10 Ways to Sharpen Your Rifle Shooting Skills

If you’re new to shooting, whether it’s at the range for target shooting, or out in the hills for hunting, it’s likely that your skills need honing to improve your shot. Being able to shoot accurately is vital when it comes to being a good hunter. At worst, being able to hit your target accurately is the difference between an ethical or unethical kill when hunting, or at the very least loosing face in front of your mates at the range.

Rifle shooting skills take time to perfect and even if you’ve purchased the very best, high end weapon and rifle scope, you may find that you’re still a terrible shot. That’s because as well as having decent equipment, the most important factors in accurate marksmanship are shooting technique and practice. In this guide we’ll provide you with ten different techniques to help you sharpen your shot and acquire new skills about shooting fundamentals and rifle shooting tips.

There are many factors that could be affecting your shot. Your rifle may be too heavy for you, you may have poor posture, be extremely anxious or be breathing too heavily. Missing shots can be incredibly frustrating and you’ll quickly loose enjoyment from shooting if you never hit your target. Let’s take a look at how to improve your shooting skills.

1. Practice Your Aiming

One of the key factors in accurately hitting your target is aim. Are you correctly aiming in the middle of your target before firing? Learning how to aim properly is one of the fundamental shooting skills that every hunter or target shooter needs. Aiming takes practice and it’s important that you also take in to account some variables when aiming.

Before you even consider pulling the trigger it’s important that you have at least some understanding of how gravity effects your shot and how bullet drop will have an effect depending on the specific weapon and ammo of your weapon, alongside the distance that the bullet will be traveling.

After you pull the tigger and the bullet leaves your rifle, gravity immediately starts pulling the bullet downwards towards the ground. The further you’re shooting, the more the bullet will have dropped before it reaches your target. When aiming, especially for longer range shots, it’s important to aim slightly higher to compensate for the loss of altitude as the bullet travels towards your target. This shouldn’t be a guessing game, so a BDC reticle is a great option for longer range shots as these have specific aiming points on them for different distances. You can also develop your own calibre specific bullet drop-chart to help you calculate the expected loss of altitude at different distances.

Once you have a good understanding of how the bullet will behave when it leaves your rifle, use your dominant eye to aim through your scope. Try to keep both eyes open for as long as possible when aiming as this stops eye fatigue.

2. Focus On Breath Control

Stability, calmness and micro-coordination are important factors when taking an accurate shot. Even a single deep breath can cause problems by causing your aim to shift, that’s why one factor to focus on when improving your rifle shooting technique is breath work.

Developing good breathing habits for rifle shooting is really important in minimising the amount of micro movements that occur when you pull the trigger of your rifle. Once you’re ready to shoot, take a breath and exhale most of the air back out. When you’ve exhaled around two thirds of your breath, hold your breath and then squeeze the trigger. By squeezing the trigger whilst holding your breath, your chest and stomach will be still, thus limiting any additional movement that could throw you off target.

Don’t forget that if you hold your breath too long whilst trying to get the perfect shot, your heart will beat faster which will in turn increase your pulse and cause your firearm to move. If you notice this happening, take another breath, collect yourself and start over with exhaling.

3. Stay Calm and Relaxed

Going hunting for the first time, or your first visit to the range can be exciting and also a bit nerve-racking, so it’s understandable that you might be nervous or a little anxious. For the best results it’s really important to try and stay as calm as possible to help keep your breathing under control. To maintain a calm and steady breathing rate, try to keep a positive mind set and ground yourself by making a conscious effort to be mindful of what’s happening around you. When you’re calm and relaxed, your breathing is more likely to be under control which will reduce your chances of it affecting your aim. In order to be as relaxed as possible it’s also important to be comfortable. We’ll talk more about comfortable rifle shooting positions below.

4. Stop Anticipating the Recoil

Every rifle offers some sort of recoil where the power given off by the gun firing makes the weapon move after it’s been fired. The level of recoil given off depends on the type of rifle you’re using and you’ll soon learn what to expect. Firearms with a lot of recoil can give quite a strong kick back immediately after firing, forcing the rifle back in to your shoulder. This can sometimes be pretty painful so it’s understandable that you might begin to anticipate the kick back and subconsciously react in advance of it actually happening. These movements can ruin a shot as if you have prematurely psyched yourself up that the gun is going to hurt, you have the tendency to flinch when you pull the trigger. Overcoming this response takes time, mental work and practice. Try and relax, make sure you have the proper position, get used to the loud noise that a rifle makes and be as familiar as possible with your firearm and the safety of it. This should help to minimise your concerns about the rifle hurting you, and train your brain to not react to the trigger being pulled.

