Not going into excessive detail for advanced marksmanship, let me throw out some fundamentals for beginners; marksmanship not sniper-shooting-ship. Now that you’ve decided to get into prepping you’ve seen the advantages of firearms for defense of self and home; but how do you use that geared out AR-10 that feels so sexy in your hands?
In the army, as with most organizations that involve shooting there are four basic fundamentals: steady position, aiming, breath control, and trigger squeeze. The next bit of information is being pulled from the Army Study Guide, a non-government, privately-sponsored website. This guide is public information and contains invaluable survival information; and they draw their information direct from the Field Manuals, Army Regulations, and Training Doctrine.
If you are interested in more advanced marksmanship then I would recommend studying basic rifle marksmanship within the USMC Doctrine. My brother is former army who changed branch of service to the Marines; one of the training differences that impressed him most was the marksmanship training. He had always felt only mildly efficient but now say he has become a very effective shot. Ask you Marine buddy. I love the Army, but I respect a good system when I see one.
The photo is my Bro and some of his squad getting ready for a night patrol in Baghdad; my Bro is the M249 Gunner on the far right. also, this info is primarily written with a M4/M16 in mind, but still apply.
Four Fundamentals of Marksmanship
The soldier must understand and apply the four key fundamentals before he approaches the firing line. He must establish a steady position allowing observation of the target. He must aim the rifle at the target by aligning the sight system, and fire the rifle without disturbing this alignment by improper breathing or during trigger squeeze. These skills are known collectively as the four fundamentals. Applying these four fundamentals rapidly and consistently is the integrated act of firing.
Steady Position. When the soldier approaches the firing line, he should assume a comfortable, steady firing position. The time and supervision each soldier has on the firing line are limited. He must learn how to establish a steady position during integrated act of dry-fire training. The firer is the best judge of the quality of his position. If he can hold the front sight post steady through the fall of the hammer, he has a good position. The steady position elements are as follows.
Nonfiring Handgrip. The rifle hand guard rests on the heel of the hand in the V formed by the thumb and fingers. The grip of the non-firing hand is light.
Rifle Butt Position. The butt of the rifle is placed in the pocket of the firing shoulder. This reduces the effect of recoil and helps ensure a steady position.
Firing Handgrip. The firing hand grasps the pistol grip so it fits the V formed by the thumb and forefinger. The forefinger is placed on the trigger so the lay of the rifle is not disturbed when the trigger is squeezed. A slight rearward pressure is exerted by the remaining three fingers to ensure that the butt of the stock remains in the pocket of the shoulder, minimizing the effect of recoil.
Firing Elbow Placement. The firing elbow is important in providing balance. Its exact location depends on the firing/fighting position used. Placement should allow shoulders to remain level.
Nonfiring Elbow. The non-firing elbow is positioned firmly under the rifle to allow a comfortable and stable position. When the soldier engages a wide sector of fire, moving targets, and targets at various elevations, his non-firing elbow should remain free from support.
Cheek-to-Stock Weld. The stock weld should provide a natural line of sight through the center of the rear sight aperture to the front sight post and on to the target. The firer’s neck should be relaxed, allowing his cheek to fall naturally onto the stock. Through dry-fire training, the soldier practices this position until he assumes the same cheek-to-stock weld each time he assumes a given position, which provides consistency in aiming. Proper eye relief is obtained when a soldier establishes a good cheek-to-stock weld. A small change in eye relief normally occurs each time that the firer assumes a different firing position. The soldier should begin by trying to touch the charging handle with his nose when assuming a firing position. This will aid the soldier in maintaining the same cheek-to-stock weld hold each time the weapon is aimed. The soldier should be mindful of how the nose touches the charging handle and should be consistent when doing so. This should be critiqued and reinforced during dry-fire training.
Support. When artificial support (sandbags, logs, stumps) is available, it should be used to steady the position and support the rifle. If it is not available, then the bones, not the muscles, in the firer’s upper body must support the rifle.
Muscle Relaxation. If support is used properly, the soldier should be able to relax most of his muscles. Using artificial support or bones in the upper body as support allows him to relax and settle into position. Using muscles to support the rifle can cause it to move due to muscle fatigue.
Natural Point of Aim. When the soldier first assumes his firing position, he orients his rifle in the general direction of his target. Then he adjusts his body to bring the rifle and sights exactly in line with the desired aiming point. When using proper support and consistent cheek to stock weld the soldier should have his rifle and sights aligned naturally on the target. When correct body-rifle-target alignment is achieved, the front sight post must be held on target, using muscular support and effort. As the rifle fires, muscles tend to relax, causing the front sight to move away from the target toward the natural point of aim. Adjusting this point to the desired point of aim eliminates this movement. When multiple target exposures are expected (or a sector of fire must be covered), the soldier adjusts his natural point of aim to the center of the expected target exposure area (or center of sector).
Aiming. Having mastered the task of holding the rifle steady, the soldier must align the rifle with the target in exactly the same way for each firing. The firer is the final judge as to where his eye is focused. The instructor or trainer emphasizes this point by having the firer focus on the target and then focus back on the front sight post. He checks the position of the firing eye to ensure it is in line with the rear sight aperture.
Rifle Sight Alignment. Alignment of the rifle with the target is critical. It involves placing the tip of the front sight post in the center of the rear sight aperture. Any alignment error between the front and rear sights repeats itself for every 1/2 meter the bullet travels. For example, at the 25-meter line, any error in rifle alignment is multiplied 50 times. If the bullet is misaligned by 1/10 inch, it causes a target at 300 meters to be missed by 5 feet.
