Mark Twain had a funny line (nothing unusual there) about a drunk who got on his horse and "rode off in all directions." Unfortunately, in the hands of a neophyte a handgun can have the same affect. If you've never played golf but decided one day that you wanted to, bought a set of clubs, and then put them in the closet waiting for an invitation to play--chances are your initial round would be atrocious! Golf takes practice from developing a good swing to knowing which club does what and how to "read" a green. A handgun has similar characteristics. You need to know how to load it, hold it, and fire it and then how to disassemble it and clean it, then reassemble it properly. All guns have a recoil (you know that Newton law that says, "for every action there is a equal and opposite reaction.?) and the more powerful the gun the greater the recoil to a degree. So you have to know how to hold it so that you don't hurt your hand and to control it to the extent that you hit your target in the area where you were pointing it. Without practice it's likely you won't get close on your first few tries. You need to sign up for a gun class and practice firing your weapon with an instructor pointing out your flaws.
Next, take a course in "active shooting." There is a great scene in the motion picture Glory that was filmed here some 25 years ago with Matthew Brodrick, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman just to name a few. It's about an all-black regiment in the Union Army during the Civil War and Brodrick is their commander. In the aforementioned scene one of the soldiers is showing off his shooting skills firing at stationary targets downrange with remarkable accuracy. He was using a single-shot rifle that had to be reloaded after each shot. And he proceeded to impress his audience with how quickly he could reload and fire again. Lots of ohs and ahs from his follow soldiers and the executive officer overseeing the range. Brodrick is watching all this and walks up to his executive officer chiding him for not making it more realistic. At which point Brodrick pulls his revolver and asks the "sharpshooter" to start firing at the same time he fires his pistol into the air near the soldier's head. His accuracy went to ZERO as he tried to aim and reloading turned into fumbles galore with gunfire nearby simulating a combat situation. AT which point Brodrick turned to his exec (who was now fuming) and said, "Teach them PROPERLY, MAJOR!"
Recently I did an interview with a retired FBI agent who explained how they're trained to shoot. They have to run something like a five mile course, stopping every few hundred feet draw their weapon and fire with a degree of accuracy while gasping for air. It's one thing to be standing at a firing range shooting at a stationary target that is not shooting back at you. If you're attacked or feel threatened on the street one day you need to practice how to draw your weapon quickly and, if God forbid, you feel your life is in danger and it's absolutely necessary to pull the trigger, you need to be able to hit "center mass" as it's known. Center mass is between the shoulders and the hips and is the largest target on the body. The attack is happening in seconds--you don't have time to "think" about what to do...practice drawing your gun and firing until it's "muscle memory." That's what you learn in an "active shooting" gun safety class. You need to be in an as much control as possible with the adrenaline rush and your heart racing about to beat out of your chest. You can practice in your living room or backyard with plastic bullets designed for test firing to keep your skills honed.
The next step is to try to avoid the confrontation in the first place--easier said than done of course--but stay away from areas that you think might be dangerous. Situational awareness is the key here...walking along wearing ear buds and looking at your phone is a perp's dream. Focus on your surroundings and, if in the dark, approach the corners of buildings cautiously. If you can defuse the situation or run that's usually the better solution. Just because you have a gun doesn't mean you have to use it. One of our loyal listeners relayed a story to us about his experience one morning about 3:00 stopping at a convenience store to get gas when three young men began approaching. He noticed they didn't have any school books with them so they probably didn't want help with their algebra homework so he simply took out his Glock and began to polish it up some. It had the desired effect--suddenly they didn't seem as interested in speaking with him. Had he not been armed what "might have happened" is impossible to know but he was thankful it went no further.
But please know the LAW. If, God forbid, you ever have to fire your weapon--you are now responsible for whatever happens. If you miss and hit someone else, you could be charged with assault or manslaughter or worse and jail time Know your rights and check on having legal assistance offered by the NRA, Gun Owners of America, or the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA). You have every right to shoot a bad guy/gal who's broken into your home. However, when you show your weapon and they turn around and run you do not have the right to shoot them in the back or on the front lawn. And for defensive purposes have the right ammunition in your gun. There are bullets you can use on the firing range and when you're finished there you need to clean your gun and then reloading with defensive ammunition. This is the "hollow point" type ammo which fragments when it hits the victim and goes no further. If you have "full metal jacket" type ammo that can go through the victim and keep traveling down the street hitting something or someone. If the perp(s) is/are running your gun has accomplished its mission without firing a shot. Call 911 and let the police take it from there.
And finally, check other state laws if you're traveling and taking your gun with you. Fortunately with the Al Gore's wonderful internet you can look gun laws in states you're visiting are available.