The first step to successfully operate and maneuver a pistol is to understand its mechanics. A pistol is usually comprised of five main parts – the barrel, the recoil spring, the slide, and the magazine. Each of these parts plays an important role in how the gun performs, and a pistol cannot function properly if it is missing any of the said components. Sometimes, there may be some added features along the pistol as well which play a key role in its operation.
The first thing you may notice is a slide stop component in the pistol which rests between the slide and the frame. This small device locks the slide to the rear and helps to ensure that there is no ammunition in the gun. This can also be done after firing the last cartridge when the pistol magazine comes in contact with the slide stop and transfers spring tension to the component.
The slide lock is another basic function of handguns. To release the slide lock, you need to remove the magazine and press the slide lock down or pull the slide back towards you. Note that trying to remove the slide lock with an empty magazine can be a bit difficult. The slide stop device is a component that is held by means of a compressed spring and it requires more applied force to release the lock. When you remove the magazine it also releases the spring tension, in turn allowing you to move the slide easily.
Another main part of a pistol is the magazine release. You can see a button-type magazine release on most of the semi-automatic handguns while some come with a lever/paddle mechanism as well. A magazine release lever is usually positioned to the side of the trigger guard while a release button is placed at the side of the pistol frame. You may need to use a finger placed on the trigger to release the magazine if your pistol has a lever or paddle-type mechanism. If not, you’ll need to use your thumb if it features a push-button type magazine release.
Chambering a Round
You need to keep the pistol pointed in a safe direction, preferably towards the ground, and away from your body and feet while chambering a round. Insert the magazine into the handgun, hold, and pull the slide to the rear and release. This will load a cartridge into the gun’s chamber for firing. You can easily practice this with an empty magazine and an unloaded pistol. Remember that an empty magazine will engage the slide lock which means that the follower has contacted the internal locking mechanism. So if you see that the slide does not lock and returns forward, it means that you may need a little more force to chamber a round successfully.
It is not recommended to put your support hand close to the slide’s front since the open chamber can pinch your palm and lead to injuries. Instead, you should grip the pistol with your dominant hand and rest the support hand on top of the slide to grasp it.
Aiming Down your Sights (ADS)
The process of aiming down your sights might seem a bit complicated to first time users, but you can easily master it with training and diligence. Most of the pistols available on the market today come with a 3-dot aiming system. For aiming down your sights, you need to make sure that all the three dots are aligned in a single row at similar heights.
Note that even the slightest of variations can considerably affect shot placement and accuracy. For instance, if the front dot rests lower, the shot you fire will go down while holding the center dot slightly towards the left or the right will bend the shot in that direction. So it is important to take time and practice in order to perfectly align the 3-dot aiming system for perfect accuracy. After proper training, you’ll be able to pull off the best front sight alignment with minimum effort.
Reloading the Magazine
Reloading the magazine can be a little difficult for beginners but you can perfectly manage it with practice and by following some simple techniques. To start, insert the cartridge halfway into the magazine and push down on the spring-loaded plate, pushing back the rest of the cartridge. You may find it easier to load your magazine if you push down on the back of the round with your off-hand thumb. By doing so the next cartridge that you insert can be used to push the front of the previous round into the magazine and slid right in. Continue doing this until your magazine is to capacity, taking note that it will become more difficult to load the closer to capacity it is. With a newer magazine, it may also be difficult to load.
Remember that it is always better to load your gun to near full capacity, no matter how stiff the spring might seem. If it is too difficult for you, you can buy a speed loader to simplify the process.