Mastering Proper Breathing Techniques To Improve Shot Placement

Feature | A man focused on shotgun shooting | Mastering Proper Breathing Techniques To Improve Shot Placement

A shooter's breathing techniques has a lot to do with his ability to hit the target. Know how the experts do it as you read on.

RELATED: Visualization Techniques Will Make You A Better Shooter

In this article:

  1. Importance of Proper Breathing
  2. Trigger Control

Breathing Techniques for Better Shot Accuracy

Importance of Proper Breathing

A woman in practice shooting gun riffle in martial arts for self defense in an emergency case | Mastering Proper Breathing Techniques To Improve Shot Placement

One of the most basic shooting techniques that you need to master in order to get better, is proper breathing. Granted, there are other things like trigger control and follow through as well as proper sight and picture alignment that you need to master as well.

In the end, all of these techniques work together with each other to make you the best possible shot you can be. However, one thing that a lot of shooters tend to forget about, is the proper breathing technique.

What do I mean? Take your rifle and look down the sights (or scope).

Breath normally and look to see if your sights move off of your target. If they do, congratulations! You're a human being!

Obviously, this doesn't work if you're using a bench rest. Don't forget to clear your weapon first, unless you're on a hot range.

The issue is that breathing creates movement. In other words, when you breathe, your rifle will move in kind with your breathing.

The problem with this is even the slightest amount of front sight travel can equal several inches off of your target downrange. But, there is something that you can do to combat this, and make yourself a more accurate shot, at the same time.

Before you read anything else (after this sentence, of course) close your eyes and focus on your breathing exercise.

Done? Okay, if you're normal, you'll notice a small pause at the end of each exhale, just before you start to take in another breath.

This is your natural resting point. It is at that time when the round needs to leave the muzzle of your weapon. Not sooner; not later.

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Trigger Control

Another aspect of breathing is the proper trigger control. It's not a good idea to just pull the trigger when your body is at that natural pause in between breaths.

Instead, you should start squeezing your trigger on the exhale. Time it carefully so that your trigger breaks at just the right point, sending the bullet downrange during your body's natural respiratory pause.

Of course, this takes practice, as well as an intimate familiarity with your weapon. You need to know where your trigger breaks (fires), and how to time it properly.

There is a lot that goes into this as well. One thing, for example, is the amount of slack your trigger has.

Take a look at this short video of me shooting at Range Day during this past SHOT Show. Keep in mind, that this is a new rifle that I've never fired before so my timing was far from perfect.

However, I tried to time my breathing based on when I thought the trigger would break, even though I have never used this rifle before. You can actually see me inhale and exhale (mostly because I'm fat), and the rifle goes bang during that natural respiratory pause:

This rifle, by the way, is Springfield's newest addition: The CQB 16.

There is another train of thought, concerning breath control that I do not subscribe to.

I should say here, however, that some very accurate shooters do this, so it must work for them. It just isn't how I was taught.

Some instructors suggest that the shooter should extend their natural pause, un-naturally, by holding your breath for a bit longer about halfway down the exhale. This isn't what the Marines teach though, so I don't do it.

I come from the frame of thought that holding your breath on and off several different times could disrupt your heartbeat, or starve your brain of oxygen causing more front site wobble down the road. This picture shows how this thought works:

proper breathing technique
From: Breach Bang Clear

This video by Rate Red will teach how to breathe while shooting:

Regardless of the method you choose, figure out which method works best for you, and then practice it whenever you go to the range.

There is a reason why Marines are able to shoot so well out to 500 yards. The proper breathing techniques are drilled into them from the moment they get to the range until they leave it.

Do you find the contents of this article useful in your shooting practices? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!



Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 7, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

8 Responses to :
Mastering Proper Breathing Techniques To Improve Shot Placement

  1. Chuck says:

    In the early 70’s at Parris Island I was taught to inhale, then exhale until the front sight post comes on target and then hold until the trigger breaks.

  2. Eva Miller says:

    I have naturally done this without thought. But I am somehow a natural shooter! I recently totally amazed my nephew and myself some by shooting 13 clay pigeons in a row and it was the first time I had picked up a shotgun and I naturally knew how to hold it and shoot it without instruction! My grandfather taught me to shoot when I was 10 years old! 😉

  3. Russell Tillery says:

    Being a ‘b-r-a-s’ (breathe, relax, aim, squeeze) trained USMC veteran, I still get a chuckle overhearing the tales of “500 yard” shots made from the back of a moving truck on a pot holed road shooting running bobcats with an old open sighted .22. Granted, I’ll take a little luck over a lotta skill (once) anytime, but hey…come on now…

    1. MugsMalone says:

      Learned the same “BRAS” in basic training Fort Jackson, SC…1972.

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