T Nation

Accuracy Tips


How about some tips for improving your shooting? Cheap, easy, expensive, lessons, whatever.

I'll start. 22 lr and dry firing. Dry firing gets me ready for deer season here in Pa. with nothing much more than sighting in shots. Get a snap cap for your rifle or pistol hold steady, fire. Make sure you are pointing in a safe direction and you ahve cleared your weapon of course.

This has made me rock steady. I practice standing and seated. don't really shoot at deer prone much, but if you're a long range guy, go for it! Here in pa. I get up to 250 yard shots.

22s are a great way to get rounds down range cheap and will help educate you on your positions, steadiness , and trigger squeeze. I rpactice up to 100 yards with my Sako with iron sights. When I get it down I'll shoot a 2" group from a bag.

As for pistols, I have a conversion kit for the full size 1911s and a kit for an AR.


Here’s a distillation of the classic Rifleman series, from the enigmatic “Fred.”

I. Shooting by the Numbers

1. SIGHT ALIGNMENT – Line up the front and rear sights: Simply center the front sight in the rear sight. If you are shooting a rifle with a “peep sight” (more correctly, an “rear aperture sight”), you’ll make sure that you are holding the rifle such that the top of the front sight post is in the center of the opening in the rear aperture sight.

If you are shooting a rifle with traditional open sights, you’ll want the front sight post to be located in the center of the rear sight notch, with the top of the front sight post no higher or lower than the top of the rear sight.

Those of you with a scope should take off that glass now and learn to shoot well without it. Once you know how to do that, you can use that scope, but not be dependent on it.

In the words of Clint Smith, owner of Thunder Ranch, “two weeks after the balloon goes up, iron sights will rule the world.”

2. SIGHT PICTURE – Keeping the sights lined up, bring them onto the target: You have two basic choices in accomplishing this step. The first way is to use your muscles and fight your body’s natural alignment so as to bring the sights onto the target. That’ll work, maybe, as long as you can:

a) use the same amount of muscle power to force your body into the exact same position for each shot; and

b) keep your muscles from growing tired and starting to tremble as you fight your body in keeping your sights on target.

Your second choice - the right way - is to enlist your body’s help in holding the sights steady on target. It’s called the “natural point of aim” (NPOA) technique (more later), and it’s the secret to rapid and consistent improvement in shooting. Understand that by moving your body position so that your rifle points naturally at the target, you will eliminate muscle fatigue and improve accuracy dramatically.

3. RESPIRATORY PAUSE – Deep breath, exhale, hold breath as front sight touches bottom of target: Take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and watch how the front sight dips, then rises as you exhale. Let the front sight rise as you exhale until it barely touches the bottom of the bull’s eye. Now, hold your breath. You have just used a natural act - breathing - to establish your correct elevation.

4. FOCUS YOUR EYE – Focus your eye on the front sight: It may be a little hard to do at first, as you naturally want to look at the target. But overcome the temptation and keep your eyes focused on the front sight, even if it means that the target gets blurry.

4A. FOCUS YOUR MIND – Keep front sight on target: Your concentration should be on “keeping that front sight on the target”. It may help for you to consciously repeat, “front sight on target, front sight on target.” This is the big one!

5. TRIGGER SQUEEZE ? Squeeze straight back while front sight stays on target: Here is the tricky part. While you are doing both parts of step 4, you’ll take up the slack and squeeze the trigger straight back. At the same time, you MUST keep your concentration on the front sight! Don’t let the front sight off the target; if it does move off target, gently bring it back on target, while continuing to squeeze the trigger.

6. FOLLOW THROUGH – Sighting eye open, take mental picture of where sights were when rifle discharged, and follow through with trigger: When your rifle fires, you MUST keep your sighting eye open. Without that step, you cannot “call the shot”, or predict, via that mental picture, where the bullet will actually strike the target.

If you can’t call the shot, you won’t ever be able to tell whether the shot was bad because you did something wrong, or whether the shot did not go to the aiming point because your sights need adjustment.

