Gun World - - Con­tents -

Just like peo­ple, ri­fles come in an as­sort­ment of shapes and sizes. They vary in weight, with a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent op­tics and ac­cou­trements. Some peo­ple add bipods and ver­ti­cal grips, while oth­ers might opt for lasers and lights. Nev­er­the­less, re­gard­less of what your ri­fle looks like, there are fun­da­men­tals that, once learned and put into prac­tice, will make ri­fle shoot­ing sim­pler.

Gen­er­ally, shoot­ing a ri­fle is eas­ier than shoot­ing a hand­gun, be­cause rather than just hav­ing two hands on the firearm, as with a pis­tol, there are other parts of your body that as­sist with sta­bi­liz­ing the ri­fle. The four points of con­tact with a ri­fle are your strong hand, sup­port hand, where the stock meets your up­per body and the cheek weld. When I com­bine these four points of con­tact, I have a greater abil­ity to con­trol my fol­low-up shots.

Most ac­tion shoot­ers pre­fer their el­bows down, be­cause it takes mus­cu­lar strength to keep them up and out.

Hold­ing it like this helps cre­ate econ­omy of mo­tion when pre­sent­ing the ri­fle. Use the toe of the butt­stock like a hinge against your pec­toral. Sim­ply roll the gun up un­til the stock meets your cheek, bring­ing the sights in line with your eye. Even­tu­ally, this move­ment be­comes nat­u­ral based on kines­thetic aware­ness, which is touch sen­sa­tion. It even­tu­ally just be­gins to feel “right.” You might have to make some mi­nor ad­just­ments along the way, but the more you prac­tice this cor­rectly, the smoother and more ef­fi­cient your move­ments be­come.


This method for hold­ing the ri­fle can ap­ply to all the fir­ing po­si­tions in ac­tion sports and de­fen­sive shoot­ing: stand­ing, kneel­ing, sit­ting and prone (but this topic is for a fu­ture col­umn).


Just as with a 1911, the safety on an AR should be ma­nip­u­lated ev­ery time you come off tar­get. When my feet are mov­ing and I’m not ac­tively en­gag­ing tar­gets, my safety is on. If you trip over a root dur­ing a match (as I have) and face-plant, you’ll want your safety to be on when you lose con­trol of your gun.

When we train peo­ple to ma­nip­u­late firearms we say, “The thumb lives on the safety.” This is an­other form of ki­netic aware­ness. I know what it “feels like” when my safety is both on and off. Us­ing the safety on my AR has be­come an au­to­matic mo­tor pro­gram for me—some­thing I don’t have to con­sciously think about.

Fi­nally, the sling. When I spend time on the range with my pis­tol, I wear my hol­ster to have some­where to store the pis­tol when it is not be­ing used. The same thing goes for the sling on my ri­fle: When­ever I don’t need to be ac­tively hold­ing my ri­fle, I let it hang (on “safe,” of course). I feel sorry for peo­ple who for­get to bring their slings to a class and are stuck hold­ing a heavy ri­fle all day. It’s very fa­tigu­ing. Think about it this way: The sling is to the ri­fle what the hol­ster is to the pis­tol.

When wear­ing a sling, you should have it tight enough so the toe of the butt stock is near the hinge point on your pec­toral. I pre­fer a two-point sling with some bungee for stretch, be­cause it keeps the gun near the “ready” po­si­tion. Af­ter all, your ri­fle isn’t meant to be worn as a neck­lace.


Take the time to be­come com­fort­able us­ing the four points of con­tact with your AR. Find out where you need to place your sup­port hand for max­i­mum con­trol of your ri­fle. De­ter­mine where the butt­stock of the gun should come in con­tact. Prac­tice en­gag­ing and dis­en­gag­ing your safety, keep­ing your thumb on it the en­tire time. Work with your sling. Find a proper ad­just­ment in the length to keep it near the ready po­si­tion.

As with any­thing else, the more you prac­tice prop­erly, the smoother you will be­come, and the faster you will get. GW

Tuck­ing your el­bows down takes less mus­cu­lar strength than keep­ing them up and out. The safety on an AR should be ma­nip­u­lated ev­ery time you come off tar­get.

Use the toe of the butt­stock like a hinge against your pec­toral.

When you grab your pec­toral, where the thumb lands is gen­er­ally where the toe of the butt­stock should touch.

Us­ing the safety on an AR will even­tu­ally be­come an au­to­matic mo­tor pro­gram.

De­ter­mine where you need to place your sup­port hand for the most sta­bi­liza­tion.


A sling should be tight enough so the toe of the butt­stock is near the hinge point on your pec­toral.

Your cheek should rest on the top of the stock.

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