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Shooting technique question

Printed From: OpticsTalk by SWFA, Inc.
Category: Firearms, Bows, and Ammunition
Forum Name: Shooting
Forum Description: Techniques, tips, stories, general discussion, etc.
Printed Date: December/18/2018 at 11:42

Topic: Shooting technique question
Posted By: Lockjaw
Subject: Shooting technique question
Date Posted: January/12/2018 at 11:03
I have something going on, and wanted to get some insight. 

For starters, due to my age, my resting heart rate is around 90 BPM. I am tall, 6'3'' and weigh around 180.

 When I shoot any of my rifles off a bench, especially the ones with scopes that magnify more than 9x, I can often see my crosshairs move with my heart beat. If I use a sandbag or two, I can largly eliminate that. 

However, when hunting, it is more difficult. Obviously I get some adrenalin when deer are visible, which I think makes the movement worse. It's not like buck fever I had when I was first hunting, where I shook, its more of a harder heartbeat, if that makes sense. 

If its snap shot, I tend to do fine at ranges out to 100 yards, even offhand, but,,,, out of a shooting house, even using a rest, of course at slightly longer ranges, I seem to struggle and just outright missed one over thanksgiving, at 120 yards, with a rifle that will group all day long way under 1 inch.

I am right handed if that matters. Gun above weighs 9 pounds or so. 

Anyone have something similar going on, or is there a method or technique I can use to help with the heart rate? Once it warms up a little, I will be back out riding my bike to do cardio, but last year that didn't seem to do much as far as lowering my resting heart rate. 

Posted By: RifleDude
Date Posted: January/12/2018 at 11:58
Try moving the butt of your rifle more onto the deltoid muscle of your shoulder, further away from your chest where heartbeat and breathing has most influence. If it's not a hard kicking gun, use less pressure against your shoulder. Don't wrap your thumb over the top of the grip; keep it alongside the grip, not pressing hard against the stock so that you don't clench the grip and get L/R deviations while working the trigger. Before the shot, inhale deeply then slowly exhale as you're working the trigger. Don't put heavy cheek pressure against the stock. Try not to think about the animal, pick a spot you want the bullet to go and think only "I want to hit THAT spot." Don't rest the forend on or near the front sling swivel stud. Don't jerk the trigger; just use a steady squeeze, gradually increasing pressure until the gun fires. During the shot sequence, do nothing other than focus on the point of aim and s-q-u-e-e-z-e the trigger to ensure good follow-through.


Money can't buy happiness... but it's much more comfortable to cry in a Porsche than on a bicycle.

Posted By: Rancid Coolaid
Date Posted: January/12/2018 at 13:05
Additionally, keep your trigger hand off the gun completely and only contact the pad of the finger used to pull the trigger.  A few deep breaths, exhale fully before squeezing. Work on natural point of aim so you move the gun less.

And lower the magnification a bit, stupid as it sounds, it helps.

Freedom is something you take.
Respect is something you earn.
Equality is something you whine about not being given.

Posted By: 3_tens
Date Posted: January/12/2018 at 15:47
Using a rear squeeze bag has helped me a lot.

Folks ain't got a sense of humor no more. They don't laugh they just get sore.

Need to follow the rules. Just hard to determine which set of rules to follow
Now the rules have changed again.

Posted By: jonoMT
Date Posted: January/12/2018 at 15:51
To add just a bit to the excellent advice given so far, don't stop breathing. Try to time your shot just as you've fully exhaled. And to find your natural point of aim: Aim through the scope at a target, close your eyes for a second and then see if your aim has moved off the target. Adjust the rifle hold accordingly, e.g. if the aim is now 2" above the target, try holding 2" lower than the target and repeat the steps again.

My preferred practice positions are kneeling or sitting. Shooting offhand is tough without a brace of some kind. Shooting prone often doesn't work because the grass around here is too tall or deadfall is in the way.

Reaction time is a factor...

Posted By: supertool73
Date Posted: January/12/2018 at 16:32
Originally posted by Rancid Coolaid Rancid Coolaid wrote:

Work on natural point of aim so you move the gun less.

That's huge and that only comes with lots and lots of dry practice.  If you can learn to fall right into your natural point of aim in the multiple positions you may shoot from it will make a world of diff.  No more trying to muscle the gun around to where you want it, it is just there.  Its not always easy to get that, but if you can it helps a ton.  Move your body to change adjust your natural point of aim, don't muscle the gun around

Also with breathing I have been taught to not do the big breath and hold in or out etc.  I was taught to just breath normal and shoot in the natural pause between breaths whether it is an in or out breath.  That has always worked well for me and helped me as then I am not focusing on breathing but on the putting the bullet where I want it.  But as with all things, you just gotta find what works best for you as there is always more than one way to skin a cat

Lifetime warranty and excellent customer service don't mean a thing when your gun fails during a zombie attack.

"A Liberal is a person who will give away everything they don't own."

Posted By: anweis
Date Posted: January/12/2018 at 21:06
this thread needs to be made a sticky because it has more good advice in a single place than half of the internet combined.

Posted By: cheaptrick
Date Posted: January/13/2018 at 03:52
Great advise all. 

