Firearm Shooting Tips (Contents)
by Todd Butler
“Shooting well with the rifle is the highest kind of skill, for the rifle is the queen of weapons: and it is a difficult art to learn.” Theodore Roosevelt, Hunting Trips Of A Ranchman.
While I agree with Mr. Roosevelt that shooting well is the highest kind of skill I do not believe it is a difficult art to learn. If the basics are learned correctly and applied consistently the majority of individuals will become capable shooters. This is demonstrated, by both male and female Marines, on a regular basis in Marine Corps boot camp. For many years the record for boot camp qualification score was held by a female Marine, Private Anita Lobos. The Marine method of teaching the basics of proper shooting starts with the acronym BRASS (B=Breath, R=Relax, A=Aim, S=Stop, S=Squeeze). Following this simple formula will improve accuracy regardless of the type of shooting you are doing. BRASS is about creating a synchronized rhythm leading to consistent shot placement.
BREATH- You wouldn’t think this is as difficult as it proves for most of us, yet it is one of the most overlooked aspects of the shot process. The natural action of taking in oxygen can make the difference between meat on the table and a trophy on the wall or a long walk for nothing but fresh air and frustration. Frequently shooters will over-hold their breath until they are literally blue in the face, depleting the body and muscles of oxygen. This causes you to shake and creating wild inaccuracy. On the other extreme shooters will become so excited they hyperventilate, commonly known as “Buck Fever”. Breath naturally, don’t overthink it. Most shooters go through a phase of overanalysis of all aspects of their shooting technique. This can lead them to attempt strange breathing patterns. In my experience the most effective pattern is simply to breath in naturally and slowly exhale, until the sight is properly aligned with the target. At this point simply relax, aim in, stop exhaling and squeeze the trigger. By using proper breath control you can control the rise and fall of the sight. This can be practiced at home, ensure your firearm is unloaded, point in a safe direction with a proper backstop (just in case) and practice breath control. Observe the movement of the weapon sights as you inhale and exhale.
RELAX- Again you wouldn’t think this is difficult, but for some reason many shooters become tense when they are shooting. As the body tenses the muscles become rigid and inflexible, movement becomes jerky rather than fluid. This can create a tendency to hurry the shot. Perhaps it is anticipation of the noise or recoil. Perhaps they are worried about missing the shot rather than concentating on making the shot. Relaxation and breath control are interrelated. Proper breathing technique helps the body and muscles relax. Relaxation minimizes distractions and increases focus. Proper shooting technique includes a firm but relaxed grip on the firearm. Don’t white knuckle the weapon, overgripping will cause you to shake, affecting the rest of the shot sequence. A technique I have found to be highly effective is closing my eyes and visualizing the shot sequence from start to finish. It helps relax my body and clear my mind. At times the shooter will be in position too long. It is necessary to let the muzzle come down and rest, then restart the shot sequence. This is one of the hardest things for all shooters to do, but better to start over than hurry the shot, causing a miss. With consistent practice it is possible to develop a relaxed rhythm which will lead to greater accuracy.
AIM- Frequently shooters suffer from a lack of understanding of the proper use of the sight system on their weapon. They don’t understand or have misconceptions about proper sight alignment/sight picture, natural point of aim. To be an effective shooter you must understand the proper alignment of the rear sight, the front sight, and the placement of the sights on the target. When using iron sights you should focus on the front sight. It should be a clear distinct image. The rear sight and the target should be fuzzy or indistinct compared to the front sight. To establish your natural point of aim you should aim in relax and close your eyes, when you open them the sights will be at your natural point of aim. Adjust your body position until you line the sights up correctly on your target. STOP- This is simply a momentary pause before the trigger is pulled and the round is fired. This is when all the elements come together. Exhaling is momentarily paused, the muscles are relaxed, the sights are properly aligned with the target...
STOP. Stop all breathing, muscle and sight movement and squeeze the trigger. The body is at its stillest point, ensuring greatest accuracy. This moment only lasts a second or two before fatigue sets in. This is one of the most difficult shooting skills to learn and must be practiced over and over, literally thousands of times to create muscle memory. It should become a consistent, subconcious act.
SQUEEZE- The trigger of the firearm should never be jerked or pulled, it should be squeezed straight back, firmly but gently. The sound of the shot should be a surprise. I use the center of the pad of the index finger, roughly even with the nail bed of the finger to squeeze the trigger. It allows me to move the trigger back in the straightest line possible, minimizing movement of the weapon. Do not use the joint of the finger as it will cause the weapon to move slightly to the side during the trigger squeeze, affecting the placement of the shot. As with all other elements of the shot this movement must be practiced repeatedly to create consistency and muscle memory.
