Table of contents
- 8 Tips for Improving Your Shooting Skills
- The 4 Rules of Firearm Safety
8 Tips for Improving Your Shooting Skills
Looking for beginner shooting tips to improve your skills? We are here to help.
A day out on the range is a great way to blow off steam, but if you’re constantly missing your mark, you grow frustrated and more tired with each round. It begins to feel a little less fun
than it should. You push yourself further and harder, but instead of improving, each shot gets
lazier. Here are some shooting tips that will help.
Whether this is your first time shooting a gun or you’re a well-seasoned veteran, there’s always
more to learn and room for improvement when it comes to becoming a better marksman. Your
aim should always be to improve.
There’s more to it than just “pointing and shooting.” If you want to do that, get a camera. But
when it comes to shooting a firearm of any type without the proper foundation and
understanding, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure and bad habits that’ll be hard to unlearn in
Marksmanship skills come from understanding the fundamentals, practice, and focus with
an objective in mind. Missing your mark is nothing to get discouraged over — it’s an
opportunity to learn and improve.
The 4 Rules of Firearm Safety
Before we start, let’s review the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety. These rules prevent you (the
shooter) from having accidental discharges, hurting yourself, or hurting others.
- Treat your weapons as if they are always loaded.
- Never point the muzzle of a weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off of the trigger and out of the trigger guard until the sights are
on the target and you are prepared to shoot.
- Always be certain of your target, and what is beyond your target.
Now that you’ve reviewed the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety, you’re ready. Next time you’re out on
the range, keep these shooting tips in your back pocket. You’ll be on the fast track to building your
confidence and improving your shooting skills in no time.
1. Know Your Gun
You need to take time and get familiar with your gun. While shooting your gun is a great way to
get the physical feel of it and its recoil, knowing your gun inside and out is invaluable. Practice
disassembling it (otherwise known as field stripping), reassembling it, cleaning, unloading,
reloading, and knowing where your safety is. You must learn to do these things safely, so if
you need guidance, sign up for a gun safety class. Learn more about classes by asking
someone at your local range or searching online.
2. Perfect Your Stance
Your stance acts as your foundation and can make or break whether you improve or hinder your shooting skills. Your stance will depend on the type of firearm you’re shooting, so make sure you refer to an expert, do your research, or take a class. Stances can also vary
depending on what is most comfortable for you as the shooter. Generally, you keep your feet
spread shoulder-width or slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in the knees.
Right-handed shooters should have their left foot forward and their right foot back for added
stability, with their right hand extended out in front of them holding the gun, while the left-hand
cups on the right. There should be a natural bend to their left elbow. The left elbow should be
angled towards the shooter’s left hip – not sticking away from their body, and not straight
down towards the ground. Make sure you’re raising the gun to your eye. Don’t lower your
head to the gun, and don’t hunch your back to the gun.
3. Tips on your Grip
A proper, secure grip is paramount to your and others’ safety. Without a proper grip, you risk
losing control of the gun and dropping it when it recoils. Recoil is the backward force you feel
when you discharge your firearm. For a proper grip, you want to choke up on the gun’s grip
without your hand being in the way of the slide. This centers your hand and wrist near
where the force will come from. Otherwise, you risk the gun flipping up and out of your hand. You
want your arms extended out in front of you with your dominant hand’s wrist straight and aligned
with your arm to absorb shock. Any bend to your wrist puts your grip at risk. Your non-dominant
hand’s four fingers will cup the others, and your non-dominant thumb will rest below your
dominant thumb riding alongside the slide (for handguns). The pressure you hold the grip
should be at 70% – 30% or 60% – 40%. Your non-dominant hand will be 60% or 70%, and your
dominant hand will be 30% or 40%.
4. Practice Shooting with Dry Fire Drills
Dry fire drills are a safe and effective way to learn how to shoot your gun better. They allow you
to practice your newly discovered skills without spending lead. As the name suggests, you do
this without ammunition in the chamber. Still, you want to practice your gun safety
habits and how to handle your firearm to continue building good habits. When doing dry fire training, ensure no ammunition or loaded magazines are around. This is an excellent buffer to make sure
that there are no mistakes. Dry fire drills are great if you struggle with anticipating
recoil and help you learn trigger management.
