Precision and accuracy aren’t the same. Very simply, accuracy is a one-off deal ― a single point in the right place, one time. Precision is hitting the same point over and over within a given variance range.
In a manufacturing context, that means producing a product with the same specifications within, say, 1/100,000th of an inch. In the shooting world, precision means putting multiple rounds within as tight a group as possible. And, as in manufacturing, a slip in the process leading to the end product will have undesirable results. Tighten your process, and your end result will become more precise. With that in mind, you can improve your shooting by fine tuning your training philosophy to include a mindset geared toward precision rather than accuracy.
As you might guess, the most common problem points in the shooting process involve movement. When you move, the carefully cultivated stable shooting platform you built also moves. Unless you can re-index efficiently in a smooth, precise, and machine-like manner, you’ll miss your target just as quickly as you can pull the trigger.
Fundamentals of Marksmanship
Think being smooth, precise, and machine-like. There’s a reason Basic Rifle Marksmanship is the longest portion of military basic training programs. If you want to tighten up your shot group, start with your fundamentals.
Sight Picture/Sight Alignment
Are you bringing your weapon into alignment with your eyes or the other way around? You definitely want to bring your sights to your eye level.
If you’re using iron sights, are you aligning the front and rear sights to the same point every time, or are there subtle differences every time you bring your weapon into firing position? A 1/32-inch variance every time you re-aim can mean the difference between a 1/2-inch group and a 11/2-inch group at 25 meters. For ring and post sights, imagine a cross hair on the ring just like a scope; then put the tip of the front sight post on that imaginary cross. For leaf and post sights, align the tip of the front sight post with the top of the rear leaf to create the illusion of a single continuous piece of metal.
When you pick an aiming point on your target, are you aiming at the exact same point every time you squeeze the trigger, or are you pointing at a 2-inch circle on the target and jus’ kinda hopin’? Concentric ring targets are easy for this one. Aim at the center of the 10 ring. For silhouette targets, imagine a line running vertically from the top of the head to the bottom, dividing the target in half. Then imagine a horizontal line crossing the vertical in the center mass of the target, and aim for that crossing point.
If you’re shooting a weapon with a stock (in other words, a rifle or shotgun), are you bringing that buttstock to the same point on your face and in your shoulder every time? When shooting an AR frame with a forward assist, put your nose in contact with the forward assist and weld your cheekbone to the stock. If you don’t have a forward assist, again weld your cheekbone to the stock without stretching your head forward uncomfortably.
If you’re shooting a weapon without a stock (in other words, a pistol or shorty shotgun), are your arms coming to the same point every time? Imagine a smooth plane of glass connecting your eyes to the aiming point on the target, raise your weapon to that plane, and extend your arms forward to the point of your elbows barely being flexed.
If you’re in a two-point stance, look down. Align your toes to be pointed in the same direction both relative to each other and the target. Flex your knees in a good boxer’s stance with the toes of your dominant foot aligned with the instep of your nondominant foot.
When you grip your weapon with your trigger hand, assuming you’re using a pistol grip, which fingers are actually supporting the weapon? Your weapon should rest comfortably in the web between the thumb and forefinger of your firing hand, and the other three fingers should wrap lightly around the weapon’s grip. The same questions apply to a three-point stance or laying in the prone.
When you first learn to shoot, chances are you learned to inhale, exhale half way, hold your breath, and squeeze the trigger. It’s great. It works to steady your sight picture and calm your nerves. But the last time you were in a pressure situation, did you stop to think about whether you’d exhaled half way? Were you breathing too hard to think about holding your breath at all? Try firing at the peak of your inhale and the trough of your exhale, and you won’t have to worry about small details, and you’ll be able to focus on hitting your target. The peak and trough are natural pause points that lead to stable positions from which to fire.
Every shooting coach has a slightly different opinion about which part of your finger is best for making trigger contact. Try some different contact points, and figure out a way to make sure you’re able to quickly, smoothly, and precisely contact the exact same point every time.
Are you slapping the trigger with your finger, or do you have a method to bring the trigger sear to firing point the same way every time? Repeat the phrase “Sight, Slack, Squeeze” to yourself every time you pull the trigger. Acquire your sight picture, draw your trigger slack back to the point where you can feel the sear about to break, and then squeeze to release the sear.
Going back to your grip, when you pull the trigger, are your nonfiring fingers pulling your shot right or left? Just to illustrate, fire a series of 10 rounds with the bottom three fingers of your firing hand extended. For pistols, weld the thumb of your nonfiring hand to the thumb of your firing hand and wrap the fingers of your nonfiring hand around the pistol grip. For rifles, make sure your nonfiring hand is firmly supporting the weapon.
Spend some time on the range with each of your guns, take an observer with a video camera, and really break down each phase of your marksmanship fundamentals. Develop personal SOPs slowly, working from the mindset of smooth, precise, mechanical motion, and your accuracy ― and precision ― will naturally follow.
We’ve all seen that top-of-the-line premium sports car going 55 miles per hour in the left lane and wondered, “Why?!” RISE Armament produces some of the finest firearms in the world, but if your process and fundamentals aren’t equally clean and precise, you won’t get the maximum benefit from your weapons.