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Introduction to Foundations of Pistol Gunfighting

Chris Upchurch

Welcome to the Foundations of Pistol Gunfighting — the first section of Gunfighting 101. This section is designed to teach the fundamentals of shooting and gunhandling from the ground up.

Why Foundations?

The title Foundations of Pistol Gunfighting is a very deliberate choice on my part. I prefer foundations to alternatives like “basics” or “fundamentals” because calling these skills the foundation captures their importance in a several different senses.

When you call certain firearms skills “the basics” it tends to bring out one of two responses that undercut the learning process. The first is when a certain kind of student thinks that they don’t want to learn (or need to learn) the basics. They want the advanced stuff. All the high-speed low-drag skills that Delta, DEVGRU, or SWAT use. The problem is that trying to learn advanced material without having mastered the basics is like trying to build a house without a foundation. Your walls and roof aren’t going to stand up very well. A solid mastery of the fundamentals is a prerequisite for learning more advanced techniques.

The other response to “the basics” is almost the opposite. Some students think that the basics are all they need. This is often accompanied by excuses like, “I live in a safe neighborhood” or “I don't go dangerous places”. Living in a safe neighborhood and staying away from dangerous places are good strategies for staying out of gunfights; they are not excuses for limiting your skills. Gunfights are graded pass/fail. There is no curve. Just because it may be less likely in your nice neighborhood doesn’t mean the bad guy will be any less skilled or that you (or your loved ones) will be any less dead if you end up loosing. Just learning the basics is like building a house without any walls or roof. That foundation isn't going to do a whole lot to keep the rain off.

Another reason I describe these skills as the foundation is that they are not something that becomes superfluous later on as you learn more advanced skills. Some instructors and books teach basic techniques that are eventually superseded by more advanced ones. Usually these basics are seen as some sort of short-cut, often for the benefit of the instructor. Certain “beginners only” techniques may be easier to teach, but in the long run they end up wasting the students' time. My philosophy is to teach basic techniques that are going to hold up and remain useful no matter how advanced your shooting skills become.

The flip side of this are instructors who say, “There is no advanced firearms training, only a mastery of the basics”. I disagree. Mastering the basics is important, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill: It is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning. A mastery of the foundational skills are a point of departure for further learning. The goal of this section is to give you the knowledge to get to that point.

What does this section cover?

Broadly speaking this section of Gunfighting 101 covers three main topics: guns and gear, gunhandling, and marksmanship.

The first entries in this section will talk about choosing your first pistol and make some recommendations in that area, along with important support gear like holsters, belts, and magazine pouches. Later, we’ll return to these topics and talk about some alternative gear and carry methods, as well as some other possibilities for carry guns. Finally, there will be some discussion on living with firearms and how to incorporate them into your everyday life.

Gunhandling encompasses all the physical manipulations of the firearm other than the act of shooting. This includes drawing the gun from the holster, loading and unloading it, and dealing with malfunctions. All will be covered in detail.

Finally, this section will cover the fundamentals of marksmanship. These are the skills necessary to deliver accurate shots onto the target. Accurate pistol shooting is not something that comes naturally to most people, but if you know the proper steps and follow them it is really quite straightforward.


Firearms are dangerous tools. The techniques described in Gunfighting 101 are dangerous to learn, and to practice. Follow the rules of gun safety and treat firearms with the respect they deserve and they will be dangerous to your enemies, rather than yourself, or your friends and loved ones.

While this site attempts to describe concepts and techniques as completely and clearly as possible, there is no substitute for in-person instruction from a qualified instructor. I would encourage everyone who intends to use a firearm for self defense to seek out such instruction.