Category Archives: Shooting Skills

Shooting Skills: Dry-firing Practice, Part 2

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Click, Click, Boom. Here’s three ways to get more from indoor practice. Read on!


By Glen Zediker


 Defined: dry-firing is shooting with no ammunition. Cock the gun, hold on a target, break the trigger. It’s a simulation.

Last episode we talked about the essence of dry-firing, the means. Here are more ideas on getting the most from this valuable venue.

1. When to make it “real.”
There are two fundamentally-differing approaches. One way is to use dry-firing as a means for technical or mechanical improvement. That’s main, and that’s the usual focus. Another, though, is as a way to rehearse a course of fire or another orchestrated shooting scenario. Some believe that the more “real” we can make dry-firing the better. I agree, and then I don’t. If the idea is to replicate a competitive event, for instance, that means setting up a firing point, running a timer, adorning all personal gear, positioning all kit items, and so on. I think that is a great exercise for newer entrants because, in NRA High Power Rifle, for good instance, it’s all the “other” things beyond shooting that can get in the way of progress. There’s a lot to remember, a lot to do.

1907 sling use
Something like learning to install a 1907-style sling onto your arm for support is decidedly not something you want to experience first at a shooting match. Such as this needs to be done over and over (and over) to learn. Best way is taking your time at home.

 Away from needs on the firing line, dry rehearsals are way on more than wise. If, for instance, you’ve never fired a gun at night, start experiencing that scenario sans ammo. If you’re a concealed carry person, figure out the smoothest and fastest way to get your pistol pointed. That might “go without saying,” but I just said it because it needs to be done. Anything, for that matter, that has changed or modified a firearm or the means to deploy it should be drilled over and over until you “got it.”

 It takes more than a lot of directed thought and careful planning to get a gun leveled through a car window, for example. Have you ever seen how fast you can get to another room in your house in the dark? If you think that might be valuable to file in the been-there-done-that archives, then be there and do it. It’s a kind of self-made “fire drill.” Doesn’t make much sense to put stock in something that’s really important without verifying that it’s workable… And it’s plenty easy enough. Just make sure the gun isn’t loaded.

When technical and mechanical improvement is the focus, I don’t think it matters even a little bit to attempt to duplicate “real” conditions. Just make yourself comfortable.

2. Do something different.
Once you feel like you’ve honed the skills of triggering mechanics, noticed progress in hold quality, and all-around have attained some satisfying improvement, take a stab now at dismantling the entire thing!

shouldering rifle
Same goes for working on the other essential elements in a shooting position, like learning to position the buttplate in the same spot each time. Here’s me first figuring out exactly where that spot should be…

Dry-firing is the time to run experiments, so experiment! These can be major changes, like a different holding or gripping method, or small things, like nudging the head a quarter-inch farther forward on the rifle stock. Everything and anything that’s not part of the “routine” is an experiment. Backing up: dry-firing gives the opportunity to really tune in to just exactly what your routine is. Competitive shooters often call it the “control” position. When you make a change to that control position, do it one thing at a time. Otherwise feedback might be less accurately reliable. Decide that the big change is worthwhile (even if only for more testing) before incorporating more changes along with it.

Use your imagination. As long as you have a place to return to, any side trip is a no-harm, no-foul experience. Try canting the rifle inward a little more, changing the position of your right foot, gripping more (or less) with the little finger, loosening or tightening a strap on the coat. You name it.

 And do by all means name it. Write everything down! Don’t end a session without making a few notes. State what you tried and then what happened. Add on ideas for next time. Don’t trust memory. It’s right then and there that you have the most keen sense of feedback.

air rifle
This photo is a many years old. If you’re training for competitive shooting, at the least, wear your coat, glove, and ear phones (if you normally wear them). I learned the very hard way to now give that advice. I used to shoot my air rifle without my coat or any other gear but a glove. My idea was to develop a standing position that relied that strongly on skeletal support. (My idea also was to stay cool and reduce set up time.) As a result, I got to where I could shoot really good targets just in a t-shirt. I worked and worked (and worked) on this. Well, then I put my coat on, and my hear-phones, and found out that I couldn’t duplicate my t-shirt position! Oops. I learned a lot but overlooked the future application of why it was that I was learning.

