Monday, November 5, 2012

Quick Tactical Tips: Shooting an AR-15

Practice urban prone 3 times a day and call me in the morning......just kidding.

We get asked this sort of question all the time. Shooting an AR-15 is slightly different than your average rifle or shotgun, but for the most part the general guidelines to the shooting sports in general apply here as well. I'm going to piggyback on a Facebook post by Lewis and lay out a few general tips on shooting an AR-15.
More after the jump....

A very stable stance angled 30-45 degrees from the target.

1. Proper Shooting Stance: The most important concept here is to do what is NATURAL for you and to be in a comfortable stance. For now, forget what you saw Travis Haley or Chris Costa doing on those instructional videos your buddy showed you. Stand holding your rifle at rest. Keep your feet about shoulder's width apart. Face your target. Now pretend you are playing short-stop and you are about to field a ground ball. You should move your weight forward over the front 1/3 of your feet (not your toes or back on your heels). You are sort of leaning into the target, but NOT OFF BALANCE. Your front foot (weakside foot, example: your left foot if you shoot Right-handed) should be slightly forward of your back foot (same foot as your strong side). By having your chest approximately 30-45 degrees to the target, when you bring the rifle to your eye, you are aimed down the bore with your entire body, and the weight of your chest is behind the butt-stock to absorb the recoil. By having your weight over the front 1/3 of your foot, you are leaning into the target, also absorbing recoil, but also preparing your body to move quickly either to transition targets or move your whole body. Having your lead foot slightly forward gives you almost 180 degrees of swing to engage targets without moving your feet. A stable stance is critical to accurate shooting, so you should move your feet as little as possible. This is a BALANCED, NATURAL stance, which is the most important characteristic of your stance. Unnatural is not reproducible under stress and imvolves mentally making yourself do things to get into your stance. This takes time and is set-up for failure.

2. Shoot with both eyes open if possible. This is what I would call an advanced skill, as most people start out shooting with the weak eye closed. If you started out on a BB gun with a peep sight, then this is how you HAD to shoot. With AR sight options, shooting with both eyes open is both advantageous and easier. Red dots are designed to be shot with both eyes open, and this techinique allows a wide field of view for you to keep your eyes down range acquiring targets. After a bit of practice, you will hopefully be able to use this technique on handguns as well. But it does take practice, so take some time at home each day to dry fire with both eyes open. (This is not necessary if you are using a magnified long range scope.)

3. Remember less is more. Wasted motion when manipulating or shooting the AR-15 results in less than optimal results. Wasted motion makes you more inaccurate and adds time in timed competitions. So practice reloading using the minimal amount of motion. Shoot with the minimal amount of motion applied to the rifle if you are prone shooting (meaning the rifle is supported by bags and you are only touching the trigger.) Don't touch the barrel EVER when you are shooting, meaning use free-floating rails and don't support the rifle on bags directly touching the barrel.

4. Speed is good; accuracy is final. Self-explanatory. Make sure you can hit all the targets before you start trying to shave time off in competition. Believe me, it takes a lot of effort to make up a 15 point penalty for a missed target. Take the extra second and get on the target before you pull the trigger.

5. Breathing is key! Your brain needs oxygen and all the muscles in your body need both the oxygen and your brain to control the fine motor skills it takes to hit targets. So continue breathing throughout your shooting and moving!. This sounds dumb, but actually most people hold their breath during short bursts of activity. I remember first hearing this on ESPN when they interviewed a running back, that said he had gotten a lot more productive just by breathing while he was running the ball! He said he had always held his breath and didn't realize it! Another caveat, is knowing when NOT TO BREATHE. If you are shooting a target that requires high accuracy or you are zeroing a weapon, then slow your breathing, exhale slowly, and hold your breath until you break the shot. There are many, many variations in teaching when it comes to breath control, so find what works for you. Exhaling completely and holding my breath is what I have always done and it has worked for me at the highest levels of competitive shooting.

6. Always use support when possible! Shooting free-standing is a good skill to have but in reality you won't be doing it that often unless you are shooting in competitions that require it. Shooting 3-gun or being in combat/law enforcement will most likely dictate that you shoot from cover or utilize your environment for support. That being said, it is HUGELY advantageous to use whatever means you have in your environment for support to prop the rifle on. Barrels, wooden beams, cars, laying prone on the ground using a 3-point support (elbows and magazine base) will all ofter a significant advantage over shooting free-standing with no support. Every one of the competitions I have shot in had various items on the range which seemed inocuous to most, but the experienced shooters utilized for support. Pay attention to your environment and use it to your advantage.

7. Practice on smaller targets. Want to shoot smaller groups? Use smaller targets. You will be content with whatever level of accuracy your training allows. So if that means an 8 inch circle, you'll be content with hitting an 8 inch circle. But if you practice on a 2 inch circle, then you'll continue to train and shoot until you can put all your rounds in a 2 inch circle. You are improving because you are expecting more of yourself as a shooter and you are also putting more rounds downrange to attain that level of accuracy. Both are important to improving as a shooter. Very often, when I go to practice, instead of putting up the self-stick 6 inch circle targets, I instead put up the black pasters that are included to repair holes. These are less than an inch in size and really challenge you to try and hit them. Practice on tiny targets long enough and then those IDPA torso sized targets will be impossible to miss!

8. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. It's not enough to just go through the motions of practicing. Ammo and range time cost money. Make use of your ammo and time efficiently and plan out your practice. Then, practice with purpose and to improve your skills, not just send lead blindly downrange. Only after you start shooting and manipulating your weapons without any thought at all will you become a master of those techiniques. Remember, under stress we default to our level of training. Make sure your level of training is capable of completing whatever shooting task you have set out before you. And remember the StrongSide Tactical Motto:

"Amateurs train to get it right; professionals train to never get it wrong...."

I hope these quick tips help. Stay tuned this week for some exciting posts and videos. I've got some cool content coming down the pipe.

Be safe and see you next time.

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