Marksmanship Fundamentals

Marksmanship Fundamentals

     As always, firearms safety comes first.  Make sure it is clear first.  Keep it pointed in a safe direction.
     Marksmanship fundamentals are like building a house of cards.  If one card is not present, you can not build.  You need a solid foundation that you can build upon and maintain the whole system.  You simply can not be an accurate and proficient shooter without mastering the basics and maintaining proficiency.
     Your foundation starts with some basic skills.  Let's walk through them individually.  It will be general in nature, as there are a wide variety of firearms out there, but the basics transition from one to another.
     The first of these is sight picture and sight alignment.  While two separate things, they are closely related enough to address together.  Sight alignment is the relationship between your rear sight and front sight.  There are many different styles, but the idea is the same for all of them.  You look through the rear sight and align or center the front sight to it.  A simple example is with common pistol sights, as seen in the first image below.  The "U" shaped rear sight has the blade front sight centered in the middle and flush across the top.  "Even height, even light" is a phrase used to describe the level top of the sights and the even space in between.  Note, the front sight is clearer in the image than the rear sight.  This is because you focus in on the front sight.  You can only clearly focus on one plane at a time.  Your front sight is where you are going to focus.  The rear sight should be slightly blurry and the target should be slightly blurry.  It is very important to maintain your focus on that front sight.

      Another example of sight alignment is with a peep sight or a "GI" sight.  These are common to the "AR" style rifles.  The rear sight has a round aperture that you look through and center the front sight in it.  The same thing applies with maintaining focus on the front sight.  See the next image for an example.  The front sight post is centered in the rear aperture.  The brush guards are nearly "touching" the sides of the rear sight.  Focus is maintained on the front sight post.

      Sight picture is taking your sight alignment and applying it to your target.  With the pistol sights above, you hold them in the center of your target. Another aiming point is just below the bulls eye, with the bulls eye appearing to sit on top of the front sight.  This is called a 6 o'clock hold, because the sight is sitting at the 6 o'clock position if you picture the bulls eye as a clock.  This sight picture is often used with sights like the one above and is described as a golf ball on a tee, or a pumpkin on a post. 

     The next marksmanship fundamental is breath control.  There are a couple ways that this is taught.  I have my preferred method, but I will not pretend that there are not other methods out there.  The common thread is that breathing can influence shot placement.  As you breath, your diaphragm expands and contracts.  This causes movement in your body, especially if you are in the prone position.  This is often seen in an up and down pattern to your shots.
     The way to counter this is to time your shots with your respiratory pause.  This means shooting at the bottom of your breath, during your natural pause in breathing.  This is what i teach, because I feel it the most practical method.
     The other common method is to hold your breath.  You take in a breath, let it halfway out, shoot, let the rest out.  Again, it is not my preferred technique, but it is out there.

     The fundamental I feel is absolutely crucial to solid marksmanship is trigger control.  It you do everything else right, then slap the trigger, it was all for naught.  Look at your trigger finger.  See the pad on the first section of your finger, where the fingerprint swirls.  This is the part of the finger that you want to contact the rearward most part of the trigger.  Too much finger, or too little, can push or pull your shot off target.
     Once your finger is placed on the trigger properly, you begin the squeeze.  Squeeze, press, or what ever term works for you, the idea is to apply smooth and even pressure rearward until the shot fires.  You take out the slack in the trigger, feel the resistance start, then apply smooth even pressure directly rearward.  Jerking, or slapping the trigger sharply back will ruin your shot.  Hear me now, believe me later, jerking the trigger will ruin your shot.  Proper trigger control requires an smooth even rearward press.  I can not emphasize this enough, you must have proper trigger control.

     There is so much more to shooting, but these are the basics that must be mastered.  Stance, grip, natural point of aim, and a few others are important as well, and I will address them separately.  Master these.  Dry fire often.

     I would also like to add, if you are having some shooting issues that are difficult to figure out, go back to these.  It happens.  Even the best shooters need to continue maintenance of the basics.  You can't just learn them and then forget.  Just like running, or shooting a free throw, form counts and must be mastered.  Marksmanship fundamentals require fine tuning and constant practice to keep your skills at their sharpest.

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