Matrix Arms customer shooting a rifle

Rifles in modern times serve many purposes: hunting, self-defense, warfare, and competitive shooting sports, just to name a few. Accuracy is key with any class of firearm, but rifles are specifically designed for precision shooting. Learning how to shoot a rifle is a valuable skill, opening doors to recreational and practical pursuits. And because rifle shooting is a precision art, proper training is essential. With continued practice and help from this primer, you can improve your rifle shooting techniques.

Five Fundamentals of Rifle Shooting

The first critical step in bettering your rifle shooting techniques is understanding basic practices. In shooting circles, you may have heard about the five firing fundamentals of rifle shooting. These fundamentals are often expressed in five key terms:

  • Aiming
  • Breath control
  • Holding your aim
  • Squeezing the trigger
  • Following through

You may see these points in shorthand with the acronym “BRASS”: breathe, relax, aim, squeeze the trigger, and squeeze more for follow-through. Specific practices with each point are vital to your technique and accuracy.


Precise aim is important — so important that it’s among the first steps. You start by aligning your sights with your chosen target. Make sure both eyes are open to help you focus and cut back on eye strain. Also, your aiming time should be relatively short. Precision is critical, but taking too long to aim can compromise accuracy.

Breath Control

You need to breathe to stay alive, but a lack of control can also compromise your aim. Deliberate breathing can counteract this common problem. When you’re prepared to fire, inhale deeply and exhale about half of your breath intake. Hold your breath while squeezing the trigger, but don’t hold it for too long — this can inadvertently speed up your heart rate and mess up your accuracy. Staying relaxed is essential to this breath control.

Holding Your Aim

Steady aim is crucial to accuracy, but trying to perfectly stay still can actually ruin your shot. Instead, focus your necessary movement on the target. Minimizing the area of movement can also cut down on your chances of missing the target.

Squeezing the Trigger

Your grasp should be firm but not too tight when pulling your rifle’s trigger. Be sure to grasp the wrist of the stock firmly and comfortably position your fingertip on the trigger. When ready to shoot, the trigger should fall between your finger’s first joint and tip. Squeeze slowly with steady pressure when firing your rifle.

Follow Through

When learning how to shoot a rifle, don’t stop short when you’ve pressed the trigger. Once the bullet leaves the firearm and heads to its target, continue squeezing the trigger until it stops. Lack of follow-through can cause the rifle to jerk, which throws off your aim. Don’t raise your head after making your shot, and keep the trigger pressed for one full second afterward.

Improving Your Shooting Proficiency

Practice is vital to both continued proficiency and further honing your skill. As you become more familiar with shooting a rifle, you can follow some other good practices. You already know that flinching can mess up a perfectly good shot, so the key here is to minimize this tendency. But flinching happens when you anticipate your rifle’s recoil. It can also result from expecting each shot’s report — in other words, hearing the shot before visually perceiving it.

Fortunately, you can correct this tendency with help from another experienced shooter. Ask this person to secretly insert a dummy round, or “snap cap,” into your rifle’s magazine. You shouldn’t see this take place. Then when you resume shooting, have your friend watch you. This individual can observe and tell you if you have a flinching problem.

Once you’re aware that you’re flinching, you can approach the problem in a couple of different ways. Dry firing is a great way to practice and perfect your technique. Practice firing with snap caps to avoid running through ammunition. You may also want to consider using lighter weight rounds, a smaller caliber rifle, or installing a moderator or muzzle brake to cut down on recoil.

Rifle Firing Practice Tips

Regular practice improves your rifle shooting techniques. But as mentioned earlier, using live ammo during practice can sometimes be a bit of a waste. Thankfully, you can work on your skills without ammo.

Dummy Round Drills

We’ve already seen how dummy round practice can help you work on reducing your flinching. If you can’t access dummy rounds, spent cases are a useful alternative. Either way, you can use them to perfect your sight alignment and trigger control skills. If you’re not quite adept at clearing your rifle, this approach can also help you improve in that area. After all, you must kick out the dummy round to continue firing.

Dry Fire Practice

If you’ve never done dry firing, you may find that it’s a helpful way to better learn how to shoot a rifle. Besides conserving ammo, it makes regular practice easier and more convenient. Most experts recommend two to three sessions each week to continue maintaining and bettering your skills. Dry firing is also versatile, allowing you to work through everything from drills to other essentials such as reloading and drawing.

Even when you’re doing dry fire practice, safety is a vital part of shooting. Check both your firearm and magazines to ensure there are no bullets inside either one. In fact, you should triple-check just to be safer. To remove any uncertainty, place your ammunition in another separate room. This eliminates the possibility that you’ve inadvertently kept live rounds inside your rifle.

Low-Round Count Drills

We’ve mentioned dry firing and snap caps, but some other approaches can be helpful. Practicing multiple shooting fundamentals at the same time helps conserve ammunition. Low-round count drills are an ideal solution. How? Well, there’s the popular Dot Torture Drill, which uses a precise pattern printed on a simple 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper. It’s a sequence of firing and drawing with your dominant and weaker hands. The Dot Torture Drill also helps you with accuracy by practicing trigger control.

Designing a Range Practice Regimen

Practicing is great, but focused practice is even better. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to draw up a practice plan before visiting your favorite shooting range. You don’t need to be super meticulous, but you should map out a schedule that includes specific skills with drills to help you work on them. With said plan, you can get the most out of your shooting time and avoid wasting ammo.

The Matrix Arms Difference

Matrix Arms’ legacy includes crafting products for notable clients such as Lockheed Martin, Barnes Aerospace, and General Dynamics. Exactitude, proficiency, and cutting-edge approaches inform every stage of product creation, from initial design to our CNC manufacturing processes. With our extensive experience in the firearms industry, we consistently meet and exceed customer expectations.

We offer value through both our products and expertise, including this guide on rifle shooting tips. We’re happy to help clients find the arms, accessories, and information they need. Reach out to us through our online contact form or call our New Hampshire headquarters at (603) 504-3790.

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