learned in this class.

Shooting with Confidence” is focused entirely on improving your pistol shooting skills and developing skills for better shot placement while at the range.