Rifle shooting is an enjoyable past time and can lead to hunting adventures as well as even competition shooting. However there are several mistakes and bad habits that can develop as we shoot. It is important to avoid them and make sure we follow solid fundamentals. While there are many mistakes newer and even experienced shooters make, here are the top five and how to avoid them.
One of the most common mistakes is what I call a loose rifle. While the shooting hand grip may be tight, the rifles is relatively loose against the shoulder. This allows the gun to move around quite a bit and shooters general experience a great deal of “sight wobble”. The correct method is to use your support side hand and drive the butt stock of the gun back into your shoulder. This will keep the gun much more stable and minimize any movement the shooter sees in the sights. It also allows us the ability to follow up on shots more quickly.
The second mistake is when shooters jerk the trigger. This is caused by a rush to make the shot and In turn actually causes the rifle to move around. I teach people to press the trigger just as they would the shutter button on a camera. A smooth gentle press will minimize any extra movement which translates into more accurate shooting.
Our number three mistake is a lack of follow through. When we make a shot it should be comprised of two separate sight pictures. The initial sight picture we have before we make the shot and then a second after the gun is fired. Keeping our heads down on the gun for this second sight picture is follow though and allows us to make a second or third shot quickly if needed. Firing a shot then quickly lowering the gun forces us to reset if a follow up shot is needed.
Coming in at number four is an excessive blading of the body in relation to the target. While it is seen in some Olympic competition, having your body too bladed can make follow up shots slow. As a rule, try to be no more than 45 degrees off angle to your target. The exact degree that you are turned depends on factors like your build and the size of your rifle.
Rounding out our top five mistakes is what I call the range lean. This is pretty common in newer shooters. This occurs when the shooter shoulders the rifle and lines up to the target. At that point they lean back at the hips as they align their sights and shoot. This can turn into a major problem if not addressed early on. The proper position of the upper body should be leaning forward slightly towards the target. By leaning into the gun slightly you will better manage recoil and find that your sights do not move around as much.
By embracing the basics of marksmanship and body position you can make range days very enjoyable and productive. Make sure you don’t let bad habits creep in and stay vigilant about your form. If you are ever uncertain, take time to set up a video camera and record yourself shooting. Self-diagnosis is easy and effective!