Rifle Fundamentals to Improve Shots on Target

Fundamentals of Rifle Marksmanship

I talk a lot about technical variables and other things that contribute to increasing hits on target. Although I often assume the human element is on point, in reality, it is probably the variable in the system that is most often at fault when

I have lost count of the ranges I have been on where someone has a gun they think is “rubbish” and “won’t shoot.” 99% of the time, it was simply a poor technique. So, for those who are unsure, here are the basics of rifle fundamentals.

Getting in Position

You may not be able to dictate your shooting position in every situation. You will have to learn to make the best of what you have. In a perfect world, you would be prone and lying down with the rifle. This allows the recoil impulse to be straight and consistent.

You can keep your eyes on the target during and after recoil. You should try to get as comfortable as possible. Never “muscle” the rifle onto the target. It should point at the target naturally while your shoulder acts as a sandbag behind it, soaking up the recoil. If you have to shoot from an awkward position, apply the same principles as best you can.

Damping Movement

Sandbags are your friend, and there is no better option for reducing the unwanted movement of the weapon system. A rear bag will prevent you from inputting involuntary body movement into the rifle (it is the buffer between your hand and the butt). This allows you to control rifle elevation in a highly consistent manner. A front bag will reduce chaotic harmonics and aid recoil consistency.


Learn to relax the body, breathing deeply and evenly, to avoid muscle tension as much as possible. Tense muscles affect the recoil impulse and contribute to involuntary movement.

Breathing should be consistent and deep. It’s not always easy if you have to sprint to your position under stress, and that is where excellent fitness comes into play. The higher your VO2 Max, the quicker you can bring the heart rate down and get into deep rhythmic breathing. Your breathing will give you fine elevation control, which you will see in your sight picture.

When you pause this breathing cycle, when you have the target centered, it will give you a couple of seconds without movement to make the shot. Pause too long, and you will induce stress and, thus, increase your movement. If you can’t make the shot in the pause, return to the breathing cycle and reset.

Shooting Breathe Control

Sight Picture

Sometimes, no matter how good your glass is, you will not have a perfect sight picture. Mirage, heat, haze, smoke, and contrast all come into play. There are technical means to combat some of these factors, but you often find you may have to trust your brain’s ability to make the shot.

Aim small, miss small works well until you can’t make out the “small,” and you have to use the overall image and predict the obscured center mass.

Rifle Fundamentals

Get into position, minimize movement, breathe, and concentrate on your sight picture. You will make the shot if your basic rifle fundamentals are on point.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here