Shooting at long range can be complicated, but more often than not mastery of shooting fundamentals, effective practice and establishing good habits still have the biggest impact on long-range accuracy.
Check out these 8 tips for improving long-range accuracy:
- 1. Stop Sweating The Small Stuff
- 2. Focus On What You Can Control: Consistency
- 3. Stop Magnifying Your Errors
- 4. Make Your Next Shot Count
- 5. Get Off The Bench
- 6. Shoot Less Ammo
- 7. Shoot More Ammo
- 8. Become A Creature Of Habit
I’m going to share 8 things that you can do today — right now — to become a better shooter, especially at longer ranges.
None of these tips involve buying a new fancy piece of gear or upgrading the equipment you already have. This is because I believe that a good shooter with a decent rifle, scope and ammunition can outperform a poor shooter with the best rifle, scope and ammunition.
Hopefully you’ll see a bit of a connection, or trend, from each of these points to the next.
1. Stop Sweating The Small Stuff
I get it: Part of the fun of learning to master long-range shooting involves getting into the nuances of ballistics. However, that’s not going to make you a better shooter, or necessarily improve your long-range accuracy.
Unfortunately, you’re way more likely to miss a target because you estimated the range incorrectly or you applied improper trigger control.
Focus on the basics and execute them well. Only after you can consistently shoot at least a 5-inch group at 500 yards (1 MOA) should you start to worry about the spin of the Earth affecting your bullet at farther distances.
2. Focus On What You Can Control: Consistency
Pay attention to what you’re doing, and focus on how you can do it better. This is as much a lesson on how to live a full life as it is to how to shoot better at any distance.
Everything you do, or don’t do, to the rifle that results in the bullet hitting or missing the target has to do with what you did up until the rifle shoots. Mastering what you do so that is consistent every time is the key to accurate shooting.
Focus on your technique before looking to upgrade your gear. After all, if you don’t improve yourself and instead only improve your equipment, are you really needed in the shooting equation?
Yes, sometimes you need high magnification to be able to see a target that’s small enough and far enough away. However, too much magnification can actually hurt your long-range accuracy.
First, it can cause you to focus on the nice, big and pretty target image instead of the reticle where you should be focusing (remember, focus on what you can control).
Second, it can magnify your errors and cause you to worry too much about the wobble/shake in your rifle. This is likely to cause you to hurry up and jerk the trigger when the reticle is closest to the center of your target. If your scope was low enough magnification that you can only tell that the reticle is generally in the center of the target, then you can apply proper trigger control without trying for perfection.
Yes, I just told you to let go of perfection in order to shoot better.
Don’t worry about a bullet hole that is slightly to the left and instead worry about making the next bullet go where you want it to go.
Once you’ve shot a bullet, there’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can either dwell on your error or you can re-focus yourself on what you can actually control — your next shot.
I’ve never seen a bench in the wild. Instead, I see rocks, trees and obstacles that require “alternative” positions to get the shot I’m looking for. Even military and police snipers typically see curbs, wheels and trash cans when they dive into the prone.
If you’re not going to be using your rifle in the prone or off of a bench, why are you practicing that way?
Sure, it’s handy to have a stable position to get baseline information on your rifle (zero, elevation adjustments for distance, etc.). However, that will not make you a better shooter.
Want to get better? Move into a position that removes much of your stable support, such as kneeling. What you’ll find is that the bench was helping to hide your errors and imperfections in your technique.
Master shooting without good support, and watch how much better your long-range accuracy gets when you do have support to work with.
I’m a firm believer that a shooter who’s looking to improve their skills — that should be all of us — should shoot their rifle “dry”, or empty, much more than they should shoot it “live” with ammunition.
Much like the stable bench hides your errors, so does ammo. Don’t believe me? Have you ever caught yourself flinching when you were shooting a firearm? Yes, of course you have … and it’s embarrassing.
Well, when did you notice the flinch? I’d be willing to bet that you noticed it when the firearm didn’t fire when you expected it to. Did you only flinch that time? Of course not! You were probably flinching before that, but the recoil of the firearm was helping to hide your bad habits.
You can’t fix something if you aren’t aware of it. And, it’s easiest to be aware of improper trigger control when the rifle is empty. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to shoot the rifle empty to get better?
Another reason this works is because your job is mostly over once the firing pin goes forward (for that shot). When you practice with an empty rifle, you are able to diagnose your technique up until and through the firing pin going forward. If you can dry-fire the rifle without the sights/reticle moving, then you’re going to shoot great with live ammo.
Shooting more involves practicing alone, with a friend or in a class. I’d rather see you spend $1,000 on ammunition and practice instead of a piece of gear without practice.
After all, you don’t get better at tennis by purchasing a fancier racquet. You get better by practicing. Get on the range, and practice and learn. In turn, you should see some improvement in your long-range accuracy.
If you ignored the first 7 points, don’t ignore this one. Your technique can be horrible and you can jerk the rifle 45 degrees off of the target every time you yank the trigger. As long as you do it exactly the same every single time, you will be an amazing shooter. We’ll just have to mount your scope at an angle.
The tips and techniques to better shooting don’t necessarily make the bullet fly any straighter or make the bullet go where you want. Instead, proper fundamentals are the best way, for most people, to reliably shoot the rifle the same each time.
Whatever works for you, figure it out and do it every time.
Ready to shoot better? Focus on yourself, ignore the minutia, practice, and get into a routine that works for you.
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the December 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.