The experience of thousands of shooters over the last few hundred years has been distilled down to these six steps for firing the shot. If you will put aside all notions on shooting acquired until now and try this, it will improve your shooting. If you fire every shot “by the numbers” you will improve.
(1) SIGHT ALIGNMENT:
(a) Aperture or “peep” sights: Just center the top of the front sight “post” in the ring of the rear sight. The top of the post should be centered horizontally, (same amount of daylight on either side), as well as vertically, (top of post half way up the circle).
(b) Open sights: Center the front sight “post” in the notch of the rear sight. The post should have equal amounts of daylight on either side of it, and the top of the post should be the same height as the left and right sides of the notch.
(2) SIGHT PICTURE:
While maintaining the sight alignment, bring the sights onto the target and place the bottom of the target on top of the post. Now you should have all three parts in alignment: the top of the front sight post centered in the rear sight, and the target sitting centered on top of the post. This is called the “6 o’clock” hold. Others of you shooting certain rifles, (Sights that are difficult to change), may have to use a POA=POI hold, (Point of Aim = Point of Impact) just hold the top of the post “center of mass”.
(3) RESPIRATORY PAUSE:
Now take a deep breath and let it out slowly while watching the front sight. Notice that it falls while inhaling and rises while exhaling. When the front sight reaches the 6 o’clock hold position, just hold your breath at that point. Your inflated lungs, (A natural action), holds elevation.
How long can you hold? In 5 to 8 seconds your ability to fire the shot well diminishes. And that’s if you’re in good shape. First to go is vision, and you won’t be able to get that crisp sight picture you want. Then you may even begin to tremble. Don’t rush the shot. If you’ve been holding more than about 5 seconds, take another breath and start over.
(4) (a) FOCUS YOUR EYE ON THE FRONT SIGHT: (A physical task)
Your eye cannot focus at more than one distance, and you are trying to keep three things at three different distances aligned. Hundreds of years of shooting by thousands of true riflemen have proven that the best way to sight your rifle is to focus on the front sight. The target will be fuzzy in the distance, perched on the front sight post like a pumpkin on a fencepost. The rear sight will be fuzzy in your periphery. But this is the only way your eye can line up all three things accurately. It is imperative that you focus ONLY on the front sight. This is not a natural thing and requires constant monitoring and correction. If your groups start to expand, the first thing you need to ask yourself is if you are truly focusing on the front sight.
(b) FOCUS YOUR MIND ON KEEPING THE FRONT SIGHT ON THE TARGET: (A mental task)
With everything you can muster, focus your mind on keeping that front sight PRECISELY where it belongs on the fuzzy target. This requires considerable concentration and effort and is also why all these steps must become automatic muscle memory functions to leave the mind free to concentrate on the front sight.
(5) SQUEEZE THE TRIGGER:
I didn’t say “pull” the trigger, nor slap, nor snap the trigger. The tendency is to snap the trigger rearward when the sights are perfectly aligned before they can get off target again. The problem with this is that the bullet is not yet out of the barrel and the added motion you impart to the trigger will start the bullet downrange at a slight angle, which only grows more divergent from the target as it goes downrange.
Squeeze the trigger straight to the rear using a steadily increasing pressure, much the same as pushing the plunger on a ball point pen. You can stop at any moment. If the target is slightly off line, don’t release the trigger, just hold the pressure you have already. As the sights come back into place, continue squeezing. Repeat until the rifle fires.
The finger should contact the trigger as low as possible, (for greater mechanical advantage and to prevent touching the bottom of the receiver.), and in the middle of the first pad of the finger. The trigger finger should be curled to an extent that no part of the finger between the last knuckle, (nearest the palm), and the pad touching the trigger itself touches any part of the rifle.
When you are caught touching the stock with the inside of the trigger finger you will be told that you are “dragging wood”. Dragging wood will cause your shots to fly because it imparts a slight movement to the gun while the round is still traveling down the barrel. Dragging wood is the most common firing line error, but fear not, as this habit will be beaten out of you during this weekend.
(6) FOLLOW THROUGH:
This actually has two parts- HOLD THE TRIGGER BACK, and TAKE A MENTAL “SNAPSHOT”. You must hold the trigger back, (momentarily), to allow the bullet to clear the barrel before moving your finger again. Try to hold it to the rear until you have the sights aligned on the target again, and then release the trigger just enough to re-engage the sear. You can usually feel as well as hear an audible “click” when this happens. Do not remove your finger from the trigger!
When the shot goes off you should also make a mental note of where the front sight was because that is where the round went. At first it will seem impossible to do, but with practice you will notice that sometimes you saw exactly where the sights were. (Dry firing is the perfect time to develop this skill) After a while you can “call the shot”. This means that even when you can’t see a hole in the target you will know where that shot went and could actually draw it on paper to compare with the real thing when you get down there.
The ability to call your shot is important because if you called it 5 o’clock and just out of the black and then you check the target and that is where it hit, it wasn’t a bad shot. It actually went just where it was told to go. You just need to focus more and do the 6 steps required to put it in the V ring.
If the rounds all consistently fall in the same spot, just not in the right spot, say for instance too high, too far left, etc, then you will have to move the sights during your next prep period. (Stress shooting tight groups and do not allow sight adjustments for shooters with groups larger than 8 MOA. They need to get the 6 steps down first, otherwise they will “chase the sights” all day)