What makes a good marksman?

Pro2A

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Joined
May 23, 2009
Messages
489
Usually, I boil it down to one word: Attitude - For it implies most everything included. However, here is one set of criteria that often I agree with.

The 5 Traits of Expert Rifle Shooters
To be a fine marksman you have to be in control of yourself.
  1. Diligence: You must practice regularly. The way to improve performance under stress is through constant drill and rehearsal. When it's for real, you fall back on what you have learned instead of succumbing to panic. At the U.S. Army Sniper School, the conventional wisdom is that you expend 5,000 rounds in practice for every round you fire at the bad guys.
  2. Cold Blood: This means you are not undone by pressure. In hunting it also refers to a willingness to kill. I think a good many cases of buck fever are caused by a reluctance to take life. Good shots do it impersonally; they don't relish it, but they don't shy from it, either. If you are able to kill with complete indifference, perhaps you should take up another sport.
  3. Faith: That is, faith in your rifle—and the way to become a true believer is to use a gun you shoot really well. Yet we often go astray. We read about which cartridges will do what, at which ranges. We obsess about making shots far beyond our practical limit. Then we go out and buy veritable cannons whose recoil and muzzle blast keep us from shooting as well as we can.
  4. Experience: A friend of mine who has been hunting for six decades and has the skills to show for it said that after you've taken 300 head of game or so, you start to calm down and figure out what you can and can't do. This is one part I can't help you with, but I hope you have fun figuring it out.
  5. Will: I've known at least two shooters who simply willed themselves into a state of excellence. A couple of weeks ago, I was shooting against one of them at a contest in which a perfect score is 50, and there are very few of those. I had a 48. So my competition sat down and stared at the ground awhile, thinking I know not what, but willing himself to beat me. And he did.
I refer to "The Mind". It's 90% mental.
 

charliewhisky

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Joined
Sep 7, 2010
Messages
47
Usually, I boil it down to one word: Attitude - For it implies most everything included. However, here is one set of criteria that often I agree with.

The 5 Traits of Expert Rifle Shooters
To be a fine marksman you have to be in control of yourself.
  1. Diligence: You must practice regularly. The way to improve performance under stress is through constant drill and rehearsal. When it's for real, you fall back on what you have learned instead of succumbing to panic. At the U.S. Army Sniper School, the conventional wisdom is that you expend 5,000 rounds in practice for every round you fire at the bad guys.
  2. Cold Blood: This means you are not undone by pressure. In hunting it also refers to a willingness to kill. I think a good many cases of buck fever are caused by a reluctance to take life. Good shots do it impersonally; they don't relish it, but they don't shy from it, either. If you are able to kill with complete indifference, perhaps you should take up another sport.
  3. Faith: That is, faith in your rifle—and the way to become a true believer is to use a gun you shoot really well. Yet we often go astray. We read about which cartridges will do what, at which ranges. We obsess about making shots far beyond our practical limit. Then we go out and buy veritable cannons whose recoil and muzzle blast keep us from shooting as well as we can.
  4. Experience: A friend of mine who has been hunting for six decades and has the skills to show for it said that after you've taken 300 head of game or so, you start to calm down and figure out what you can and can't do. This is one part I can't help you with, but I hope you have fun figuring it out.
  5. Will: I've known at least two shooters who simply willed themselves into a state of excellence. A couple of weeks ago, I was shooting against one of them at a contest in which a perfect score is 50, and there are very few of those. I had a 48. So my competition sat down and stared at the ground awhile, thinking I know not what, but willing himself to beat me. And he did.
I found myself thinking about your post and the drift it took toward hunting in general. I found the introspection it led to was somewhat illuminating.
I am not a great shot. I spent 13 years Army Airborne Artillery and had several combat tours in Vietnam. One tour was as a Forward Observer, and I learned to live with a weapon and treat it like the tool that it is. I have had fun over the last few years shooting iron at up to 500 yds with some success and have enjoyed it, but at heart I am a hunter, and the focus has always been to be able to kill at greater ranges.
I am a good Archery hunter but not a great archer. I have always concentrated on being close enough to know that I will be able to do the job, which is the kill. I have always hunted from the ground, and I spend most of my time moving. I have stories of close kills with both a bow and a rifle, being stepped on by deer, and improbable shots that even I hesitate to believe.

I love the hunt. I truly enjoy being out and experiencing nature and I get really involved in seeing nature as a whole. When I am hunting, I am usually totally in the experience.

All the above information is provided to allow me to comment on several points you made. They have clarified some of my own thoughts and I am providing them to help others see their validity.

Will: I am always ready to take the shot. Every step, movement, or thought is directed toward getting the shot. I may be enjoying everything around me, but I am only aware of it because of the will to get a shot. I have met many hunters who are not really hunting. They are waiting their turn to shoot. I want that shot enough to earn it.

