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Every champion shooter has shared a common dedication, a dedication to the skilful, meticulous application of the fundamentals of marksmanship. These basic fundamentals, Aiming, Breath Control, and Trigger Control - are the only means of delivering accurate shots.  There is no chance of success on any firing range without an understanding and conscientious practice of these marksmanship principles. All other marksmanship activities support these three fundamentals.  The finest firearms, equipment, and ammunition are useless without the skills necessary to use them effectively. 


Seven Factors Common To All Shooting Positions

In addition to the three elements of a good shooting position, there are seven factors that are common to all shooting positions. The seven factors affect your ability to hold the rifle steady, maintain sight alignment, and control the trigger.  The way these factors are applied differs slightly for each position, but the principles of each factor remain the same.  It is important to become familiar with these common factors and how they apply to each shooting position.

Note: The following procedures are written for right-handed shooter; left-handed shooters should reverse directions as needed.


Left Hand
In all positions it is desirable that the hand guard of the rifle rest in the "V" formed by the thumb and index finger of the left hand. The left wrist is straight with the rifle resting across the heel of the hand. The left elbow should be positioned under the rifle to create bone support and a consistent resistance to recoil. The fingers can curl around the hand guard, but should apply only the minimum amount of pressure to prevent the hand from slipping on the hand guard, the configuration of the body in the different positions will affect the placement of the left hand along the hand guard.


Rifle Butt in the Pocket of the Shoulder
Place the rifle butt firmly into the pocket formed in the right shoulder. This reduces the effect of recoil, helps steady the rifle, and prevents the rifle butt from slipping during firing. Although the exact placement of the rifle butt in the shoulder will change from position to position, consistent placement of the rifle butt in the shoulder pocket within each position is essential to firing tight shot groups and maintaining a true zero.


Grip of the Right Hand
The pistol grip or stock is grasped firmly with the right hand, and the forefinger is placed on the trigger with the thumb and remaining fingers wrapped around the pistol grip or stock. Firm rearward pressure should be exerted to help keep the rifle butt firmly in the shoulder, reducing the effects of recoil. The trigger finger should be placed naturally on the trigger and care should be taken to ensure that the trigger finger can move independently without dragging on the side of the receiver. A proper grip allows the trigger to be moved straight to the rear without disturbing sight alignment.


Right Elbow
The right elbow should be positioned naturally to provide balance to the position. If the elbow is correctly positioned, it helps to form the pocket in the right shoulder where the rifle butt rests. The exact placement of the elbow varies with each shooting position but should remain consistent from shot to shot, ensuring the resistance to recoil remains constant.


Stock Weld
The placement of the cheek against the stock should remain firm and consistent from shot to shot. Consistency of stock weld is achieved through proper placement of the rifle butt in the pocket of the shoulder. A firm contact between the cheek and the stock enables the head and rifle to recoil as a single unit. This provides quick recovery between rapid fire shots, keeps the aiming eye cantered in the rear sight aperture, and prevents the head from bouncing off the stock during recoil. Eye relief is the distance of the eye from the rear sight aperture. A correct shooting position will determine the distance between the eye and the rear sight. Although the distance from the rear sight to the eye varies between positions, consistent eye relief within each position is essential to accurate shooting.


Breathing causes movement of the chest and a corresponding movement in the rifle and its sights.  To minimize this movement and the effect it has on your aim, learn to control your breathing and extend your natural respiratory pause for a few seconds during the final aiming and firing process. When firing rapid fire shots, it may be necessary to take small short breaths to produce a respiratory pause between each shot. The respiratory : pauses help to maintain natural point of aim, however, holding your breath too long may lessen your ability to maintain focus on the sights.


Relaxation prevents undue muscle strain and reduces excessive movement. If proper relaxation is achieved, natural point of aim and sight alignment are more easily maintained.






Three Elements of a Good Shooting Position


A stable shooting position is essential in obtaining the best results in rifle shooting.  A stable position reduces rifle recoil and provides the optimal conditions for successfully applying the fundamentals of marksmanship.  This stability is enhanced by using the rifle sling to aid in the control and support of the rifle.  Proper adjustment of the rifle sling will have little benefit if the competitor can not assume and maintain a correct shooting position.  A proper shooting position provides the stability and control required to employ the weapon accurately and consistently.  The basic shooting positions, can be tailored to meet the individual needs of each competitor and also provide both the stability and control necessary to shoot accurately and consistently.


