Target shooting with a long gun can be practical, competitive, and perhaps counter-intuitively for something that makes a ‘boom’, but it can even be relaxing, too. There are many elements that go into making that perfect shot: Here are some things to think about next time you’re at the range.
Sights: First up is what kind of sights you’re using. There are many options out there and it depends on your application and preference. That being said, if you’re a beginning shooter, it can be easier to ease into precision shooting with iron sights instead of a scope. Many scopes have magnification. This makes your target look bigger, but it also magnifies every little twitch and movement of your sight picture. It can get a bit distracting until you’re used to it.
Sight Picture: The specific view will differ depending on the type of sight you’re using. The thing to remember is that the front sight should be in focus rather than the target. The sight is what tells you where the gun is pointing, so that’s what you want to look at.
Breathing: Take steady breaths. Your natural breathing cycle involves inhaling, exhaling, and a short pause before the next inhale. The pause after the exhale is when your body is most relaxed, and that is when you should take your shot.
Natural Point of Aim/Muscle Tension: Settle in with your bench rest or sling and take aim. When you’ve just finished exhaling but have not begun taking air back in, your sights should be sitting right on your target. If they’re not, don’t try to muscle the rifle onto the target since that will add muscle tension which is likely to start shaking your sight picture. Instead, adjust your body position and equipment so that your sight lands right where you want them when you’ve exhaled. A good way to really see where you’re at is to get into position, close your eyes, and relax. When you re-open your eyes, you’ll see where you’re truly pointing. Closing your eyes removes some of the opportunity to subconsciously keep the sights where you want them to be, rather than where they’re naturally pointing. This can be worked on without even loading the firearm.
Trigger Pull: You’ll get the best pull using the pad of your index finger, rather than the crook. When you’ve found your natural point of aim after you’ve exhaled, slowly squeeze the trigger until it breaks. To avoid pushing on the trigger sideways, the 2nd knuckle of the trigger finger should break outwards so the pad of your finger stays parallel to the trigger face. This is something you can practice by dry-firing.
Zeroing: When sighting in, take a shot, and decide where you think the shot landed before looking through your spotting scope. When you look to see where the shot actually hit, adjust the sights towards where you thought the shot had gone, rather than the center of the target.
Precision vs Accuracy: Precision refers to hitting the same spot multiple times. Accuracy means hitting the intended spot. Each is important in its own right. Precision is the first step, and is followed by accuracy. This is because once you are hitting the same spot consistently (even if its not the center of the target), you can then adjust your sights to move the shot to the intended point of impact.
It's a lot to think about, and can take years to get it all working perfectly, but next time you're at the range give some of these tips a try.