In an effort to rid the firearms world of damaging misconceptions and downright bad advice, we surveyed eight professional shooters and writers to get their best examples of shooting tips gone wrong. Learn them, know them and be sure to scold anyone who has the gall to offer up any of these awesomely bad instructions.
John Zent: Lightweight Rifles Easier to Shoot?
One fairly common misconception I have run into is hearing some guys say that lightweight rifles are easier to shoot accurately because the shooter has the strength to hold them steadier. Of course that's opposite of the truth or at most oversimplified, and I've always known it's far from the truth. Sure, you see instances where little kids don't have the strength to support a gun's weight in a shooting position, but that's a pretty extreme exception and doesn't change the fact that heavier guns hold steadier. --John Zent, Editorial Director, NRA Publications
Mark Keefe: Starting with a .410?
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when starting off a new shooter in shotgunning is handing them a .410. They think that a .410 doesn’t have as much recoil, so it's the obvious choice. The problem is there’s just not that much shot in a .410, so when you get a new shooter up there and they miss, they’ve already taken a punch and didn’t hit the target. They're a lot better off with a gas-operated 20-gauge. There’s plenty of shot there and usually, with the gas operation, the recoil is mitigated enough so they’re not really taking a pounding. --Mark Keefe, Editor in Chief, American Rifleman Magazine
Doug Koenig: Non-Dominant Eye Closed?
The bad advice that I hear most often is to shoot with one eye, the non-dominant one, closed. Most military schools and expert instructors teach that both eyes should be open, even in long range shooting. However, I still see a lot of instructors telling shooters to close the non-dominant eye. This is the absolute wrong way to teach shooting. Although many shooters may believe that the monocular versus binocular shooting is simply a difference in approach, the "one eye closed" method is not correct. --Doug Koenig, Professional Shooter, Hornady Ammunition
Todd Jarrett: Non-Dominant or Dominant?
I think my favorite bad shooting tip comes from my law enforcement buddies. Some have told me that if you are right-handed but left-eye dominant you should get a left-handed pistol holster. That tip is a bit crazy. Whether you are right- or left-handed you should shoot with your dominant hand, especially with handguns. If you have been writing, fighting or eating with your right hand, you should shoot with your right. The same is true with a rifle or a shotgun. I have seen the opposite happen many times over the years. --Todd Jarrett, Professional Shooter, PARA USA
Scott Olmsted: Jerk the Trigger?
The worst piece of advice I've heard came from a reader who took issue with a story in American Hunter I published some years ago regarding marksmanship principles I learned in the Marine Corps. In that article, I explained the basics of marksmanship—summed up by an acronym, BRASSF: breathe, relax, aim, stop, squeeze and follow through. The "squeeze" reminds one to squeeze the trigger, not jerk it. But this reader took issue with that advice, which, by the way, is time-honored and proven by generations of excellent Marine marksmen from Belleau Wood to Guadalcanal to Hue City to Fallujah. Instead, he said you want to know exactly when the rifle will fire, and the only way to make this happen is to jerk the trigger. Seriously. He suggested one should actually jerk the trigger to effectively make the rifle fire exactly when you want. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to take a deep breath, let half of it out, then relax, aim, stop and double-check everything, then squeeze the trigger and follow through. Jerk the trigger, and God knows where your round will land. --J. Scott Olmsted, Editor in Chief, American Hunter
Ron Spomer: The Gravity Effect?
Aim high for uphill shots because gravity slows the bullet down more. Aim low for downhill shots because gravity speeds the bullet up. Another good one: Open sights are only good to 100 yards or so. I have hit a steel plate with four shots in a row at 400 yards with a peep sight on a .30-06. --Ron Spomer, Field Editor, American Hunter Magazine
Phil Bourjaily: Try to Miss?
The best piece of bad shooting advice I ever heard? I don't remember the magazine, but the article covered long-range shots on deer. The advice: If you are a bad shot at long ranges, you should deliberately try to miss. The writer's logic was if you aim at the deer, you will miss it, but if you aim near your quarry, you will miss your aiming point and might accidentally hit it. This was not a joke—it was presented as serious shooting advice. --Phil Bourjaily, Field Editor, American Rifleman Magazine
Patrick Flanigan: Just Go Practice?
One of the worst tips for a shooter to give is to blindly tell someone to just practice. If you're going to give advice don’t just walk off and say “well, go practice.” For a new or even veteran shooter to just go out and practice what they're already doing wrong is going to make the issue worse. If he or she has bad form, how do they know? They will go up, continue to practice, thinking they're going to get better, but not knowing that they are compounding the problem. Tell the person what they need to change or do differently. You need to insert more specifics. That word practice is a great word, but first identify what needs to be practiced. --Patrick Flanigan, Xtreme Sport Shooter, Winchester Ammunition