Rifle shooting can be dramatically improved when shooters consider what their technique is doing with at least as much emphasis as they consider what their equipment is doing.
With youth gun season opening Saturday and the general firearm seasons just around the corner, hunters statewide will be spending time at the range making sure their rifles are sighted in as they had left them last year. It’s an opportune time to check their own form as well.
In the same way form and technique make all the difference in hitting a baseball or a golf ball, in the same way a repeatable process helps archers perfect their craft, a good set of practiced guidelines will make any shooter more reliably consistent with a rifle. A good trigger and a high muzzle velocity lead many to assume form doesn’t matter but, when the buck of a lifetime steps out, confidence and sound technique make all the difference in the world.
The first steps to improving any rifle shooter’s technique begin with the same tenets key to good performance in archery, a world-renowned rifle builder and shooter says.
Scott and Kathleen McRee, of McRee’s Precision in Greenwood, have been supplying long range rifles to the most intense shooters in the free world since 2001. Both are highly accomplished competitors, and Scott credits time spent on the archery range with some of his most enlightening moments of eureka when it comes to shooting technique.
“For any rifle shooter, regardless of the equipment they’re using, the first thing to practice is establishing their shooting position to create a reliable, repeatable form of contact,” McRee said.
Just as an archer returns to the same anchor point upon full draw, so should a rifle shooter set up the same way each time. The position of the rifle’s butt against the shooter’s shoulder, the position of the shooter’s cheek along the rifle stock’s comb, the position of the non-shooting hand against the stock and the position of the shooting hand on the grip and the finger on the trigger should be identical from shot to shot and setup to setup.
Sitting, standing or prone, the shooter should strive to make those elements the same every time.
“Next, just as with a bow release, the shooter should place the pad of their trigger finger in the same spot on the trigger each time, and make a slow, smooth, straight squeeze,” he said. “That process is aided by creating a consistent follow through. In the same way an archer works to hold the bow sight on the target after the arrow is gone, the rifleman should have a follow through routine, squeezing the trigger all the way through the shot and holding it, watching the impact of the shot through the scope.”
Archers are taught to hold their bow sight on the target after the arrow is released as a countermeasure to avoid lowering or moving the bow too soon. If the end of the process is the shot and nothing is practiced after that, human nature will lead to the archer lowering the bow sooner and sooner until it’s actually being dropped before the arrow is gone, spoiling the shot altogether. The same holds true for rifle shooting. By practicing a follow through and watching the bullet’s impact through the scope, bad habits of flinching or raising the head too soon are negated.
Say, can you see?
Beyond hours of regular practice, McRee says the quality of a shooter’s ammunition and of his optics have the most impact on accuracy.
“Make a point to sample ammunition from lots of different makers,” McRee said. “Even with the same bullet weights, most rifles will generally like one brand of factory ammunition better than others. Finally, do enough field research, shooting, with the optics you have to understand their capabilities and limitations.
“Practice, trigger time, and knowing the limitations of your abilities and your equipment will make you the best shooter you can be with the gear you have.”