Shooting Pointers

3 Pre-Season Shooting Drills: Back to Basics

Živa Dvoršak & Sonja Benčina

Oct 4, 2022

Sometimes the competition period, especially in shooting, can be long, sometimes so long that the shooters have to combine the resting and pre-season periods and still not have much time for preparation. However short, these two periods are vital to properly recharge and be fully ready for the season ahead. We’ve written about the resting period in Relax, Reflect, Recharge. Back at the shooting ranges, let’s now see how to start your preparation by going back to basics and building a solid foundation to support you through the season. Here are 3 pre-season training drills.

Drill 1: Equipment Check & Shooting Position

Start your pre-season period by checking your equipment and making any required changes. Go through the beginning chapters in your Shooting Notes and see the technical adjustments and improvements you made during the last season. Before you jump into chasing deep 10s, take a step back and start with the basics. Read through your shot process by keeping your focus on the outer movements.

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The first drill is going into your shooting position without any equipment. This period is all about going into your position while being aware of what you are doing. Plant your feet and then move up.  What is the position of your feet, legs, hips, upper torso, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, neck, cheek, and eyes? What movements do you make from lifting your gun to bringing it to zero point? Try to be consistent in loading, lifting, and coming in and out of your position. Observe and include also your breathing rhythm and pauses. Observe your movements and your stance to really get a good picture of your body. You can also ask your coach or shooting colleague to take a picture of your position. Analyse as many details as you can. Later, this will help you visualise: thinking of these images will make your body automatically move into position.

Now, rifle shooters, start adding equipment! Go through the same steps wearing your shooting trousers. After that, add your shooting jacket. 

“But my body already knows how to automatically move into position,” you might say. This is true. Until it’s not. Even the most automatic movements may suddenly stop working. Have you ever forgotten your PIN code at the least opportune moment? And it’s something you type in so frequently that you don’t even think about it. The same thing can happen to you in shooting – and it can happen during competition. If you rely on just your body being in control, your head will not know what to do to help it when your body suddenly stops cooperating. This is when having a perfect mental image of your position is vital. Instead of letting your body slip automatically into position, place every bit and bob where it has to go in order to get to your optimal stance.

Drill 2: Smooth Triggering

What is the only body part that should move when you take the shot? Your finger! Why not take time to really focus on smooth triggering.

Grab a seat and put your gun onto your lap. Place your finger on the trigger. Take a look at the placement of the trigger on your finger. Is it perfectly perpendicular or not? Is it right in the middle of the last knuckle? How does your finger bend? Take a few dry-firing shots and observe the movement of your finger.

Now close your eyes. Feel the pressure building up as you squeeze the trigger. Feel the release of pressure when you release the shoot. Search for the exact right amount of pressure needed to release the trigger. Play with speed – how slowly can you apply pressure until the trigger is released?

Pull your chair on the shooting line and let’s do a few benchrest drills. Find something to rest your gun on the bench (a kneeling roll will do the trick!) and find the perfect height for you to sit comfortably. You are still in dry-fire mode and you begin by aiming onto a blank wall. Simply look through your sights, there is no target to make your body tense up and focus, and you can direct your attention to your trigger. Once again, feel how your finger interacts with the trigger. Feel the pressure rising and then being released. Close your eyes if you have to sense it better. Then move onto a target and try to combine this newly acquired triggering confidence with the perfect sight
alignment.

From dry-firing, move to firing – same steps: eyes closed, eyes opened. Now you are ready to stand up and take your position. Feel free to take a few shots with your eyes closed and feel the weight of the trigger. Don’t worry about where the shot lands! Then take a few shots with your eyes open but still direct your attention to the action of your finger.

a girl shooting benchrest with air rifle

Drill 3: Shooting Groups

The pre-season period is no time to focus on your results but to build your routines. A drill that will help you direct your attention onto the steps in your shot process is shooting groups.

Place an empty card/turn off your screen. You will take groups of shots without checking the card/the screen. Without seeing the result pop up, your mind will be able to focus on your execution and analyse what you are doing. You can check the card/the screen every 5, 10 or even more shots to see if your groups are tight. If they are not in the centre, check your natural point of aim. If the next group is still not in the centre, adjust your sights. Remember, you are not trying to achieve a perfect score! You are analysing what your body does and how it does it. Focus on different areas: position, natural point of aim, sight alignment, sight focus, breathing, aiming, triggering.

an air rifle target with five shots in the shape of a heart
A card with five shots used as inspiration for Aiming Art's logo. Shot during a practice of shooting groups of five shots.

Regardless of your level, it’s important to go back to the basics now and then. This period does not have to be too long, but we recommend taking at least a few training sessions and going over the basic exercises. You can even return to them in the middle of the season when you get stuck and can’t locate the problem.

Do you have any favourite pre-season drills?

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