Bone Support 

The body's skeletal structure provides a stable foundation to support the rifle's weight. A weak shooting position will not withstand the repeated recoil of the rifle when firing at a sustained rate or buffeting from wind. To attain a correct shooting position, the bones of the body must support as much of the rifle's weight as possible. Proper use of the sling provides additional support.

The weight of the weapon should be supported by bone rather than muscle because muscles fatigue whereas bones do not.

Establish a strong foundation for the rifle by utilizing bone support, This will enable the shooter-to relax as much as possible while minimizing the movement of the weapon due to muscle tension.


Muscular Relaxation

Once bone support I achieved, muscles are relaxed.  Muscular relaxation helps to hold steady and increase the accuracy of your aim. Muscular relaxation also allows the maximum use of bone support to create a minimum arc of movement and consistency in resistance to recoil.
The best way achieve muscular relaxation is by utilizing bone support.  During the shooting process, the muscles of the body must be relaxed as much as possible. Muscles that are tense will cause excessive movement of the rifle, disturbing the aim.  When proper bone support and muscular relaxation are applied, the rifle will settle onto your aiming point, making it possible to apply trigger control and deliver a well-aimed shot.
Only through practice and achieving a natural point of aim will proper muscular relaxation be achieved.


Natural Point of Aim

The point at which the rifle sights settle when bone support and muscular relaxation are achieved is called the natural point of aim.
Since the rifle becomes an extension of your body, it may be necessary to adjust the position of your body, thereby adjusting your natural point of aim, until the rifle sights settle naturally on the desired aiming point on the target.
When in a shooting position with proper sight alignment, the position of the tip of the front sight post will indicate the natural point of aim.  When completely relaxed, the tip of the front sight post should rest on the desired aiming point.


One method of checking for natural point of aim is to aim in on your target, close your eyes, take a couple of breaths, and relax as much as possible.  When you open your eyes, the tip of the front sight post should be positioned on the desired aiming point while maintaining sight alignment.


Breath Control

Breath control is another critical element in marksmanship.  If the shooter breathes while trying to aim, the rise and fall of his chest causes the rifle to move vertically and disrupts his sight alignment.  To eliminate this motion, it is necessary for the shooter to briefly stop breathing while firing a shot.

Natural Respiratory Pause

 When shooting, the shooter takes normal breaths then he exhales until he reaches a point called natural respiratory pause.  Natural respiratory pause is the period when the shooter is completely relaxed in his respiratory cycle.

The natural respiratory pause lasts just seconds during normal breathing, but this pause can be extended up to 15 seconds for some shooters to fire a shot.


This pause should last as long as the shooter feels comfortable with it.  It really depends on the physical condition and the lung capacity of the shooter.  Holding the breath longer than is comfortable will cause a lack of oxygen that can deteriorate vision and affect the shooter's ability to focus on the sights.  Involuntary movements of the diaphragm will occur that will interfere with the shooter's ability to concentrate.


There are two techniques for achieving a comfortable natural respiratory pause :

Normal Breathing  

The shooter breathes normally, and as he approaches taking the shot, he pauses, settles into his aiming point, applies trigger pressure, and takes the shot.  It is easier to achieve an aiming point when breathing stops because the movement in the shooter's chest, abdomen,. and shoulders stop.  


Getting the aiming point, applying trigger pressure, and taking the shot all occur during the shooter's natural respiratory pause.  This type of breath control is usually preferred by the shooter who is in good physical condition because he can hold his breath longer with ease.

Decreased Breathing

The second technique for breath control is good for shooters that have trouble extending their natural respiratory pause.

As the shooter approaches taking the shot, he applies initial trigger pressure and decreases his breathing.  He starts settling into his aiming point as his breathing decreases to a pause.  He can obtain a proper sight picture during shallow breathing because he is not moving as much.  He then pauses, achieves his final aiming point, and applies continual pressure to the trigger until the shot breaks.




To fire accurately, it is necessary to achieve a precise aiming point and pull the trigger without disturbing the aiming process. Trigger control is the most important fundamental of marksmanship after sight alignment. Trigger control is the ability to move the trigger to the rear to allow the hammer to fall without disturbing sight alignment or sight picture.


Definition:  Trigger control is the manipulation of the trigger, allowing the shot to break without disturbing sight alignment. Sight alignment and trigger control must be performed simultaneously in order to fire an accurate shot.


