As I was sitting in the blind the other day thinking about the topic for this article I heard that all to familiar sound, the report of a rifle without the tell-tale “whop” that I enjoy hearing so much knowing that someone has connected and harvested another Texas whitetail. Not only accuracy, but precision are necessary for hunters. One is worthless without the other. For a refresher, accuracy and precision are not interchangeable. A hunter could shoot a group of four shots that, for simplicity’s sake, hit at each of the four corners of the 100-yard sight-in paper target. The hunter is accurate by definition as the four shots would average right in the bull’s eye. But how often would that hunter miss, and when he or she did hit, how often would the animal be recovered? For an example of precision, imagine that the hunter left his jitters at home and made four more shots that were within an inch of each other, but they are located far from where he was aiming. Obviously this is remedied simply by dialing the scope in and bringing the point of impact to the bull’s eye and thus achieving accuracy and precision.
During some of my guided hunts, I’ve seen some terrible shots but I’ve also seen some great ones. Some people have a natural affinity for the bull’s eye, even under great stress and excitement. The stress and excitement coupled with a poor rest can often send bullets way off mark. However, accounting for stress, excitement, and a poor rest for shooters comes later in the scheme of things. First, everyone needs to take a look at their basics of shooting. The basics come down to shooter position, natural point of aim, trigger pull, breathing, and follow-up.
Shooter position includes how the shooter is positioned behind the gun as much as having a solid platform from which to shoot. A solid platform may be from the prone position in an ideal situation, or a weak hand supported shot from the kneeling position if the need arises. Having a position where the shooter is more stable is always better. Using a stable rest, such as a tree, (mono-, bi-, tri-) pod, box blind, or hunting partner’s shoulder (though dangerous in the rare case of a ruptured chamber) is always recommended to take strain off of the shooter and steady the gun.
Second on shooter position is how the shooter is lined up on the gun. Ninety-degree angles are always preferred. When shooters position themselves at acute angles to the gun, physics can take a greater toll on the final location of the shot. Physics force the energy of the recoil down the path of least resistance. When shooters position themselves at angles other than 90° to the gun, the recoil of the gun will force itself off of the target, resulting in inconsistencies of shot placement. Right handed shooters will tend to shoot left of the bull’s eye and left handed shooters vice-versa because of this. While it may seem that a shot happens instantly, it does not and a lot can happen between pulling the trigger and the bullet leaving the muzzle. Having a solid position and firm pressure of the gun against your shoulder is paramount.
Natural point of aim is next for increasing precision. A shooter can easily force the gun into position to aim at the bull’s eye but the shot placement will suffer greatly. A great trick that I’ve learned is to hold the cross-hairs on the target, close your eyes for five seconds, open them and see where you’re aiming then. If the cross-hairs are still where they were before you closed them, you are pretty much set up. If you have the opportunity, dry fire the gun (centerfire rifles only!!!) and see where your crosshairs are after the “shot”. If you are still on target, your natural point of aim is set and you can move on to the next step in making a shot.
Once you are lined up and have your natural point of aim set, chamber a round without losing sight of your target through the scope. This is important to keep from altering your setup that you’ve just worked to get correct. Place your finger on the trigger lightly and fold the rest of your hand back into the grip of the gun. However, against the way almost everyone holds the rifle, building the grip around the trigger finger rather than the hand is most important. Your hand plays a less important role in the shot in comparison to your finger. As mentioned before, 90° angles are best. Keeping the middle knuckle of your trigger finger at a 90° angle will ensure a straight, repeatable trigger pull. It’s going to feel very awkward at first and will take some practice and conscious force on your part to get it right. Once you get it right, your precision will increase.
Now that you’re ready to pull the trigger, breathing becomes your next task. But put a target in front of a shooter and tell him or her to shoot it, it’s amazing how laborious remembering to breathe becomes! You’ve been doing it all your life and you don’t have to think about it, but shooting changes all that for many people. You were probably taught to take a deep breath, let half out, hold it, then shoot. However, I have since learned to maintain a normal breathing cycle and don’t hold my breath. Your body begins to starve for oxygen after only a couple of seconds. While you don’t notice it, things begin to tremor. While you don’t notice it because your brain acts as a stabilizer, your eyes are the first to begin to shake. What an inconvenience!! Continuing to breathe will keep your eyes steady and further calm you if you get a killer case of buck fever. Breaking your shot at the bottom of your breathing cycle is the ticket. It’s easily repeatable if you don’t try to force all of the air out and is amazing how it can improve your shooting.
Once the trigger is pulled and the process of the shot is initiated, a lot of things happen very quickly, but not instantly. It takes time from when the trigger is pulled to when the firing pin falls, to when the primer discharges, to when the gun powder begins to burn, to when the seal of the cartridge is broken, to when the bullet impacts the rifling, to when the bullet reaches the muzzle. There are a lot of things happening and reducing movement of the gun while these things are happening is necessary to improve precision. Following up the shot by keeping the trigger pulled will help reduce movement and help you keep the gun on target to watch the bullet impact. If you missed your target, you need to know where you missed so you can compensate. The bullet is like Honest Abe, it never lies!
While a lot of this seems simple, it can be difficult in practice. We are all creatures of habit and breaking those habits which we have relied on for years is tough. Dry firing your hunting rifle at home is a great way to practice these fundamentals and ensure that you utilize them in the field. Follow these fundamentals and I’m sure your shooting will be rewarded, mine sure has! I want to thank Jacob Bynum of Rifles Only who is a great instructor of shooting and was gracious enough to allow me to write this article about what others and I have learned in his Precision Rifle I class. If you want to improve your shooting while having an experience you’ll never forget, take one or more of his classes. I’ve included a couple of links to some videos that he has made discussing what I’ve covered here. Watch them and practice the fundamentals often and prepare to impress!
Lesson 1 - http://www.snipershide.com/UserFiles/Image/articles/Lesson1.pdf
Lesson 2 - http://www.snipershide.com/UserFiles/Image/articles/Lesson2.pdf
Lesson 3 - http://www.snipershide.com/UserFiles/Image/articles/Lesson3.pdf
Lesson 4 - http://www.snipershide.com/UserFiles/Image/articles/Lesson4.pdf
Lesson 5 - http://www.snipershide.com/UserFiles/Image/articles/Lesson5.pdf
Posted by Cody Zabransky