Marksmanship requires control. It doesn't take much to throw a shot off of the bulls-eye, or even completely off the target.


You will notice that as you breathe, your sights move. As your breath in and out, they move up and down. In fact, aiming and acquiring a sight picture is a very dynamic process, and breathing can help control the tension and anxiety that can be part of taking the shot.

But, when it is time to actually fire the shot, it's necessary to pause just for a moment, to freeze that sight picture, and to break the shot between breaths. It's best to do this after breathing out: your body is more relaxed, and the position is more repeatable, which translates into smaller groups and better shots.


One of the hardest things to control is your focus. First, you need to focus your eye on the front sight. That front sight needs to be clear, crisp, and if possible, you should be able to count the dust specs dancing on the head of that front sight.

It's actually not necessary to see the target all that clearly. Focusing on the front sight, no matter how good your eyesight is, will make the target fuzzy. Of course, you need to be able to see it, but if you can see well enough to drive, you should be able to see well enouigh to use standard iron sights.

If you can't see the front sight clearly (and that happens as our eyes get older) then you will need a scope. Then you need to focus your eye on the front reticle.

While you are focusing your eye on that front sight (or on the reticle of the scope), you need to focus your mind on keeping that front sight on the target. It's normal for the front sight to move, in and out and over the target, and your mind keeps track to help guide your finger on trigger.

Controlling the Trigger

Use the tip of your finger to smoothly press the trigger to the back. There should be some daylight between your trigger finger and the rifle stock. Press smoothly, an increase pressure, and if your are surprised when the rifle fires, you are doing it right.

Experiment with where precisely the finger touches the trigger. It will be somewhere between the first joint and the very tip (rifles are not revolvers!), but you might be surprised at how much better you shoot when you find that sweet spot on the finger.

Follow through

You still need to exercise control after the shot fires. This is called follow-through.

When your rifle fires the shot, it will go into recoil. A rifle gains its accuracy by forcing a bullet through a tight barrel and making it spin as it pushes against the rifling in the barrel (which is why they are called rifles). This spinning pushes the rifle back into your shoulder for just a moment, and then it will settle back into your stable position.

Hold the trigger back until the rifle settles back out of recoil. It doesn't take much jiggling or jarring to throw a bullet off the mark as it starts its journey down the barrel and out to where you are aiming. So hold the trigger back until the rifle settles back out of recoil.

Finally, with your eyes always open and focused on that front sight, take a mental snap shot of where that front sight was as the shot went off. We call this calling the shot. Doing this will help prevents blinks and flinches which cause all sorts of problems with accuracy.