One Word That Will Make You A Better Marksman

One Word That Will Make You A Better Marksman

If you don't know how B.R.A.S.S. will make you a better marksman, it's high time you learned.

What does B.R.A.S.S. mean?

As marksmen, we live in a blessed era. At no other time since gunpowder met projectile has there been more well-manufactured guns, gear and ammo to get us on target. Even the cheapest of rifles, shotguns and pistols of today are capable of sharp shots that just a couple generations ago were the things of myth.

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This orgy of precision technology, however, clouds what really counts when it comes to delivering a payload to a gnat's ass — the shooter. If we come to a shot prepared and ready to make it, the gun, bullet and, yes, the target will take care of themselves.

Don't believe me? Consider the Mosin-Nagant. It's perhaps the most successful sniper rifle of all time, and a chassis rig it is not. The men and women behind the simple Mosin’s trigger are what made the rifle chillingly deadly.

So, what can be done to master ourselves, and in turn master our firearms? Believe it or not, there is one word that goes a long way to helping us achieve the accuracy we’re always chasing. Simply put, B.R.A.S.S. can give you the guts to make your shot.

Of course, as is the case with all panaceas, shooting or otherwise, there is more to hitting the target than one word. Used by the U.S. Military to ingrain the fundamentals of marksmanship, the acronym contains all the basics you need to shoot straight — breathe, relax, slack/stop, squeeze.

Here’s a closer look at each element.

Sounds easy, but mastering this natural body function is the difference between the 10-ring and utter frustration. The mistake most shooters make is breathing in an unnatural fashion, that is, holding their breath in an abnormal way. This can lead to involuntary muscle flinches and, if held too long, muscle tremors as the body screams for oxygen.

Shooters should concentrate on breathing in a natural fashion, then aim to shoot in the natural transition between exhale and inhale. During this period, breathing can be comfortably paused for around 5 seconds — longer if practiced. A dose of humbleness also helps in this phase. If you’ve paused your breath for too long, call it good, take a fresh breath and start all over again. Your accuracy will improve because of it.

Maybe it's the anticipation of recoil. Perhaps there’s concern of placing a shot wildly off the mark. Maybe that buck of a lifetime has pure adrenaline pumping through your veins. There are a number of factors that tense the mind and body, and leave a marksman too balled up to stay on target. For greener shooters, this is a tough nut to crack, because there is a level of trepidation in any new undertaking. But even a seasoned marksman can tie themselves in knots when the pressure is on.

I've personally found a solid and predictable routine goes a long way to approaching a shot relaxed enough to make it. Shouldering the rifle properly, getting a solid cheek weld, focusing on the target, positing the finger properly on the trigger and fluidly squeezing it pulls the mind away from the bugaboos that can infect the mind. And from a relaxed mind comes a relaxed body. The best part, honing a mental and physical state conducive to accuracy doesn’t require sending rounds downrange. Dry fire practice is the perfect opportunity train the calm before you unleash the storm.

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Aiming a weapon seems simple, perhaps even intuitive. But there are few points where there are more breakdowns in making a shot. Much of this is due to a marksman not taking the time to properly understand their natural point of aim, sight alignment, and how to develop a sight picture. But even seasoned marksmen, in the heat of the moment, can lose focus on important aiming aspects. With iron sights, it tends to be keeping focus on the front sight. With scopes, it's ensuring there’s a full field of view. If all these aspects are in line and accounted for, this is the moment to align the front blade or crosshairs on where you want to send your bullet.

This is pre-flight for the moment of truth. For a two-stage trigger, you need to take up the slack before you completely break a shot, ensuring you don’t jerk the trigger. But it’s also the time to stop to re-evaluate your shooting condition and target — has the wind changed? Is that bull elk about to disappear into timber?

You also essentially stop everything that might throw you off the mark — body movement, breathing, disconcerting thoughts about missing the shot. A marksman is at his stillest point of the process in body and mind — one that lasts for fleeting moments. After a few precious seconds, muscles twitch and the mind will wander to next month’s mortgage payment. It’s a tall task learning when to make the most of this opportunity; fundamentally, it’s a chore of shooting batches of ammo until it becomes second nature. But once you learn to capitalize on this golden window, you’ll absolutely make the bullseye tremble.

It’s difficult to comprehend that a lion’s share of accuracy is due to a few muscles in small appendage. But there it is, for better or worse. It’s oft-repeated and here will be again, it’s a trigger squeeze — not jerk, pull or tap.

A squeeze allots the best control for a smooth, steady and liner rearward path, thus maintaining the gun’s alignment with the target. The others will send the shot to the side. Finger placement aids the process. The center of the pad, directly behind nail bed, centered on the trigger facilitates a clean squeeze.

Accuracy isn’t just something that happens and won’t be enhanced by equipment if it wasn't there to begin with. If you want to hit what you’re aiming at — be it a coyote on the heel or a steel gong at 500 yards — take the time to master these fundamentals. Once mastered, practice to keep them sharp.

Though he was alluding to spiritual matters of the Zen variety, German philosopher Eugen Herrigel perhaps best summed up the challenge of shooting accurately when he wrote, “Fundamentally, the marksman aims at himself.” With that nugget in mind, be sure you hit the mark.


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Elwood Shelton is the Digital Editor for Gun Digest. He lives in Colorado and has provided coverage on a vast spectrum of topics for GD for more than a decade. Before that, he was an award-winning sports and outdoors reporter for a number of newspapers across the Rocky Mountains. His experience has consisted of covering the spread of chronic wasting disease into the Western Slope of Colorado to the state’s ranching for wildlife programs. His passion for shooting began at a young age, fostered on pheasant hunts with his father. Since then, he has become an accomplished handloader, long-range shooter and avid hunter—particularly mule deer and any low-down, dirty varmint that comes into his crosshairs. He is a regular contributor to Gun Digest Magazine and has contributed to various books on guns and shooting, most recently Lever-Actions: A Tribute to the All-American Rifle.


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