Marksmanship Basics and Beyond


In a TEOTWAWKI situation, the ability to shoot accurately from a distance could be the difference between eating healthy high protein game, and not eating at all, or it could be the difference between protecting your loved ones, and being raided and attacked by bandits.

Beyond just being able to shoot accurately, learning to be a marksman teaches focus, patience, determination, and consistency – valuable skills for any survivalist and in any survival situation.

In marksmanship, the goal is to minimize the input of your body on the firing action of the gun. Imagine that you are relaxing your muscles and building a stack of solid, stable bones to rest your rifle on. The only muscular input should be the slow and steady squeezing of your trigger finger.


Contrary to popular believe among many recreational shooters and hunters, myself at one point included, the primary purpose of a sling is not to carry your rifle over your shoulder. The primary purpose of a sling is as a support to steady your rifle without the use of a tripod.

There are several types of slings, and a lot of different ways to use them. I’ll go over two variations on how to use them. The first is fast and can be easily be transitioned to while on the move, while using the sling to carry your rifle. The second takes more time to set-up, but is much more accurate.

While your sling is attached at two points, on the forestock and near the butt, pick up your with the sling loosely dangling over the outside of your forward arm. Slide the elbow of your forward arm into the sling and hold it at angle that puts tension on the sling and stabilizes the rifle. Adjust the length of your sling to get the right amount of tension.

To set up a more accurate shot, remove the sling attachment from the butt of your rifle, slacken the sling inside the buckle and slide your forward arm through the loop created by loosening the buckle. You want to use this loop so that pulling on the rifle will tighten the loop and keep in it place. Place the loop as high on your arm as possible. Your forward hand should slide in between the sling and the forestock of the rifle, and when in position the sling should be taught against the back of your forward hand to create a secure position.


There are a variety of different positions that you can intelligently assume while firing a rifle. Your choice will largely depend on a combination of time and distance. The most accurate positions take more time to set up, and the least accurate positions take less time to set up. At shorter distances to your target, you are more likely to have been seen, and more likely to be in a hurry. At farther distances to your target you are more likely to be un-detected and have more time to set up your shot.

If you are having any trouble lining up the sights while you are in any of these positions, you may need to check your eye dominance. Just because you are right handed doesn’t mean that you are right eye dominant. To test your dominance hold both hands out in front of you with your arms straight. Overlap the fingers of your right hand with the fingers of your left hand, and overlap the thumb of your right hand with the thumb of your left hand. There should be a hole that you can see through, put an object at a distance in that hole. With both eyes open, bring your hands closer to your face until your hands hit your face, keeping the object centered in the hole. Your hands should end up coming to one eye or the other. That eye is your dominant eye. If your dominant eye is your right eye, your right hand is your trigger hand. If your dominant eye is your left eye, your left hand is your trigger hand.

There are two things that you should do in all positions. First, the forestock of the rifle rests on the open palm of your non-trigger hand. The rifle should rest more or less along the lifeline crease in your palm. You want to minimize your input on the rifle, gripping the forestock introduces unnecessary and unstable muscular support into your firing system. Second, crane your neck forward and place your cheek on the stock of the rifle. You should be in a good position to see the sights, and when the rifle recoils, your head should go up with the rifle, instead of the rifle bashing into your forehead. It’s especially obvious when someone with an improperly setup scope forgets to do this step, usually a newbie at the beginning of shooting season. They end up with a circular scope shaped cut on their forehead. Don’t let this be you, setup a consistent, safe, and repeatable position every time.

The most basic shooting position is the standing position. In the standing position I like to put my feet a little bit wider than shoulder width, to make a good solid base. The elbow of your trigger arm should be up, and your trigger arm should be parallel to the ground. Try it. You’ll notice that as you lift your elbow, your shoulder creates a nice pocket to hold the butt of your rifle firmly in place. The last thing you want to happen is the rifle to slide off of your shoulder from recoil as it’s fired. Your shot will be terrible, and you might end up hurting yourself. Plant your foot on your trigger side. Pivot your front foot around to make adjustment left to right. To move altitude adjustments, move your front foot out and in, or adjust the placement of your hand on the forestock.

The next shooting position is the sitting or kneeling position. There are a lot of variations in this position, and I recommend you practice getting up and down with your unloaded rifle to figure out what works best for you. The overall principles remain, create a solid stable base, with loads on your bones, not your muscles, to set your rifle on top of. I’ll go into the position I use the most, and is arguably the best sitting position. You will need to wiggle around and make adjustments to make any seated seated position work for you. Cross your feet with the trigger side foot in first. Ideally, your boots should support your legs in this position. The back of your upper arm, just above the elbows should rest on your thighs or knees. If you try to rest the pointy part of your elbow on your thighs or knees you’ll slide around it you won’t be able to fire a consistent shot. If you are having trouble getting into this position, begin to uncross your legs, and even put them out in front of you with your knees up in the air if you have to.

The most accurate shooting position is known as the prone position, because you’ll be lying prone on your stomach in this position. Rest your elbows on the ground, and put your forward non-trigger elbow as directly under the stock of the rifle as possible to minimize horizontal movement. You’ll find that you shoot in a diagonal pattern when your elbow is not directly under the stock. Place your trigger-side elbow in a comfortable place that allows you to make a hand-shake grip on the trigger. The trigger-side leg should be bent up as high as possible, while your non-trigger-side leg should be straight in line with your body. This configuration will put you a bit on your side and create some space under your stomach so that your breathing doesn’t lift you off the ground and move your position around. Use your trigger-side elbow as your pivot point and move the rest of your body around to find your aim.

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