Correct Sight Alignment
Focus of the Eye. A proper firing position places the eye directly in line with the center of the rear sight aperture. When the eye is focused on the front sight post, the natural ability of the eye to center objects in a circle and to seek the point of greatest light (center of the aperture) aid in providing correct sight alignment. For the average soldier firing at combat-type targets, the natural ability of the eye can accurately align the sights. Therefore, the firer can place the tip of the front sight post on the aiming point, but the eye must be focused on the tip of the front sight post. This causes the target to appear blurry, while the front sight post is seen clearly. Two reasons for focusing on the front sight post are:
Only a minor aiming error should occur since the error reflects only as much as the soldier fails to determine the target center. A greater aiming error can result if the front sight post is blurry due to focusing on the target or other objects.
Focusing on the tip of the front sight post aids the firer in maintaining proper sight alignment.
Sight Picture. Once the soldier can correctly align his sights, he can obtain a sight picture. A correct sight picture has the target, front sight post, and rear sight aligned. The sight picture includes two basic elements: sight alignment and placement of the aiming point.
Placement of the aiming point varies, depending on the engagement range. For example, the figure below shows a silhouette at 300 meters where the aiming point is the center of mass, and the sights are aligned for a correct sight picture.
Correct Sight Picture
A technique to obtain a good sight picture is the side aiming technique. It involves positioning the front sight post to the side of the target in line with the vertical center of mass, keeping the sights aligned. The front sight post is moved horizontally until the target is directly centered on the front sight post.
Side Aiming Technique
Front Sight. The front sight post is vital to proper firing and should be replaced when damaged. The post should be blackened anytime it is shiny since precise focusing on the tip of the front sight post cannot be done otherwise.
Aiming Practice. Aiming practice is conducted before firing live rounds. During day firing, the soldier should practice sight alignment and placement of the aiming point. Using training aids such as the M15A1 aiming card can do this.
Breath Control. As the firer’s skills improve and as timed or multiple targets are presented, he must learn to control his breath at any part of the breathing cycle. Two types of breath control techniques are practiced during dry fire. The coach/trainer ensures that the firer uses two breathing techniques and understands them by instructing him to exaggerate his breathing. The firer must be aware of the rifle’s movement (while sighted on a target) as a result of breathing.
The first technique is used during zeroing (and when time is available to fire a shot). There is a moment of natural respiratory pause while breathing when most of the air has been exhaled from the lungs and before inhaling. Breathing should stop after most of the air has been exhaled during the normal breathing cycle. The shot must be fired before the soldier feels any discomfort.
Breath Control for Engaging Single Targets
The second breath control technique is employed during rapid fire (short-exposure targets). Using this technique, the soldier stops his breath when he is about to squeeze the trigger.
Breath Control while Engagement of Short-Exposure Targets
Trigger Squeeze. A novice firer can learn to place the rifle in a steady position and to correctly aim at the target if he follows the basic principles. If the trigger is not properly squeezed, the rifle will be misaligned with the target at the moment of firing.
Rifle Movement. Trigger squeeze is important for two reasons: First, any sudden movement of the finger on the trigger can disturb the lay of the rifle and cause the shot to miss the target. Second, the precise instant of firing should be a surprise to the soldier. The soldier’s natural reflex to compensate for the noise and slight punch in the shoulder can cause him to miss the target if he knows the exact instant the rifle will fire. The soldier usually tenses his shoulders when expecting the rifle to fire. It is difficult to detect since he does not realize he is flinching. When the hammer drops on a dummy round and does not fire, the soldier’s natural reflexes demonstrate that he is improperly squeezing the trigger.
Trigger Finger. The trigger finger (index finger on the firing hand) is placed on the trigger between the first joint and the tip of the finger (not the extreme end) and adjusted depending on hand size, grip, and so on. The trigger finger must squeeze the trigger to the rear so the hammer falls without disturbing the lay of the rifle. When a live round is fired, it is difficult to see what effect trigger pull had on the lay of the rifle. It is important to experiment with many finger positions during dry-fire training to ensure the hammer is falling with little disturbance to the aiming process.
As the firer’s skills increase with practice, he needs less time spent on trigger squeeze. Novice firers can take five seconds to perform an adequate trigger squeeze, but, as skills improve, he can squeeze the trigger in a second or less. The proper trigger squeeze should start with slight pressure on the trigger during the initial aiming process. The firer applies more pressure after the front sight post is steady on the target and he is holding his breath.
The coach/trainer observes the trigger squeeze, emphasizes the correct procedure, and checks the firer’s applied pressure. He places his finger on the trigger and has the firer squeeze the trigger by applying pressure to the coach/trainer’s finger. The coach/trainer ensures that the firer squeezes straight to the rear on the trigger avoiding a left or right twisting movement. The coach/trainer observes that the firer follows through and holds the trigger to the rear for approximately one second after the round has been fired. A steady position reduces disturbance of the rifle during trigger squeeze.
Wobble area is the movement of the front sight around the aiming point when the rifle is in the steadiest position. From an unsupported position, the firer experiences a greater wobble area than from a supported position. If the front sight strays from the target during the firing process, pressure on the trigger should be held constant and resumed as soon as sighting is corrected. The position must provide for the smallest possible wobble area. From a supported position, there should be minimal wobble area and little reason to detect movement. If movement of the rifle causes the front sight to leave the target, more practice is needed. The firer should never try to quickly squeeze the trigger while the sight is on the target. The best firing performance results when the trigger is squeezed continuously, and the rifle is fired without disturbing its lay.