During initial rifle training the Marines spend a week doing nothing but “Snapping In”. This is simply repetitive non-firing excercises with the weapon to create muscle memory and proper shooting technique. Most of us don’t have the luxury of time to spend snapping in, or a large drill instructor to ensure it is done correctly, but we can all invest time at the range practicing with our weapons of choice. You do not need to put rounds down range to improve your shooting you can just concentrate on practicing BRASS. Remember the phrase “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Take your time learning the proper techniques and speed will come as your technique develops. The time invested will be worth it and will be reflected in your use of the Queen of weapons.
by Todd Butler
Firearms and shooting are a past time enjoyed by millions of people around the world. One of the great things about shooting is anyone can participate. The number of women participating in the shooting sports is growing dramatically. They are participating and winning in highly competetive disciplines such as Sporting Clays, Cowboy Action, Three Gun, Mounted Action Shooting, as well as in traditional ones such as Trap and Skeet. Size and strength rarely make a difference in your ability to shoot accurately. Most instructors will tell you that women tend to be better students than men and will develop excellent shooting skills with practice. In America there is a long history of women using firearms for both hunting and self defense. In the late 1800’s Annie Oakley was the most famous shooter in the world. In the last century many famous women, such as Martha Gellhorn and Reba McEntire were and are avid hunters. When America was a farming society, firearms were a normal part of life for both men and women. As most Americans moved into town their involvement with firearms stopped. Unfortunately this has been the source of a lot of misinformation about firearms in the media and the general public. This article is intended to give some basic information and dispel some of the myths associated with firearms and firearms use.
Safety first and foremost. A safe shooter is a confident shooter. The following are basic rules of safety.
Everyone will benefit from professional instruction. The National Rifle Association or NRA is first and formost an organization dedicated to responsible firearms use and education. Regardless of your political views on firearms ownership and gun rights they are the leader in firearms education. Find an NRA affiliated instructor or shooting range in your area. They are an invaluable resource for any shooter be they novice or veteran. You don’t have to be an NRA member to receive NRA instruction. Anyone advertising themselves as a firearms instructor should be certified and credentialed by the NRA. ASK!!!
There is no substitute for range time and consistency. It will develop your confidence and accuracy. The two are interrelated. The more accurate you are with your firearm the more confident you become and vice-versa.
When Karen began shooting handguns she was unable to effectively handle our Sig Sauer P226 9mm. It is a fairly large semi-automatic pistol. We went to a reputable shooting sports store and after handling many, many handguns, purchased a Bersa .22LR semi-automatic pistol. We were able to find a pistol which fit her hand comfortably. This was important as it allowed her to learn basic firearms shooting skills. As her confidence grew with the Bersa, she was able to effectively handle the Sig. Over time it has become a particular favorite of hers and she has become extremely accurate with it.
Purchase the best quality equipment you can afford. This includes firearms, hearing protection, gun leather, optics, and often overlooked, a cleaning kit. One of the best things about firearms is the ability to purchase a quality used gun for a good price.
I am a firm believer in the .22 caliber pistol or rifle for learning basic shooting skills and sustaining them. There are many high quality .22’s on the market, both new and used, and they are one of the best investments a shooter can make. The .22 has negligible recoil and reduced noise compared to other calibers. This allows the shooter to concentrate on developing good shooting habits. Best of all, in my opinion, good quality ammunition is relatively inexpensive allowing the shooter to spend lots of time putting rounds down range, literally getting more bang for their buck. Shooting skills are the same regardless of the caliber, be it .22, 9mm, or .45 ACP, the only difference being the type of firearm.
Enjoy! Shooting sports can be a very relaxing experience. For most people shooting is only a hobby. Hobbys should be relaxing and enjoyable. Leave the stress of the office at the office. When you are on the range focus on your shooting. You will be a better and safer shooter and you will enjoy . Take part in a shooting sport such as Cowboy Action Shooting, Trap/skeet shooting, or sporting clays. There are many aspects to the shooting sports and you can spend a lifetime exploring them. Just remember to Shoot Like A Girl and do it safely.
Todd Butler is a 24 year veteran of the United States Marine Corps with service in Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. With extensive experience planning, coordinating and supervising military weapons ranges he is also a certified NRA Firearms Instructor and Trijicon ACOG/Close Combat Instructor. A lifelong hunter and shooter, his particular favorites are elk and upland gamebirds. He is married to Karen Butler, President of SLG2, and through her was introduced to archery. He is a Rocky Moutain Elk Foundation Life Member, a member of Ducks Unlimited, the National Rifle Association, and National Field Archery Association.