How To Compensate For Heartbeat Movement

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Jul 31, 2020
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Pflugerville Texas
Ok, I've seen the movies how these uber skilled snipers slow down their heartbeat or shoot between their heartbeats but let's be real for a minute. How do average Joes like me deal with that annoying bump in the scope when sighting through a 24x optic? Are all you folks really doing something like that or what? Sorry if this has been asked (I tried searching the 920 threads here) or if I'm just being stupid but I'd honestly appreciate some feedback from you long-time, experienced distance shooters. Thanks !
 

bomberodevil

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Elevated heart rates above 130 bpm can cause difficulty with fine motor skills. You can’t voluntarily control your heart rate because it’s a parasympathetic reaction from the autonomic nervous system. But you can control, to a point, your respiratory rate which does affect your heart rate.

When in an excited state (fight or flight), your heart rate and respiratory rate both increase, causing heart rates in excess of 110+. You can use techniques such as combat breathing to slow your respiratory rate, which will in fact slow your heart rate. A technique I used to teach in the training academy was to inhale at a 4-second count, hold for 4-seconds, exhale for a 4-second count, hold for 4-seconds. This technique can reduce heart rates by 20-30 beats in a short time.
 
Joined
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Thank you for the prompt reply. I wasn't really thinking about elevated heart rates. I'm just talking about the regular old +/- 60 BPM heart rate an average person has. Roughly every second, my crosshairs take an infinitesimal jog...well, infinitesimal until I magnify it 24x which makes every bit of difference in striving for sub-MOA groups.
 

bomberodevil

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Thank you for the prompt reply. I wasn't really thinking about elevated heart rates. I'm just talking about the regular old +/- 60 BPM heart rate an average person has. Roughly every second, my crosshairs take an infinitesimal jog...well, infinitesimal until I magnify it 24x which makes every bit of difference in striving for sub-MOA groups.
I’ve heard of world-class shooters actually timing their trigger pulls between the systolic phases of heartbeats, but I’ve never heard that in the tactical world (which is more equal to buck fever situations). I know the combat breathing technique works to lower respiratory rates directly, and to control the HR indirectly, and that helps you concentrate and perform fine motor-skills better.
 

BallisticsGuy

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First, movies ain't real life. You're talking about wives tale kind of stuff. Military applications are kinda misrepresented because you never see said sniper having just finished a marathon and needing to get into combat breathing / respiratory control like abdominal breathing but that's just to make shooting into the same time zone possible. I don't think they're going to be expecting to make precision shots under those circumstances. It's heat of hellish battle stuff to begin with. You shoot at your natural respiratory pause and if your heart is thumping so hard it's busting your sight picture, then you need to calm yourself down before taking a miss. Simple as that. You can mitigate the effect of a strong thumping pulse but you can't just skip it. That's for thumping beats but what about the small effects? Those exist and are a real issue, especially as you get to extreme ranges or very small targets.

One way of not letting your heartbeat affect things is to simply set up a natural point of aim from a fully supported position and let the rifle free recoil while using a light trigger. Then your heartbeat isn't visible because you're basically not touching the gun. The terrible fact is, you probably won't be able to tell when it is a factor unless it's so severe that you'd just have to sit down and calm out for a minute anyway.

Your brain works very hard to edit out things like small apparent position shifts of distant objects or you'd see a bouncing chaotic world all the time. I shoot competitively, like a lot of guys on here, and I NEVER see my heartbeat in the scope at a match but the video sure as hell does... peep delta below. When I get on target is when I'm the most solid (this is a prone stage) and right when I'm on and about to fire you'll see my heartbeat inducing a left right pulsing at about 1 second intervals plus whatever other shake my muscular contractions are inducing. (Skip to 37-ish seconds in to skip me setting up.)


So as far as shooting between beats, if you can tell when they're occurring, you have troubles to deal with that don't even involve shooting.
 
Last edited:

J E Custom

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Texas
There are many techniques that can help and here are just some of them.

No matter what your normal heart beat is you can slow it by taking one or two deep breaths. and exhaling as you squeeze the trigger. (The extra oxygen will slow your pulse rate because of the momentary extra oxygen.

If you are shooting prone, there are some other things that might help.
1 = Don't lay flat on your belly because it presses on your diaphragm and increases the effect of the heartbeat on your chest, and bringing one knee up, relieves this pressure. For Those of us that have a larger less sleek belly, this is even more important. ;)
2 = Also never eat a big meal just before you shoot if you can avoid it. this also places more pressure on the chest and effects the heart more.

I have heard stories of some shooters that could almost stop there heart beat, all I could do was slow it. I learned what would help slow my heart beat and it did help. Having good trigger control also helps to know when to start applying pressure to the trigger and when to stop without punching the trigger worked for offhand matches and dealing with the heart beat most of the time and made an improvement in accuracy.

Try different things to find out what works best for you, then practice, practice, practice. 👍

J E CUSTOM
 

Joefrazell

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Apr 29, 2017
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Raise up your bipod so your not laying on your breast bone. Your last rib should be the only one touching the ground. This will help alot with heart rate and with rifle clavicle position.
 

