Military members are well-versed in using weapons after graduating from basic training. However, the degree to which those men and women can use those weapons is as much based on individual skill as they training they receive. Although you don't need prior shooting experience to joining the military, it might make sense to take a few classes or learn the basics of weapon handling. Doing so makes that part of basic go smoother and easier, while ingraining principles of firearm etiquette.
Priority number one when learning to shoot is becoming versed in proper weapon safety. Basics such as keeping your finger on the guard rather than the trigger, aiming the weapon down when not in use, assuming it's always loaded and other precautions keep you and other soldiers safe on the range. Remember that you're responsible for your weapon, regardless of the duration of time it's in your hands. Rest assured if you do not do this things, you will be verbally reprimanded by your drill instructor -- so you may as well get used to things prior to joining up until they are second-nature.
Many people when first firing a weapon are startled by the sound. Repeated exposure to the sound helps you adapt over time. Firearms training also helps you get rid of the instinct to flinch, taking your eyes off the target. Given that most gun battles are quickly over and occur at close range, the ability to stay poised and composed while discharging a firearm may be the difference between life and death. On the range in basic training, you'll need to maintain your composure and hit the target on a regular basis to move on -- it doesn't matter if you're intimidated by the weapon.
Dealing with Recoil
The weight of a weapon is something you'll need to get used to, but recoil is another point of concern to new recruits. Recoil affects your ability to hit the target, since the barrel moves slightly after you press the trigger. Even if you're ready for the combined psychological effect of the recoil's impact and noise, accuracy is affected unless you learn to adjust. The further the target is from the barrel, the more deviation occurs along the bullet's flight path. Private shooting instruction prior to joining the military helps you to learn to compensate for this, potentially earning you better scores in basic while increasing your odds in combat situations.
Do a Little Hunting
Even if you're just tagging along with an unloaded weapon, hunting helps you learn gun etiquette, safety and maintenance. Learning to turn the safety off just prior to pulling the trigger, identifying targets and adjusting for wind are great basic skills to learn prior to picking up a military rifle. Hunting forces you to be aware of your surroundings, training you to keep your weapon pointed in a safe direction even if you trip or lose your balance. Hunting also gives you a chance to further hone your situational awareness, watching for your prey, looking out for other hunters and following any local rules and ordinances. All of these skills transition neatly into military service.
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images