But, many firearms shouldn’t be fired without something in the chamber. To avoid damaging your gun’s firing pin and chamber, save money, and give yourself some excellent shooting practice, add Snap Caps to your arsenal. Snap Caps are “dummy rounds” in the shape of a cartridge made of soft plastic and a spring. This way, your firing pin has something soft to strike. You can
pick up a pack at your local sporting goods or on the website. You can even add Snap Caps into
your mags in random places to practice clearing malfunctions and jams while shooting.
While dry firing (once again, with no live ammunition in or around your firearm), you can also try
the coin trick. Balance a coin on the barrel’s far end of the gun’s sight. Any
inconsistencies or sudden, inaccurate movements will cause the coin to fall. This gives you the
ability to recognize your mistakes and correct them easily.
5. Trigger, Squeeze, Don’t Pull
The way you execute discharging your firearm impacts how your bullet finds its mark more than
you may think. Any sudden movements or jerks when you pull the trigger will affect where your
shot goes. That’s why you shouldn’t pull but instead squeeze the trigger. This also ties into
trigger management. With trigger management, you’ll feel “travel” in the trigger until you find the
“wall,” where if you apply further pressure, your weapon will discharge. Once you’re aimed at
your target and found the wall, gradually apply pressure to the trigger to fire. When you
release, stop on the reset where you first found that wall. It’s best to focus on your rate of
breathing, too. Steady your breathing, inhale and hold, then squeeze, and exhale. Some prefer
to exhale their breath steadily as they’re squeezing the trigger.
6. Sight Alignment and Target Picture
Sight alignment and target picture are what you (the shooter) will see before and after
pulling the trigger. The sight alignment relates to the front sight nodule and the rear sight
nodules – you want the rear sight nodules lined up and on either side of the front sight nodule.
The front sight should be clear and focused, while the target and rear sights should be blurry. Keep both eyes open and focused on the front sight nodule to do this. The rear sight nodules, and
your target will be blurry. You will hit your target if you do this with a good grip and stance.
After you pull the trigger, if you have a good grip and stance, you should be able to re-acquire
sight alignment and get a picture of your target within seconds. With training, this will come to
you more naturally over time.
7. Start With Close-Range Targets
When your drills and practice are inconsistent, it is difficult to see your shooting skills
improve. You need to give yourself a starting point and work your way up from there. If you want
an easy way to improve your shooting skills, start with smaller distances and increase your
target distance as you improve. Start by setting your target at a closer range and consistently grouping within 2–3 inches from where you aim. Once you’ve achieved this and
feel comfortable with your skills at this distance, push the target further away. Continue to increase the distance over time as you improve gradually. Many novice shooters have a habit of
“chasing the group.” Chasing the group is where you lower the gun so quickly after pulling the
trigger to check your target that you have just caused the bullet to drop. Don’t worry
about the grouping; re-acquire your sight picture until you’re finished shooting, then check your
8. Know Your Limits
You’re not helping yourself if you start getting tired and lazy with your shot and keep pushing
yourself. You’ll learn bad habits as you lose focus. Know your limits, and if you feel
tired, give yourself a break. Or, call it for the day. Practice is important, of
course, when it comes to improving any skill. But cramming hours of practice into one day –
especially if you’re exhausted – isn’t make you an expert marksman overnight. Set
goals for yourself – don’t be afraid to set the same goal until you’ve met it – and remain
consistent and practice when you can. Your shooting skills will improve over time, but know
when to let yourself rest, too.
Take it to the Shooting Range
Becoming a better marksman takes education, patience, discipline, and practice. Allow yourself
to make mistakes. Recognize them, and correct them. By understanding the fundamentals and
establishing a strong foundation, you will improve.
Remember to take it slow and keep practicing. It’s no race out on the range. Focus on your
objective; be calculated, precise, and intentional in your actions.
Take the information you’re learning here with you next time you’re out on the range. You’ll
notice a difference. Slow down and walk yourself through the steps of prepping yourself – your
mind and body – before pulling the trigger. Consistency is crucial, and it’s always better to take
your time and work on building good habits from the get-go versus fighting yourself in the future
to unlearn bad ones.