If you are concentrating on keeping your front sight on the target, and you continue to concentrate on following through with your trigger squeeze after the rifle discharges, you will greatly reduce the chance that you will move the rifle and duff the shot before the bullet leaves the muzzle.


II. Natural Point of Aim (NPOA)

NPOA is the one factor which separates the Riflemen from the wannabees.

If you don’t get your natural point of aim, your shots will be off the center of the target, even if fired perfectly. Why? Because your body is out of position, and you have to muscle the rifle to get your sights onto the target. That muscle strain is difficult to replicate, shot to shot, and it wears out your body’s fine muscle control pretty quickly.

A Rifleman takes his shooting position so that his rifle, with his body relaxed, is pointing at the target. He doesn’t have to fight muscle strain and he makes his job of firing the shot a lot easier. Best of all, his shots will be on target, accurately and consistently, because he’s not fighting his body’s natural position.

Here’s a guarantee: learn to establish your NPOA and use your sling in all positions, and you’ll reduce your groups by at least 33%, maybe more.

How do you find your NPOA?

First, follow Step One of the preceding “Shooting by the Numbers” and align your sights once you are in your shooting position. Next, follow Step Two and get your sight picture by lining up on the target with your sights.

Now the NPOA work begins. Close your eyes, relax your body, taking a deep breath in and let it out.

Open your eyes and check your sight picture. 9 times out of 10, your sight picture will have changed, because your body is now relaxed.

You’ll now reestablish your sight picture by making slight adjustments in your position. If you are in the prone position, you’ll shift position pivoting around your forward elbow to bring the sights back on the target. In other positions, you will make whatever small adjustments in your position so that the rifle points naturally at the target.

Once again, close your eyes, relax your body, inhale deeply, exhale, open your eyes, and check your sight picture.

Depending on your position, your sights may be dead on target. If not, repeat the cycle:

  • Establish your sight picture
  • Close your eyes
  • Relax your body
  • Inhale deeply
  • Exhale
  • Open your eyes
  • Re-check sight picture
  • Make slight adjustments to your position, and
  • Repeat

How many times do you have to repeat this process? You’ll want to repeat it until when you open your eyes, your sights are naturally on the target. No more, and no less.

Once you establish your NPOA, MAINTAIN YOUR BODY POSITION from shot to shot by not moving that forward elbow supporting the rifle [prone] or keeping your position steady [all other positions]. Even tougher, you’ll need to keep that same body position as you reload and fire a fresh magazine.

If you move, your shots will move. It’s that simple, and that important.

Take your rifle, ensure that it is unloaded (chamber and mag), and take 15 minutes of dry-firing practice from prone position using the preceding NPOA steps. Start slowly, and repeat each step quietly to yourself as you do it. If you can, get your spouse, roommate, or eldest child to help you by reading the steps as you go through them.

Take that practice 3 times a week, 15 minutes a session, in the comfort of your home. Practice, persevere, persist. You don’t even have to go to the range, but of course, if you can get to the range, don’t miss the opportunity.


Excellent! Buying the equipment means jack if you can’t use the tools properly. Also, read Jeff Cooper.


Miscellaneous Tips for Improving Your Shooting

* Keep your eyes open when the rifle fires to ‘call’ your shot

To know where the shot just went, you need to take an instant mental photo of where the front sight was when your rifle went off. If you don’t, you lose the information value of feedback from that shot - and you’re almost certainly flinching and/or jerking the trigger.

So, keep that eye open - call the shot based on the position of the front sight on the target when the rifle fired, and watch for bullet splash downrange for confirmation of your call. On the firing line, in practice, you aim to continually increase the percentage of shots that you can honestly call ‘good’ - the front sight was on the target when the rifle fired.

* Pull the rifle back into your shoulder

One of the leading causes of trigger jerk, bucking, and flinching is fear of recoil, and the impact of the rifle on the shoulder. If you come away from the firing line complaining about recoil, or a ‘sore’ shoulder, this one is what you are doing wrong - and it WILL lead to flinching. So grab the pistol grip firmly and pull the rifle back into your shoulder while you fire the shot - so you ‘roll’ with the recoil. A side benefit: extra pressure of the trigger hand on the stock will give the perceived impression of a ‘lighter’ trigger.