Cold Blood: When I get the shot, I take it. I don't overthink it. There was a time when I thought that the impersonal way I felt during the killing might be a character flaw. I have learned enough about myself since then to realize that it is simply the mind set required to allow training and intent to implement immediate action. After it is over, I can reflect on how beautiful the animal was and our relative positions in the food chain.

Diligence: Practice doesn't make perfect, but it surely helps and it absolutely informs your ability to recognize what you are, and are not, capable off.
Muscle memory is everything when the unexpected, and especially the unbelievable, shots are offered.

Experience: There is no substitute. But without the Will to earn the shot, the diligence to be good enough to make the shot, and the Cold Blood mindset to take the shot, you would be better off with a camera.
 

CDFrom

Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2020
Messages
11
Location
Az
Mental attitude and a desire to learn.
As a Marine vet I had been a mediocre shooter until I had a bad weapon. Firing at 200m I had to aim a target left and adjust windage to impact on my target, 300 & 500 m exponentially worse. Coach would not believe me until after our session and putting a round down range for himself. I was able to draw a “new weapon” for qual day.
I fired a 222 on an unproven weapon. Expert, barely. Next go around a 246 of 250 high score for the year.
When the Gulf war started I had a broken wrist so I could not deploy (Yet). Due to my score I was assigned a spot as a PMI ( primary marksmanship instructor) ( coach)
With necessity looming, the 26 unqualified I was given, had a desperate desire to learn, an unforgiving need to know. 19 of my shooters made expert and all qualified. I could foolishly attribute that to my superior skills, but the truth is, focus was greatly intensified by the expectation of rounds coming down range and strong senses of survival.
The fundamentals, body alignment sight picture, trigger control, breathing. All necessary and needed for the ONLY shot that counts. The next one.
 

Jon Bischof

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Oct 25, 2002
Messages
512
Location
Paragould, AR
Practice leads to improvement only if combined with learning from your mistakes. So "call every shot"! That means say to yourself where the shot landed before you look at the target. When your call and your POI become the same, you are then in a position to learn what you are doing wrong and hence learn by eliminating those things that lead to misses to be able to predict and call a perfect shot before you look at the target to confirm it.

When you can break a shot and say, "that is an X" and then look at the target and it is an X, then your own mistakes have taught you how to eliminate them as much as you can and you are now shooting up to your potential consistently.

But one never gets to that point unless he marks and learns from every missed shot. Eventually, you can get to the point to where when you miss, you know what you did wrong.
 

MagnumManiac

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Feb 25, 2008
Messages
3,957
My wife still thinks I am a crazy gun nut because I spend at least an hour every single night with my 3 comp rifles setting up and dry firing each for at least half an hour, sometimes more if it doesn’t feel right.
I even dry fire my hunting rifles over my pack to make sure everything is still in order.
I have been told I am a natural, I grasped shooting .22’s at running rabbits and foxes by the age of 10, started shooting when I was 7.
Sight acquisition and trigger work are the most important thing, other than rifle set-up, whether over bags or a bi-pod.
It took me a while to figure out scope shooting, I had grown up shooting with very poor iron sights, and when I started .22 3 position, the RO insisted I had a rifle with a scope on it. I borrowed another shooters rifle. The cross hair just wouldn’t stay still for me and I was shooting much better with the iron sights of my single shot .22. My own shooter induced parallax was something that took me a while to grasp.
Natural ability goes a long way, but muscle memory from practise keeps you in the zone. I had shoulder surgery some time back now, no dry firing or shooting for 18 months…could not believe how poorly I shot the first time back out.

Cheers.
 

nealm66

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Jul 6, 2020
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702
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washington
Ive always thought that a bigger shoulder would help with heavy recoil for accuracy but that’s not true. Probably helps other things but I’ve seen big guys not shoot that great and smaller guys shoot incredible well with same type recoil. About a month ago I watched a newer shooter sighting in a new rifle and getting help from the range master. He didn’t bring a rest so was using these wooden front rest V’s the range provides. No rear bag. I was 3 tables down and I could hear the range guy walking him in at 100 after the 25. They were making scope adjustments after 2 shots and sounded like he had a lot of shots touching. On a call for target check I asked him what he was shooting. 300 rum. I never saw or looked at his targets but man, that’s pretty dang good for that caliber with factory ammo. He shot some more and even sent some out to 200. I watched him shoot once and could see he had definitely done some shooting before but still was impressed
 

SSgt G Cody

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Asheville, NC
I've always loved shooting, and competing! I teach NRA riflecraft and sharpshooting for teens in scouting, ROTC, and adult basic training. I also help operate our local range. Almost anyone can learn the basics, but only about 10% or less have the drive and desire to seek true excellence! I try to be positive and encouraging, but few seem to dive in deeply. However, these who do are a true joy to me, and I go to great lengths to help them. We usually insist that beginners start shooting at 50 yds with .22 rifles in their first 4 2-hr sessions, under guidance of a coach. Then they can advance to big rifles at 100 yds. Their shooting sessions and advancement are recorded in our records. Only intermediate and advanced shooters are allowed to shoot on our 200 and 300 yd. range! This system seems to work very well!
 

