The Last Stop before Zero.

You’re at the range. Your target is set up at let’s say….the 50 yard line. The range is “hot.” You carefully and safely get into the prone position with your rifle. You insert a magazine and chamber a round. Your selector is aligned to ‘SAFE.’ You align your sights, and your sight picture is a little off. You adjust your body a bit, and you’re on target. It’s just a simple, circular target. You’ve got your front sight right on the center of the circle. You notice the front sight dropping and rising as you breathe in and out. As you fully exhale and pause your breathing, your front sight always returns to the center of the target. That’s right where you want it. You have your NPOA. 

With your trigger thumb you take the selector to ‘FIRE.’ And with your sights aligned, the front sight in focus and where you want it, and during your respiratory pause, you squeeze the trigger straight back. 

The shot breaks, you blink because you’re still not entirely used to it. But you’re wearing eye and ear protection so all you have to worry about is getting better. You’re doing this safely. You follow through with the trigger and think you know where the front sight was when the shot broke. 

You let out some tension on the trigger, letting it go forward slightly. You hear a click and know that the trigger is reset. You still have your NPOA and your sights are right back where you want them. You’re controlling your breathing properly. You took the time to get a good cheek weld and build a steady prone position. You repeat everything and take another shot.

You keep up this process until you’ve fired several shots. Let’s say you fired ten. You place the weapon back on safe, remove the magazine, and cycle the bolt to remove the chambered round. You lock the bolt to the rear with the bolt catch and visually check the chamber and the magazine well to make sure they’re both clear. This weapon is clear and safe.

You get up from the prone position and place the rifle facing downrange on the bench or facing up in the rack. You’re ready for the range to go “cold” so you can go down range and check your target.

The range is now cold and everyone has cleared and benched their clear and safe weapons. No one is touching their rifles and you can now proceed down range. 

When you get to your target, you see the same number of holes as rounds you fired (thankfully.)

But NONE of them are where you aimed. Why is that? 

If your shot groups are tight, meaning your shots are all close together, that’s way more important than anything else right now. At this stage in the game, you need to master the fundamentals. That’s what knowing how to shoot actually is, a mastery of the fundamentals. 

So, how close should your shots be to each other? How do I get my groups to actually be on the bullseye or center of my target? 

If your shots are all over the place, you’re not following the fundamentals. Something is off. Breathing, NPOA, not following through, not focusing on the front sight, something…

We’re getting close to a topic that’s more on the technical side of things. We’re talking about how to zero your rifle, which requires an understanding of a few fundamental concepts as prerequisites. So you need to be able to shoot a good group before you should go any further.

As far as how close together your shots should be, that depends on how far away the target is from you. If you’re shooting at a target that’s 50 yards away, from the prone position, with good NPOA and trigger control and all the other things we’ve talked about, I’d like to see you shooting a one inch or less group. Meaning, the cluster of holes on your target is no bigger than one inch wide in any direction. That might not seem reasonable starting out, and that’s ok. If you can’t do it, keep working on it. If your groups are two inches at 50 yards, that’s ok. Just keep trying to get better. 

So let’s do a recap of all the skills you need to have so far:

-You know and understand the importance of the universal safety rules for handling a firearm.

-You understand the 5thrule as we’ve outlined it and know to keep the weapon on safe unless the sights are on the intended target.

-You know how to safely load and safely clear your weapon.

-You know how to properly assume the prone position.

-You know how to properly align your sights and get a proper sight picture.

-You know how to find your NPOA.

-You know how to focus on your front sight.

-You know how to execute proper trigger control and follow through. You’re able to call your shots.

-You know how to do repeat this process and fire a tight group.

In the next entry, we’re going to talk about some of the more technical concepts you’ll need to understand. I hope you’re up for it! In the meantime, keep practicing and working on getting those groups tighter.

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