.:Target Shooting Technique - Paul's Tips:.

Note: This page is a draft version and is not yet complete (25/03/2007)

As I mentioned in my main shooting page, one of my main interests is Target Shooting. I have been shooting weekly for over 16 years now and I am lucky enough to be a member of a club that is serious about shooting, in terms of a competitive environment (See my latest scores here look for Paul Richardson). For me, any sport I enter needs to be safe, fun and challenging. Unless I can demonstrate that I am progressing and that I am competitive, it isn't fun for me.

In order to help others, I have written a quick-reference guide that you can print out and take down the range. It has been broken down into sections, so that you can concentrate and work on each section. You will see that there is a lot of technique in shooting – it isn’t just point and shoot. You will have to learn and develop each step.

General Safety:

Please note that this is only a general guide. You must listen to the instruction of the range officer on any range you go to and any instruction that you are given there supersedes instructions given here. Every range is different, so you must understand and adhere to the safety rules and instruction on each range. If you are unsure of anything, ask a range officer.


The stance doesn’t just mean the position of your feet, it means your entire body


Most of the disciplines I shoot (e.g. Precision, Police Pistol 1 and Service Pistol B) require me to shoot standing up.



Common Error




Feet are too close together

Should be shoulder width apart, or slightly wider

A wide stance gives you a stable base.

If your feet are too close together, your body will sway.

Plus rifles are heavy, so a narrow stance will cause you to either lean back too far to compensate for the weight, or dip the barrel causing the shots to go low


Left foot on the shooting line with the right foot at 60 - 90 degrees behind (i.e. almost in a straight line behind the target and the left foot)

Left foot on the shooting line, pointing at around 5 degrees.

Right foot at around 45 degrees. If the range floor has square tiles, use those to judge the 45 degree position

With your feet in the correct position, you should be able to close your eyes and bring the rifle up – as you do, it should point right at the centre of the target.

If your right foot is too far over 45 degrees, your group will likely end up to the right of the aiming point.

If your right foot is too far below 45 degrees, your group will likely end up to the left of the aiming point


Not parallel

Should be parallel (not like a duck)

Provides stability and consistency



Any flat based shoe that you are comfortable wearing

Provides comfort and stability


Upper Body:


Common Error




Leaning backwards, in order to compensate for the weight of the rifle

Lean forwards slightly

Maintains balance, good posture, more stable and absorbs recoil


Twisting body due to incorrect foot position

No twisting

If the body is twisted, the position will revert to neutral as you shoot more rounds and get more tired, therefore your group will not be consistent




Common Error



Holding Breath

Breathing while shooting

Breath in fully just before you shoot, then let out 1/3rd of the breath, then hold it until after you have shot. This should feel comfortable

If you breath as you shoot, your chest will move, which will cause your aim to move




Common Error



Strong Hand

Hand position too far back and to the right

The V of your hand (between the thumb and index finger) should be in –line with the grip on the rifle.

The hand should also be as far forward on the grip as possible, while still being in a position to comfortably pull the trigger.

The technique is the same as holding a cricket bat or tennis racquet

Provides a consistent, centred hold on the rifle. It will also help place your strong arm into the correct position

Weak hand

Too far forward and the arm is not vertical

Under the front of the rifle, not too far forward.

There are various positions that it can go, but it should be comfortable and the forearm should be as vertical as possible (while still being comfortable)

The weak arm should support the weight of the rifle, whilst providing stability


Trigger Finger:

It is advised that a ‘trigger job’ is performed on your rifle by a professional gunsmith. This is where the moving parts of the trigger are polished and filed to make the action smoother and where necessary, the force needed to pull it lightened. This helps provide a smoother, lighter, more consistent pull which will help prevent ‘snatched’ shots. This usually costs around £50.
In addition, where necessary a trigger stop can be fitted to triggers. This reduces the amount of excess travel on the trigger once the trigger has released (i.e. the round has been fired). This also helps reduce snatching of shots and provides a shorter, quicker trigger pull (this is only really required on semi automatic rifles) and most people do not have this.


Common Error




Using the wrong part of the finger – usually the joint

Use the middle of the pad of your finger

Using the wrong part of your finger to pull the trigger will cause you to ‘snatch’ some shots to the left or right of the aiming point (usually the right)


Quick, sharp pull

Should be a smooth pull. Take up the slack in the trigger, then when it is time to shoot, gently apply pressure until the shot is fired. Ideally (when shooting slowly) it should be a surprise when it goes off

If the trigger is pulled quickly, it will cause the rifle to move off-aim. A gradual trigger pull is required for consistency


Follow Through:


Common Error



Follow Through

As soon as the shot is fired, the rifle is lowered

Just like in tennis where the racquet continues through the swing after the ball has been hit, the rifle should be kept on-aim for 1-2 seconds after the shot has been fired

If there is no follow through, the natural tendency is for the shooter to shoot and slightly lower or move the barrel at the same time. This causes an inconsistent group.

This is especially apparent in air pistols/rifles where it takes longer for the projectile to leave the barrel




Common Error




Head bent over to bring the dominant eye to the sights

The head should not be bent over too much.

Provides a straight and consistent group


Butt of Stock:

The butt of the stock needs to be positioned correctly in the shoulder, otherwise you will get an inconsistent group and recoil may not be absorbed correctly. In order to correct this, many rifles can be fitted with an aftermarket, adjustable but extension. This is recommended – especially as it can also be adjusted for different shooting positions (e.g. standing, kneeling and prone).


Common Error




Too low

Should be in the shoulder in the correct position (middle of shoulder)

Provides a consistent position, which means a consistent group and it will also help to absorb recoil


Too high

Should be in the shoulder in the correct position (middle of shoulder)

Provides a consistent position, which means a consistent group and it will also help to absorb recoil


Not in shoulder

Should be in the shoulder in the correct position (middle of shoulder)

Provides a consistent position, which means a consistent group and it will also help to absorb recoil




Common Error



Iron Sights (Blade)




Iron Sights (Peep)




Telescopic Sights

Closing the weak eye

Shoot with both eyes open, but concentrate more with the dominant eye

Closing the weak eye causes the dominant eye to squint slightly.

With the weak aye closed, the crosshairs may look out of focus, with both eyes open they will look sharp.

Both eyes open gives a wider field of view


The Shooting Process Described:

Shooting a Single Target:

Single Shot Quickly

Multiple Shots Quickly (Single Target)

Multiple Shots Quickly (Multiple Targets)

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