4 Factors to Becoming a Better Offhand Rifle Shooter
In our last blog we wrote about expecting the random shot to happen at some point in your hunting life. We made references to the offhand shot in that if you walk up on a deer, accidentally of course, slip that rifle off your shoulder in a fluid motion and sling a bullet to the place where it counts. Thinking more about the offhand shot and how we might have cast it as some easy achievement, let us clarify, it is not. Shooting offhand may be the hardest hunting skill to learn and one that’ll never be attained without ample practice.
Control the Muzzle
If you’re someone who can stand flat-footed and hold the muzzle perfectly still for any number of seconds, you’re a rarity. Even most above-average shooters are incapable of this. As are the best shooters in the world – the one percenters. But what they can do that makes them so good is control the muzzle.
The muzzle is going to move. Your job is to control how, which ideally will be in circles. The more you practice, the tighter those circles will get. Imagine your crosshairs moving counterclockwise around the target. Learning the art of finesse will help you know precisely when to squeeze the trigger as the crosshairs are about to enter the bull’s eye.
Grab your .22 LR from the case or cabinet and don’t head out to the range just yet. Stand in your living room with the curtains drawn (Remember, they don’t make neighbors like they used to, when it was nothing to clean a rifle in your front yard or tote it in your truck’s gun rack). Find a target that allows maximum distance across the house and begin working on your form. Your high school football coach wasn’t wrong about the “athletic” stance – feet shoulder width apart. Angle your body toward the target as if you’re about to shoot a report pair.
Now that you have a good base, place your hands. Use your right hand to hold the rifle snuggly in the pocket of your shoulder. Place your left hand as high on the gun as possible where it will serve as a brace. Keep your head up, knees slightly bent, breath in and out, control the muzzle as your aiming.
At the Range
Set your target at no more than 20 yards. With your .22, shoot at five-round increments until you’re hitting consistently in the ten range. Now back up to 25 yards. Each time you’re able to put at least four out of five bullets where they’re intended, back up another five yards until you reach about 50. Once you have this mastered with the rimfire, set it aside and get to work with your hunting rifle using the same regimen.
Get Fast, Then Faster
So you’ve rounded the corner in the bean field where the nice buck is already standing. You quickly stop, hold your breath, control your bowels. He stops feeding, stares hard at this funny looking figure that’s just appeared, prepares to bolt. If you are able to slip the rifle off your shoulder and shoot in one fluid motion while the deer is standing still, that’s great. And unlikely. Running in great bounds is his sole defense in this situation.
Battle the odds by continuing to get faster. Once you put bullets consistently in the ten range shot after shot, begin shooting two to three rounds each time. Shooting, working the bolt and reacquiring the target successfully is going to set you apart from the other hunters in camp.
Remember that shooting quickly and rushing the shot are two entirely different things. Never rush the shot. Cool, calm and collective will become natural traits through regular practice. If you’re serious enough about wanting to learn to shoot a rifle offhand, the ammunition and time you’ll spend at the range are worth the expense. Check out your local shooting ranges for instructors who may be equipped to help you improve the offhand, moving target shot.