Marksmanship Fundamentals (Become a Great Shot)

Of all my years of shooting and in all my instructor courses I learned The Fundamentals of Marksmanship. These fundamentals did not come from a dream I had nor are they my opinion, they are “The Fundamentals”. If you are reading this post you are like me. You always want to excel and become better. Take what works for you and disregard the rest.

You are easy to teach because you’re eager to learn. Teaching a person with bad fundamentals is not the worst thing. Teaching a person with bad fundamentals but thinks they are correct is painful. Example: I was instructing a shooter who had a horrible stance, grip and so on but would hit the bulls-eye nearly every time. His question to me was "why do I need your help, I can shoot the nuts off a fly". My answer was simply this. I gave him 3 bullets and said "shoot those 3 rounds in the same hole in 3 seconds". Needless to say he could not do it.

The purpose of learning the fundamentals is to master them. If you can master them, congratulations, you’re the best shot who ever lived so long as you can perform under pressure and/or don't have a flinch or any other psychological distraction that hampers your concentration. So, please don't ever think you're good enough because there is always someone out there practicing right now and that someone someday may be your foe. So now I give you the secret to shooting.

(1) STANCE This is the foundation for every shot you take. A good stance with feet shoulder width apart with a slight bend of the knees keeping most of your weight off your heels and on the balls of your feet. I like to compare this to sports. You need a good balanced stance for a free throw, a golf swing, a wrestling move and so on. For the people who don't play sports simply jump up in the air as high as you can. How you land is your stance. You are most balanced when you land. If not, you'll fall. A good balanced stance will allow you to adsorb recoil for a follow through and will also allow you to advance later on when combat shooting or move and shoot drills.

(2) GRIP A good grip consists of the gun in your dominate hand as high on the back strap as it will go (do not put your dominate hand so high and off the back strap that will cause the slide of the pistol to comeback during the cycling and cut the web of your hand) with your support hand pressed firmly against the remainder of the exposed grip. Your support fingers will wrap firmly around the fingers of your dominate hand. Your dominate thumb will be pointing parallel straight down the slid of the gun and your support thumb will be under and touching the thumb of your dominate hand. The support thumb will be in front of your dominate thumb quite a bit. Please when shooting a very short barreled gun do NOT put your support thumb in front of the barrel. Now, you’re holding the gun with two hands. The pressure from each hand should be 60/40. 40% grip from your dominate hand and 60% grip pressure from your support hand. Why? Simply put, your dominate hand not only has to help hold the gun but also needs to press the trigger.

(3) SIGHT ALIGNMENT What is sight alignment? Let's use a Glock for example. Standard Glock sights have a white ball on the front of the gun or front sight while the rear sight consists of a u-shape or a football goal post. Your front sight should sit just inside of the u on top of the horizontal line and in between the two side posts or uprights. The ball should have equal distance or light on either side of it. If you are an experienced shooter you know how critical it is to have the ball centered perfectly. If you are a new shooter the only thing I'll tell you is next time you're at the range stand on the ten yard line and center the front sight with the rear sight then take a shot. Next, move the front sight ever so slightly to offset it to one direction then take a shot. You'll be amazed.

(4) SIGHT PICTURE This is how your sights line up in reference to your target. Again, lots of concentration is required. Not only are we making sure we have equal distance on either side of our front sight in reference to the rear but now we need to place that front sight on our target. Shooting combat style is always recommended that the front sight is key. This is accurate and simple when shooting inside of the 15 yard line. If you have proper grip you can just point your fingers at the target and will probably have a decent hit ratio. We've been pointing at people and things for years. It just comes natural. However, when trying to shoot one hole groups it takes more concentration. I found most people absolutely fear qualifying at the 25 yard line. I will tell you it's really not much different than shooting at the 10 or 15 yard line. Here's the trick. Your eyes have what's called a hard focus and a soft focus. You can only focus on one thing at a time especially when they are at different distances. So when shooting from the 25 what do you need to see? The sights and your target, right? You will only be able to see one of those two things clearly. What one should you use your hard focus on? Sights. The target at this distance should be a bit blurred. The clear focus will be on your front sight making sure it's where it needs to be. Try this and you should surprise yourself.

(5) BREATHING I find this fundamental to be the most disregarded. I tell people to breath and relax. Most say to themselves yeah sure I'm relaxed or I've been breathing my whole life buddy, I don't need you to remind me. They would say this because I failed in explaining myself. Breathing is not just breathing when it comes to shooting. It's a practiced perishable skill. What I do when I'm trying to make the perfect shot or any shot for that matter. Okay let me start over. Every shot you take must be with the intent of achieving perfection so what I do when I shoot is take a very deep over exaggerated breath. I hold it for a second or two then slowly let it out until my lungs are left with about 25% of oxygen. At that point I am at my most relaxed calm and steady point. Everything just seems to stand still for a moment allowing the perfect shot. This step is not to be ignored. By practicing this every time it will increase your score tremendously.

(6) TRIGGER CONTROL In the law enforcement world we spent many years rehearsing the infamous double tap. For my Department at least, it has been changed. We now train using the term two controlled pairs. That is two rounds that you can fire as fast as you can accurately. The reason for this change is because we found by firing double taps translates to cops as double slaps. Slapping the trigger will most defiantly scare the shit out of your attacker but may not stop the threat. To control the trigger in my opinion takes the most concentration of all the fundamentals. It’s a very focused deliberate act. It is a slow steady even press to the rear of the gun. During instructions I would literally stand behind the student. In a low soft voice saying "steady, steady, steady, press, press" until the gun surprises them and goes off. Although this training may not appear to be applicable in a real life or death situation, it is. They are learning the feel of the trigger, the breaking point of the trigger and how to control the trigger. Eventually with a lot of rounds down range they will become quicker and smoother on the trigger. Remember in an “Oh Shit” situation we do not rise to the occasion, we fall to our level of training.

(7) FOLLOW THROUGH The follow through is not only the end of your last shot but it's also the beginning of your second shot. A good follow through allows the shot recoil to disperse energy from the firearm through your hands, up your arms and shoulders, down your torso, down your legs, into your feet, and then the ground. After you pull the trigger a lot of energy is being dispelled. Controlling your body when all this is taking place is key to follow through. Keep the trigger depressed while the gun is cycling the new round then resting the trigger slowly is the beginning of your next shot. In the first paragraph of this blog I gave you the example of the guy who couldn't put three rounds in the same hole in three seconds. Because his fundamentals were off he was unable to properly follow through. I like to compare shooting follow up shots to a police term called Course of Conduct. Cops use this term often to describe the difference between one incident or two separate incidents. If I am shooting a five round volley I want to make it one continuous course of conduct. In other words the end of shot one is the beginning of shot two and so on. I am linking the shots like music notes. With an improper follow through you essentially have five separate shots of five separate Courses of Conduct. In order to excel at the sport of shooting you need to be able to link the shots. Once you get rhythm down you will eventually be able to fire three rounds in the same hole in three seconds. This will ultimately lead to more advanced moving and shooting or combat shooting or simply put real life scenarios that can one day save you and your family’s lives.

Joseph Harris, Blog Author
Co-Founder of Roll Call, LLC


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