As ST indicated, dry firing has helped me more than I can state. 

Have you considered a shooting aid style sling? I have a T.A.B. sling and I love it for off hand shooting.

Good luck!       

If at first you don't secede...try..try again.

Posted By: Rancid Coolaid
Date Posted: January/13/2018 at 12:40
Originally posted by supertool73 supertool73 wrote:

 That has always worked well for me and helped me as then I am not focusing on breathing but on the putting the bullet where I want it.  But as with all things, you just gotta find what works best for you as there is always more than one way to skin a cat

To that exact point: I concentrate on a pre-shot routine rather than on the shot itself, because it keeps me from overthinking things.

And when we say "natural point of aim" that means where the sights sit when you put no muscle into it (relaxed, the muzzle will drift to a resting position.)  When you find it, DO NOT use muscle to put it back on target, alter your position.  I shoot a fair bit prone, so it works like this: if the muzzle falls high, move your core shooting position forward and the muzzle will drop.  If you are left of target, move your core shooting position left and the muzzle will move right.

Once on target, you should be able to close your eyes, take 2 comfortable breaths, exhale fully, open your eyes, and have almost no drift from perfect center mass.  If you have moved significantly, pay attention to where the gun is now aimed - because you just found your natural point of aim for that position.

And, as said above, dry fire practice will help immensely.

Freedom is something you take.
Respect is something you earn.
Equality is something you whine about not being given.

Posted By: JLud
Date Posted: January/13/2018 at 14:11
I would do all of the above...while winded. I think that simulates quite a bit better and helps to not forget all you practiced the moment you are tired or short of breath. You make mistakes when tired or frazzled...train in that environment of possible.

That thing on the old ride, some days I miss her.

Posted By: urbaneruralite
Date Posted: January/14/2018 at 12:07
If you can hold your body perfectly still, you will still be moved by your heartbeat. Shots must be broken before the reticle passes over the point of aim so that the bullet leaves the barrel while on target. Not seeing this from the bench is due to the sandbags. By using bags, you remove the human body from the system by some degree. In the field you add it back. The level of precision the system is capable of is made less due to the arc of movement introduced by heartbeats. You might have a sub-MOA rifle, but you have a greater than sub-MOA system.

I fight this when trying to headshoot a sq. before it timbers out. Usually, my heart rate is elevated due to covering uneven ground quickly to get to the dog before the sq. makes it to a hole. I get a rest, watch the reticle go over the POA on the head and break the shot on the next go 'round. Using a lower magnification scope helps smooth out the waggle and make this easier to process. I can do this also with Patridge sights on a revolver. I have terrible eyes and shaky hands. The point is this comes down to technique and timing rather than magnification. 

You might say that you'll combat this with rests, etc. That can work for your movement. But what about a moving animal? Those tend to go up in down in a wave. You gotta time things and bring them together.

Posted By: Sgt. D
Date Posted: January/14/2018 at 14:46

Covered very well though I feel it may be helpful to note. When your target is "alive" and subject to move messing with your breathing can cause unnecessary issues. As prescribed already, practice dropping into the shot on que (and that in various types of rests), practice your shots with minimal grip and pressure on the rifle (enough not to get an eye tag but enough to keep on target) and breath thru the shot. If your conscious of your breathing you may be over gripping the rifle. Learn your trigger. Whether it is 6oz or 4lbs know when it will break. Then you can load up on the wall and the rhythm of the shot will tell you when to break it. One thing I use to do before I wrecked this body so bad was, I'd do 20 to 40 pushups before I left the house. This gave my upper body a good working blood flow for a couple hours and I noticed I was much more steady on the rifle or bow what ever the case may have been. Little things can make or break any good plan. But practicing good habits does pay off.

This has been a good topic for me. It is a reminder to reinforce the basics, some I have let slip and intend to correct.


Take care of Soldiers, Show em how its done and do it with em, Run to the Fight & and hold your ground! I die my men go home! If you're a NCO and this ain't you. GET OUT! GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Posted By: 338LAPUASLAP
Date Posted: January/15/2018 at 14:40
Start shooting and anticipate the up and down of your diaphragm.  
Don't fight it get used to it. It is repeatable and predictable and will keep you on target.
When you learn to shoot under-fire or winded you learn to pull off shots with the ebb and flow so to speak stop fighting it have that be a part of your routine.

No one

Posted By: Lockjaw
Date Posted: January/16/2018 at 11:04
Ok that helps, my issue seems to be more off some sort of rest, ie out the window of the shooting house. From my tree stand, I usually set my elbow on the front of it, or side, depending.

And you would think the tree stand might be worse, because of the wind blowing... but nope. 

I was hoping my 700 AAC-SD was going to be my everyday gun, which I think would help, I have 5 different ones I hunt with. NOrmally take the 270 for anything where there can be a long shot, and the shorter guns for tree stand. 

Posted By: Alan Robertson
Date Posted: January/19/2018 at 15:34
One thing that might be helpful is to learn to breathe with you diaphragm, rather than with your upper chest area, which is the more typical adult way of breathing.

Here's a good video on the subject by Dr. Belisa Vranich:


"Garg'n uair dhuisgear"

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