Can you shoot one-inch groups at 100 yards? Do you knock down every deer, coyote or elk you shoot at? If your answer is “no,” there’s a simple reason. Hint: It’s not the gun. More often than not, a clean miss in the woods or a bad group at the range is a result of poor form. You flinch, slap the trigger, close your eyes or commit all of those shooting sins the moment you send the bullet downrange. The good news is that a few simple steps can fix those issues and turn you into a crack shot.
One of the most important ingredients to becoming a better shooter is getting a solid rest. Shooters who can lock their gun into their bodies and into a motionless rest have a much better chance of drilling the bull’s-eye when they pull the trigger. The slightest movement can have disastrous effects downrange.
“Muzzle movement of just a thousandth of an inch will equal a sixteenth of an inch at 100 yards,” explains Time Fallon, a shooting instructor and owner of the Sportsmen’s All-Terrain, All-Weather Marksmanship school in Barksdale, Texas. (www.ftwoutfitters.com) “Image what a quarter-inch of movement at the muzzle will do at 100 yards. You’ll end up missing or wounding an animal if you can’t keep your gun solid.”
Fallon encourages his students to shoot from a prone position if possible. If not, he advocates using shooting sticks, preferably a tripod rest, to stabilize your gun. He doesn’t recommend taking off-hand shots, although he encourages his students to attempt a few shots at paper just to show how difficult such shots can be.
“Use anything, a tree, a fence post, anything to help you get your gun more solid,” he says.
Squeeze the trigger with a smooth, steady pull using the pad of your fingertip and hold the trigger down after the shot. Slapping or jerking the trigger is typically part of the flinching process. Shooters anticipate the kick and slap the trigger as they hunch forward to meet the punch of the gun. It’s a natural reaction, but it can push your muzzle down or sideways and have a major impact on shot placement.
Ride The Bull
The best way to reduce the impact of any recoil is with ample padding. A soft, squishy recoil pad is an essential part of any rifle, but some manufacturers continue to equip their rifles with pads that might as well be made out of steel. If you don’t like the pad on your rifle’s butt, take it off and replace it with something that softens the inevitable punch.
“I like my shooters to wear shoulder pads, as well,” adds Fallon. “There’s no reason to get beat up, and shooting a box or two of shells over a bench can beat you up pretty bad.”
How you react to the kick is just as important as tempering that kick. Fallon calls it “riding the bull.” Instead of tensing up and pushing your shoulder forward in anticipation of the recoil, it’s much better to relax and roll with it. Keep your cheek down on the stock, keep looking through the scope and be aware of where your shot went after you squeeze the trigger.
Where Did You Shoot?
“I urge my students to call their shot immediately after they squeeze the trigger. I want them to say, ‘nine o’clock,’ or ‘high, left,’ or something like that,” says Fallon. “That forces the shooter to focus on the reticle and its relation to the target.”
It’s also a great mental exercise for overcoming habits associated with flinching. By focusing on the shot and the reticle, you are less likely to think about the kick.
Practice Makes Perfect
There’s no better way to become a better shooter than by shooting more often. Ammo is expensive, though. That’s why Fallon is a big proponent of dry-firing. It doesn’t require ammo; it doesn’t even require a range. Dry-firing is a great exercise that helps develop good habits. By going through the basic steps repeatedly, those steps become second-nature. Fallon also recommends shooting at least a box of ammo a month to get used to the recoil.
“Practice real-world shots, like over shooting sticks or leaning against a tree or post, anything that duplicates the shots you might take in a hunting situation,” he says. “You owe it the animals you hunt to make a good shot every time.”
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