Guest Post: Top 5 Shooting Tips – Become An Expert Marksman

When I was just a young Corporal in the Marines, I had the opportunity to serve as a shooting coach on Camp Pendleton. I was a coach on the rifle range and was later put in charge of the pistol range after only a few months of coaching.

I was the guy who ran the pistol range during the Navy/Marine Corps pistol matches that year.

It was an amazing thing to see how skillful some of these Veterans had become with the 1911 pistol.

Let’s just say that I picked up a thing or two from these old salty dogs, and today I’m here to share the top 5 shootings tips that I picked up while training with these experts.


There is nothing worse for a shooter than the distractions encountered while training. The cramp in your leg, the strain in your eye, the cold that makes your muscles tense up. These are just a few examples of the many distractions that should be avoided on the shooting range. With that said, before you take any shot from your weapon make sure that you are completely comfortable. Once the shooting position is assumed, try to relax and position yourself in a way that provides the most stability to you. Many times instructors will tell you to stand a certain way and hold the weapon a certain way. Although they may be technically correct, these positions are not perfect for every shooter. It is up to the shooter to define their style. Once you have defined your position, remember it! It should become muscle memory to the point where you stand exactly the same way every single time. Relax your muscles as much as possible and only use the ones required to take the shot. Certain shooting positions allow you to use your skeleton as a way to support your weapon. Utilizing your bone structure to stabilize is preferred over controlling the weapon with your muscles. Below is a list of some things to keep in mind when it comes to comfort.

  • Clothing – Wear the proper clothing for the climate you will be training in.
  • Gloves – Wearing leather shooting gloves and inserts is key. Every time your heart beats it pumps a surge of blood through your body including your arms, hands, and fingers. The surge is strong enough to be felt and physically noticeable when looking down the sights of your weapon. Anytime your heart pumps you may notice a slight rise and fall of the sights. Putting gloves on your hands minimizes the slight movement caused by your heart beats. The slightest movement will change your shots by inches downrange…
  • Eye Patch – Wear some type of cover or eye patch over your non shooting eye. Closing your eye all day will cause stress and strain in your eyes. As the day goes on your shots may start to get worse. It is better to keep both eyes open. A simple eye cover can be constructed by cutting cardboard off your ammo boxes and taping them onto the inside of your shooting glasses.
  • Ear Protection – Always go with double ear protection, it keeps you from going deaf, and will allow you to focus on the shot. It can be distracting to hear another shooter unload a bunch of rounds, right before you take your shot.

Sight Picture and Alignment

In my example below I will be demonstrating with the iron sights of the M-16 rifle. The example below is what your sights should look like when aiming in. Approximate the distance of the sights from all sides and center them perfectly. Now that you have the proper alignment, remember to always focus your eyes on the front sight. The front sight should be completely clear and focused and the target should be blurry in the background. Once again, always stare at the tip of the front sight. Alright, now we have perfect sight and picture alignment. While staring at your front sight, position the tip perfectly over the target, cutting it in half vertically and horizontally… Fire! This technique should be practiced frequently. Burn the image of a perfect alignment in your brain and execute it exactly the same way every single time.
sight picture and alignment
Sight picture and alignment


As you prepare to take your shot take deep and even breaths. As you acquire perfect sight and picture alignment, establish a breathing pattern. Notice how everything moves as your breathe in and out. Your body will be most stable at the end of your exhale. This is precisely when you should squeeze the trigger. Breathe in, aim, breathe out, breathe in, aim, breathe out, fire… If you start to feel tired, take a break and repeat in the exact same way again. You should not hold up the weapon for an extended period of time. Your muscles will begin to fatigue and your stability will begin to decline.

Trigger Control

This is the single and most important skill to master when it comes to shooting. Even the slightest jerk or movement in your trigger squeeze will ruin a shot. Apply steady and even pressure to the trigger, remove as much slack as the weapon allows. Slowly, literally 1mm at a time, start squeezing. Slowly… use your trigger finger only, do not squeeze your hand. Absolutely do not anticipate the recoil, do not try to fight it, when the shot cracks, one thought should go through your head, “I was not expecting that.” When the shot goes off, it should surprise you. Meaning you did not anticipate when the shot would happen. A great way to find out if you are anticipating the recoil prior to your shot is to load a few dummy rounds into the magazine. Have a buddy load them so you won’t be expecting them. If you master the technique, when the dummy round is chambered, and you squeeze the trigger, the weapon will not move. Be like a stone…

Dry Fire

Dry fire is a great way to improve your accuracy. Practice all the tips given here when you dry fire. Take it seriously and focus on your trigger squeeze. Chances are that when you dry fire you will not notice any anticipation or jerking. How perfect would it be if you fired your next shot exactly how you just practiced? That is exactly what you must train your body and mind to do. When the live rounds are in your weapon you must fire as if there are no rounds. Every shot must be taken exactly the same way. When you dry fire you are creating the muscle memory needed to perfect your skill. When I teach Marines to dry fire they never seem to jerk the trigger, but once they go live and dummy rounds are in the mix, it is not surprising to see a crazy trigger squeeze resulting in a terrible shot. Do not anticipate…

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