10 Gun Hunting Tips from a Certified Police Sniper

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Do You Use These Tips?

Each year, millions of hunters take to the woods, rifle in hand, after whitetails and many other game animals. Hunters owe it to themselves and their quarry to take every step possible to ensure clean, accurate shots. Here are 10 tips to help you do that this season.

Know Your Equipment Know Your Equipment Know Your Equipment Know Your Equipment Know Your Equipment

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1 | Know Your Equipment

Know your setup. Don’t just buy a new gun, scope, box of ammo or any other piece of the puzzle (or a pre-packaged combo) and start hunting. Spend some time with it first. Check to ensure the scope is properly mounted and that the firearm functions as it should. Once you have confirmed that, try several different brands and bullet weights of ammo to see which one your gun likes the best.

Once you know all of that, spend some time at the range. Zero your setup at the distance most appropriate for your type of hunting and terrain - then practice. Make several trips to the range in different weather conditions. You don’t want to set up your rifle in July when the mercury is pushing 100 degrees, then not shoot it again until you make your winter trip for northern whitetails when temperatures can hover around zero. Otherwise, that 250-yard shot on the buck of a lifetime might turn into a disaster with a wounded buck or a big serving of very expensive tag soup.

Photo credit: Tikka

Editor's Note: The Tikka T3 (shown above) is a great rifle for deer and big game hunters. It shoots great and is easy to adjust. It's the ultimate rifle for those who love to go afield with the boom stick. Attach a scope, dial it in, get intimate with that bad girl, and you're ready for adventure.

Practice Different PositionsPractice Different PositionsPractice Different PositionsPractice Different PositionsPractice Different Positions

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2 | Practice Different Positions

Practice shooting from different positions, mimicking as best you can actual hunting scenarios. Shooting all day from a seated position on a bench with a proper rest and sandbags is a great way to know how your rifle shoots. But unless you shoot only from a shooting house or carry a shooting bench afield with you, it may not do much good when you only have a few seconds to make a shot on a bruiser non-typical that stepped into a cut cornfield as you are walking to your evening stand.

Some basics to practice are shooting from a prone position (lying on your stomach), seated, kneeling and standing. The latter should be practiced freehand, standing while using a sling for support and using available rests that mimic trees or other natural props.

Photo credit: Glenn Wheeler

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Practice Proper Trigger TechniquePractice Proper Trigger TechniquePractice Proper Trigger TechniquePractice Proper Trigger TechniquePractice Proper Trigger Technique

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3 | Practice Proper Trigger Technique

Learn and practice proper trigger technique. We usually say “pull the trigger,” and essentially that is what we are doing. But, I prefer the terms “squeeze the trigger,” or better yet, “press the trigger.” A controlled, consistent activation of the trigger is key.

The same area of your trigger finger should be on the trigger each time. For right-handed shooters, too much finger can tend to pull the shot right and too little can push it left. Just the opposite is true for those shooting left handed. Either the pad or the area about halfway between the plumpest part of your index finger and the first joint is about right.

Once you have figured out the sweet spot on your finger, a consistent press of the trigger toward the rear of the gun is where it’s at. Pressing from the second joint and keeping the first part of the finger straight will produce more accuracy than pulling with the first joint.

Look at your finger and practice. The proper technique should make your finger appear to take on an L shape. If it instead takes on a J shape, you are probably pulling your shots.

Photo credit: Glenn Wheeler

Adjust or Install for a Better TriggerAdjust or Install for a Better TriggerAdjust or Install for a Better TriggerAdjust or Install for a Better TriggerAdjust or Install for a Better Trigger

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4 | Adjust or Install for a Better Trigger

Speaking of triggers, a good trigger is one of the most important items for consistently accurate shooting. I’m not talking form or technique; those are very important. But, once you have those down pat and you want to make a good shooting rifle into a great shooting rifle, start with the trigger.

A trigger with very little creep and a clean, consistent break is key. Poundage – or the amount of pressure needed to activate the trigger – is a personal choice, but shouldn’t be so light that accidental firing of the gun is likely or so heavy that it affects accuracy. Many triggers are now user-adjustable.

Some factory-installed triggers are better now than a few years ago, but many still need help. The rifle I carry on duty for law enforcement sniper callouts is a Steyer SSG 04, chambered in .308 Win. It has a trigger that a rifleman’s dreams are made of; very little creep and a crisp, clean break at around 2.5 pounds. But, good triggers are available without having to spend the money on a high-end rifle. Many manufacturers are now putting very good triggers in rifles, even those on the lower end of the price range.

