Improve Rifle Accuracy For All Skill Levels
I LOVE shooting!
And I HATE when my shots fly everywhere except the target.
The information in this article will help you become a more accurate shooter. Below you will find the fundamentals of accurate shooting. If you master these suggestions, you will reign in those wandering shots and become more confident behind the crosshairs.
Becoming a more accurate shooter is a lifelong pursuit. We are never done improving our shooting skill, and we hope that this article will help you understand areas where you can improve your shooting accuracy.
First, practice, practice, practice.
All the techniques to shoot more accurately won’t work until you master them.
Visualize yourself executing the fundamentals and later at the range be intentional about practicing each of the basic techniques. Practice the basics over and over until they become second nature.
Talking to you experienced shooters who plan to skip the “fundamentals.”
Don’t skip the fundamentals of shooting accurately, even if you have been shooting your whole life! Focusing on and mastering the fundamentals will help improve accuracy no matter how much experience you have.
As you practice, take notes.
Keep track of the accuracy of different loads, at various ranges, and in different conditions. Taking notes will help you track and remember what does and does not work. Over time this will play a big part in becoming a confident shooter.
Take mental notes as well. Pay attention to what different ranges look like and practice gauging different distances. Check your estimates with a range finder if possible. When you are in the field, you may not have a range finder or time to check distances before you take your shot — learning to make accurate range estimates on the fly is a valuable skill to have.
Mastering the basics is key to becoming an accurate shooter!
If you can’t do the fundamentals the most accurate rifle won’t help you.
Grip and positioning, “how do you hold this thing!”
How you hold your rifle will vary based on your shooting position. It is ideal to have the weight of the gun supported by something that does not easily move, twitch, or breath.
The most secure brace is a bench rest or bipod. In the field, a tree or boulder are good alternatives. Using the structure of your skeleton is always better than using your muscles. For example, in a seated position using your knee as support is better than holding the weight of the rifle without support.
Your non-shooting hand will hold the foregrip steady and your shooting hand, which should be on the same side as your dominant eye, will hold the grip. When the rifle is on a rest, the non-shooting hand may not need to be on the rifle at all.
If you are supporting any part of the rifle with your body, use tension and pull the gun in close. Tightening your muscles and pulling the gun in tight helps eliminate free play.
Long story short, get the rifle into a position where your movements will impact it as little as possible. Use a physical brace when possible, and use tension to help secure the gun when your body is supporting the rifle.
Now that you are holding your rifle in a secure position let’s get it on target!
Be sure that you understand your sights. 1) Where to line up your sights relative to where you want the bullet to land, and 2) How to adjust your sights when needed.
Where ARE you going to line up those crosshairs?
Gun sighted in at 100 yards? But the target is 200 yards out!?
We will give some general guidelines to help out. Additional research likely needed…
The two most common factors that you will need to prepare for are wind-drift and bullet drop. It comes down to understanding how the trajectory of the bullet will change left/right and up/down in different conditions.
Quick tips on wind drift
A general rule of thumb for many rifles is that for 10 MPH wind, adjust your shots 1 inch at 100 yards, two at 200, six at 300, and 12 at 400. If the crosswind is coming at a 45-degree angle vs. a 90-degree angle, halve the adjustment amount. If the wind is 20 MPH vs. 10 MPH double the adjustment amounts. This recommendation will vary based on your caliber, weight of the projectile, etc. You should practice with your rifle and determine what works best for you.
The drop of your projectile is specific to each caliber and to each load within that caliber. You should become familiar with exactly how much drop to expect and practice the amount of hold over/hold under you should apply at different ranges. Check out our interactive Ballistics data https://myhuntingear.com/interactive-ballistics-data/ for some of the more popular calibers.
When its time to send lead downrange, the time to calculate wind drift and bullet trajectory is over.
Do as much of the testing, math, estimations, and technical stuff beforehand so that you are ready to shoot accurately in any conditions you might face.
Optics, See and shoot close and far.
Adjusting a scope is usually pretty straight forward. Adjustments are made in ¼ MOA increments. To learn more about MOA, check out our article about ballistics.
Open Sights, reliable, classic, and easy to use
Open sights are generally pretty straight forward but can be tricky. Usually, you will line up the top of the front bead/blade parallel with the top of the back notch. Place the target right above the front bead and BANG!
Holding the intended point of impact right above the front bead, as described above, is called a 6’oclock hold. Keeping the center of the bead right over the intended target is a center hold.
I grew up using a center hold and feels more natural to me. Proponents of the 6’oclock hold correctly argue that the 6’oclock hold does not impede the vision of the target that you are trying to hit. Both ways work, be consistent with whichever method you use.
We are not going to get into all the different types of open sights. Whichever type of sites you have, learn to adjust them, and to line up your shots the same every time.
Breathing: Gotta Breath, Gotta Shoot
There are several schools of thought about breathing.
Shoot while in a natural breathing pause.
This method is considered the best breathing technique by many. When you exhale, there is a short pause before you take your next breath. Your body is relaxed, your blood is oxygenated, and you can remain very still.
Go ahead, try it now.
The idea is to take your shot in the 5-10 seconds before you take your next breath.
Suspend breath while shooting
Many shooters also use this technique under normal conditions with excellent results. The key is to hold completely still for long enough to line up and take your shot.
When under physical exertion shooting in a natural breathing pause is not realistic. Say you run up a short incline and need to line up your shot quickly. Take a big breath and hold it for several seconds while you line up and take your shot. If you are not able to take the shot before your next breath, you will likely need to take a few quick deep breaths and then try again.