3. Test yourself.
Don’t over-stay a dry-firing session. There’s a time to quit, and that’s so decidedly for your own good. A yardstick for a competition shooter is no longer than the “official” duration of a string, plus 5 minutes more or 5 shots more for a little extra strength. Those among us who tend to be, well, a little hard on ourselves, don’t like quitting until they “get it.” After a point, which varies with us all, we experience a physical and mental breakdown where we then are running experiences through a tired mind and body. I’ve seen this in other sports. Hitting too many golf balls, throwing too many pitches, running too many laps on a racetrack. If you’re trying to teach yourself when you’re tired, you’re learning only how to perform when you’re tired. If you want to build strength and endurance, do exercises where that is the focus. Hold the gun to the point of exhaustion, just don’t drop the hammer! I think you’ll get more from lifting weights.

 Speaking of exhaustion, still considering the cautions just presented, find out how long you can hold on a shot attempt. This is important. Over-holding can kill a score, so can “over-staring” the sight. Pay attention to sight movement, and then, mostly, see when it’s just done with until the next attempt. This is valuable. It’s hard sometimes on a record shot not to continue to hold beyond the point you should have brought the gun down.

Dry-firing is not shooting… We all score more “10s” dry than live. So, point is that if you can bring dry-firing closer to live firing you’ll be hitting a lot closer to center a lot more often. As always, call each shot, dry or live. We learn all this dry-firing and then we hope to remember this on the range. That’s the whole point.


Last: Take all your dry-fring practice to the limit first trip out to the live range this Spring. Here’s how: Have someone load your gun for you. Or not… Right: it might fire or it might not fire. You’ll be slap amazed at what you might have learned. It helps to have a friend with a dark sense of humor. Remember: the idea is to take that dry-fired perfection straight to target center.


 Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Zediker Publishing. Glen Zediker has worked professionally with some of the greatest shooters on the planet, and he does pretty well on his own: Glen is a card-carrying NRA High Master and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information, please check ZedikerPublishing.com

Shooting Skills: Dry-firing Practice, Part 1

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The art of shooting without shooting. Here’s how to make a big improvement in your on-target accuracy come Spring, and it doesn’t cost a thing but some time… Read on!


By Glen Zediker


Defined: dry-firing is shooting with no ammunition. Cock the gun, hold on the target, break the trigger. It’s a simulation.


First: Will dry-firing hurt my gun?
No. Any and every centerfire bolt-action rifle I know of (that “we” use anyhow) can be dry-fired endlessly with no damage done, and it’s the same for pistols. If you are at all worried, use a “snap-cap,” which is a cartridge duplicate that provides a cushion. Midsouth Shooters Supply carries them. .22 rimfires people have different opinions about. The fear is peening the area around the chamber friom firing pin contacts. Ruger actually encourages dry-firing its 10/22 (so says my factory manual). Inserts are also available to cushion the blow, and even a spent cartridge case left in place will do the trick too.

snap-cap
A-Zoom Action Proving Rimfire Dummy round.

Check out a few products at Midsouth, if you’re worried…


Every shooting coach I know of sings the value of dry-firing. It’s a training staple for competitive shooters, and, as a matter of fact, me, David Tubb, and most others I know spend time dry-firing prior to an event to get mind and muscles warmed up. However! It’s the equivalent of stretching for a runner. As with many things, most things, as a means toward improvement, you get from it what you put into it. A big part of that is also in how you put into it.

First is safety! Make double-daggone sure there is no ammunition in the gun (of course) and also that there is none nearby. No loaded magazines in vicinity. I’ve heard stories from people who reloaded their handguns, in this instance, after a dry-firing session and then decided to snap just one more “for the road.” Yikes. Don’t trust memory.