MajorSpittle

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Aug 24, 2012
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Oregon
Ok, I've seen the movies how these uber skilled snipers slow down their heartbeat or shoot between their heartbeats but let's be real for a minute. How do average Joes like me deal with that annoying bump in the scope when sighting through a 24x optic? Are all you folks really doing something like that or what? Sorry if this has been asked (I tried searching the 920 threads here) or if I'm just being stupid but I'd honestly appreciate some feedback from you long-time, experienced distance shooters. Thanks !

I put something between me and my heart beat. Jacket, Towel, Recoil Pad; or I let the rifle free recoil if I have eye relief or rifle doesn't recoil very hard.

When I shoot NRA high power we had heavy leather shooting jackets and gloves. We would use a shooting sling and wedge the M14 into our shoulders so hard with that jacket that nothing would make it move while shooting prone.

I did a bit trigger training with the military "laser sensor" thingy while in a tee shirt and just laying prone free hand. Heart beat was a huge issue with me and the whole timing your trigger break between heart beats was pretty much impossible with a rifle that is unsupported like that and has a sight picture that is wandering. You are better off eliminating the issue so you only have to concentrate on breathing, hold, trigger, and follow through consistency.

This is just my opinion and is probably wrong.
 

DSheetz

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Aug 22, 2015
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Texas Speed Bump , The replies you have gotten are all very good ones . bomberdevil , that is called box breathing it is taught to some military and law enforcement personal and does help with lowering heart rate . Meditation is another technique that is taught and also helps you learn to lower respiration and heart rate . Coming home with ptsd my heart rate was 120 bpm for years till I studied how to help control it the Dr.s put me on some meds to lower it . Through meditation and box breathing I now run in the low 70's and mid 60's and at times can get it lower when shooting . Learning what causes you to be under stress , competing ect. you can learn how to relax and get your body to .
 

Black Tail Hunter

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Dec 14, 2012
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Somewhere in the NW
I’ve heard of world-class shooters actually timing their trigger pulls between the systolic phases of heartbeats, but I’ve never heard that in the tactical world (which is more equal to buck fever situations). I know the combat breathing technique works to lower respiratory rates directly, and to control the HR indirectly, and that helps you concentrate and perform fine motor-skills better.

+1 on the combat breathing method. It works well, in addition the better shape you are in the more likely you are to have a lower standing heartrate.
 

whirlwindjml

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Aug 23, 2009
Messages
491
Location
Rathdrum Idaho
I use a rear bag/bipod. The weight and pressure on the bag helps eat some of the bump bump. I also noticed if I force myself to leave the coffee alone I do way better shooting. I'm a coffee tweaker so that takes effort.
 

jrock

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Mar 12, 2014
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Idaho
This year, I ran into noticeable left to right hart beat movement. I was trying to figure why I'm noticing it now vs. pervious years. The rear bag I use is about 5" cube. Some times to get enough vertical adjustment, I move the bag all the way to the rear of the stock and it contacts my chest. This caused significant hear beat movement! I moved the bag away from my body and the movement went way down. I also noticed that the movement was correlated to the pressure I used to pull the gun into my shoulder. I ended up reducing that pressure as well. Beyond that setup, its about slowing my heart rate. I use deep breathing and try to break my shot within a few seconds of being on target.
 

Lynn Holifield

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Feb 9, 2019
Messages
177
Location
Mountain Home, AR
Elevated heart rates above 130 bpm can cause difficulty with fine motor skills. You can’t voluntarily control your heart rate because it’s a parasympathetic reaction from the autonomic nervous system. But you can control, to a point, your respiratory rate which does affect your heart rate.

When in an excited state (fight or flight), your heart rate and respiratory rate both increase, causing heart rates in excess of 110+. You can use techniques such as combat breathing to slow your respiratory rate, which will in fact slow your heart rate. A technique I used to teach in the training academy was to inhale at a 4-second count, hold for 4-seconds, exhale for a 4-second count, hold for 4-seconds. This technique can reduce heart rates by 20-30 beats in a short time.
Bomber,
I don’t know that it applies to the OP question but did want to tell you that you can control your heart rate to a certain degree. After service I went to college on my GI Bill. I had a lot of friends majoring in psychology. To make extra coin I volunteered for some of their programs including biofeedback. For many years I could significantly slow down or speed up my heart rate. I can still do it to a small degree decades later, but nothing like when I actively practiced it.
wishing you a great day,
lynn
 

bomberodevil

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Feb 5, 2010
Messages
141
Bomber,
I don’t know that it applies to the OP question but did want to tell you that you can control your heart rate to a certain degree. After service I went to college on my GI Bill. I had a lot of friends majoring in psychology. To make extra coin I volunteered for some of their programs including biofeedback. For many years I could significantly slow down or speed up my heart rate. I can still do it to a small degree decades later, but nothing like when I actively practiced it.
wishing you a great day,
lynn

I know some folks that train specifically in bio-feedback can do it, but for the other 99.9% of us that aren’t in tune to our bodies to that degree, the combat breathing technique works well. Anyone can learn and practice it with little training.
 

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