Fundamentals of Marksmanship

Marksmanship is basically the skill of repeating the same action over and over. The fundamentals of marksmanship are four basics that all shooters need to follow. With regular practice, you can greatly improve your accuracy and confidence behind the trigger.

Body Position

Your stance is the foundation of your shooting platform. A solid base will create a stable shooting platform. This description is for a right-handed shooter. For lefties, it will be the opposite. Begin by placing your feet shoulder-width apart, with your left foot slightly ahead of your right foot. You should stand on the balls of your feet with a slight bend in your knees and your upper body leaning just slightly forward. Your torso should be turned at a 45° angle to the target. Your right arm is fully extended while your left arm is bent slightly. This stance is called the Weaver Stance. 

Sight Alignment

Aligning your sights properly is essential to hitting your target. You could do everything else perfect, but if your sight picture is incorrect, you will miss your target. Here, I will talk about pistol sights, but the concept and execution are the same for rifle sights as well. Pistol sights are mostly the same, with a blade front sight and a notched rear sight. Together they form what is called a “Lazy E”. It’s called a Lazy E because it looks like a capital letter E laying on it’s side. To line the sights up properly, the center post on the “E” should line up center mass on your target. The distance should be equal between all three posts as you sight in on your target.

Steady Breathing

Breathing is more important for rifle accuracy because the barrel is longer and small movements make a bigger difference at longer ranges. But it can also be applied to pistol shooting. A natural breathing cycle goes something like this: In, pause, out, pause, in, pause, out, pause. When shooting, you want to squeeze the trigger during the natural pause in your breathing. This allows you to hold your sight picture on target which will result in greater accuracy. 

Trigger Squeeze

When you squeeze the trigger of a pistol you want a slow, smooth squeeze until the round goes off. After the round is fired, hold the trigger down for a fraction of a second, and then slowly release. At some point before fully releasing the trigger, you will hear (and feel) a metallic click. That is the trigger mechanism resetting itself, which means the next round is ready to fire. The preferred method is to grip the trigger with the first pad of your index finger, where your fingerprint is. The middle of the pad should have the most contact with the trigger.

One problem that many new shooters encounter is called “anticipating the recoil”. This happens because they are afraid of the kick that the gun makes when fired. To combat this, they inadvertently press the barrel down a microsecond before the round goes off. This movement is enough to send your round into the ground in front of your target, instead of into it. The best way to overcome this problem is by focusing on a slow, smooth trigger squeeze each time. When the round goes off, it should surprise you.

These fundamentals are just the basics of shooting, but if you follow them and practice them regularly, you will be well on your way to becoming an expert marksman.

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