Five Tips for Better Rifle Marksmanship

Marksmanship is all about hitting the target and requires an understanding of the fundamentals and sometimes even some training by professionals. It also helps to have the right gear on hand.

We’ve gathered together some tried and true tips to help you select the best products to improve marksmanship.

Choose the Right Platform

With so many great rifles manufactured today, the right platform could come from almost anywhere. When choosing a rifle, select one that fits you and has the requisite features and accuracy for your intended purpose. The length, caliber and even weight of the rifle all depend on your activities.

If shooting from standing or intend to lug the firearm into the field, you may want a lightweight rifle. On the other hand, if you plan on entering the competitive shooting circuit, a heavier gun may be an advantage.


The right rifle helps shooters produce clean shots. Although a dated platform, don’t rule out legacy bolt-guns as being very capable shooters. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

Be it for hunting, target, or competition, it is important to have the proper length of pull, cheek weld, etc. so that you can handle and control it accurately. The rifle should be configured to provide proper sight alignment for the best sight picture as well.

Don’t hesitate to buy the stock now and upgrade as you go to spread the cost over the long-term. Keep in mind, you can always add aftermarket accessories to most firearms. The right platform is a comfortable one that shoots accurately while allowing you to aim and focus on the target.


Invest in a Solid Barrel and Trigger

Accuracy is typically measured in group sizes or patterns at a given distance. The smaller the pattern of shots, the more consistent the shooter and rifle are at aiming them. When accuracy is the goal, it’s wise to invest in a good barrel that is intended to aid the shooter in producing accurate shots.

In addition to putting some cash into a decent barrel, gun owners should also consider upgrading the trigger to one that breaks clean and consistent. Most quality rifles sold today have a decent trigger available but for those which aren’t quite up to par, there are plenty of aftermarket manufacturers with an improved replacement option.

Whether you opt for a single-stage or two-stage, light or heavier trigger, your ability to trip the sear without affecting the positioning of the rifle is what will bring better shots. The goal is to pull the trigger without impacting your sight pictures. Safe dry firing is an excellent way to test drive your trigger and determining whether more practice or an upgrade is required.

Whether you make simple adjustments for a more comfortable break, learn to use the trigger as is, or spring for an entirely new trigger system, make sure you are well practiced and familiar with how it operates.

Select the Right Ammunition

A rifle is no better than the ammunition that feeds it, so selecting loads optimized for the gun and activity is of particular importance. Not all munitions are created equal, and even the same brand of ammunition can see variances between models. Some shooters forego this issue by simply handloading their ammo, while others stick to specific lines or brands they know work.


Selecting the right ammunition lends itself to adequate shots on target –whether you’re chasing animals or paper. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

In marksmanship, consistency breeds accuracy, and ammo is key to this equation. When selecting loads, start with two or three options and test them out side-by-side to gauge results. Find the ammo that produces the best on paper results for the intended application and fits within your budget and run with it.

Setting aside time at the range to familiarize yourself with your preferred brand of ammo will help you expertly know what to expect from shots, how they perform in the elements, at distance, and on animals.


Grab an Optic

“You get what you pay for” rings true when it comes to budgeting and buying an optic for your platform. While there are many new and less expensive options available today, make sure you opt for something that can accomplish the job — whether that is to hold zero on a heavy magnum or offer repeatable elevation adjustments for long-range shooting.


A quality scope ensures that you can see your target and make the proper adjustments to land shots where you want them. (Photo: Jacki Billings/

A budget scope may work in the interim but long term it may not hold up. Not to mention, less expensive scope internals could shift under recoil or other force. Scopes or even open sights that aren’t properly secured are known to flex or even come off – an obvious impediment when to accuracy. For this reason, it is paramount to grab the best possible option when it comes to optics. A good scope often costs two to three times the rifle it is destined for, but any shooter will tell you that’s well worth the price.

While rifle scopes have long been the go-to for rifle optics, a large portion of modern rifles sport optical sights, such as telescoping sights or red dots. Whichever type you use, install it properly with robust mounts that are adequate for the recoil and duty. Much like the rifle, it should also fit you and your shooting needs.

A final reminder, don’t skimp on the optic!


Invest in Training

It’s worth pointing out that gun owners can grab the best equipment on the market, but it won’t do a bit of good if you don’t know how to properly use it. Understanding and implementing the basics like posture, breath control, trigger discipline, recoil management, and sighting will further accuracy and prevent human errors which can throw off even the best equipment.


Training will ultimately prevent bad habits, break any existing ones and help dial in those shots. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

Trigger control, using the pad of your finger versus the joint impacts the location of shots while breathing properly reduces the amount of movement as the trigger is broken. Additionally, shooters need to intimately understand the proper use of their chosen optics and learn how and when to adjust for come ups or wind values, not to mention requisite holds.

This is where training with a qualified instructor comes in handy. A professional will provide instructions on the fundamentals as well as how to properly integrate gear into the shooting scenario. Often, a few critiques and tips from a professional yield much better results than toiling away solo on the range trying to work it out yourself. The shooting sports industry offers many different training opportunities that can help you better your skills and employ them in your quest for marksmanship.

Final Thoughts

The most satisfying part of the marksmanship journey is finally gaining the confidence to hit what you choose to hit with a rifle setup that feels like an extension of you the shooter.

Apply yourself to the basics and make sure your equipment fits the task at hand and you’ll soon find yourself making better shots. Keep practicing and learn from every shot whether hit or a miss.

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