Surprise Shot

Controlling the trigger is a mental process as well as a mechanical process. Everyone has probably heard or read that trigger control is such a subconscious effort that a surprise shot can be fired. This is a good way to teach beginner shooters the concept of trigger control.  However, it is not the way to teach more experienced shooters.  The shooter should consciously fire the shot exactly when the rifle settles to his aiming point, but it should be a subconscious effort not to disturb the aiming point or sight alignment.  


If the shooter can move the trigger without thinking about it (subconsciously), he can concentrate on sight alignment and his aiming point.


Types of Trigger Control

Uninterrupted Trigger Control

This is the preferred method of controlling the trigger.  Once trigger pressure is applied, firing of the shot is completed. The shooter is, committed to an unchanging rate of pressure: no speeding up, slowing down, or stopping.


Initial trigger pressure is rapidly applied to take up most of the weight of the trigger.  As the rifle settles into the aiming point and the sights are aligned, the remaining trigger pressure is taken up and the shot is fired without disturbing the aiming point or sight alignment.

Interrupted Trigger Control

This method of trigger control is used in extremely windy conditions when the weapon will  not settle, forcing the shooter to fire the shot when the target comes into his aiming point.  


The shooter takes up initial trigger Pressure and begins normal trigger control.  He then holds his position until he gets his aiming point.  He then pulls the trigger until the shot breaks.  


The shooter should not force his rifle by storing it into his aiming point.  He should let the rifle move naturally toward and away from the bull's-eye.  


If the rifle is moving toward the bull's-eye, the shooter continuously applies trigger pressure.  


If the rifle is moving away from the bull's-eye, the shooter holds his position until the rifle starts drifting back toward his aiming point.  He then applies pressure to the trigger.  If the shot breaks as the sights are moving towards his aiming point, the shot will-normally be inside his call.


Finger Placement on the Trigger

Finger placement on the trigger is correct when it allows the trigger to be moved straight to the rear, without disturbing sight alignment.


Every shooter is different.  The trigger finger should contact the trigger naturally.  The placement of the trigger finger on the trigger is an individual preference and depends greatly on the size of the shooter's hand and his grip.  


Errors in Trigger Control

Trigger control is the most difficult marksmanship skill for most shooters to master.  The majority of shooting errors stem from errors in trigger control and can be attributed to the following:


Flinching is the shooter's reaction to the anticipated recoil of the round going off.  It is indicated by the shooter moving his head, closing his eyes, tensing his left arm, moving his shoulders to the rear, or a combination of these movements.



Bucking is an attempt by the shooter to take up the recoil, just before the weapon fires, by tensing his shoulder muscles and moving his shoulder forward.


Jerking is an attempt by the shooter to make the rifle fire at a certain time by rapidly applying pressure on the trigger and disturbing the alignment of the rifle with respect to the target and/or sight alignment.



Follow-through is the continued application of the fundamentals after each round has been fired.  The shooter does not shift his position, move his head, or let the muzzle of the rifle drop until a few seconds after the rifle has been fired.  Follow-through ensures that there is no undue movement of the rifle until after the round is fired.

From a training viewpoint, follow-through can assist the shooter in correcting his own errors.  By knowing his aiming point the instant that round is fired, the shooter can analyze his shot group in relation to this aiming point and correct himself accordingly.


The conscious mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Therefore, the competitor must practice moving his/her trigger finger without consciously thinking about it. In order to successfully compete, trigger control must be developed through dry firing and continuous training until it becomes a subconscious process.



Definition:  Aiming area refers to the area on the target at which the pistol sights are directed.  Because the pistol is fired from an unsupported position, it will tend to move or oscillate, making it virtually impossible for the competitor to obtain a precise sight picture.  Because of this reason, the competitor should fire his shots within a general aiming area and accept the natural movement he sees with the pistol.

Establishing Aiming Area

Centre Mass  

Centre mass refers to aiming the pistol toward the centre area of the bull's-eye.  Most pistols come from the factory pre-sighted for a centre mass aiming area at 25 yards.  Therefore, when shooting a pistol with fixed sights, the competitor's initial aiming area should be centre mass.  Black sights on a black background also forces the competitor to focus strictly on the sights in order to differentiate between the sights and the target.

Offset Aiming

If well-aimed shots are being delivered in a group but are not at centre mass, it may be necessary to offset the aiming area according to the point of impact.  For example, if the rounds are hitting high and to the left, the competitor simply aims low and to the right.