The Final Piece(s) to Taking the Shot.

So last time we talked about the steps you need to take to make an accurate shot up through the point where you find your NPOA. That portion of this process is crucial so make sure you have a good grasp of it. So you’re at the point where you have aligned your sights, have a proper sight picture, have found your NPOA, and are ready to continue taking the shot. What’s next? We will eventually discuss things like cheek weld and where to put your support hand, etc. I want to cover the rest of these fundamentals first.

You can’t shoot accurately while you are moving (at least not yet). Breathing causes movement, so you will have to stop breathing at some point to make an accurate shot. This is why you will take the shot when your breathing takes a pause. That split second where you have fully exhaled but haven’t starting inhaling yet. That’s the opportune time to fire the shot. With proper NPOA your front sight will be right where it needs to be at that time, and you are completely still but relaxed. You can prolong this voluntarily, but do not do so for too long. As you hold your breath, your vision will actually start to deteriorate.

While prone, as you inhale, the front sight will dip, and when you exhale, it will rise. Use the natural action of breathing to help hold the elevation. When the front sight reaches the desired place on the target, simply hold your breath at that point. You can increase accuracy even further by completely relaxing the respiratory system.

In somewhere around 7 seconds, your vision begins to diminish while holding your breath. You won’t be able to see as well as you need to. You won’t be able to be as relaxed as you need to be. Don’t force the shot. Just wait and take another breath and try again. 

Our eyes can only focus on one thing at a time. You are now trying to keep your front and rear sights aligned along with your target. It might seem counter-intuitive, but the most accurate way to shoot your rifle is to focus on the front sight! Your rear sight will be blurry as will the target.  It is imperative that you focus entirely on the front sight post.

This will not be natural at first. You’ll have to make yourself do this. Concentrate hard on doing this.

(Note: Remember this assumes you’re shooting with iron sights. If you’re using a scope or a red dot you don’t need to focus on the reticle of the scope or the dot.)

Now it’s time to finally press (or squeeze) the trigger. Do not jerk the trigger. Squeeze the trigger straight to the rear using a steadily increasing pressure. The difference between a squeeze and a jerk is CONTROL. Jerking the trigger will throw you off target. If you notice your front sight moving all around the target and you have to jerk the trigger to try and get the shot off while the sights are in the right position on the target, you are not relaxed and therefore do not have good NPOA. Stop and establish good NPOA.

If you have to stop and find NPOA again, do not let the slack out of the trigger. Keep the pressure you’ve applied until the sights return to right spot, then continue squeezing the trigger until the shot breaks. It should surprise you! 

Ideally you’ll use the middle of the first pad of your trigger finger and squeeze from the lowest portion of the trigger possible. This will give you the best mechanical advantage. And it prevents the finger from dragging against the bottom of the receiver. You may need to adjust which part of the trigger finger you use depending on how hard it is to pull it. But the trigger must be pulled straight back.

Once the shot breaks, you’re still not done. Hold the trigger to the rear, and try to call where the shot went. This is done by making a mental note of where the front sight was when the shot broke.

Your goal is to hold the trigger to the rear until the sights are realigned on the target.

When you do start to let off of the trigger, only let it go forward enough until it’s reset. Trigger reset can usually be heard by a click and can also be felt. Practice this while dry firing so that you can still tell when it’s reset at the range.

It’s difficult to call your shot in reality. You’ll have a tendency to close your eyes as the shot is fired. Likely you’ll have already closed your non-dominate eye while firing. (Though I recommend learning to shoot with both eyes open down the line. For now, baby steps.) So your eye that you’re using to shoot will have a tendency to close as you fire a shot. Try to prevent that eye from closing. This will allow you to take a snapshot of where the front sight was when the shot went off.

Learning how to call your shots will be crucial to helping you get better. If you know where your shot went right after you fire it and you check the target and it’s where you thought it was, that’s a “good” shot. Don’t worry about it not hitting the bullseye or whatever. Remember, right now your goal is to focus on shooting tight groups anyway. If you know where your shots are hitting by being able to tell where your front sight was, all you have to do is keep working on proper NPOA, sight alignment, and sight picture. Your shots will start to go where you want them to once you have the fundamentals down. Make sure you follow through with the trigger as discussed here. If your rifle is zeroed, and you follow the fundamentals in this installment and the last one, you will be shooting quite well sooner than you think. This also illustrates why dry firing is so useful. There’s no recoil to make you involuntarily close your eyes. You can learn to take that mental snapshot when the shot breaks. There’s no recoil so you can keep your NPOA better. And you can hear the trigger reset after you follow through. Make sure you’re being safe when dry firing. Do it in a quiet place where there is no ammunition anywhere around you. Say out loud: “I am doing dry fire practice. No ammunition will placed into this weapon.” Or something along those lines. Make sure your sights do not move off the target while dry firing as your shots break. If you notice the front sight moving, figure out what’s causing it to move and fix it. 

So, let’s summarize the whole process of taking a shot before we wrap this up. (Remember, this is from the prone position, and may even be supported by a sling or a bag or a bipod even. The fundamentals are the fundamentals.)

-Align your sights.

-Get the front sight on target.

-Find your NPOA.

-Verify your NPOA.

-Focus on the front sight.

-Squeeze the trigger during a respiratory pause.

-Follow through and call the shot.

-Reset the trigger.

You can do this if you work these fundamentals. That’s all for now. Take care, comrades.

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