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Improve Your Rifle Shooting Accuracy

Improve the accuracy of the shots you take by getting practicing at the range between hunting seasons.

How do you make the best use of your time during the “off-season?” An investment you can make in yourself and your hunting abilities is target practice. Your practice may not make you a perfect shot, but experience shooting your weapon will certainly improve your accuracy. Review the tips below to improve your accuracy behind a rifle.

Five Firing Fundamentals

There are five fundamentals to improving your shooting success: aiming, breath control, movement control, trigger control, and follow-through. The accuracy of your shots will improve as you get more efficient at executing these fundamentals while shooting.

  1. Aiming: Holding your aim becomes more difficult the longer you hold it. Try to be efficient when aiming and firing.
  2. Breath control: The more control you have over your breathing, the more you’ll be able to steady your actions. Take calm, steady breaths while shooting. Avoid holding your breath, as that will cause your heart to beat faster.
  3. Movement control: Focusing on stopping something is more difficult than focusing on doing something. So in terms of controlling your movement, instead of focusing on eliminating your movement, concentrate on the target.
  4. Trigger control: Pulling, or jerking on the trigger, will undoubtedly cause your firearm to move along with it. Instead, learn to slowly squeeze the trigger of your rifle.
  5. Follow-through: This means that after you’ve fired, you maintain your shooting position. Doing so will set you up to take another shot, if necessary, with minimal adjustments.


Sight in Your Weapon

Before you start practicing, make sure your rifle is sighted in. Do so at a distance you anticipate shooting at out in the field. This range will be determined by the circumstances you’ll be shooting under (in a stand versus spot and stalking, for example) and the distance you’re comfortable taking an ethical shot at.

As you set up to sight in your rifle, use eye and ear protection, the same ammunition you would use while hunting, and with a rifle rest. In this instance, you want precision—you’re not trying to emulate hunting scenarios while sighting in your firearm. Use paper targets with a bullseye in the center and a one-inch grid pattern. This will help you calculate the adjustments you need to make. Of course, you also need to know how to adjust your optics. It’s best to shoot from a stable platform or bench, and you can use a pair of binoculars to check the shots you take to avoid walking up to the target each time.

Starting at a distance of 25 yards, take three to five shots, making adjustments afterwards based on the cluster. Then, steadily increase your yardage until you’re sighted in your rifle at the distance you prefer. Most hunters sight their rifle in at 100 yards. Afterward, if your range allows, fire your weapon at 200 yards so that you can understand the drop of your cluster at that greater distance.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you know your rifle is sighted in, you can more reliably start practicing. First, get familiar with your specific weapon and its operations. The more comfortable you are, the most confident you’ll be while operating it under pressure. One exception to this is practicing with a lower caliber rifle before becoming better acquainted with the high caliber weapon you’ll fire in the woods. Some opt to get comfortable and confident with a lighter weapon so that they can master the fundamentals of shooting before applying them to a heavier weapon. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

During practice, your goal is to become the most accurate at the range you’ll likely be shooting at. But get there gradually. Fine tune your accuracy at smaller yardages before increasing your distance. You can also start with bigger targets, gradually moving to smaller targets for improved precision. Finally, know the drop distance of your shot. When you’re in an actual hunting scenario, it’s not enough to simply “aim higher” for a shot that’s longer than what you’re sighted in at. If you can practice and calculate the specific drop of your weapon and the ammunition you’ll be using, you can become more precise at those longer shots when you need to take them.

Tailor your time at the range to replicating potential positioning scenarios you’ll encounter out in the field. Fine tune your accuracy while standing with a rest, seated with a rest, and kneeling. Then, move on to practicing in uncomfortable positions. Especially if you’re a spot and stalk hunter, it’s rare that you’ll be able to situate yourself perfectly in a real hunting situation. Instead, you’ll likely be adapting to odd angles and natural obstacles. Emulate both during practice to become a more adaptable shooter.

As you recreate real life shooting scenarios during your practice sessions, it’s vital to practice shooting with an increased heart rate. That rush of adrenaline you feel when you see a big buck can be recreated by doing some jumping jacks, sprints, or burpees before shooting.

In conclusion, there are many hunting variables that are beyond your control. But your level of comfort shooting your firearm is one that you can and should continuously work on. Out in the field, you can and will likely encounter all kinds of shooting situations, some of which may cause you to miss. Narrow that margin of error through practice.

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