Breathing & Trigger Techniques

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    Complimentary tips from Airgun Depot

    Trigger Control

    The basics to learn over a lifetime to master trigger pull.

    By Cameron Brinkerhoff | Published August 5, 2016

    When it comes to accuracy, fundamentals are essential. Whether it’s a pistol or a rifle, the basics are the same: sight alignment, breath control, and trigger control. Of course it sounds so simple but we all know that mastering just those three basic principals can take a lifetime of practice. Though none of the essential skills required for accurate shooting is more important than the others, trigger control can be one of the hardest to master and as such many shooters spend hours of practice time perfecting the art.

    But what exactly makes up a correct trigger pull and how do the mechanics of the trigger itself effect that pull and the resulting shot? Obviously, that is asking a lot, there is enough material out there on the subject that one could easily fill an entire book, but for this article we’ll try to stick to the basics. The U.S. Army Marksmanship Units Pistol Marksmanship Training Guide offers a fantastic explanation of why trigger control is essential to accuracy, stating:


    This really sums up what were trying to accomplish for both pistol or rifle. Key for a sport like 10m where accuracy is incredibly fine tuned, but applicable to all shooting sports and disciplines. So lets break down the few key steps when pulling the trigger to see if we can improve your accuracy and make the best shot possible.

    1- Proper Grip: The first step to the trigger finger being able to properly pull the trigger is to ensure that the grip on the rifle or pistol is correct. For rifles this means that the trigger hand is firmly gripped around the stock applying slight rearward pressure into the shoulder and the support hand is gripping the fore end of the rifle supporting the rifle.


    Pistols, on the other hand, can be fired either single or two handed. In the case of a two-handed grip, the fingers of the shooting hand should be wrapped around this pistol with the fingers of the support hand wrapped over those if the shooting hand. Thumbs should be placed either forward along the slide or slightly upward. A slight pressure forward from one hand should be countered by a slight pressure to the rear from the other.


    When using a single hand the shooting hand should again be wrapped firmly around the grip of the pistol with the fingers close together locked in the pistol grip.

    2- Proper Trigger Finger Placement: The finger should be placed on the trigger at either the first joint (image a) or on the first bone of the trigger finger (image b) so that the trigger can be pulled straight to the rear. The movement of the trigger should be straight back and linear. If the trigger is pulled and the finger is also imparting lateral pressure on the trigger, this side pressure can cause pulled or thrown shots. For some shooters it is easier to imagine the action of pressing a button rather than pulling a trigger. A button is pressed straight back rather than pulled.


    Pressure should be consistent and steady regardless of how fast the trigger is pulled. Jerking or slapping the trigger will lead to inaccuracy. A steady, deliberate press of the trigger for every shot should yield optimal results.

    3- Coordination: The last step is essentially putting it all together. Combining the fundamentals of a solid stance, a proper grip, and a smooth deliberate press of the trigger should result in an accurate, well placed shot. One of the best ways to practice coordination and the fundamentals of proper trigger control is dry firing or snapping in. Of course you will want to make sure that your gun can be safely dry fired without damaging the gun (whether air rifle or powder burner). You will also need to be 100% positive that the gun is clear and safe without any ammunition in the gun. I like to unload my gun in one room and then step into another room before starting my dry fire practice, that way I run no risk of a negligent discharge.


    For rifle practice I place a small target on the wall, and then slowly make sure that my stance grip and trigger pull are perfect before breaking each shot. For pistol, I will use a slightly larger target or sometimes just a Post-It note stuck to a wall. Of course you will want to be sure that you are dry firing in a safe direction, even after ensuring the gun is unloaded. Dry fire practice is a great way to hone your skills without having to make a trip to the range or spend money on ammo. Best of all it can literally be done any time. Many competitive shooters will spend just as much time dry firing as they do on the range.

    Trigger control sounds a lot more simple in theory than it does in practice and each shooter may find that slight alterations to the aforementioned basics might work better for them. However, applying the basics and judicious practice are really key to becoming the best marksman you can. That’s one of the main reasons that I love airgunning. Using an air rifle gives you a great way to practice and practice and then practice some more without breaking the bank. Once you realize that punching holes in paper is punching holes in paper regardless of the gun you use then the prospect of shooting an airgun is just as exciting as shooting powder burners. The best part is the skill will translate. I may spend the spring and summer out on the field target course or shooting at local 10 meter matches, but when deer season rolls around in October, all those skills I’ve been practicing with airguns all year translate directly to my deer rifle. Shooting is shooting, and that’s what makes nailing down the fundamentals so important.