Part of the point and advantage to dry-firing is elimination of distractions. We can then see and sense things when we’re in our little cocoons that may be obscured in live-fire at the range. I’m not saying that no one can tune in as keenly outdoors with a loaded gun, but can say there are always more distractions in that environment. The point is to see it dry-firing, and then experience it again at the range. That’s the idea.

The first and foremost conviction necessary to make dry-firing “work” is a commitment to two things. One is observation, close observation, of sight location and movement. No matter what, that’s the “it.”

You must be able to connect sight location at the instant you are aware of the audible “click” of the hammer or striker fall. Not just when the trigger breaks. There’s a few milliseconds in the interim. It won’t take long to, on its own, develop the skill of “calling” shots with more precision and realism dry-firing with this as a goal. (Calling a shot is providing an estimation of its location on the target based on sight location at the moment of firing.) It’s how a shooter learns to separate what should be and what actually is. If you are perfectly aware of the sight location on the target at the strike, that by itself may have improved followthrough. You are then “holding on” just a little longer, and I discussed the importance of that in an earlier article in this series. Experience will show you the difference between seeing the sight picture and breaking the trigger, and calling that result, compared to seeing the result upon the strike, and calling that result. It’s a small thing, but many small things happen in the time it takes for the bullet to exit. No matter what your last name is, everyone’s gun is moving. It’s also here that the shooter learns to watch closely for movement.

Dry-firing allows a shooter to discover perfection in natural point of aim. Natural point of aim (let’s cut it to “npa”) is a drilled and preached fundamental by every instructor or authority I know. Dry-firing gives the opportunity to honestly get in tune with it. At least three things you’ll learn: npa is a finite point, not an area. It has two components, vertical and horizontal. And it changes! Even among the very best shooters, it’s not likely to start and stop with the exact same body orientation for a full shot string.

A huge key to refining npa is watching for sight movement just before or just as the trigger breaks. That’s easy to see in dry-firing and more difficult with a loaded gun. I’m not exactly sure why npa sometimes “reveals” itself in this moment, but it does.

AR15 dry-fire device
Here’s handy for AR15 shooters. Renown AR15 builder John Holliger of White Oak Armament developed this device to help dry-firing an AR15 easy. It drops in and replaces the magazine and lets you reset the trigger using the lever on the device rather than racking the action each shot. Cool. Check it out HERE

The target you select for dry-firing exercises can be very variable. If you’re looking to replicate the same target you use outdoors on a small scale, a calculator and computer printer gets you close, and experimentation gets you closer. Otherwise, anything can work. Light switches are great for pistol practice. They look a lot like a USPSA-style “Milpark.” And, why not also try the “Holding Drill” targets shown last time?

dry-firing target
Scale a target for dry-firing. I can’t tell you exactly what size to make it, but a little math usually gets it pretty close. Due to varying appearance that results from distance outdoors, the one you train with dry-firing might need to be a tad different size than calculations indicate. Lighting conditions change the appearance of a bullseye, as can perception of sight picture relationship to same. This is what I use from 20 feet for rifle practice: the aiming black area is 0.700 inches diameter to replicate an NRA SR1 (200-yard target). That’s a little smaller than the calculation indicates. CLICK HERE  to download a .pdf ready to print

 Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. Glen is a card-carrying NRA High Master and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information and articles available for download visit ZedikerPubllishing.com

Skills: Holding Better

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Become a better offhand shooter over the winter, without firing a single round…


by Glen Zediker


Last time I talked about an offhand shooting method called an “approach,” where the sight is deliberately started at some point away from target center and then systematically and methodically brought to bear on target center. The shot breaks when the sight touches center. Technically, the rifle is in motion during the span of time and distance that encompasses employing this technique. And. There’s no question that this technique or method or mindset, whatever names it best, is the surest and simplest way to fire a whole lot of center shots.

Pursuing a quest to become a truly good offhand rifle shooter, however, still requires attention directed toward improving the hold. “Hold” is the static portion of a shot where the sights are on the target. Part of the reason for this is because, in refining and improving the hold, you are also refining and improving the shooting position. That is then the base and basis for the approach. Shooting on the move is way on easier and more productive and reliable when you don’t necessarily have to rely on it… The better quality the static hold is, the more control and finesse can be employed into the approach. In calm and quiet conditions, when there’s no time element pressing, then watching a nicely centered static hold is a true accomplishment as a rifleman.