If you already have a trusty rifle, but the trigger needs some TLC, a couple of options are available. Trigger jobs at professional gunsmith shops are a good option and tend to be affordable. Or, “drop-in” triggers can be installed in short order by most shooters with a little bit of DIY skill. Two brands I have had extensive experience with and highly recommend are Timney who offers top-of-the-line triggers for numerous brands and models of guns and Velocity Triggers who make superb drop-in units for AR-15 platform rifles.

Photo credit: Glenn Wheeler

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Have a Proper Cheek WeldHave a Proper Cheek WeldHave a Proper Cheek WeldHave a Proper Cheek WeldHave a Proper Cheek Weld

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5 | Have a Proper Cheek Weld

A proper cheek weld to the comb of the stock not only helps with recoil but also keeps your shooting consistent and improves accuracy. Cheek weld is a personal choice kind of thing and will vary with rifle types, body size and so forth. But, as with so many of the other tips, consistency is key.

An easy way to determine a good cheek weld is to figure out what is comfortable and allows you to clearly see through the scope. Then practice mounting the rifle with your eyes closed to that same point. If you open your eyes and you can still see clearly through your optics, you’ve found your sweet spot. Now, put enough pressure on the stock to firm up the rifle, after the butt is in your shoulder pocket, to help manage recoil and create that consistency we keep talking about, and you have a proper cheek weld.

Photo credit: Glenn Wheeler

Practice with a RimfirePractice with a RimfirePractice with a RimfirePractice with a RimfirePractice with a Rimfire

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6 | Practice with a Rimfire

One of the best ways to sharpen your shooting skills, and your hunting and woodsmanship skills in general, is to hunt small game with a rimfire rifle. Squirrels are a favorite and putting a good stalk on one and making a clean, accurate shot will boost both your skill level and your confidence.

Also, practicing the fundamentals of marksmanship with a rimfire is a less expensive and fun way to learn and maintain good form. It also allows you to get good practice in without the recoil of big game rifles.

Photo credit: Glenn Wheeler

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Execute Proper Breathing Execute Proper Breathing Execute Proper Breathing Execute Proper Breathing Execute Proper Breathing

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7 | Execute Proper Breathing

Just breathe. Consistent breath control that allows you to squeeze off the shot without bobbling the rifle is where it’s at. Some are of the school of thought that you inhale a normal breath and hold. Others say exhale completely and hold. I like to inhale, then exhale about halfway and gently hold my breath when ready to shoot. What you don’t want to do is run out of oxygen from holding too long and have to start over. Slow, gentle breaths are the key.

Photo credit: Glenn Wheeler

Conduct Regular MaintenanceConduct Regular MaintenanceConduct Regular MaintenanceConduct Regular MaintenanceConduct Regular Maintenance

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8 | Conduct Regular Maintenance

Maintain your rifle. Keep your rifle and optics clean and watch for any wear and tear or other problems. A well-maintained rifle will stay accurate much longer.

After a thorough cleaning, test fire your rifle to see if it fires differently on a clean barrel. Some fire substantially different, while others almost not at all. If you have one of the rifles that throws the first round or two after cleaning, simply fire a couple of fouling shots after the cleaning supplies are put away, then wipe the gun down and carry on.

Photo credit: Glenn Wheeler

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Shoot More, Shoot More OftenShoot More, Shoot More OftenShoot More, Shoot More OftenShoot More, Shoot More OftenShoot More, Shoot More Often

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9 | Shoot More, Shoot More Often

Shoot. A lot. The more you shoot using proper techniques and forms, the more natural this will become and the more consistently accurate you will become. I don’t mean you have to put thousands of rounds a year through your rifle, but enough that you can go through these tips without having to put any real thought into it.

Photo credit: Glenn Wheeler

Enjoy Your Time Behind the TriggerEnjoy Your Time Behind the TriggerEnjoy Your Time Behind the TriggerEnjoy Your Time Behind the TriggerEnjoy Your Time Behind the Trigger

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10 | Enjoy Your Time Behind the Trigger

Have fun! Don’t make your practice seem like work. Shoot in a way that you enjoy, as long as you employ good techniques. Share the time with friends, or even better, share it with kids and let them have fun, too. Just remember range safety and eye and ear protection.

Photo credit: Glenn Wheeler

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