Marksmanship Fundamentals


“You are no more a marksman because you bought a pistol, than you would be a musician because you bought an interment.”-Col. Jeff Cooper

With advancements in modern technology, most guns are more accurate than you ever will be. That is to say, it’s generally not the gun’s fault that you missed your target. However, some guns are easier to aim and shoot accurately than others. Every shooter has their preference.

All you have to do in order to be accurate is to pull the trigger when your sights are aligned with your target. This may sound simple, but that’s like saying that  in order to play the piano all you have to do is hit all the right keys at the right time. Keeping your sights on target while you pull the trigger is a lot easier said than done. And as with most things, it’s something that will take practice.

Shooting tips that have helped me:

1. Recoil doesn’t affect accuracy: This was a big one for me when I first started shooting. I thought that the recoil of the gun would affect accuracy. As such, I spent more energy  managing recoil than I did with making sure my sights were on target. If you have ever watched a gun fire in slow motion, then you know that the bullet leaves the gun before the muzzle of the gun moves.

2. Keep your hand as high up on the gun as you can: The higher your hand is on the gun, the easier it is to manage recoil. However, you don’t want to have your hand up so high that it gets pinched by either the hammer or the slide.

3. Dry fire your gun with “snap caps”: Let’s be honest, shooting is not cheap. Even if you reload your own ammunition. Dry firing (pulling the trigger when the gun is empty) your gun is a great way to familiarize yourself with your firearm without burning through loads of cash. However, dry firing your gun can wear out and even damage the firing pin/hammer. The reason being that the gun is designed to hit the soft metal of cartridge. This is especially true when it comes to rime fire guns. Snap caps help cushion their impacts and lessen the wear and tear of dry firing.

4. Focus: New shooters are often confused about whether they should be focused on the target, the rear sight, or the front sight. You can’t focus on all three at the same time. Two of the three will be blurry. In most instances you will want to focus on the front sight.

5. Trigger Control: You obviously can’t keep your sights on target indefinitely. Everyone’s hand will move slightly. As such, your sights will slightly move on and off the bulls eye of the target. The key is to get the gun to go off right when your sights are perfectly in line with the target.

This is where good trigger control comes into play. Controlling the trigger isn’t that hard. After all, the trigger only goes one way (that being back). The hard part is keeping your sights on target while you pull back the trigger. You want the gun firing unexpected. That is to say, as you pull the trigger you don’t want to necessarily know the precise instant in which the gun will go off.

The reason for this is that most people will flinch when the gun goes off. If you know the precise moment when the gun will go off, you will naturally brace yourself for the kick of the gun rather than focusing on keeping your sights on target. All of your energy should be directed toward keeping you sights on target.

A competent gunsmith can make your trigger lighter. The lighter the trigger, the less pressure you need to apply in order to have it go off. As such, less energy will be required to keep your sights on target while you pull the trigger.

6. Breathe: Not much to say about this one. If you are able to read this, then you have most likely already mastered the fine art of breathing. The key is to slowly breathe out while you squeeze the trigger. This will keep your body calm and stable, as opposed to hyperventilating, in which case you would be slinging lead all over the target.

7. Shooting Stance: There are two popular ways to stand when shooting a handgun. They are the “Weaver Stance” and the “Isosceles.” Jerry Miculek, who is arguable the greatest competition shooter in the world, says that the isosceles stance is by far the best. The isosceles stance is where you stand perfectly square to your target with your feet and shoulders perfectly square with both arms completely outstretched. That is to say, you shoulders and arms should make a perfect triangle facing your target.

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