Sharpshooting made easy

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
July 2, 2004
If you can hit what you are aiming at more times than most shooters, we say you are a good shot. You get to be a good shot the same way you get to Carnegie Hall; practice.
Back when guns were a larger part of our lives because the pioneers had to do the things that supermarkets, police forces, burglar alarms and pest control companies do for us today, we knew how to shoot.
With all the distractions in our busy lives today, and considering the millions of people who never have to pick up a firearm, it is safe to say that the percentage of good shots in our population has dwindled. Becoming a good shot and maintaining the skill matters to some of us. The key is practice.
Shotgunning prowess is a unique science, quite different from the particulars of rifle shooting. Here we will look at the latter.
Hitting where you aim, often the vital area of a game animal, with a single bullet presents a certain challenge that intrigues shooters. By scoring over and over again, you accomplish two things that lead to expertise; confidence and training your senses, nerves and muscles to hit the mark.
Because you may only shoot three or four deer during a season and maybe a dozen or so squirrels, you usually fall far short in the repetition department. So the answer is practice in the off season. That time is now.
Ideal rifle
The .22 rifle is ideal for practicing rifle shooting skills. The ammunition is not costly, the noise is tolerable and the recoil is practically nil.
Plinking is a term long associated with shooting a .22 for fun. The term bothers me when practice for accurate shooting is the goal. Plinking to me sounds a bit nonchalant, sort of casual, carefree. The inference seems awfully close to carelessness. Knocking over cans with a .22 is loads of fun, and whether the can is hit in the center or on its edge, it still topples at the shot to the delight of the shooter.
But for a period of each shooting session, take each shot seriously, making sure you hit within the accuracy capability of your rifle and cartridge. How capable are they? Find out by shooting several brands of ammunition from a bench rest with sandbags. When you find the most accurate cartridge for your rifle, try to always hit where you aim within that range. The general idea here is don't get sloppy. Shooting sloppily is easy. Shooting with precision takes some concentration.
Concentrate on assuming a comfortable shooting position that holds your rifle steady. A steady rest is the number one facilitator of accurate rifle shooting. Shooting "offhand," standing with no rest, is the most difficult and least preferred position from which to fire a rifle at game. You just can't hold the rifle steady. Shooting sticks, in the form of monopods bipods and tripods, are gaining popularity in much of the world and will greatly help the accuracy of standing shots. They haven't caught on in the South probably because we take so few offhand shots at deer and other game. But if you hunt big game elsewhere, it's a good move to learn to use these sticks as a shooting aid.
The most accurate shots in the field are made from a rest against a tree, boulder, log or other fixed surface. In the absence of a natural rest, lying flat with the gun's forearm resting on a folded jacket or your hat is also steady. Even supporting your rifle with both elbows steadied by the ground makes for accuracy while lying down.
Seated Shot
Next in steadiness is the sitting position. Plop down on your behind facing 45 degrees from the target toward the side of your trigger finger. Lean your body forward and rest your elbows just inside each knee. Tighten your legs to the center firmly to hold the elbows in place. This is almost as steady as lying prone and is likely the most commonly used shooting position for plains and mountain game when a rest is unavailable.
The kneeling position is not as steady as sitting, but beats shooting offhand all to pieces. Right handers put their right knee and left foot on the ground and squat with their left elbow on the left knee to steady their hold. Quicker than sitting, the kneeling position is not as accurate.
Choose a .22 rifle with the same mode of operation as your big game rifle if possible. A safety that works the same as your big rifle is ideal. Utilize the same strict safety habits with the little practice rifle as with Big Bertha. Identical repetitions that form accurate and safe habits is the goal.
Practice shooting for accuracy and speed with each position and you are ready for the big buck that jumps up in the cutover before you get to your shooting house. And if you go for big game in other parts of the world, you will be ready if you get caught without a rest for your rifle.

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