Basic Techniques for Rifle Shooting

Guest post by Jay Chambers


If you’re in a long-term survival situation, a hunting rifle is a handy tool. This is doubly true if you happen to be holed up in an area where foraging and fishing are sparse.

But, you won’t be getting game with your rifle if you can’t hit anything with it. And, you likely won’t have a ton of ammo. So, there’s no room for misses.

Fortunately, most hunting situations require just a few basic shooting skills, which are easy to learn. Here’s a rundown of the fundamental shooting skills and a few tips for applying them.

I’ll work through these basic techniques for rifle shooting in the order you would use them as you pick up a rifle to shoot.

Grip Technique

The most important part of getting a good shooting grip is your shooting hand—the hand that presses the trigger. This hand is what puts the rifle in the right position and establishes a stable platform. Your support hand basically just goes on the forend of the rifle wherever it’s most comfortable.

When you get a grip on your rifle and bring it up to your shoulder use these techniques to get the best shooting grip:

  1. Tuck your shooting elbow into your ribs.

This puts your elbow underneath your rifle, where it can best support the weight. If you’re laying down, this won’t be possible. But, your rifle will be supported anyway.

  1. Push your rifle closer to your chin.

The tendency is to put the stock in the notch between the ball of your shoulder and your pectoral muscle. However, this puts your rifle about two inches outside your line of sight, and you have to severely cock your head to look through your sights.

So, slide your rifle just a tad toward your chin, and raise the stock an inch or two. The stock should be against your pectoral muscle, just about straight down from the outside of your jawbone.

This puts your sights in front of your eye, so you don’t have to strain your neck to get a sight picture.

  1. Avoid crushing the life out of your rifle.

Obviously, you need to hold your rifle firmly enough not to drop it. And, you need to pull it into your shoulder. But, there’s no need to white knuckle your rifle until you shake. Just get a good grip, slightly less tense than a firm handshake.

A good grip sets you up for success in the next fundamental.

Sighting Technique

I’m going to focus on iron sights here, since they’re simple, ideal for survival situations, and you can use them on any gun.

But, no matter what sort of sights you use, always make sure they’re zeroed. If you use a magnified optic, make a range card, so you know where to set the elevation for every distance.

For those using iron sights, here are some techniques that will help you get your hits:

  1. Focus on your front sight.

It might feel counterintuitive to shoot with a blurry target. But, it works. Your sights are for controlling deviation. And, your front sight indicates where your barrel is pointed. So, it’s best to focus on your front sight.

  1. Understand that your sights will never be perfectly motionless.

Except in cases where you can rest your rifle on something, your sights are going to move. You’re an organism with a heartbeat that breathes. It’s impossible to hold your sights completely still. So, when you’re sights are on target, press the trigger. Don’t waste time trying to get your sights to freeze in place.

That fundamental runs right into the next one.

Trigger Press Technique

The last stage of each shot is the trigger press (well, technically the very last step is checking your shot placement. But, we’re talking basics here). The trigger press is where most people mess up their shot.

Here are a few techniques to help you avoid that:

  1. Don’t mess with your breathing.

You can use your breathing to your advantage. But, there’s no need to mess with it. Most people just end up holding their breath, which isn’t helpful.

There’s a natural pause at the top and bottom of your breath. Those small pauses are the best time to break your shot, if you can time it that way. But, just breath naturally, and shoot at the best moment, rather than trying to mold your breathing around your shot.

  1. Press the trigger consistently.

This is easier with some triggers than others. However, the key is to avoid making sudden movements in your trigger press. If you move the trigger slowly, then quickly snap it to break the shot, you’ll likely pull your muzzle off target and miss.

Once you start moving your trigger finger, press it all the way to the rear in a single, smooth motion until the shot goes off. You can press fast or slow, as long as you don’t split the motion into a fast portion and a slow portion.

There are other ways to press the trigger for other contexts. But, this technique is precise enough for most short and medium range hunting.

  1. Hold the trigger to the rear.

This is a portion of the shot called “follow-through.” The idea is that holding the trigger to the rear for a moment after the shot helps keep you from snapping your trigger press. And, it works well enough that it’s considered fundamental to good shooting.

That’s it. After the trigger press, all that’s left is to collect your next meal.

Now, these are the basic techniques. Covering everything would take thousands of words. However, if you follow these ground-level techniques, you’ll achieve enough precision to make your rifle useful in a survival situation.

So, carve out a bit of time with your survival rifle to dial in these basic techniques and get better prepared for a worst case scenario.

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