Most shooters put far too much importance on their guns and rifle scopes and nowhere near enough emphasis on shooting. Aside from having an accurate, well-tuned rifle and the best rifle scope for your needs, you must practice, practice and practice some more. Unfortunately, most people just don’t have the time to get to the range frequently. But being short of time doesn’t mean you have to settle for being a mediocre shot. If you’re tired of missing your mark here are five surefire tips that will have you well on your way to improving your aim:
Don’t Squeeze, JERK!
Most shooters are under the impression a trigger should be squeezed, but as the well-known and respected retired Outdoor Life Magazine Shooting Editor Jim Carmichael once pointed out, the trigger must be jerked, but in a very controlled manner. For anyone who has ever tried to shoot in any position without a solid rest knows the longer the gun is held on target the more it wavers. Carmichael wrote the trigger must be pulled at the precise moment when your brain tells you the sight picture is perfect, and trying to slowly squeeze the trigger just gives the gun time to wobble off target. If you think Jim’s advice is all wet, consider that this is the same man who set the new benchrest world record in 2013, a record that stood for 20 years, with a five-shot group measuring 0.009 inches, the thickness of five magazine pages!
Once mastered, the “controlled jerk” will improve your marksmanship beyond belief, even from an offhand position. For example, a great technique for offhand shooting is to swing the rifle in a figure-eight pattern, having the crosshairs intersect the target at the middle of the swing, and jerk the trigger at the precise instant when the crosshairs meet the mark.
Build Muscle Memory
Muscle memory is a synonym for motor learning, a form of procedural memory involving strengthening a specific motor movement through repetition. In English, that means the more you repeat a movement the stronger the connection between the muscles and your brain becomes. Walking is the ultimate example of muscle memory; you do it so much that the contention between your brain and the muscles is so developed you never even have to think about it. You can do the same with your shooting motion, without going broke buying ammo, through the magic of dry firing.
Place some targets or pictures of game animals on your walls and start practicing. The wonderful thing about building muscle memory for a task is you don’t have to do it all at once; just a few shots a few times a week will added up to you becoming a crack shot. Keep in mind, dry firing indoors is best suited to open sights and low-power rifle scopes. Also, to state the obvious, be sure your gun is unloaded before you start dry firing, and be sure to close the blinds so a neighbor doesn’t see you and call the police.
Call Your Shot
Going hand-in-hand with dry firing is the exercise of “calling your shot.” Simply stated, this is the practice of mentally asking yourself where the sights were at the exact moment you heard the “click” of the firing pin falling. If you answer yourself honestly you will quickly master the controlled jerk and immeasurably improve your marksmanship. Additionally, learning to call your shot consistently and accurately will tell your immediately at the shot if you hit your mark when in the field.
Know When to Quit
Finally, if you start to fatigue when shooting either live ammo or dry firing, know it’s time to quit! You won’t be accomplishing anything past that point, other than wasting ammo and aggravating yourself. There are also going to be those day when you aren’t at your best, or maybe you just don’t feel like shooting.
Stop Getting Kicked
Jim Carmichael’s predecessor at Outdoor Life, the late great Jack O’Connor wrote that a bum shot with a magnum is still a bum shot; and far too many hunters place too much emphasis on power and not enough on marksmanship. The Billings Gazette once ran an article about a woman who lived just north of Yellowstone Park, who had killed an elk every season for twenty three years running. This was quite a feat, considering the hunter-success rate for elk in Montana hovers around 20 percent. When asked how she did it she simply stated “I never miss.” The kicker to the story was the huntress used what most would consider a too diminutive caliber for elk, the 6mm Remington. Of course, this made all the men in the magnum crowd howl, but the reality is if you have too much gun you are going to flinch. Be honest with yourself, and if you are even a little scared of your .300 magnum, trade it in for something with a little less kick.
Guest contributor bio:
Besides being an outdoor enthusiast, Andrew loves hanging out with his wife and seeing life through the eyes of his 4 year old daughter. His fresh take on life and learning new things, coupled with a love for writing, sets the tone in his pieces and lends itself very well to being a contributing writer for a number of outdoors/gun sites. He can also be found shooting a Canon camera.