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It doesn’t matter if you’re hunting, plinking, or shooting in competition, shooting for accuracy is always the goal. Just like a basketball player wants to drain every three-pointer he shoots, you want to hit everything you shoot at. Accurate shooting is not easy. It requires practice and skill, and here are 20 tips that can help you get better.

Shooting for Accuracy with a Rifle at Short Range

Man standing in green field shooting a rifle from the offhand position
Short range rifle shooting is a particular skill set and is most often associated with off-hand shooting. Richard Mann

Short range shooting with a rifle is generally performed at distances where you should be able to get your hits when shooting from off-hand positions. For most this is inside 150 yards. Here are five tips to help you do it more accurately.

  1. Proper Zero: With a centerfire rifle zero your sights at about 100 yards. With a rimfire rifle something between 30 and 50 yards is ideal. This minimizes the offset between your sights and point of impact out to those distances and just a bit further.
  2. Balanced Stance: Your stance or shooting position is the foundation for offhand shooting. Make sure your balanced, comfortable, and that you can manage the recoil.
  3. Focus on the Sights: With open sights, your focus needs to be the front sight, with optics, your focus needs to be on the reticle or dot. You aim with your sights – focus on them.
  4. Acceptable Wobble: It’s impossible to hold a rifle perfectly still. The sights will wobble, and that’s OK. Acceptable wobble is less than half the size of the intended target. If it’s more than that, don’t shoot.
  5. Shooting Sling: A shooting sling – not a carry strap – can help you stabilize your rifle from offhand positions. Something like the Rhodesian Sling from Andy’s Leather or the RifleMann Sling from Galco can help you shoot more accurately.

Shooting for Accuracy with a Rifle at Long Range

Man laying on the ground shooting a rifle from the prone position
Most long range shooting is done from the prone position to help steady your aim and allow more concentration on the distance, the wind, and your breathing. Richard Mann

Long -range shooting is performed at distances where you must aim high or adjust the sight to overcome your bullet’s trajectory. The distance will vary from rifle to rifle, but these five tips will enhance your accuracy.

  1. Work with a Spotter: When you get hits at long range – especially on steel targets – confirmation is easy. It’s the misses that are hard to figure out. A spotter can see your bullet trace or the bullet’s impact off target and help you correct for follow up shots.
  2. Know your DOPE: To correctly compensate for drop, you need to know your bullet’s trajectory. Initially established with a ballistics program and then confirmed on the range, that confirmation is your DOPE. DOPE is data of previous engagement, and it tells you how high to hold or how many clicks you need at distance.
  3. Read the Wind: Bullets slow as they go, and the slower they go, the more they’re affected by wind. You must learn to determine wind direction, estimate wind speed, and understand how it moves your bullet.
  4. Respiratory Pause: When you breath your body moves, and it’s important to time your trigger press so your breathing does not move the rifle. This is done the easiest during your natural respiratory pause – between exhale and inhale – which lasts from 2 to 3 seconds.
  5. Eliminate Parallax: Parallax is the apparent displacement of an object as seen from two different points. Parallax is complicated and you can learn more about it here. If your scope has a parallax adjustment, use it. If not, make sure your eye is on center with the scope so you can see a full field of view.

How to Shoot Better with a Pistol

Closeup of man's hands firing a pistol, illustrating the proper grip and trigger finger position
For best accuracy with a pistol, it’s critical you place your finger on the trigger correctly. Richard Mann

Pistols are notoriously hard to shoot accurately because their sight radius is short. Here five things you can do to make accurate pistol shooting easier.

  1. Get a Grip: Holding a pistol correctly will help you shoot more accurately. Place your hand as high on the grip as possible, and make sure the pistol’s barrel is in line with you forearm. Hold on firmly, but not enough to make you shake.
  2. Proper Sight Alignment: Proper sight alignment is when the front sight is centered in the notch of the rear sight, and the top of the front sight is even with the top of the rear sight.
  3. Proper Sight Picture: Sight picture deals with how the sight looks in reference to the target. A proper sight picture is achieved when correctly aligned sights are placed on the target, so the tip of the front sight is on the desired point of impact.
  4. Go with the Dot: A red dot on a pistol makes aiming easier because you eliminate the sight alignment element. You just put the dot on the target and press the trigger. For many shooters, accuracy can improve as much as 50%.
  5. Trigger Finger Placement: For a right handed shooter, too much finger on the trigger will pull your shot right, not enough will push your shot left. The trigger should be centered between the last joint and the tip of your trigger finger.

Shooting for Accuracy with All Guns

Man standing in a green field shooting a lever-action rifle offhand
When shooting for accuracy there are some tips that apply to all guns. Richard Mann

There are some tips and tricks for accurate shooting with different kinds of guns in different situations. But there are also some fundamentals that apply to shooting all guns accurately. Here are five to consider.

  1. Fit Matters: If a gun does not fit you, you’ll struggle establishing a proper sight picture and making a good trigger press. Find a gun that fits your hands and your body.
  2. Good Trigger: Of all the interface points of a gun, the trigger is the most important, because conducting a good trigger press is the hardest part of shooting. If your gun has a bad trigger, get it fixed.
  3.  Manageable Recoil: Pretend you’re as macho as you want, but recoil and muzzle blast negatively impact everyone’s shooting. Our brains remember uncomfortable things and cause us to anticipate and react. Find a gun that’s comfortable to shoot and you’ll shoot more accurately.
  4. Dry Practice: Dry practice – simulated shooting with an unloaded gun – is the best way to improve your trigger pressing skills, and its free. Cool laser and smart phone compatible devices like the MantisX can help with this and make it more enjoyable.
  5. Reasonable Expectations: Understand what reasonable accuracy is. For most, during short range off-hand rifle shooting, it’s hitting an 8-inch target at 100 yards. For long range rifle shooting, it’s hitting that same target at 400 yards. With a pistol, you should be able to hit an 8-inch target at 25 yards.

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