In the shooting world, we’re surrounded by people who claim to be experts. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning to make the difficult shots, don’t overlook the value of basic fundamentals. The mark of a great shooter is one that puts safety first along with the recognition of the liability associated with firearms. All things after that are additional techniques that you choose to learn and use or not to. As shooters who want to be successful and always safe, we need to be as knowledgeable physically as we are mentally, in order to be as technically proficient as we can possibly be.
That encompasses a lot of ground and a long sentence here… It takes a certain type of person to commit to proficiency with a firearm, the proper and safe application of that proficiency in the wild and to be successful in achieving your goal of a good clean kill, tagging the game per state regulations, then without incident, extracting the harvest to its intended, legal final destination.
First things first.
Start with things that you can do that are easy, require little effort, money, time and build self-confidence. You’ll need to build up your reflexes in order to become a great shooter. Yes, you have homework.
Muscle Memory Development- Below are some shooting exercises I developed in order to sharpen my shooting skills before a hunt. Choose the exercises that best suit you as far as your age, current health conditions, etc.
Before you begin, as with any exercise, you should:
1. Stretch. Slow and steady, stretch thoroughly before and after your training session
2. Warm-up. Engage in a warm-up activity that you are comfortable with and is appropriate for your body and health. Examples of warm-ups include: a brisk walk, jumping jacks or just running in place for a couple of minutes (warming up, cooling down).
Now, let’s begin.
Exercise #1: Controlled breathing exercise. While sitting and relaxed, hold a pencil or pen in your dominant or shooting hand (example 1), while breathing normally, start practicing holding your breath at approximately ¾ of the way out on exhale. At that time begin to press the pencil or pen to the rear like your trigger, watching your pencils primary direction of movement, hold your breath comfortably for about 3-5 seconds, at which time your pencil or pen should have travelled at least an inch. Do this at least 5 times a day minimum, there are never too many times.
Exercise #2: Trigger Practice. Another way to work on your muscle memory and control is to practice your trigger pull. Locate a spray bottle that has a trigger mechanism. With your hands in a ready position, repeatedly pull the trigger in a slow controlled motion. Remember, don’t squeeze the trigger, but gently pull.
In the example above, I made a device that has simple adjustments similar to a drop trigger. I adjusted it to simulate my rifle’s pistol grip, angle, girth, trigger size, distance of travel (trigger breaking point), pull weight (the weight required by you, the shooter, to apply force rearward in order for the trigger to meet the “breaking point”) and follow through.
Now with these simple routines to do at your pace and level of ability, remember they should be conducted a minimum of three days a week. You will be limber by range day one, and in a healthy state by hunting season. Your “feel” for proper finger placement in the trigger guard, pull, breathing control, break, and follow through will have improved as well.
Til’ then, keep your nose in the wind, ears to the ground, eyeballs lookin’ up an all around. Make sure your rifle is true, your hatchet close by, skinning knife sharp and your powder real dry! Stay in the field says I, Mo-
Neil K. Morris, MSgt USMC/DOD/NATO, is a retired Master Sergeant and Master Sniper of the United States Marine Corps.