    The Art of Breathing

    By Airgun Depot | Published July 28, 2016

    As anyone familiar with shooting knows, it’s easy to understand the effect that your lungs have on accuracy. Simply hold your rifle or pistol pointed at a target and take exaggerated breaths if you want to see the importance of the art of breathing. You’ll notice how your sights move above and below your target to further drive home the impact of proper breathing technique. So, what is the right and wrong way to breathe when shooting? Let’s take a closer look at shooting accuracy and breathing for a deeper understanding.

    One of the key skills that professional and Olympic grade shooters have mastered is how to breathe when shooting. Consistency is everything when it comes to not only10m rifle & pistol, but any shooting sport or discipline. You might not realize how much proper breathing can impact your shooting ability until you learn a few basics. There is a simple skill that is easy to learn and a few bad habits you can easily break that will greatly improve accuracy.

    For most self-taught shooters, a common mistake that is made is holding their breath. It’s understandable why shooters make this mistake, since as you may have just tried, breathing moves your sights up and down. While it may seem logical to simply hold your breath, this isn’t the best option and you never learn proper technique or breath control with this method. In fact, the simple solution of just holding your breath and not breathing has some negative outcomes. Think of it this way: we need oxygen in our blood to function at our best, low oxygen affects things like your ability to concentrate, dexterity in your arms, hands, and fingers, as well as your eyes ability to focus. Add to that a shooting sport like a10m competition where you have to shoot 60 shots in 105 minutes, and prolonged periods of holding your breath and/or shallow breathing will have a large effect on your skills, not to mention the way you feel physically and mentally.

    So, what do you do instead of holding your breath? You want to provide a consistent flow of air in and out of your lungs at a steady rate. Instead of holding your breath, the goal is to learn the skill of firing during the natural respiratory pause we all take when breathing out. Here’s how it works:

    1- Prepare: Get in your firing position, obtain your target, and be ready to fire.


    2- Inhale: From a standing position as you breathe in, youll notice your reticle rise (if shooting from a prone position it will drop).


    3- Relax: As you breathe out your reticle will begin to lower (if shooting from a prone position it will rise). Just let your body slowly relax and naturally let out your breath until it naturally stops on its own.


    4- Fire: The reticle will stop at your natural point of aim and you should fire within the natural pause between breaths, ideally no longer than 3 seconds.


    5- Reset: If you can’t obtain an ideal shot in those few seconds, simply take another breath and try again rather than forcing the shot or changing the natural breath rate.

    If you still have your doubts as to whether this works or not, go longer than 3 seconds and you’ll likely find accuracy issues arising from having trouble focusing your vision, trigger finger not working as it usually does, pulled shots, or just simply feeling rushed and taking a panicked shot. With this simple experience on breath control for shooting, you can clearly see the difference and why this is such an important skill to master.

    Keep in mind breathing really applies best to target shooting. Hunting has the added variable of what your prey is doing and often you don’t have the luxury of breathing over and over to get the right shot.It is important to note that practicing your breathing in a target shooting setting will create the habit that will become second nature in all settings, so it can still be useful for hunters. Try this out, spend some time practicing and post your results below so others can see putting the time in to focus on this one small aspect can do wonders to your accuracy.






    great tip , makes a huge difference , once you get this down with practice , the last thing to learn is to pull trigger between heart beats LOU



    Good write up, but I agree with you rabbit, timing heartbeats is also key. 



    Like many things, the "experts" claim the "best" methods for doing any given thing, change every 20 or so years.

    I'm 69yrs old, and have seen the "experts" change their attitude on ways to be perfect at shooting, stance and hold many times.  Don't believe me, even in today's time,…sit for a couple of hours and watch the various "experts" and their YouTube videos on the "proper" way to shoot well..!





    Great stuff Michael!

    Winter is 10 meter time here and this is exactly what I am working on.



    Great tips for shooting well.  I guess it’s practice, practice and more practice without really ever firing a shot since the breathing technique can be done by dry firing.  When I try concentrating on breathing techniques using live air rifle shots … if the shot doesn’t impact where I think it should (everything being correct) I chalk it up to the accuracy of the rifle rather than my poor technique.  

    So, I’m not sure if its better to practice by dry firing or shooting at 10 meter targets with a spotting scope for pellet impact.  Thoughts? 



    For shooting off hand, I get in a comfortable "resting" position that requires minimum effort to maintain, then adjust my aim based on my movement pattern. I usually fall top left down and time my trigger pull when the cross hairs meet the target. I have just started doing the heart beat hold where as my heart beats, it creates an up and down oval, I pull at the top because it tends to hold for just a moment which gives me more time to pull the trigger. I am no expert but using this technique I got a 102 yard kill on Saturday. Works for me. :)



    This is really useful! Thanks

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