Tips on Marksmanship With a Rifle or Airgun

Tips on Marksmanship With a Rifle or Airgun

Practice makes perfect.  This saying holds very true concerning our ability to make a good, lethal shot on an animal with a rifle.  Our hunting ethics dictate we respect the animal enough to know our limits and capabilities when considering a shot.

There is no substitute to trigger time.  This can be as easy as dry firing your rifle at home.  This allows you to practice your body positioning, the trigger pull, breathing, and follow through.  Live rounds are even better, so spending time at your local range is imperative.  At the range, make sure to practice shooting from all positions, not just from the rest on the bench.

Bench shooting is great for properly zeroing your rifle, but it has little resemblance to real world small game hunting situations. To practice for the real thing, you want to work on prone, seated, kneeling, and standing shots without the use of a rest. But the really important thing is to learn to shoot well with improvised rests such as walking sticks, tree limbs, fence posts, and downed logs. I have killed many, many squirrels and rabbits with a .22 and I’d bet that I used an improvised rest on over 90% of the shots I’ve taken.

On left, offhand position; top right, prone position; bottom right, sitting position

When shooting,  your focus must be on the shot alone.  I like to run through a brief checklist in my mind just before taking the shot.

  • Do I have a good rest?
  • Is my breathing under control?
  • Is my grip on my rifle secure, but not overly strong to torque the rifle?
  • What is my point of impact? Have I picked the exact spot where I want my bullet to go?



Solitude Vest (40% Off!)
Save this product
First Lite

Dead silent and feature-rich, the Men's Solitude Insulated Vest is a versatile option for the dedicated tree stand hunter in the first half of the season.

Dirtbag Duffle
Save this product
First Lite

Whether you toss it in the back of a pickup, strap it to an ATV, pack it in a floatplane, or carry it through an airport, the First Lite Dirtbag Duffle is your new favorite travel companion.

Flex Field Belt
Save this product
First Lite

This is not your standard nylon webbing belt. Heavy-duty stretch is woven into the durable nylon webbing, allowing the belt to flex with you while crouching on a hillside or stepping over deadfall. 

Moonlite Reclining Camp Chair
Save this product

An ultralight reclining chair built for the backcountry with oversized tubes and forged aluminum hubs for exceptional strength and stability.

Get the latest in your inbox
Subscribe to our newsletters to receive regular emails with hand-picked content, gear recommendations, and special deals.
Our picks for the week's best content and gear
For the whitetail obsessed, with Mark Kenyon
Redefining our connection to food, with Danielle Prewett
Your one-stop for everything waterfowl, with Sean Weaver
Get out on the water with the MeatEater Fishing crew
Technical hunting apparel
Purpose-built accessories for hunting and fishing
Quality elk, turkey, waterfowl, and deer calls
Save this article