* Get your NPOA

If you don’t get your natural point of aim, your shots will be off the center of the target, even if fired perfectly, because your body is out of position, and you have to muscle the rifle onto the target. A rifleman takes position so that his rifle, with his body relaxed, is pointing at the target. He doesn’t have to fight muscle strain and he makes his job of firing the shot a lot easier - and his shots will be on target.

Get your NPOA by lining up on the target with your sights, closing your eyes, relaxing your body, and taking a deep breath in and letting it out. Open your eyes and shift position pivoting around your forward elbow, to bring the sights back on the target. Repeat until when you open your eyes, your sights are naturally on the target. Once you establish your NPOA, keep it by not moving that forward elbow supporting the rifle [prone] or keeping your position steady [all other positions].

* In the prone position, pull your ‘trigger’ leg up tight behind your trigger arm to absorb recoil, and generally tighten position

Try it and you’ll see your front sight settle down like it should. Grasping the forearm with the non-trigger hand and pulling slightly back into the shoulder may also help in rapid fire.

* Maximize your feedback

Shooting is always learning, and every shot you fire should be a learning experience. If you’re in a match, and screw a string of fire up so badly you are ashamed, you keep shooting just as hard as before, with those educational purposes in mind.

* Follow through

By the time you think “Follow through” as you hold the trigger back after the shot, this step in ‘Shooting by the Numbers’ is done. But don’t overlook it, because you need to do it.

* Keep the front sight on the target

The most important step. Ignore this, and you might as well be shooting blanks, or setting off firecrackers. This is a 2-part step: physically focusing your eye on the front sight, and firmly focusing your concentration on ‘keeping that front sight on the target’. Whatever else you do, you must do this to achieve a center hit.

* Avoid flinching, bucking or jerking the trigger

Flinching is anticipating recoil by an abrupt backward motion of your shoulder to get ‘away’ from it. Bucking is anticipating recoil by shoving your shoulder forward to ‘make up’ for or ‘resist’ the impact. Jerking is snapping the trigger quickly to get the disagreeable experience over with as soon as possible. All three are are natural responses to your body’s abhorrence of sudden impacts, and are guaranteed to throw your shot off the target.

You have to work to control your body, so the rifle is not disturbed by any movement at the time the hammer falls. You do this in several ways.

One is to eliminate the recoil impact by pulling the rifle snugly back into your shoulder, so that there is no impact, and you simply ride the ‘push’ of the recoil. If you don’t pull it back tightly into your shoulder, the rifle has time to pick up speed and slam your shoulder, and you start to flinch, buck or jerk the trigger in response. So pull it back into your shoulder, and you’ll do OK.

Second, keep your eyes open so you can take that instant mental photo of where the front sight was on the target at the instant of firing. If you can’t do this, you know you are guilty of flinching, bucking, or jerking. Third, concentrate on keeping the front sight on the target.

Pulling the trigger is not the main task. Keeping the front sight on the target is the main task. So practice until that trigger finger is ‘educated’ to take the slack up and steadily increase the pressure when the front sight is on the target, ‘freeze’ when the front sight drifts off the target, and continue the squeeze when the sight is back on the target. You’ll have to do this in the 6-10 seconds you’re holding your breath. If you don’t fire the shot in that time, simply relax, take a deep breath and start over.

[Trigger finger tips: middle of the pad of the first joint, or the first joint itself, should be where the trigger touches the finger. Keep the finger clear of the stock (‘dragging wood’) as it will throw your shot off. Visualize a straight pull back, not to the side.]

Once out in the ‘real world’, you’ll find that with practice, you’ll punch out 20 good shots in 30 seconds, if you ever need to shoot fast. Even the best riflemen can develop a flinch, so periodically do the ‘ball and dummy’ drill to test for one, and then continue ‘ball and dummy’ until you are ‘cured’ (but remember that rarely will the cure be permanent, so you still periodically recheck). Twenty rounds should suffice for both the detection and the cure. Have a friend ‘load’ and hand the rifle to you [make sure all safety precautions are observed!] either with or without a round in the chamber.