Shoot while slowly exhaling.
Breath in deeply and then slowly and consistently release your breath. This method can be effective if you have been doing moderate physical activity or under normal conditions. One drawback of this method is that as the air slowly leaves your lungs, your aim may slightly change, which you will have to take into consideration.
4 Keys to trigger control are:
- Smoothed controlled pull
- Don’t anticipate the trigger break
- Finger position on the trigger
The main thing to remember with trigger control is to have a smooth, controlled pull from the initial slack of the trigger, through the trigger break, and into the trigger stop.
Correct trigger pull is a simple enough concept, but in the heat of the moment, it can be easy to jerk the trigger back pulling your aim off or to anticipate the trigger break causing you to drop the front of the rifle slightly.
If you are consistently off target to the right or left and you are confident that your gun is sighted in you are likely yanking the trigger.
If your shots are missing the target in all directions, you may be anticipating the trigger break.
Focusing on clean follow-through can help you overcome both bad habits of jerking the trigger and anticipating the trigger break. Focus on pulling smoothly through the trigger-break and into the stop. Your gun may have additional slack after the trigger break, or the trigger stop may be at the same spot as the break. Either way, the concept is the same to keep your pull consistent through the break and not stop as soon as the gun fires.
Let the gun surprise you when it fires. When this happens, you are not moving the gun off target by jerking to one side or dropping the muzzle, helping you become a much more accurate shooter.
Most experts recommend pulling the trigger with the pad of your finger straight back. You want your trigger finger to be able to move freely without impacting any other part of the rifle. Rotate your hand so that there is space between the rifle and the trigger finger. Try not to have your finger sitting alongside the rifle as it is more likely to cause movement of the gun as you pull the trigger.
Finger positioning is flexible as many accurate shooters use the tip of their finger or the knuckle of their finger. The key is to be able to execute a clean straight trigger pull without moving any other part of the rifle.
Master trigger pull with practice.
Using an unloaded gun is excellent practice for correct trigger pull. Focus on the keys of accurate trigger pull so that they become second nature.
You may also want to invest in snapcaps as dry-firing some guns can cause damage over time.
Another training technique is to mix snapcaps in with live ammo so that you don’t know where the dummy shots are. Have a friend help mix them up if needed. Not knowing if you will have a live round or not will help identify if you are anticipating the trigger break. This drill will also help you be intentional about a smooth trigger pull with follow-through.
Impact of a good or lousy trigger
Ever pulled a trigger that grinds more than your worn-out breaks?
An awful trigger can feel as rough as sand paper. It can be challenging to be accurate with a terrible trigger. Luckily, most rifle triggers are pretty good these days, and if you are looking for a fantastic trigger, there are quite a few options available.
A good trigger will have a smooth pull and crisp break.
The trigger weight refers to how much pressure it takes to pull back the trigger. The trigger weight is an important factor in shooting accuracy, and generally speaking, it is easier to be accurate with a light trigger.
Correct trigger weight is relative.
A light trigger pull is excellent while shooting from a bench and other controlled situations. But, if you are shooting from a standing position, with gloves on, or with cold fingers, an overly sensitive trigger may lead to an unintended shot. For some conditions, a heavier trigger pull may be more appropriate.
Again this is relative, but in my mind:
Very light trigger: 2 pounds and less. Usually found on bench rest guns. Light triggers: Between 2-3 pounds. Accurate hunting rifles.
Medium weight triggers: Between 4-6 pounds. Many factory guns will come in this range.
Heavy triggers: 6 pounds and up.
Let the gun buck, kindof.
Anticipating recoil and trying to control the kick of the rifle will hurt your accuracy. Same concept as previously mentioned behind not anticipating the trigger break. Let the recoil of the gun surprise you then bring the gun back into shooting position and line up your next shot.
There are a few things you can do to help with recoil. Reducing recoil can help you anticipate your shots less, allow you to have faster follow up shots, and save your shoulder!
- Gun weight. Lighter guns kick more, and heavier guns absorb recoil better. Keep this tradeoff in and your needs in mind while choosing a rifle. If you are hiking and carrying your rifle a lot, the lighter gun may be a better option. If fast follow-ups and lower recoil are more critical, you may opt for a heavier option.
- Recoil Pad. A recoil pad can help save your shoulder but doesn’t actually reduce the recoil of the gun. If you are shooting a lot, this may be a good option.
- Muzzle brake or recoil compensator. This may not be an option for many rifles. But some rifles will come with a muzzle brake or will have threads to add one. The right muzzle break can help with recoil control by directing gas upward pushing the rifle barrel back down. A tradeoff is that the rifle may be louder for the shooter or those around the shooter.
- Lighter loads. In certain situations, you could choose lighter loads to help with recoil. Whether you are buying lighter loads or reloading, be sure to understand the performance difference and ensure that the lighter loads are still appropriate, especially if hunting.
Bringing it together
There are a lot of factors at play while trying to shoot accurately. As you master the fundamentals, you will minimize the elements that negatively affect your aim, and you will become a more accurate shooter.
Becoming an accurate shooter is not a one-time thing or a list of things that you do once. Becoming an accurate shooter takes time, practice, and constant correction. Be intentional about each of the fundamentals and practice them time and time again. When you notice you have a bad habit hurting your accuracy focus on re-learning and training the correct way to overcome the bad habit.
Mastering accurate shooting is very satisfying! And shooting is so much more fun when you are confident that you can hit your target! We hope that you have found these tips useful and best of luck becoming accurate shooters.
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