A many years ago I had the pleasure to meet Troy Lawton at an NRA Silhouette Rifle National Championship in Raton New Mexico. Then USAMU Sgt. Lawton (United States Army Marskmanship Unit), best known as an ISSF Running Target ace, was also a dominant silhouette rifle shooter (two perfect 40-target tournament scores among his accomplishments). We discussed the importance of holding ability, even though we’re shooting moving rifles, including intentionally moving rifles (as in the tracking engagement that defines running target competition). Here’s the essence of a very effective training element he used to go from “good” to “world-class” in ability to calm a rifle.

HOLDING DRILL

holding drill
Manufacture a series of target circles as shown, or use this one, and affix it to a wall any place you can dry-fire. Make the circles using a template as found at an office supply, a compass, or, easy, a computer and printer. Dry-fire (and you know the gun is empty because you’ve looked into the chamber) and determine a circle size you can maintain the sight fully inside during the most comfortable segment of your hold. The idea is that, using the slowest, most deliberate trigger pull you can, the goal is to release a shot at any time during this holding period and land it inside that circle. You’re not even trying to hit the center of the circle. Then we make it smaller…

This drill is best done indoors. Distance from the target doesn’t really matter as long as it’s always the same.

Troy’s “Holding Drill” is pretty simple: To start, determine the area you’re working with. Do that by holding and watching the range or area the sight is covering. As said last time, this will be an orbital pattern, fluctuating around your natural point of aim.

So, this initial observation defines and draws the first circle. (Or you can just print out the included illustration and hang it at 15 feet distant and see where you stand.) That circle should be a size where you could slowly pull the trigger and hit within the circle, but not necessarily the center of the circle, at any point during the time you’re holding. We’re going to work systematically to reduce the size of this circle.

Click here to get a .pdf of the circles: msss_holding_drill_target

The targets as shown here are designed for best use with a scoped rifle. Crosshairs show up well and precisely show movement area. Modify the targets to accommodate iron sights. Try white squares with a post front sight, and the target area will have to be bigger to define the holding area because the sight itself is a good 5 MOA wide.

holding drill
No doubt, the smaller the sight orbit and more consistent its pattern, the easier it is to employ an approach, even if the movement in the approach is reduced to the pulse-induced rising and dropping to a perfectly centered sight picture. This drill helps you help yourself, all by itself. All you need to do is do it. Remember, the idea is to stay within this circle throughout the shot attempt.

Back to the drill: after you’ve confirmed your ability to hold within the original circle you chose, make a target with a smaller circle and go back to work. There’s no end to this: you can always try to hold a smaller area. It’s recommended to reduce the circle size by one-half-moa each step. You’ll need a calculator to figure out what that might be in inches for the distance you have.

Holding Drill
Now. A really good question: “how long…” How long to hold? That depends on the state of muscle tone, position effectiveness, and, mostly, how efficiently your body uses oxygen. The holding limit is reached when there’s clear deterioration in the whole state of the effort. You start shaking! Symptoms of oxygen depravation are fundamentally obvious. Take the rifle down and start over. This drill also improves this capacity. NOTE: I am dry-firing in these photos, and that’s why no ear and eye protection! Otherwise: ALWAYS!

Spend some time with this over the winter. Even a couple of times a week for 30 minutes a whack, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll shoot. This drill is one of those perfect “indirect” learning tools where you will specifically improve where and what you need to improve keeping only this goal in mind.


