Polish your shooting skills with these seven shooting fundamentals as taught by Marksman’s Nest chief ranger Geoffrey Coetzee. A top-rated marksman himself, Geoffrey provides the following advice.
Whether sitting, standing or kneeling, your stance is the base for everything else. Get it right and you’ve laid a solid foundation. Stance refers to the position of the shooter’s feet and body relative to the target. Some schools teach a traditional weaver stance while other share the Chapman stance. Others favour an isosceles stance and the less conventional option is the centre axis relock stance. Geoffrey will discuss all these options with you at Marksman’s Nest firing range.
How you hold your firearm is very important. It will enable you to hit your target, which is, well, the reason you picked up the gun up in the first place. For a handgun there are three ways to grip it. But as you practice, you’ll probably work out slight variances to suit your physical ability and preferences.
In a two-handed grip, the first step is to place the gun correctly in your strong hand. For a semi-auto pistol, the gun back strap should rest as high in the crook between your thumb and first finger as possible. This placement in the strong hand stays the same regardless of which type of grip you take from here.
The first and best type of handgun grip for a new gun owner and shooter is to grip the gun with the strong hand thumb wrapped around and touching the middle finger on the grip.
3. Sight Alignment & Focus
Without proper alignment, you certainly won’t hit your target. So, first and foremost, ensure correct alignment. In other words, the front sight should be at the centre of the rear sight. And importantly, the tip of your front sight should also be parallel with the leaf tops of the rear sight.
Focus plays an equally important role. The front sight provides the most precise indication of where the gun is pointing. And it’s also easier to see whether your sights are aligned properly.
4. Trigger Control
Centre the front pad of your index finger on the trigger and pull straight back. If you use the crease between pads, the second pad or the finger tips, your shots will pull left or right. The most frequent bad habit brought to the range by people who have fired weapons before is to pull the trigger using the first joint of the index finger. A side-to-side pattern of bullet strikes on the target is a sure sign of trigger squeeze issues – either over- or under-compensating.
Practise trigger control by holding a pencil vertically in your non-firing hand and pulling back toward you with the index finger of your firing hand. You’ll notice when you pull the pencil back using the joint of your index finger, the pencil is pulled sideways and backwards. When pulling the trigger, you should use the pad on the tip of your index finger and pull straight back. Practice this.
However, Geoffrey suggests using the second pad for guns with particularly heavy trigger pulls, but only you can determine what works best for you. And his golden rule is: don’t pull the trigger – squeeze it ever so slowly.
5. Breath Control
Holding your breath will assist hold control. Therefore, this is an important shooting fundamental to master. While pulling the trigger, hold your breath. Then let out only half the air from your lungs, aim, and pull the trigger. Now you can exhale completely.
6. Hold Control
If you’ve mastered breath control, things only get easier! Hold your body absolutely rigid as you pull the trigger. Even the most minor physical shift can affect your shot’s impact point.
Yes, follow-through is imperative. Don’t worry about checking the target. Keep your finger on the trigger while it’s pulled to the rear after firing. While maintaining a good sight picture, slowly ease the pressure on the trigger while keeping your finger on it. Allow the trigger to reset and start squeezing the trigger again if you have to fire extra shots. By releasing the trigger immediately, you’ll jerk the gun.
All these fundamentals are at basic level. For intermediate and advanced levels, Geoffrey will break down the above guidelines even further into finer steps. Now it’s over to you to refine these fundamental skills.