Usually, he will start off with a live round to ‘juice up’ any tendency to flinch, and then give you an empty one to see if there is movement in the muzzle when the hammer falls. He continues with ‘empties’ until your muzzle doesn’t move. Then he feeds a live one followed by more ‘empties’ - actually, he is trying to ‘smoke out’ your flinch and get it to show itself. He continues until he is convinced that your flinch is gone. Along the way he will watch your aiming eye to make sure it stays open when the rifle goes off.

* Use the shooting sling

For over 100 years, the sling has been in military use as an aid to marksmanship. Because of the tendency of the M16 barrel to flex under sling pressure, the sling has been slighted in the last few decades. But make no mistake: the sling is one of the biggest aids to accurate shooting that you have, and you always have it with you, to carry the rifle.

So, never fire a shot without the sling. Use the hasty sling for standing and anytime you’re in a rush, or may need to move fast after firing a shot; and use the loop sling for prone and sitting when you have the time, but try to make sure your upper arm is padded to block muscle tremor and heartbeat, either with a shooting jacket or heavy clothing.

It’s hard to estimate how big a factor in accuracy the sling is. A minimum of 20%, going up to 80% or more. It will help in rapid fire, keeping your position tight, speeding your recovery for the next shot. The bottom line is, always use your sling, in every position, for every shot.

* Put both elbows in front of both knees in the sitting position

If you’ve been to the range much, you’ve seen a new shooter trying to shoot sitting - with that trigger elbow up high in the air, almost like he’s shooting standing, totally ignoring that nice big fat knee, as steady as a bench, and less than a foot away.

The shot will be much better, with that trigger elbow down on the front of the knee, where it belongs (NOT on top, where recoil will knock it off, slowing recovery time). And that other elbow, the one under the rifle? Hunker forward and drop that sucker on the target side of its knee - again to resist recoil.

A good sitting position will initially break your back until you get stretched, but once everything falls into place, you can shoot nearly as good as you do off the bench! Don’t sell the position short, especially if you are on a downward slope and need to shoot over grass, etc.

* Always go to the range with a goal in mind

Your goal should always be to improve your shooting, and come away from each session on the range a better shot.

* Copy this checklist & take it to the range with you

You’ll be amazed at what a quick review of these lessons can do for the rest of your range time. Make it a habit to take a look through the list as you are eating your “range lunch”, then fire your remaining shots even better than before!


Last one.

Staying Alive

If you ever have to show up, show up ready!

  • Have your bore and chamber clean and bone dry.
  • Your M1A gas piston and cylinder should be bone dry, from the last time you cleaned it.
  • Check the tightness of the gas plug, and with the bolt locked back, rotate the muzzle up-and-down, listening to ensure the piston moves freely.
  • Have your action properly lubed with the correct grease.
  • Front sight should be blackened with a flat black paint or other blackening.
  • Sights should be checked for looseness, front and rear.
  • Carry the complete cleaning kit in butt, along with spare parts & rod guide
  • Sling should be adjusted to hold the weight of the rifle when you are in your position. A check: the rifle should stay in your shoulder without having to grasp the wrist of the stock with your trigger hand.
  • Mark the sling so you can always adjust back to the right place.
  • Have your battlesight zero on your sight, or the zero for actual estimated distance, like 400 or 500 meters (if you are one of the lucky ones with an M1A, your sights are adjustable all the way out to 1100 meters).
  • Magazines should be cleaned and dry, springs lightly oiled.
  • Other items on your list: hearing protection, cap with bill for shade/rain, clean eyeglasses/eye protection, loaded magazines in pouches, at least one canteen of water, a high-energy snack (Biotest Finibars for the win!), poncho, extra ammunition on stripper clips.

Now, fire each shot “by the numbers,” and you’ll do fine.

Just remember: double your hit rate and you double your supply of ammo, without spending a penny, or carrying any more weight.