For more tips and articles, all free to download, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

SKILLS: “Approach” Offhand Shooting Like a Pro

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Learn how to “shoot on the move” to improve your offhand shooting results. Here’s how!


by Glen Zediker


Firing a rifle off your hind legs can be a devilish venture. It’s tough to hold the sight still, or at least hold the sight still for long enough to get together all the other elements of a good shot: sight on target center, correct breathing status, deliberate trigger break. Not when the sight is bobbing and shaking around, darting on and off the target, and mostly off. A more firm hold, increasing muscle tension, can help some, or sometimes, but that’s not the answer. Not when there’s fatigue involved, and especially not when it’s breezy. Finishing off a center shot when the wind is blowing is a challenge.

offhand skills
Instead of being a slave to the unwanted but unavoidable movement inherent in a sight, take control of it, direct it, and use it. Drive the gun onto the target and take the shot. The movement and the shot funnel in together. It’s tough to get past the “freeze and pop” sort of tactic that a lot of folks use. Again, the sight is always in motion, and if it’s dead still for an instant, in the next instant it’s going to move. Don’t let it get away from you…

All good shooters work on their hold. “Hold” is the static portion of a shot where the sights are on the target. Working on the hold always seeks a goal to reduce the movement of the rifle at rest. But there’s always movement… So, if you can’t beat it, use it. This next idea is not universally adhered to by all top-level shooters, but it dang sho works for some of our best. He didn’t necessarily invent it, but David Tubb, 11-time NRA High Power Rifle Champion and winner of over 40 NRA Metallic Silhouette Rifle titles, uses an “approach” method to fire all his standing position shots.

It’s pretty simple, but, as with many things, details increase the scope of a technique. So, what it is, is, deliberate movement of the sight onto the target, firing the shot when the sight touches on target center. “Shooting on the move.” Don’t wait until the sight sits still on the target. Move it in, take the shot. But it’s not a rapid swing across, yanking the trigger as the sight streaks across the target. It’s a small, deliberate, controlled movement, and “controlled” is the key word.

Keys to warming up to and exploiting shooting from an approach are, first, that the natural point of aim has to be dead-solid-perfect. Since the sight is deliberately being started away from center, looking to a point that’s not on your natural point of aim, driving it then into center is arriving at the natural stopping and resting point for the sight. That’s very important. Another key is maintaining a strong focus on the sight. You already know where the target is, so eliminate that element of your attention. The closer you can learn to watch the sight, the sooner you’ll master this technique.

To use an approach to best advantage, the approach distance and direction needs to be the same each and every time. We’re following a deliberate pattern to get the sight to the target. Take the shot as the sight is going into the target, not after it’s gotten there and the next move is for it to twitch out and away from the target. It is, no doubt, a matter of timing! The sight has stopped as I break the shot, and it’s for a very brief time. But it has stopped. Just follow the bouncing ball… Fire when it lands. That’s the way I think of it.

Using an approach strategy reduces the time needed to complete a good shot, and it also condenses that time into a schedule, in a way of looking at it. It becomes a routine. This goes a long way toward battling fatigue, and reduces the number of “restarts” following over-held attempts. This is important in competition where we’re firing 20 shots in 20 minutes. That’s a strain, or it is when we’re trying to put them all in the 10-ring.

So how far off the target to start the sight? That varies a whopping lot, and the answer, as anticipated, comes from experiments with an eye on making this determination. I start pretty close, others start a good way off the target. I don’t think it matters as long as, as also anticipated, it’s something experimentation has shown works best for you.

approach sequence
This illustration shows a breakdown of Davd Tubb’s approach method. Total time elapsed: about 3 seconds. Now, I go the opposite direction: I start my sight on the right edge of an aiming black (at 200 yards it’s a 13-inch-diameter circle), take up the first stage in the trigger, and move it over. One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, bang. To be very specific, I also start it a little high and bring it across and slightly down on a diagonal. I do this because, one, it’s the natural “wobble pattern” I tend to see in my static hold, and, two, it helps guard against the high shot I am prone to endure sometimes. All that comes from a whopping lot of practice.

I’m kind of “wound up” in my offhand position. I use a lot of hip twist to get my elbow down on my hipbone for support. I’m twisting toward my left, so I start the rifle off to the right. That way I’m winding in rather than spinning out. Others, like Tubb, tend to approach from the left because they prefer a more natural “uncoiling” direction.

