Firearm Marksmanship 101

The fundamentals of marksmanship when using your homemade firearm are about more than getting a high score at the range. They’re an important aspect of the gun safety rules that protect the health of the shooter and those we share the range with while helping you get good practice with your firearm. Marksmanship boils down to control of your firearm, knowledge of your environment, and developing the skills to get the absolute most out of the two. With work, you can develop these skills to enhance your success and enjoyment of shooting sports.

The Myth Of The “Natural”

As of this writing, no one person has been born with guns for their hands, so there is no such thing as a “natural” shooter. There are shooters with better eyesight, superior spatial awareness, and a mechanical knack that helps them understand their firearms faster than most, but if you want to be a marksman, you need range time. These “natural” advantages might give someone a leg up, but every shooting champion or marksman in the service achieved their level of proficiency one bullet at a time. 

In a moment, we’ll talk about the fundamentals of marksmanship that add up to making your shot count , and we’ll talk about the gun safety rules that keep you safe while putting them to use. One important aspect you need to understand, however, is the importance of repetition. Repetition trains your body and mind to perform a certain way. Muscle memory, pattern recognition, and concentration under pressure all come from the simple act of doing things the right way time and time again. 

Create A Stable Firing Platform

If you aren’t stable, neither is your gun. Creating a stable firing platform helps create steadier shots that use your body to help absorb the recoil and return sights to the target for faster follow-up shots. The two primary considerations for your platform are the stance, or your stable connection to the ground, and the grip, or your weapon’s stable connection to you.

The Stance

Your stance is the foundation of your weapon’s stability, whether you’re standing, sitting, or firing from a prone position. Make sure your weight is evenly supported and your body is in a position that creates increased stability not only at rest but in relation to the recoil of your weapon. If you’re standing, keep your knees slightly bent and feet positioned for easy movement. While sitting, ensure you are comfortable and able to brave yourself and the weapon as needed. When firing prone, make sure you are not positioned on ground that is likely to be insatiable, such as if you’re resting your elbows on a small stump that is likely to shift or roll.

Getting A Grip

A proper grip is one of the fundamentals of marksmanship that not only affects weapon performance but also the safety of the shooter and those around them. Your grip controls your weapon’s direction and stability. Unless performing specific one-handed drills, always keep two hands on the weapon, hand over hand for pistols or stock and forend for long guns. Make sure while establishing your grip you’re also following two of the most important gun safety rules: keep it pointed downrange and away from others and do not place your finger on the trigger until ready to fire. 

Create Your Sight Picture

Knowing how to properly use the sights on your gun is necessary to get the best possible accuracy from it. If you’re using traditional notch and blade sights, you’ll look through the notch on your real sights, line up the front sight within the notch at the same height, then line up that sight picture on your target, like a good-sized buck during deer season. You’ll want to keep the front sight blade in focus for best accuracy, as the relationship between it and the rear notch is what determines how accurately your bullet follows the trajectory you’re firing at.

Many shooters choose optics for their weapons. Scopes offer more precise aiming points and magnification for longer range shots but may make finding close-in shots more difficult. Reflex sights, like red-dot or laser sights, make close-range shots faster but can lose precision at longer ranges, especially if not having been immediately “dialed in” for maximum accuracy. Choosing the best sight for your weapon’s purpose can help fine-tune your shooting experience.

Preparing To Fire

Get in your stance, establish a good grip, sight down your weapon to establish a sight picture on the target. At this point, you will make any adjustments needed for distance or wind. Take a moment to make sure you’re following the fundamentals of marksmanship and verify your path of fire is clear and the range is “hot”. Set your weapon from safe to fire, if applicable, and place your finger lightly on the trigger.



Precision shooting teaches you to control your breath, pausing halfway through an exhale to take your shot. While this practice can help you fine-tune your firing practices, for most shooters, it’s more important to focus on slow, steady breathing through your range exercises than teaching an advanced single-shot technique. 

Taking Your Shot

Slowly squeeze the trigger. Avoid jerking it, as this can pull your shot to the side. Focus on a smooth movement toward the rear of the weapon, letting the action “break” when it’s ready to fire the weapon rather than anticipating it. Your grip throughout this process should be firm but relaxed. Gripping with too much force can cause the gun to waver, while too little reduces your control. Think of it as guiding the weapon, not forcing it.

The force of the recoil will naturally move the weapon upwards. If there is a lot of lateral movement during the recoil of the firing action, this can point to a weakness in your grip, as the weapon kicks against an area with less support or resistance. Allow your body to absorb this recoil and bring the weapon back onto target smoothly. This prepares you for any follow-up shots without ruining the fundamentals of marksmanship that you’ve put into establishing your firing platform. Ease off the trigger slowly, allowing the spring to push against your finger until it has reached a point where it resets. Make any adjustments and prepare for your next shot.

Get Your Range Time With A Quality Weapon

We’re proud to offer the 80% lowers, parts kits, and tools that let you build your own firearm in the comfort of your workshop. You’ll be carrying on a long American tradition of craftsmanship while crafting a firearm that supports your Second Amendment rights. Order your 80% lowers from JSD Supply today.