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The Four Fundamentals of Marksmanship

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

The Four Fundamentals of Marksmanship

Guns can be intimidating for new shooters. But the more you use them, the more confident you will become in your abilities. Understanding the four fundamentals of marksmanship will help you to become a better shooter, increasing your confidence and enjoyment of the sport.

Body Position

Shooting accurately starts with having a solid base. There are two main stances when it comes to firing pistols, called the Isosceles and the Weaver. They are similar, but we will discuss Weaver here. Start with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Your dominant side foot should be back, with your non-dominant side foot slightly forward. Make sure there is a slight bend in your knees, and you are standing on the balls of your feet. Your upper body should be turned at about a 45-degree angle to the target. Hold your pistol in your dominant hand, with the grip pushed all the way back into the crook of your thumb. Your non-dominant hand wraps around the dominant hand and supports it. When you raise the pistol to fire, your dominant arm should be fully extended, and because of the angle of your body, your non-dominant arm should be bent.

Sight Picture

Once you have a good body position, you can raise your pistol to fire. When looking down the sights, you should focus on the target and place your front sight post centered on it. Next, line up your front sight post between the rear sights. You want the front sight evenly spaced left/right, as well as flush on the top with the rear sights. When you do this correctly it will create what’s called a “Lazy E”, or the image of a capital “E” laying on its side.


When you have the sights lined up properly, you need to focus on your breathing. Breathing has a natural up and down rhythm. When we shoot, we want to time our breathing so that we squeeze the trigger in between breaths. Doing this will keep your body position and sight picture consistent each time. Breathing affects your shot more when shooting long barreled guns like rifles, and even moreso when you are laying in the prone position. But it’s still important for shooting pistols as well. With your sights lined up on the target, breath in normally, then breath out. After you breath out, hold your exhale for a few seconds before breathing in again. That is when you want to squeeze the trigger. Don’t hold it so long that you pass out!

Trigger Squeeze

The final step in the fundamentals of marksmanship is squeezing the trigger. Place the meaty portion of the pad of your index finger on the trigger, and squeeze slowly and smoothly. You have to hold your sight picture steady the entire time, so don’t take too long squeezing, but don’t rush. When the trigger “breaks”, it should be a slight surprise to you. One of the most common problems for new shooters is anticipating the recoil. They push the barrel of the gun downward at the last second andticipating the kick from when the round fires. This causes the round to fire into the ground in front of them, missing the target. One way to eliminate the anticipation is to squeeze the trigger slowly. After the gun fires, hold the trigger down for one full second, and then repeat the process.

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