Shooting is an act of ejecting bullets from a gun by any individual. It is also a very fun act that many people enjoy! There is good and bad stigma with the term shooting but it has many positives. It is an effective remedy for stress, coordination and balance training, and it boosts self-confidence. For these to effectively work, you must first know how to shoot a rifle.


How To Shoot A Rifle – Understanding 8 Basic Rifle Marksmanship Skills

These skills listed below are not only for understanding how to shoot a rifle. Most of these same fundamentals can be applied to shoot a pistol effectively as well.


Shooting Stance


Rifle Standing Stance Rifle Sitting Stance rifle prone position

Stance is the foremost, most important and primary essential of shooting a rifle. Let’s just say if your shooting stance is poor, all other shooting fundamentals will suffer with it. Having a proper stance allows better visibility of a distant or moving target to take an accurate shot.

There are four widely used and effective positions:

  • Prone. Most stable and accurate shooting stance hence considered best of all. It is mostly used for long distance targets with a good view for an ethical shot. Lay down on your stomach straight behind the rifle. Pull the butt of the rifle into your shoulder pocket. Should be next to your dominant hand with the fingers of the dominant hand near the trigger. Keep the other hand below the fore-end of the rifle, supporting it.
  • Standing. The fastest yet the least stable position. This gives maximum vision to the shooter and is the best for shooting in close range. Lacking support, it is mostly used for rapid shots towards nearby moving targets. The accuracy is less compared to prone. Your strong leg at the back (preferred) supporting the body while the rifle is pulled at the shoulder of your dominant side. The weak hand under the fore-end of the rifle, supporting it.
    TIP: Increase standing stability by getting support from leaning on objects like trees and buildings.
  • Kneeling: You get vision, stability and speed in this position. This makes it a very easy and effective position. It is good for both short and long-range shots. The knee of the strong leg is placed on the ground. The elbow of the forward hand, placed on the knee of the other leg supporting the rifle. The butt of the rifle is placed in the shoulder next to the strong arm.
  • Sitting: This is also suitable for beginners because of its steady nature and good sight. There are many types of sitting positions but the crossed legs is common. If used properly, it’s as stable as the prone position and perfect for shooting long-range. Sit cross-legged with both your elbows on your thighs. The butt of the rifle in the shoulder next to the dominant hand. Your weak hand on the fore-end of the rifle, supporting it.


Natural Point of Aim (NPOA)

The Natural Point of Aim is the point the rifle will naturally aim at when you assume your stance, set the rifle and look through the scope. It is also the concept of moving the body in its entirety and not relying on muscular movements for stability and precision of shooting.

  • Useful for firing more than one shot, improving accuracy and precision. It discourages the movement of arms and bringing muscles into play that compromises stance.
  • Every position has a natural spot it aims at.
  • You may need to readjust your whole body to aim at the target better. Example: Sitting cross-legged aiming at a bird, it moves slightly from its place. Readjust your whole-body position, not just your arms.


How to Hold A Rifle – Grip

How to Hold A Rifle

How do you hold a rifle? Effective grip is the area where you hold the rifle while in the shooting stance.

  • Mostly the middle portion connecting the butt with the fore-end of the rifle. The grips are of rough nature to increase the firmness of the hold on the rifle. Grips vary from rifle to rifle, common ones are straight, or english stock or grip stock etc.
  • The firing grip method: Squeeze the rifle grip till your hand shakes then back off a bit until you have a perfect pressure.
  • Tips: Your firing hand should be your dominant hand. Your firing hand should not be supporting the weight of the rifle.


Rifle Sight Alignment

how to shoot a rifle



It is the process of aligning the sight with the target you want to shoot. Proper sight alignment is critical if you are learning how to shoot a rifle. We use our dominant/master eye for sight alignment.

  • 2 sights in a rifle, the rear sight and the front sight.
  • The sight radius is the distance between the two sights.
  • The front sight should be placed between the rear sights and centered. Your goal should be to place the front sight as perfectly even between the rear sights as possible. The tops of the rear and front sights should be aligned.
  • Tip: Once the sights are perfect, you have to keep them that way as you pull the trigger.


Sight Picture

Rifle Sight Picture

The image of the target in the sight is called the sight picture. You must align the sights with the target you want to strike.

  • The image that you get looking through the sights is the sight picture.
  • The front sight post should be centered between the rear sight post.
  • Aim at center mass of target.
  • Once both front and rear sights are aligned and set on target, focus on the front sight post. Focusing on the front sight post will cause everything else, including the target, to become blurry.



Ever zero your weapon on paper targets and notice elevation changes within your shot group?

The horizontal differences in your shots are caused by breathing.


Paper target with bullet holes

Breathing consistency is very important for precise shooting. When we breathe, our sights move up and down.

  • Hold breath. People think the solution is to hold their breath but this isn’t the case. Deficiency of oxygen can blur your vision; the longer you hold your breath, the worse it will get.
  • Natural Respiratory Pause. Based on research and expert opinion the best solution is to fire during the natural respiratory pause. When you breathe in and out, your body naturally expels the air. The point before you breath back in is the natural respiratory pause.
  • When firing, take a natural breath and let the air out. That moment is the time for you take a shot.
  • Make sure you have the previously discussed fundamentals in place before you fire.
  • Remember to take the shot within a few seconds of the exhalation of air.


