Self-defense and survival junkies should think of their rifle as their most essential tool, whether they are bugging in or bugging out. A rifle is not only a crucial element in defense, but necessary for food procurement as well.
Your rifle needs to be a “point-and-click” interface. While firing a weapon is itself an easy task, striking the target isn’t always as easy.
Having taught hundreds of young soldiers marksmanship training over 20 years, I recognized a short list of common mistakes. These mistakes prevented marksmen from qualifying as an expert rifle marksman, or kept them from obtaining advanced rifle marksmanship.
Here are the principles of marksmanship that I taught them in order to better engage and strike their targets.
– Don’t Be Too Proud
The first cause of failure I see is pride. While not an evident principle of marksmanship at first glance, it is frequently the greatest barrier for people to overcome on the firing line.
I discovered that soldiers who had never fired a gun before were the easiest to train, since they arrived with no preconceptions of marksmanship. They were “clean slates” and their improvement was rapid. Conversely, those who grew up with firearms often were difficult to instruct as they arrived with long-formed bad habits.
These bad habits are especially difficult to displace with good ones if the student has a great deal of pride. The best marksmen in the world are those who never stop learning something new. Let go of pride.
– Sight Picture
The second largest mistake I see is sight picture. Greenhorns often change their sight picture frequently, placing the weapon against their cheek in inconsistent ways.
Where the cheek rests against the stock is called a “cheek weld” and it is crucial that you use that same location every time.
With M-16/M-4 rifles, I often instruct trainees to pull the stock firmly into their shoulder, and set the tip of their nose against the charging handle to get a consistent sight picture.
For weapons more powerful than 5.56, it’s best to find the most comfortable spot on the rifle, and mark it with a piece of duct tape. When you find the tape with your cheek, you can know that you have the same sight picture every time. This step alone will often make the difference between a soldier qualifying and not.
– Breathing Technique
Improperly managed breathing is an enormous cause for missed shots. Our breathing causes our chests to expand, changing the position of the rifles barrel. This can be easily identified if the target shows an up-down pattern of strikes, indicating a trajectory that is vertically shifting.
The best way to correct for this is to inhale and then exhale, and time your shot in that pause before your next inhalation.
If you hold your breath, your muscles will begin to shake and then you can’t hit anything, so just relax, take deep deliberate breaths, and fire after a natural exhalation.
– Trigger Squeeze
The fourth issue I commonly see is improper trigger technique. Most people use the first joint of their index finger to yank the trigger rearward.
This is the most common of the bad habits that experienced shooters bring to the range. It can be corrected by practicing with a pencil. Place the pencil in your left hand and practice using it as a trigger, pulling it directly back toward you with your right trigger-finger. If the pencil sways to the left or right, your technique needs to be improved.
– Anticipating the Shot
Another common issue that trainees face is anticipation of the shot. The recoil or noise of the rifle often causes people to cringe or close their eyes just before firing.
This issue is normally only problematic once other bad habits have been cleared out of the way. My instruction is to take up all of the tension in the trigger before they release it all the way, so that the rifle surprises them when it fires.
Author: Bradley ‘Tex’ McMurphey