Basic Principles for Long Range Shooting
In the first two parts of the Hellsgate Tactical Precision Rifle Clinic series we looked at the rifle, optics and the ammunition used in long range shooting. We will now discuss:
The basic principles for long range shooting are the same as those used for any other types of shooting; these are the basic shootings fundamentals taught to any shooter. With long range shooting these basics are even more important.
We are going to break these into three main groups:
- Breathing/trigger control/follow through
First let’s talk about the shooting position. You want to be in line with the rifle and not at an angle to it. This will insure the rifle recoils straight back into your shoulder and body, and not at an angle. You want as much of you in contact with the ground as possible. Make sure that the position you are in is comfortable, you may be in that position for a long period of time. Once in position establish your natural point of aim by closing the both eyes and relaxing, then opening them and rechecking alignment on target. If you are misaligned, move your entire body into alignment and not just the rifle. Imagine your belly button is a pivot point that is when adjusting your position.
Now that you a in a good shooting position we will look at aiming and sighting. In order to see the target you have to know how to use your eye in relation to the scope. This is called eye relief. The proper eye relief is about 2-3 inches from the scope. Correct position can easily be determined by looking through the scope and seeing the full field of view. If there are shadows around the sight picture then you are out of position. These shadows can cause the impact point to shift. For example, a crescent shaped shadow on the left side of the scope will cause the shot to be off target to the right.
The examples shown are a correct and an incorrect sight picture. A proper sight picture is when the sight is aligned and centered on the target. In the case of a scope that means the cross hairs. Where the aim point on a target is will be determined by the target, a zombie or a deer will have different point of aim.
In the past I have taught performance driving. One of the principals that I stress is repetition, brake at the same point, turn into the corner at the same point hit the apex of the corner the same place every time. Doing this builds confidence and consistency.
The same principals apply to shooting. Nathan Charlton at Hellsgate Tactical stresses this when shooting, and a large part of long distance shooting is breathing and trigger control. Controlling your breathing is critical to accuracy. Just breathing in and out will cause the muzzle to move vertically, so you need to relax and inhale and exhale normally. At the point where you would begin to inhale again is where you take the shot. You can extend this point for ten seconds or so, but you should never go to a point where it starts to feel uncomfortable, because as the body begins to need air the muscles will start an involuntary movement and your eyes will begin to lose focus. If you get to this point you should breathe normally and start over. You should practice breathing control and get into a routine when shooting. As an example, when you are ready to shoot take three breaths, and then on the third exhale, hold it and squeeze the trigger.
This a good time to talk about trigger control. Controlling where you are aiming is usually caused by the point of aim being disturbed, as or before the bullet leaves the barrel. This is caused by flinching or jerking the trigger. You can eliminate this through trigger control.
With practice you can develop trigger control to the point where actually pulling the trigger doesn’t require any conscious action; though you are ware that your finger is pulling the trigger. For me the closest analogy is driving a race car. I know I am braking and down shifting but I don’t consciously say brake now.
This conditioned reflex is often called muscle memory. Developing muscle memory takes practice… lots of practice. But this does not have to be live fire practice; it can easily be done with dry fire practice.
Now that you have a basic understanding of long distance shooting it’s time to put it all together, calibrate your scope and start shooting. I’ll be discussing that in the fourth and final installment.
Hellsgate Tactical Precision Rifle Clinic
Part 1: Choosing the Right Rifle and Scope that Fits Your Need
Part 2: Importance of Choosing the Right Long Range Ammo