Marine sniper Frank Galli's advice on how to be the best ‘rock chucker’ you can be.
I start every precision rifle class with my objectives. One of my bullet points reads: “To guide the student on their precision rifle journey.” Every sport or hobby is a journey; we start out as a curious party and, once we’re hooked, it becomes a divine quest for the Holy Grail of information and experience.
I laugh when newer shooters call me an “OG” in this field. They’re right; I’m part of the original gangster squad who helped cultivate the sport as we see it today. Despite creating a bunch of forks in this precision rifle road, the journey has stayed relatively consistent. The common theme over the years—change—is our one constant in life.
My personal journey began years ago in Connecticut, shooting a Crossman 760 air rifle. From there, I progressed to a Crossman 766, ending with an RWS single-break-style air rifle. With no education and just mimicking what I saw, I was Daniel Boone conquering the wilderness. When I got older, I enlisted in the Marine Corps hoping to be a Scout Sniper. If my backyard landscape was any indication of my potential military service, I was guaranteed a slot in Sniper School.
Life doesn’t work that way, but I did manage to land a slot at Sniper School early in my Marine Corps journey. Attending Sniper School as a PFC was pretty rare. I was the lowest-ranking student in class, and some of the tips and tricks just weren’t there in the beginning. When you don’t yet know the trade, the tips and tricks can be a total mystery.
I see more problems with students who try to jump to the tips and tricks before learning the trade.
The fix is to learn the trade. You have to focus on the basics … the fundamentals of any sport. Even beyond my military service, as I attended classes later in life, I’d still join basic classes with other instructors. I think the fundamentals—the basics—are the lifeblood to learning any sport or hobby correctly. Sure, we can adapt bad habits to work, but it never translates well to other systems.
I had to pay a little extra attention in class, because I didn’t know everything that was being discussed. Sniper School isn’t really a shooting school; it’s a Sniper School, and shooting is just a small part of the equation. The instructors believe the shooting part should’ve been covered in both boot camp and after as part of your yearly qualifications. They expect the students’ unit to focus on the small details.
Coming off of Sniper School, you feel a bit invincible when it comes to your shooting skills. And after school, my basic qualifications improved each year. Experience and education, combined with a healthy dose of confidence, are powerful motivators. Never underestimate the mental side of any sport.
Fast-forward to 2002, one year into creating the Sniper’s Hide website: I got a visit from Jacob Bynum of Rifles Only in South Texas. Rifles Only is a training facility, and with 9/11 in the rearview mirror, the military was beginning to use more civilian schools. After that meeting in Connecticut, I traveled to Texas to see what Rifles Only had to offer. I was shocked at the way they shot. Picking my jaw up off the floor, I could only think, “these guys are amazing”. Why was I never exposed to this type of precision rifle shooting in the military?
The speed and accuracy in which they were shooting was beyond reason. Sniper School pressed the mantra: slow and deliberate. Everything we did was slow and deliberate, from our movement to our shooting. These Texans took that mindset and threw it out the window. They were scrambling as fast as physically possible and hitting targets in a dynamic fashion.
For seven years, I soaked up the lessons learned at Rifles Only. We refined recoil management; the term “loading the bipod” was born there. That thumb being floated to the side of the rifle, I was there the day it started. Jacob excelled at using our body mechanics to adjust the flow of the rifle’s recoil. It’s also the home of precision rifle competition like we see today. Going back to the 1990s, Rifles Only was hosting tactical precision rifle matches for a very long time.
In 2011, another change happened when I left Rifles Only. My time in service and my experience had reached a point where I was looking at refining some of the topics and techniques from previous years. Original thought enters the arena. I’m no longer relying on my lessons from the past, I was now able to refine my thinking to suit my personal style. This is where the tips and tricks enter the conversation.
The fundamentals are just that—the basics—universal truths we use to execute the shot process. Being universal, they’re designed to work regardless of the individual. But we’re just that: unique individuals; one size doesn’t fit all. Tips and tricks allow you to work independently of others. My smaller size means I have to adapt to certain situations a taller shooter might not, so I need to understand my body mechanics to be successful.
The journey has now progressed to the experimental phase of my life. I can be a bit more cavalier with my shooting because my experience tells me what to expect. I can refine the pros and cons of my adjustments based on the results, because my process is established. When something odd happens downrange I understand the cause and effects based on years of shooting. I can start creating shortcuts to our processes or, when instructing, adjust how a process is discussed to help a student absorb it quicker.
Shooting is a perishable skill; it’s a sport and an extension of my person. If you think about it, it’s advanced rock throwing. Our ancestors picked up a rock and threw it at something. They refined rock-throwing by attaching the rock to a stick, creating a spear and progressing to an arrow. Today, we boil rocks down to create bullets, hoping to push accuracy and speed to the next level. Tomorrow, it’ll be particle weapons that instantly extend our reach without external influence.
Until we reach that point, I’ll educate and train my body to be the best rock chucker I can be.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the July 2021 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
More Long-Range Shooting Info From Frank Galli:
- Precision Rifle Upgrades: From Stock To Sniper Superstar
- Nine Long-Range Shooting Fundementals To Master
- Accuracy Enhancing Support: Choosing A Bipod
- Legacy Skills: Becoming A Well-Rounded Long-Range Marksman
- Becoming Your Own Spotter