SSgt G Cody

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Feb 23, 2020
Messages
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Asheville, NC
Back to original questions: I would first explain deep breathing, calming, and releasing half a breath before trigger pull. Also emphasize an extremely light and soft trigger pull. Next I would explain rifle front support (bipod, bag, block, etc.). Then the all-important rear stock and shoulder support (pad, pillow, hand/fist, etc.)! Learned on a .22 rifle, this also applies to shooting large rifles! Then, ... just have FUN!!!
 

Bravo 4

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What makes a good marksman? Proper application of the fundamentals. I believe some have natural abilities for different things. However no matter how “good” you are proper instruction is better or will make you better. You can practice all you want but you could be instilling bad habits.
 

Jon Bischof

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Oct 25, 2002
Messages
512
Location
Paragould, AR
What makes a good marksman? Proper application of the fundamentals. I believe some have natural abilities for different things. However no matter how “good” you are proper instruction is better or will make you better. You can practice all you want but you could be instilling bad habits.
Right! Practice doesn't necessarily produce improvement unless you identify mistakes and use techniques to avoid them. Sometimes it is breathing, sometimes hold/rest, etc.

Identify,
Isolate (separate from other factors)
Improve
 

dfanonymous

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Jul 16, 2016
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1,488
What makes a good marksman? Proper application of the fundamentals. I believe some have natural abilities for different things. However no matter how “good” you are proper instruction is better or will make you better. You can practice all you want but you could be instilling bad habits.
Yep. Fundamentals of marksmanship. Even if you’re gifted, being better starts with having a good foundation to build skills. It’s true in all things that are a craft.
 

Oryx_Official

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Chilliwack, BC
Practicing good body position before going to the range really helps. There are probably lots of videos on proper position emphasizing using as little muscle strain as necessary to hold a rifle. Example, if not prone and unsupported (ie seated), tuck elbows into something so the weight of the rifle rests against a bone connecting with your body. It's easy to go through this at home and get it dialed in by holding your sight picture on a fixed point down a hallway.
 

nealm66

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washington
I’ve had a few people reach out to me about getting into reloading and which starter kit to buy etc. I always give my best thoughts on the matter but I really feel the best tool to start with is shooting skill. In my opinion the majority of factory rifles sold today will likely shoot good factory ammunition under 1 moa and it really helps when your trying to find a good load to know your working with a rifle that is capable. I don’t run factory ammunition through a new rifle these days but I used to and it always helped to have a reference for trouble shooting. Horse in front of the cart sort of thing
 

Pro2A

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Joined
May 23, 2009
Messages
489
I found myself thinking about your post and the drift it took toward hunting in general. I found the introspection it led to was somewhat illuminating.
I am not a great shot. I spent 13 years Army Airborne Artillery and had several combat tours in Vietnam. One tour was as a Forward Observer, and I learned to live with a weapon and treat it like the tool that it is. I have had fun over the last few years shooting iron at up to 500 yds with some success and have enjoyed it, but at heart I am a hunter, and the focus has always been to be able to kill at greater ranges.
I am a good Archery hunter but not a great archer. I have always concentrated on being close enough to know that I will be able to do the job, which is the kill. I have always hunted from the ground, and I spend most of my time moving. I have stories of close kills with both a bow and a rifle, being stepped on by deer, and improbable shots that even I hesitate to believe.

I love the hunt. I truly enjoy being out and experiencing nature and I get really involved in seeing nature as a whole. When I am hunting, I am usually totally in the experience.

All the above information is provided to allow me to comment on several points you made. They have clarified some of my own thoughts and I am providing them to help others see their validity.

Will: I am always ready to take the shot. Every step, movement, or thought is directed toward getting the shot. I may be enjoying everything around me, but I am only aware of it because of the will to get a shot. I have met many hunters who are not really hunting. They are waiting their turn to shoot. I want that shot enough to earn it.

Cold Blood: When I get the shot, I take it. I don't overthink it. There was a time when I thought that the impersonal way I felt during the killing might be a character flaw. I have learned enough about myself since then to realize that it is simply the mind set required to allow training and intent to implement immediate action. After it is over, I can reflect on how beautiful the animal was and our relative positions in the food chain.

Diligence: Practice doesn't make perfect, but it surely helps and it absolutely informs your ability to recognize what you are, and are not, capable off.
Muscle memory is everything when the unexpected, and especially the unbelievable, shots are offered.

Experience: There is no substitute. But without the Will to earn the shot, the diligence to be good enough to make the shot, and the Cold Blood mindset to take the shot, you would be better off with a camera.
I find that the more I practice, the luckier I get. Amateurs practice til they get it right. Pros practice til they cannot get it wrong.
 
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