One of the most difficult arts to master, and the most sought after, in the shooting world for most is the art of the long gun. For most shooters, taking their favorite rifle down to the range and shooting at a target at 100 yards is fun and challenging. Hitting a reactive target or even grouping well with their rifle at this range is both challenging and satisfying. And for a lot of shooters, they have no desire to go beyond that. Their favorite rifle is “accurate enough”, and they are content to believe 100 yards is a long shot. Gun magazines tout the accuracy of rifles and post up groups taken at 100 yards with their favorite ammo, and this is all well and good to some.
When you enter the world of long-distance shooting, where shots past 1 kilometer are de rigueur, however, many things change and become more important. The rifle’s characteristics play a great part, but so do the shooter’s own skills, and in this world, the key to success is all about the fundamentals.
It’s All About Control
So what are the fundamentals of shooting? Many folks who practice with a rifle and a target figure steady hold and breath control are all that is required. Missing the shot, or having a 2″ group at 100 yards is pretty darned good, and days when you have shots all over the map are just because your rifle is crap, right? Well, not so much.
“Controlling the mind and every physical element you can is key (bullet temp., identical cheek weld, finger placement, etc)”-Brandon
Getting into the fine details of the system of the rifle aside, the shooter’s very posture and timing is the base he must build on to make those shots count. Controlling the shot is as much about controlling the body as it is about the rifle. Several key aspects come into play here, and they are fundamentally the most important.
Few things make as much difference as breath control. It may seem obvious, but when considering long shots, even the slightest movement of the rifle will affect your shot. Calming breaths, while also establishing a good rhythm, will also help reduce stress and increase focus, which also will help control your heart rate during the lead up to the shot. It’s a lot like meditation: just breathing and focusing on breathing calms the nerves and helps quiet the millions of thoughts and twitches that the body will experience.
“For shooting I recommend bottom of an exhale as this is more easily reproduced than holding in the middle.” –Brandon
“Pick up initial slack, first pad of finger on the trigger and then a nice smooth trigger squeeze.”-Brandon
This sounds easy, but how often have we gone for a smooth shot and been a little too quick on the trigger? Part of this is practicing your fine motor skills to be able to ease the pressure on the trigger slowly and evenly. Part of this is controlling the impulse to see a shot and be quick to take it. Also, a huge portion is simply realizing how your hand and finger are placed on the trigger: Are you using the tip of your finger, or are you resting the trigger at the first joint? Is your shot smooth? Applying pressure unevenly, can cause the rifle to move off target at the last moment.
“Also remember that positive reinforcement is key. Talk to yourself in a positive manner, be your own coach! Example: “Don’t jerk the trigger” and “smooth on the trigger” mean the same thing but produce different pictures in our heads. Think about it and be positive.” –Brandon
Natural Point of Aim, Mental Management and more coming in Part 2.
by Bravo Two
This post first appeared on loadoutroom.com