5. Work On Trigger Control

Once your body is balanced and stable, the only part of you that should be moving when you’re ready to take a shot is your finger. Unfortunately, even the smallest of body movements such as the pull of a trigger can throw your aim off target. To reduce the chance of this happening, it’s important to slowly and steadily pull the trigger, without jerking it or clenching your trigger hand too hard and in turn moving the rifle too much.

To achieve the best placement of your finger on the trigger, grasp the stock firmly and then position your finger on the trigger between the first joint and your fingertip.

When you’re happy with your aim, simply apply slow, steady pressure until the gun fires. Try your very best not to rush pulling the trigger and pull it too quickly.

6. Stabilise Your Rifle

When you’re shooting at the range it’s likely you’ll have some sort of gun rest such as a bipod to help to stabilise your rifle and prevent any avoidable movements. But when you’re hunting there’ll be plenty of times that you won’t have a gun rest. In these cases you’ll need to adopt a shooting position; either prone, kneeling, sitting or standing. In each of these positions you’ll need to stay as comfortable and relaxed as possible all whilst trying to stay stable so that when it comes to taking your shot, it’s only the trigger that’s moving, not your entire body. This can be easier said than done, but in each of these positions (except standing), the technique is to use either the ground or a part of your body, be it your arm or knee, to offer a stable platform.

7. Stay Balanced in Your Shooting Position

There are many different body positions that can result in an accurate, on target shot. The main thing to remember is that whichever shooting position you choose, it should be comfortable, allow you to relax in to your shot, and be balanced to reduce the risk of any movement when you pull the trigger. Never choose a position simply because another shooter is using it. If it doesn’t suit your body shape, size or strength then it won’t work for you. It is important to at least try aiming and shooting from a range of different positions though, so you can can discover the most comfortable position for your shooting style. In addition, being able to shoot from various positions ensures that you won’t lose prey because you could not take your favourite shooting position. Since standing and kneeling positions are the fastest and easiest to get into, prioritise mastering these positions.

8. Work On Follow-Through 

After you’ve pulled the trigger and your bullet fires, it takes a short time for it to leave the barrel. It’s vital to ensure that you continue to squeeze the trigger to avoid jerking the gun before the bullet has fully exited as even the smallest movement could throw you off target. This is called follow through.

9. Practice Different Ranges

Being an accurate shot with your rifle all comes down to technique and practice. As with anything that’s technical and requires skill, practice really does make perfect. So, with that in mind, prioritise practicing shooting drills in a variety of different locations and settings, from the range, to in the bush.

10. Build a Pre-Shot Ritual

Shooting really is a sport. And what do some of the best sports people in the world do before a big game or race? They have a specific ritual that gets them in the right headspace to succeed. This should also be the case before you even consider shooting your rifle.

A pre-shot ritual should consist of some physical and some psychological activities. Consider building in some of the tasks below in to your pre shooting routine to help get you in the right mind for achieving accurate shots when you pull the trigger.

  • Check your firearm
  • Check your rifle scope
  • Load your weapon
  • Get in to a comfortable position that offers balance
  • Try to visualise hitting your target
  • Take some deep breaths and conduct a short meditation to calm yourself
  • Disengage the safety
  • Keep your eye on the target and focus
  • Relax your body and try not to tense up
  • When you feel you’re ready, place your finger on the trigger and prepare to shoot

Your Optics Matter – Get the Best Rifle Scopes From ScopeUout

When it comes to accurate shooting technique, practice makes perfect. From you shooting position right through to your technique and follow through when pulling the trigger, all of these factors can have an effect on your accuracy. One other thing that can also have a significant affect is the quality of your riflescope. If you’re trying to aim through a low quality scope that’s blurry, then even exceptional marksmanship won’t be much use. In addition, if your scopes windage and elevation turrets aren’t accurate, then any holdover adjustments you make to account for bullet drop can’t be relied on.

If you think that it’s time to upgrade your riflescope to improve your shooting skills then we’ve got a scope for every application and budget. Choose your new scope today!

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