A calm trigger break is crucial. That’s not slow or gentle, but one that evokes no anxious moment or sporadic reflex. The finger just presses back.

This is where the previously discussed advantages of a good two-stage trigger, and one with additional overtravel, show their values. Both provide a “ready-to-go switch” waiting on a shot green light. The extra overtravel means you don’t have to be delicate pressing the trigger back; the rifle won’t be disturbed like it might if the trigger stopped abruptly.

With experience, and a few experiences where you see that this, indeed, “works,” it’s possible to narrow down the approach to a short amount of time.


The preceding is excerpted from some materials I have worked with David Tubb to develop and publish. For more insight, articles, and tips, visit DavidTubb.com, and also ZedikerPublishing.com

Shooting Skills: Take a deep breath…

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…then let it out and read this to learn how to maximize on-target accuracy and consistency…


Glen Zediker


We’ve talked about what I call the “true fundamentals” of shooting. Put the sight on the target and pull the trigger without moving the sight… And we’ve talked about some of the mechanics, like natural point of aim, sight picture, and the trigger itself, that combine to assist this goal.

david tubb
Holding still sometimes takes more thought, and effort, than we might realize. Shooting well is a truly multi-faceted task that shooters like 11-time National Champion David Tubb have attended to through miniscule details, like being aware of the physical state continually while performing.

Another crucial and largely unknown element is controlling breathing. Right. That thing we do to stay awake and alive. Breathing can be a calculated technique among competitive shooters, and that is because the state of the body in the framework of making a shot is a defining element in the effectiveness of the shooting platform. That platform, by they way, is you!

I’ll break it down, and then offer a few suggestions on how to incorporate a better understanding of the dynamics of maintaining human oxygen supply.

When we are breathing when doing nothing in particular but living, we’re not taking the deepest breaths we can when we inhale, and we’re not expelling all the air we had when we exhale. We’re also not breathing in and out, in and out, in and out in constant successions. We breathe in to a comfortable level. Hold that a bit. We breathe out to a comfortable level. And then we hold that state for a bit. Then we very naturally breathe in again. These cycles are on a balanced rhythm, and a relatively shallow cycle. It’s a lot different than when we’re doing something strenuous, like running.

So. To fire a gun from our most stable state, make the trigger break in what shooting coaches call “the natural respiratory pause.” That’s the state between exhaling and inhaling. From a “human machine” standpoint, that’s when the body is most calm and stable.

breathing cycles for best shooting
Learn to use the natural pattern of your breathing to experience the most effective (steadiest) hold. When we breathe normally we don’t inhale as much air as we can hold and then blow it all out, and we also don’t breathe continually in and out, in and out. Rather, we simply inhale and exhale to levels that are comfortable to us. Take aim and fire the shot when you have reached what some call the “natural respiratory pause,” or the natural resting point prior to inhalation where we are “using” the oxygen we have retained.

It’s a narrow window. That window of opportunity varies widely depending on a lot of factors, but some experience dry-firing will show you where you stand.

When the body needs more oxygen, there are a few symptomatic results that get in the way of a steady hold. There are more eloquent ways to say it, but we get “the shakes.” The wobbles, the heaves and hos. It’s an unmistakable sensation. Visual acuity also diminishes. And, also, since we’re trying to finish something important (hit the target) anxiety takes over when we’re not getting cooperation between target and sight locations. Essentially, there’s an urge to slap the trigger and “get it over with.”

Do not “take a deep breath and hold it…” That supplies oxygen, to be sure. But it also creates tension in the body. Trying to keep that breath held has as bad an effect on stability as does trying to not breathe back in.

Breathing during a shot continually changes the location of the sight. Try it and you’ll see. Filling the lungs, emptying the lungs, both change the posture. From prone, it’s easy to see the effect on the vertical location of the sight. This, by the way, is the root of the “consistency” element of breathing. It’s very important to the goal to fire shot after shot after shot onto the same point.

