Each weapon has its own special qualities to be mastered and these quirks will not be addressed in this article. I will focus on the common problems that prevent most shooters from becoming expert shots and give training tips to help them improve their performance.
The path to becoming an expert shot doesn’t begin at the firing range. Accurate shooting requires calm, discipline, and a degree of physical fitness. Two major factors affect accuracy and they are your heart rate and breathing. Improvement in scoring and becoming an expert shot begins with a physical training program.
In order to slow the heart rate, the efficiency of the heart must increase. The best way to increase the efficiency of the heart and decrease its number of beats per minute is by beginning a program of cardio-vascular training. Road running and jumping rope are two of the best and most effective exercises to increase the pumping capacity of the heart. Choose a form of exercise you enjoy that really makes you breath hard and do it daily. After several months of consistent exercise, heart rate will decrease by several beats per minute and lung capacity will increase dramatically. The shooter will notice significantly less “bump” when holding a weapon on a distant target. The increased lung capacity will allow the shooter the ability to hold a weapon on target longer without feeling the stress of needing to take a breath.
The best example of the importance of cardio-vascular fitness on shooting ability is the Olympic sport biathlon. In this event athletes race on cross-country skis while carrying target rifles. At designated points along the route the athletes must stop skiing and shoot at targets. To win the contest the athlete must race faster than everyone else AND out shoot them. The dichotomy of the two activities – one requiring extreme calm and the other requiring maximum physical effort – are a real test of cardio-vascular fitness. If these people were gasping for breath or their hearts were beating out of their chests they would never be able to hit their targets.
One tip to help achieve expert status at the sport is therefore a high degree of cardio-vascular fitness. Another tip to help people to improve shooting requires less effort – at least physically – and that is to avoid caffeine. Steady nerves are the third factor involved with success at target shooting. These days caffeine is in foods as well as soft drinks, coffee, and tea and a determined target shooter will make every effort to remove it from their diet.
The sport of target shooting involves much more than the choice of weapon used. These three factors – heart rate, breathing, and calm nerves are of paramount importance in all shooting sports regardless of whether the shooter uses a rifle, pistol, or bow. If a shooter wants better scores or to become an expert shot then physical fitness and caffeine avoidance are the keys that will make it happen.