Rifle Marksmanship, MCRP 3-01A, Survival Shooting

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Because we want these lessons to be as useful as possible for a broad audience, we're going to start with the most common form of rifle sights - the so-called "open sights". The other major variant of iron rifle sights - aperture sights - we'll leave for Part II B of this series. Fundamental sight theory requires the shooter to be aware of three discrete elements and their interrelationship: 1 the rear sight the part in the diagram above that looks like a block "C" lying on its back ; 2 the front sight depicted in our diagram as the somewhat fuzzy post centered in the notch of the rear sight ; and 3 the target the fuzzy gray circle on top of the front sight, which is positioned as just touching the target at the 6 o'clock position.

This interrelationship is managed by the shooter by three concepts, to be performed in the following sequence for each shot: A Sight alignment: This term refers to the way the front and rear sights appear to the shooter after he or she has assumed the physical position to be used for the shot. Note that we are NOT talking about the sights themselves - after all, both the rear and front sights are attached mechanically to the rifle.

Instead, what is really being analyzed under the label "sight alignment" is the alignment of the shooter's sighting eye with the sights themselves. The question to be asked by the shooter is simply, "Am I positioned such that the front and rear sights appear in the same line as my eye? Note also that the top of the front post is exactly the same height as the higher non-notched portions of the rear sight. Both of these points front sight post centered in notch and on the same level as the non-notched rear sight portions are critically important. If the front post is more to the right, the bullet will hit to the right of your point of aim POA ; same idea bullet strike to the left of POA if the post is more to the left.

Similarly, if the front post is higher or lower than the non-notched "ears" of the rear sight, your shot will go higher or lower, respectively, from your POA. Make sense? Just keep the front post centered in the notch and at the same height as the rear sight "ears", and you'll be fine. C Point of aim: Remember how I said that the shooter needed to keep three separate pieces in mind when using one's sights? We've been talking about two pieces the front and rear sights , so let's add the third element now.

You'll see that in our diagram, the front and rear sights are aligned, and that the front post is centered and at the same level as the "ears". So far, so good. Now look at where the front post is placed relative to the target. If the target were an analog clock face, that position of low center would be where the "6" would be, right? That's why shooters refer to the sight picture in our diagram as a "six o'clock hold", since the POA is at the six o'clock position on the target.

For now, just assume that the sights on your rifle are adjusted to have the POI equal to the POA at the distance you are shooting. The six o'clock hold gives beginners and especially not-so-newcomers a big advantage, in that it forces shooters to concentrate on the front sight post so that they can be sure that the target is just perched on the front post.

That's where a more colorful name for the six o'clock hold - "pumpkin on a post"- started. The key point to remember is that the human eye simply cannot focus with equal clarity on three distinct items located at varying distances from the eye - in other words, the rear sight, the front sight post, and the target itself. That issue being a fact of human biomechanics, the shooter must choose one item and let the others blur to a greater or lesser degree. Which to choose?

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Always choose the front sight post to be clear. It will be hard to discipline yourself at first - you and your eyes will want to try to focus on all three objects, or the target, or the rear sight, all at the same time. Take a deep breath and concentrate only on the front sight, and making sure that as you begin your trigger squeeze, that sharp front sight post stays right there, at the six o'clock position of the round but somewhat fuzzy bullseye target.

Say to yourself: "Sharp front sight, pumpkin on a post. Sharp front sight, pumpkin on a post. Do that on every shot, and you'll be a superstar. To recap, successsful open rear sight usage comes down to proper sight alignment, the proper sight picture maintained until the shot is fired , and the proper point of aim for the target you are shooting. Next time, we'll deal with the other major vaiety of iron sights - the "peep", or aperture, sight.

Basic Rifle Marksmanship Series: Part II B - Aperture Sights Before we begin today's lesson, please take a few minutes to review our previous discussions on safety and the use of open sights. Aperture sights, sometimes called "peep" sights, are a relatively recent innovation in iron sight technology. First fielded en masse with the British Pattern 14 rifle, American soldiers encountered the peep sight with the P14's American cousin, the M Enfield. The aperture itself is housed on the rear of the rifle's receiver, with the center of the sight's circular opening being parallel with the centerline of the rifle's bore.