Firing shots in succession, keep breathing, just time the shots with the natural pause. For a Rapid Fire event string in NRA High Power Rifle, which isn’t all that rapid (either 60 or 70 seconds to fire 10 rounds) I take a breath between each shot, and then settle down to my holding point. Now. Really rapid succession, like bam-bam-bam, it’s possible to fire quite a few well-directed rounds off of one pause. If that’s not enough, experiment with learning to take very shallow breaths in and out during the duration of the hose-down. I’ve used that “tactic” on very windy days when the standing position hold was a tad amount fluctuating, to avoid frequent restarts. It “works” for a couple of attempts to get a breakable sight picture, before muscle fatigue sets in.

Speaking of: there’s no question that the better physical condition someone is in, the better able they’ll be to extend a steady hold. Pulse also factors mightily: a beating heart moves the rifle. This is really evident shooting prone from a sling-supported position. A regular breathing pattern with no overt highs and lows combats heart rate increases. Taking in huge amounts of air prior to mounting up a rifle actually can backfire; that often causes a “spike” in body movement about 15 seconds afterward. Pulse quickens and becomes more intense when oxygen levels drop.

Main point here is do not “over-hold.” When you’re out of air, you’re out of time. Break it down, and start it again.


For more shooting tips and articles visit ZedikerPublishing.com; all are free to download. 

Ruger Mark IV vs S&W Victory

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by 22plinkster

Although both are phenomenal pistols, and the person behind the trigger makes all the difference, there are variables which play a major roll in picking one pistol over another. What’s the take-down like? How well does she perform out of the box?

Our pal, 22plinkster stacks the Ruger Mark IV Target pistol, up against the S&W Victory. This test isn’t really based on how accurately they shoot, it’s based on one pros assessment of the overall pistol. Check out the video below!

Shooting Skills: AR15 Trigger Choice, Continued…

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Improving an AR15 trigger ranges from total redesigns to minor changes, and here are a few not to overlook.


Glen Zediker


Last time I used all the space I had talking about the two essential AR15 aftermarket styles, single-stage and two-stage. There was more to say, and here that goes:

Modular triggers
Most two-stage and single-stage triggers work off the existing AR15 trigger architecture, but there are those that don’t. Some are self-contained and self-defined. These “modular” triggers are all way on better than stock, to be sure. What they are, are complete housings that contain the hammer and trigger captive within the housing, installed, tuned, and adjusted as a unit (some are user-adjustable, some are not). They “drop in” and the housing is then secured by the original pins. The pins, however, don’t function within the trigger unit itself.

Timney
This is a Timney modular-style AR15 trigger. Take out the old trigger, drop this one in the lower, secure the stock pins through the holes in the Timney housing (and make an adjustment to secure the housing against the lower receiver floor). Done. All the modular-types I’ve tried are better than stock, indeed. I can’t warrant durability though, because a few out there look a tad amount spindly. This one has been reliable so far.

A modular trigger is about the easiest way to a better trigger. The question with the modulars is how well they hold up, how reliable they will be. There’s a difference in the natures, and outcomes, of stress-in-use comparing target shooting and varminting to the pounding a carbine might get in a 1000-round range session. I have not put a huge number of rounds through any of the modular units and, therefore, have no notebook references. I do, however, know a good many others who have and whose opinions I value. Consensus is that not all are 100-percent.

Pins
Many aftermarket triggers come with a set of proprietary pins, and if one does, use them. If not, a better pin set can make a difference in trigger performance.

KNS AR15 trigger pins
Here’s a standard-form pin set from KNS. They’re correctly and consistently sized and dead straight. Trigger pins and hammer pins are the same, but they don’t function in the same. Each pin is installed from the right side of the receiver, un-grooved end first, and pushed through to the left side of the receiver. The grooves function to engage the trigger return and hammer springs, preventing the pins from out and out coming out of the rifle. Install from the right side of the lower receiver, pushing it through to the left side, ungrooved end goes first. Lube the pins!

Look at how the system operates and it’s clear that pin straightness and circumference influence trigger break and function. The pins in the standard system are also free to rotate. If the pin is a little undersized or a little bent, or both, that means engagement won’t be consistently the same each time.

