The mighty United States Army teaches four fundamentals of marksmanship.  You need to know these to make it through Basic Training:

1. Steady position focuses on grip, elbow placement, rifle butt position, stock weld, bone support, muscle relaxation and natural point of aim.

2. Aiming focuses on sight alignment, eye focus and consistent sight picture.

3. Breath control teaches the soldier to hold his breath when firing. Breathing while firing can cause the bullet to move upward or downward of the target.

4. Trigger squeeze focuses on squeezing the trigger rather than pulling it. Pulling the trigger too hard can cause the bullet to move to the left or right of the target.

Fighting with the Marksmanship Fundamentals
US Army Marksmanship Fundamentals

Most shooters get some version of these fundamentals in their training.  They are nice, but it is really more for target shooting than fighting. That said, you have to start with fundamentals and one must know the rules before breaking them.

The Army also teaches that the enemy gets a vote  on every plan.  He may move.  He may (gasp) shoot back… you.

If you are in a covered and concealed position, far away, shooting a stationary enemy in the back, this is perfect.  The more of these fundamentals you have, the better your shot.  This is why snipers must be superb marksmen.  Their superior tactics should keep them out of anything remotely resembling a fair fight.

As you progress in shooting and learning and fighting, you will require a deeper understanding.  You may not get to plan your shot.

Fighting with the Marksmanship Fundamentals

The problem with unnecessary precision is that the guy who gets a peripheral hit faster by cheating the fundamentals has a very real advantage over future superior marksmanship from a now wounded guy who didn’t make the first hit.  Here are the two non-negotiable things you have to do.  They are simple but not easy:

1.  Align the barrel with the target

2.  Press the trigger without disturbing the barrel.

Everything else is helpful but non-essential.  You can have a terrible unstable position and still get a shot off.  Up close, you can get a hit without using the sights at all.  You can breathe and shoot, if you are moving it is hard to do anything else.  Trigger squeeze can be fast and hard as long as it doesn’t move the barrel too much.  Compromise on the fundamentals can buy you that most precious of all commodities in a fight.  TIME

I am not suggesting that the fundamentals are not valid.  Just remember, they are “Marksmanship Fundamentals”.  In shooting competitions, there are rules.  In a fight there are no laws but physics and gravity.

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Here are a couple of fighting fundamentals (this is not a complete list):

If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.

See first shoot first

The first hit may be the last hit.  Be the guy who makes it


Use cover

Be lucky (this can actually replace all of the fundamentals, but it is difficult to train)

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” ~Mary Engelbreit

Remember this, depending on your range and your weapon, varying degrees of marksmanship are necessary.  Know what you need to get a hit and make it now.  How do you know what it takes to get the hit?  Realistic training.  The bad guys get it on the street every time they get in a fight and don’t die.

Photo courtesy of the US Army