The main reasons for missing your target

Some things are worth repeating. I was once advised as a trainer that just around the time you are getting totally fed up with repeating something, is when the majority of students are starting to absorb it. 

The four rifle shooting principles I teach almost every day of my working life are:

1) The position must be firm enough to support the rifle;
2) The rifle must point naturally at the target;
3) The sight alignment must be correct at all times;
4) The shot must be released without undue movement.

Unbelievably, that is it. If you put all this into action in the right order you will never miss, right? In theory yes. In practice, there is much to still go wrong between the muzzle and the target in terms of elevation, windage, things in the way, etc. But for now, let’s consider how the four principles apply to a normal 70 metre shot off sticks at a roe buck. 

My belief is that the four points above are the most important factors in the creation of a successful shot, like a mantra for shooting rifles. Knowing how to apply them to every shooting position you might use is the true route to success. Looking at social media and advertising, the current shooting mantra seems to be the theory of small groups. 

Pre-season, you tore a hole in your artistic soul by developing the perfect load for the roe buck season. After 23 different recipes of bullet, powder, case and primer you made the perfect one. It only cost you half your barrel life and a month’s wages. 

You can now shoot all bullets into an 8mm group all day from your chosen rifle, when shot off the bench with an F-Class bipod, sandbags and some beta-blockers to steady your heart rate and nerves. 

Fabulous. But did you practice off sticks? Did you take some standing freehand shots at 30 yards at a paper plate or deer target? Did you shoot from your high seat? Did you use the scope at four power, or 24 power? In short, did you practice any of the skills you actually need to hit a beer coaster sized target off sticks at 70 metres? If the answer is no, you 8mm is likely to become an 800mm group and a miss, when you shoot in the field.

Hot tip: By all means create a load which shoots groups of less than 20mm, or even 8mm. Then, set aside 200+ rounds of any old ammunition for practicing off sticks, free hand and all the positions you might use in the field. Practice, familiarity, confidence and muscle memory are everything during a hunt. A picture of an 8mm group on your mobile phone and another on Facebook will mean nothing.

When considering if the position is firm enough to support the shot, dry firing is the essential test of any position. Assume the position you hope to use in the field and after triple checking the rifle is empty and the magazine removed, if possible, aim and go click. If the crosshairs or sights are still where they were before the click, the signs are good. I often dry fire in the relevant positions before heading out hunting. It is a principle and method refresher and helps a lot. You can even do this in the forest, during a hunt and before you see that gold medal roe buck. To be continued…

Blaser – Blog – The main reasons for missing your target

About the Author

Andrew Venables

Andrew Venables has some 40 years of experience in shooting, hunting, professional wildlife management and firearms training. WMS Firearms Training operates worldwide, from its headquarters in the Elan Valley area of Wales, UK. There they train clients over some 4500 hectares of hill land utilising steel life sized reactive targets. These can be shot at from an infinite variety of ranges, positions and situations in varied topography and weather conditions. WMS prepares you to make the shot, anywhere.

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