The links on this website may contain affiliate links. This means that we may receive a commission if you decide to make any purchases using our affiliate links.

Ultimate Rifle Marksmanship Guide

Shooting Tips

To be able to shoot a rifle well you must do the following correctly: use the proper stance, aim, pull the trigger and call the shot. This means that when the butt-plate of the rifle settles on your shoulder, you must hold your rifle steadily, correctly aim and deliberately pull the trigger at the instant your aimed where you want to hit. This article will get you on track to learning how to correctly shoot a rifle with a standard, iron, site.

 1. The Proper -Rifle Shooting Stance

The standing, kneeling and prone are the three stances or positions that are used for shooting. However, arguably, in a SHTF situation, the standing position is the best to learn as it allows you to observe targets better and also, with the standing position, it is easier to adapt, and fire toward sudden or unexpected targets.  However, for your your reference, I have included images of both the kneeling and prone shooting positions.  The below stance allows the shooter to more easily adapt to unforeseen situations. (I.E. Surprise target)  Therefore,  this  is the recommended standing  stance for combat situations.

a. The Athletic or Squared Stance Standing Position (Fig. 1)

How to get in the the athletic shooting stance.  Please note, the strong side is your dominant hand. So, if you’re right-handed, your right feet and hands are your strongAthletic Standing Shooting Stanceside. The weak-side is your non-dominant or non-shooting hand.

  1. Square your shoulders up toward your target.
  2. Your feet should be straight and separate around the width of your shoulder.
  3. The strongside foot should be staggered approximately six inches behind your week side foot.
  4. The butt of your rifle needs to be placed near your bodies center, high on your chest, with your elbows facing downward.

b. Kneeling Unsupported Shooting Position (fig. 2)

Kneeling Unsupported Shooting Position

c. Prone Unsupported Shooting Position (fig. 3)
Prone shooting position


2.  Aiming

One of the most challenging aspects of marksmanship learning how to  correct your aim.  For example, what do you do if your shot tends to land high or low on the target?  This chart below (fig. 4) is an excellent resource to help you fix any aiming problems that you may be experiencing.

Rifle Sighting Cheat Sheet

The illustrations on the chart show how front and back sights should “line up” with the target.

Fig. 1.-shows how a correct aim looks through an open sight. Always aim just below the center of the target, which gives you a clear view ahead as you will have a better chance of seeing how the bullet strikes. You will also avoid the common fault of shooting too high.

Fig. 2-shows how the sight looks when the front sight appears too low through the notch of the back sight.

Fig 3-shows the result of holding the front sight too high.

Figs. 4 and 5.- show the results of not having the front sight centered in the rear sight, the shots going to the left in Fig. 4 and to the right and high in Fig. 5.

Fig. 6 and 7.- illustrate a common fault with beginners, that of tipping the rifle so that the shoulders of the back sight are not on a level or horizontal line.


3.  The Trigger Squeeze

All your best efforts of getting into the proper stance, and aiming are wasted, if at the instant before you fire your rifle, you suddenly flinch or jerk the trigger. And to many, the most challenging part of shooting is getting your trigger finger to pull the trigger correctly at the instant everything is in alignment That is why learning to properly pull the trigger is an essential marksmanship skill.

Where Is Your Trigger Finger?

At first glance, this question seems rather silly. But, many beginning shooters do not know how correctly place your finger on the trigger, and even many experienced shooters don’t know either. First of all, never place your finger at the very end of the trigger. Place your index finger on your firing hand between the first joint of your finger and your fingertip.

What Is The Proper Trigger Squeeze?

Correctly pulling the trigger takes time and practice. Beginning shooters can take five seconds or more to properly pull a trigger, while experienced shooters can properly pull a trigger in less than a second.  To properly aim your rifle, you must apply Slight pressure to the trigger as you start to aim at your target. Then, after the front signpost of your iron  is steady and you are holding your breath, you should then apply more pressure and eventually shoot your rifle.

To pull or squeeze the trigger without disturbing the aim is easily learned with a little painstaking practice you can master the trigger pull. Learn first by the feel, just about how much pressure you must put on the trigger with the gun to go off. Then practice all but a couple of ounces of this pull on the trigger as you place the rifle to your shoulder. Hold the rifle with trigger compressed thus while you are aiming, and when your aim is right, carefully squeeze on the couple of extra ounces, which will cause the discharge.

Stopping The Last Minute Flinch

Only by practicing will you be able to stop jerking or flinching when firing your rifle. You must put enough willpower and attention into it to make you forget entirely all about recoil. Practicing with a small .22 caliber rifle also helps to correct this bad habit, and every time you catch yourself jerking the trigger, spend ten minutes in slow, methodical trigger pull practice with an empty rifle. A bolt-action rifle may be snapped all you wish without hurting it in the least. With a hammer, rifle inserts a piece of rubber eraser just behind the firing pin for the hammer to strike on. Never snap a .22 caliber rim-fire rifle.

Trigger Pull

A trigger pull is the amount of pressure that needs to be put on a trigger to fire a gun. It is measured in the number of pounds required to pull a trigger. The pull is weighed by applying a spring balance scale to the middle of the trigger and applying the pressure in line with the barrel. For a hunting rifle, the pull should ideally be around 2¼ pounds, and it should never be over four pounds. A good pull should be sharp and clean. There should be no movement what ­ ever to the trigger until it suddenly releases the hammer or firing pin and the bullet is off.  Above all,  to be successful, you will need to learn how to stop jerking the trigger when you shoot and instead press the trigger smoothly and deliberately.

The pull of bolt action rifles is peculiar. When pressure is first applied to the trigger it moves back about one ­ eighth inch under about a two-pound pressure, which is known as the safety pull, is necessary for the safety of the arm, and should never be removed. After this pull or movement has been taken up by the applied pressure, the remainder of the pull is excellent. Such pull is confusing at first to one accustomed to the normal pull, but it is soon learned and is not a disadvantage.
I’ve often seen beginners spend five to ten seconds in aiming before their fingers touched the trigger. They were wasting time. Learn to put all but the several last ounces of pressure on the trigger as you place the rifle to the shoulder, and then determine that you will squeeze off those last ounces lightly, efficiently, and without jerk-and do it!

Calling the Shot

You will remain a novice shooter until you are able to correctly “Call A Shot” because without doing this you can never tell whether your rifle is correctly sighted or not. Calling the shot consists of catching with the eye, a picture, as it were, of the exact point on the target where the sights are aligned at the instant that the recoil of the shot blotted out the vision. This is, of course, the point where the shot should hit if the rifle is correctly sighted.

Initially, you will not hold steady when you start to shoot. As you first start to aim, the front sight wobbles all over the target. You steady down a little, and it wobbles around the bulls-eye. You try to squeeze the trigger just as the sights wobble below the center of the bulls-eye.
Did you succeed? If you are quick enough, the retina of your eye will retain the memory of just how the sights and target looked as the rifle recoiled up and the sight was lost of view. However, with a little practice calling the shot can be mastered.

Shooting Drill


To learn proper rifle shooting, you do not need to shoot your rifle as the following drill illustrates. This drill is for when, for whatever reason, you cannot shoot your gun, and should be done when are familiar with the above marksmanship fundamentals.  This drill is very simple and only requires a shooting target where you place the target in a well-lighted room, and with your unloaded rifle, snap off a few shots at the target.   While you are pretending to shoot, you follow the above fundamental marksmanship tips. If you do this drill regularly, you will soon find out that your shooting will improve even when your range time is limited. a

Please Note: Shooting your rifle, without ammo, doesn’t hurt most common center fire rifles. However, without precautions you should not perform this drill with a rimfire rifle.