In using the aperture, the shooter looks through the center of the opening and concentrates on the front sight, per the diagram above. With the proper focus, the shooter does not see the aperture itself. Instead, the aperture forms the frame for the rifle's front sight, which is then placed properly on the target: You'll notice in both diagrams that the front sight post is centered exactly in the middle of the aperture. Failute to achieve and maintain this centered front sight post will lead to elevation errors due to the front sight post being too high or too low or windage errors due to the front sight post being skewed to the left or right of center aperture.

That's today's lesson - short and sweet. Remember to look through, not at the aperture, keep the front sight post centered in the opening, and you'll have this lesson mastered in no time.

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Basic Rifle Marksmanship Series: Part III - Breathing Control Before we begin today's lesson, please take a few minutes to review our previous discussions on safety, the use of open sights, and the use of aperture sights. As suggested by the illustration above, one of the key parts of firing a good deliberate shot, especially at intermediate and long range, is breaking it during the pause between inhalation and exhalation.

At most, you have from three to five seconds during that trough where your sight picture and hence your shot will not be affected by your body's movements as you breathe. If you have been exerting yourself, that second pause becomes maybe one or two seconds before your brain says, "Time to inhale! More breathing means more oxygen in your blood, and that means more time for your respiratory pause. Your tendency will be to rush your shot, and your accuracy will suffer.

Instead, take a deep breath or two, put your sights back on the target, and create a new respiratory pause so that you can make that shot count. The more practiced you are at assuming a firing position, establishing your sight picture, and firing an accurate dry-fire shot, the better you will be at the range or in the field.

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Basic Rifle Marksmanship Series: Part IV - Trigger Control As usual, I'll ask you to recap our previous lesssons on safety, the use of open sights, the use of aperture sights, and breathing control before we begin today's class. All standard triggers can be grouped into two categories: singe-stage or two-stage.

A single-stage trigger, as the name suggests, features a constant resistance to trigger pressure applied by the shooter. Once the requisite force has been applied, the hammer is released to contaact the firing pin and thus fire the rifle. A two-stage trigger, as found on many military and military-style firearms, features an initial stage of minimal resistance to the shooter's trigger pressure, followed by a final stage of greater resistance until hammerfall.

In learning how to shoot your rifle effectively, you must first determine whether your rifle's trigger is a single-stage or a two-stage trigger.

By dry-firing your rifle, after confirming, both visually and tactilely, that the chamber is empty and all ammunition has been removed from the rifle. In fact, you should never fire a rifle for the first time with a round in the chamber without first teaching your mind and body about its trigger via a few dry-fire executions. Steps in dry-firing: 1 Confirm that the rifle is completely unloaded, both as to its ammunition storage and its storage. Note that I say "press" the trigger, rather than the more common "pull the trigger.

Too much energy and the rifle will move, thus causing your shot to move from the intended point of impact.

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So what is the right type and direction of energy for a proper trigger press? Consider the following factors: 1 Trigger finger placement: You should never have the front surface of your rifle's trigger any deeper along your trigger finger than the crease of the index finger's first knuckle. Better still is to place only the very tip of your trigger finger against the front surface of the trigger. In the illustration above, proper trigger finger placement would be between the first crease labelled "bent finger" and the end of the shading in that first finger segment.

As long as the shooter can get sufficient muscle power, the optimal trigger placement would be on the finger tip at the end of the shading. To the extent that such effort is not parallel to boreline and straight back towards the rifle's buttplate via a curling of your finger, your wrist, or both, you will be introducing lateral action into your rifle that will move its muzzle and thus the placement of your shot.


Straight back and only straight back. The delivery of that energy should be done as smoothly as you can possibly muster, and the pressure that you apply to the trigger's face should be very, very gradual. When I teach a class, I ask my students to take the tip of their trigger finger between the index finger and thumb of their other hand. Slowly squeeze the trigger finger tip such that you can barely feel the increase of pressure. Doing so helps to illustrate, in a tactile way, the quality and quantity of pressure needed to achieve a successful trigger press.

Finally, you will read, on the 'Net and elsewhere, some discussions about "surprise trigger breaks" and "controlled breaks". Both camps have their points, but what I have found to be most effective for me is to know, via repeated dry-fire and live-fire executions, when the trigger is just about to break. This so-called "controlled break" allows me to concentrate on my sight picture and, when just right, place just the slightest bit more energy into the trigger mechanism so that the hammer falls as my sights are correctly on target.

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