And sometimes it’s not all the fault of the pins. The receiver holes also have to be what they should be. I’ve had fit mismatches from time to time, and the way to fix it is usually in the pins, because they are usually a tad amount too small. However! It’s not always a straight-up fix to purchase “oversized” pins.

One (strong) caution if you opt for “oversized” pins: make daggone sure prior to installation that the trigger parts are fully free to move as they should on the pins. The hammer, especially, should have zero drag. Sometimes a little very careful polishing on the center point area of the pin is necessary to attain a “perfect” match.

Oversized AR15 trigger pin
Here’s an oversized pin. Check diameters with a micrometer and compare them to blueprints. Standard should be 0.1540 inches (+/- 0.0005). Oversized usually adds 0.0010. Also! Check the receiver holes. Easiest to do with a #23 machinist’s drill bit (use the butt end of it); that’s a 0.154 size (get a 0.155 also, if you can find one). Make the right match! Don’t pound an oversized pin into a smaller-size receiver hole! If you do then you’ll get into a cycle… For conflicting circumstances, KNS offers a well-oversized pin packaged with a reamer to suit. Best proceed with care, though.

To preclude pin rotation, a “locking” pin set is the trick. Even oversized pins can move. There are a few different takes on lockers, and I put a set on all my race guns.

Better pins can also make a positive difference in modular trigger installation.

KNS locking AR15 pins
Here’s a set of KNS locking pins. There are different styles, and all function to fix the hammer and trigger pins against any movement, providing an unchanging base for a match-quality trigger.

Springs
Another simple trick I do, when I can, is install a pair of chrome-silicon trigger return and hammer springs. This material is radically superior to the standard music wire used otherwise. It rebounds faster at a lighter “weight” than a music-wire-based spring. That means easier operation with no sacrifice in tension. Chrome-silicon also lasts the life of a rifle. All music wire springs will break down and lose power, so simple replacement of the hammer spring every 2500 rounds or so can be a maintenance routine item to maintain peak performance. Trigger return springs, no so much. They’re not under much stress.

A chrome-silicon replacement set will reduce trigger pull effort a tad in a stock setup, but unfortunately won’t do a thing to improve its movement quality.

An extra-power hammer spring is a commonly-used addition to a competition gun, and the reason is pretty much to reduce hammer fall time. It works. However, be warned that an extra-heavy spring can wear the receiver holes; after some time, the holes can get a little oblong and, along with it, larger. If you want to run a heavy spring, get a very well matched fit prior to installation of the spring. This stays off hole wear because there’s just no room for movement.

CS AR15 trigger and hammer springs
A chrome-silicon spring pair will improve trigger pull some, but mostly these springs last for a good long while. They just don’t change over 100,000+ cycles. Chrome-silicon has better rebound behavior so the hammer hits a little quicker. I use them in any trigger where they’ll fit. These are manufactured by David Tubb, Superior Shooting Systems.

Lube the fool out of the trigger! Simple as it may seem, keeping the works slicked up goes a long way toward making a trigger feel better and last longer. By “last longer” I mean retain consistent feel and weight. This is especially important in a two-stage. It can’t be over-lubricated. I use light grease with boron-nitride for the engagement surfaces and hammer face (bolt carrier slides across this) and oil for the rest of it.

The only exception is for those who are out in the field in sandy and dusty conditions, or in extreme cold, and then I’d suggest one of the “dry” lubes. But some lube always!

AR10
If you have one of these, make double-dang certain your new trigger is performing correctly. The AR-10/SR-25 types are beastly in cycling. When that honking bolt carrier slams back home after chambering a round, the inertia residing therein can trip a lot of the aftermarket triggers. It’s a shock. What happens is the disconnector, well, disconnects and loses its previously captive hammer. Especially some of the modular units just won’t function safely on a big-chassis rifle.

The preceding was a specially-adapted excerpt from the book The Competitive AR15: ultimate technical guide by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing available from Midsouth Shooters Supply.