Rifle Trigger Squeeze

Rifle trigger squeeze

The trigger activates/initiates the firing sequence of a firearm. Pressing the trigger without moving the rifle is a very important fundamental. A poor trigger squeeze can ultimately ruin your whole shot. This ability can be learned and polished through dryfiring.

  • You will need to have correct trigger adjustment to exercise trigger control. Many people like to have free movement in the trigger while others go for ones with over-travel stops. This depends on the taste and comfort of shooters.
  • Finger placement. The placement of the finger is important on the trigger. Some people use the middle of their index finger while many use the tip of the index finger.
  • Regardless of finger position, you must learn to pull the trigger straight back. Many beginners might put sideways pressure on squeezing the trigger without knowing it. This would result in a slight rifle movement which will throw off the shot.
  • Hand Position: The thumb and the index finger works as a team. When we move the index finger the thumb moves. The thumb is used as a grip and if it moves while we pull the trigger the thumb will move the rifle. It is ideal to press the trigger with the tip of trigger finger because it minimizes the movement of the thumb.


Follow Through

Follow through is maintaining the sight picture through keeping the grip while the trigger resets after you fire a shot.

  • After you pull the trigger and the shot fires, slowly release the trigger squeeze. This allows the trigger to steadily come back to its starting position and reset. This practice will also help you keep your finger positioned on the trigger.
  • When you pull the trigger, the bullet fires from the barrel causing vibration and movement in the rifle. Concentrate on holding the sight picture through firing even though the sight may jump in the recoil process. This ensures you are ready to go for the next shot.


Bonus Rifle Shooting Tips

If you’ve followed this far, that means you’re very interested in learning about how to shoot a rifle! Below, I have included some tips for beginners mostly for situational awareness.

Get to know your rifle. Read up on your rifle make and model. Understand how the rifle operates and functions. Treat it like a companion. Try it in different environments and conditions with different ammunition. Don’t forget its limitations.

Position. You will have to try many positions before you know which fits you better and would groom you as a shooter. Most of the people use prone with the support from ground and the stability it provides. It is the easiest position for beginners.

Bullets. Different bullet calibers have different bullet weights. Lighter bullets will shoot faster and be flatter than heavy bullets even if both have a similar shape like a spiral point. While there are bullet variances to a degree, they won’t have a notable effect on target on shooting your rifle. Bullets only become a bigger factor when hunting game. This info was here just for situational awareness.

Stay calm. You need to stay calm while using the rifle and aiming for a target. Take deep breaths before you shoot. Get your mind right! You are just learning to shoot and shouldn’t take it so serious. If your shots are off, you start to get frustrated.

Rifle scope. If you use plan to use a rifle scope, it will play a major role in sight alignment and sight picture. It is critical to ensure you buy a quality scope. Above all, going for cheap and low quality equipment will not only affect the accuracy but affect your shooting skills.

Targets. Use traditional paper targets when zeroing to see the results when you are done. Seeing results after shooting boosts self-confidence and improves your skills. Splatter targets are very fun for visual use as well! For longer range shooting, metallic targets or metal targets that make noise give immediate feedback. This is a great way to know if you are accurate.

Don’t aim with one eye. New shooters usually try to aim with one eye closed. Holding one eye closed will affect your vision and focus will minimize. If shooting for long periods, it will also cause rapid eye fatigue.

1000 rounds down range. Once you get your new rifle, you should begin the break in period. Shooting 1000 rounds at the range gives two benefits. One, you will start to learn muscle memory and become slightly proficient with the weapon. In addition, if you shoot these 1000 rounds and have no malfunctions, you can be confident that you have a great firearm. It is important to put your gun to the test as soon as possible!

Clean the rifle. You need to clean the rifle. After the 1000 round break in period, it would be due for a good cleaning. Additionally, there will be occasions when you need to clean your weapon each time after use. Shooting corrosive ammo or if the gun is subjected to moisture or additional damaging components. Clean your rifle as quickly as you can. Salts, dust, dirt, and corrosive ammunition can all contribute to corrosion, rust, additional wear and tear. This could bring early failure or malfunction to the rifle.

Practice Gun Safety! Your firearm should be treated as if it’s loaded. Do NOT point your weapon at anyone or anything that you wouldn’t want to shoot. Practice muzzle awareness. If your firearm ever experiences a malfunction, clear the weapon before attempting to analyze the problem. If you have a runaway gun (continuous firing), keep the firearm pointed downrange and let it fire the remaining ammo. Also, do not attempt to stop it while its firing.


Wrapping Up

I hope this article was very helpful for anyone learning how to shoot a rifle. Understanding these marksman concepts are important and will take practice. Mastery comes with time, practice and experience but basic knowledge is essential before you plan to shoot rounds. Before engage in shooting, make sure you know about the rifle and its limitations. Safety should be the number one priority and consistently practiced everywhere.