It happens to every hunter. Maybe you’re still new to shooting and you just can’t seem to make the improvements you want, or maybe you’re an old pro who has started to miss shots that you know you should have made. Even if you’re a great shot, have you hit a plateau in your training? No matter what level you’re at, there is always room for improvement. Copper Ridge wants to help you keep getting better, which is why we offer a variety of targets and mounting options to be used with both handguns and rifles. Find the right target for your shooting practice and use these tips to keep improving your aim.
Get Back to the Basics
1. Practice with Focus
Get the most out of your training sessions — slow down and pay attention. Try calling your shots so you become more attuned to how you’re shooting. If there is a wide spread in your groupings that you can’t explain, you may be flinching or being too rough with your trigger squeeze. Watch for mistakes that may cause your rifle to bounce or pull to one side. If you end your practice and there is a target full of holes you can’t explain, that means you didn’t learn anything. In the end, a bad practice session just leads to bad habits and wasted ammunition. You also need to know when a practice session isn’t going to be useful — if you’re too tired from work to focus, don’t bother practicing
2. Focus on the Proper Trigger Pull
When we say get back to the basics, we mean it! A bad trigger pull can ruin your shot, and if you haven’t been paying attention, you might have built up bad habits. When you first started hunting, you were probably told that the show will surprise you. It shouldn’t anymore. You should know exactly where the trigger will break and you should know exactly how much pressure gets you there. Remember to squeeze instead of yank, and learn – or relearn – how to take up all the slack to reach the breaking point. Practice pulling the trigger straight back without moving or losing your sight alignment.
3. Remember to Follow Through
Some days, it’s more than tempting to look up and admire a shot you just made. Don’t. Pulling away can affect the bullet’s path, which is why follow through is key to a good shot. Visualize every step of your shot, choose a specific point rather than a general area to target, and stay with your rifle until impact. You’re not done until the bullet hits your target.
Don’t Get Bored
4. Practice Different Positions
If you do the same thing over and over for a training routine, you’re going to become complacent. If your shooting isn’t getting any better, this is probably why. Make sure you change up your training and practice different ways of firing. Using a shooting bench is the perfect way to practice your aim instead of your ability to hold your gun steady, but you won’t always be able to brace your rifle when hunting. Practice all the ways you might shoot in the field – prone, sitting, kneeling, squatting, and off-hand – so that you can get each position right.
5. Practice Dry-Firing
Dry-firing may be boring, but it will save you ammo, you can practice at home, and it’s an important part of improving your aim. Do you flinch when you shoot? Here’s how you find out. Dry-firing lets you practice without the noise and recoil of live firing, so you can train yourself to stop flinching and learn muscle memory for proper trigger control. It’s also a good opportunity to perfect pulling the trigger without disturbing your sight picture. A few words of warning, though: you need to double and triple-check that there is no ammunition in your gun before you try dry-firing. If you’re practicing in your home, you should also warn your family what you’ll be doing so they don’t walk through the door and look down the barrel of a gun. If you have nosy or suspicious neighbors, it might be wise to avoid windows, too.
6. Practice with a Buddy
A good way to make sure you keep challenging yourself is to train with a partner. One advantage is that you will be able to practice different scenarios. It will also introduce some (hopefully) friendly competition into your training and keep you on your toes. Your partner might also be able to see things you don’t notice and offer suggestions to help you improve.
Make Good Decisions in the Field
7. Understand Your Limits
When you’re out hunting, your gear can only help you so much. Your maximum effective range is still heavily dependent on the weather, the distance to your target, and, of course, your marksmanship. If you want to make a good shot, be honest with yourself. Pay attention to the conditions and know what you can and can’t do. Only take the shots you are confident you can make.
8. Wait for the Right Moment
It’s easy to get caught in the heat of the moment, but try to keep your head on straight. Stay focused and slow down. Can you get closer? Is this really the best position? Will you get a better presentation if you wait a minute or two? Try to get into the position you feel most comfortable in and have practiced the most. Wait for your rifle to settle so there will be as little movement as possible.
9. Narrow Your Target and Stay Calm
Don’t forget to breathe — if you hold your breath too long, your heart rate will climb and it will become harder and harder to stand still. You should also keep in mind the phrase “aim small, miss small.” Big game like elk or moose offer a large target, but you should choose a specific spot on their ribs or shoulder. Focus on your sight picture and remember what you practiced in training, like the perfect trigger pull. Stay with your rifle and follow through.
This article is not the end-all, be-all of advice on how to improve your aim, but we hope we’ve offered you a good start. Make every shot count, even the ones you make in practice, and strive to get better with every training session. Copper Ridge offers steel plate targets in several shapes and sizes as well as metal target stands and mounting equipment to help you set up a shooting range customized to you. Start improving your technique today and browse our collection of hunting targets!