The Importance of Proper Rifle Technique

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Its importance cannot be overstated, because if you fail to properly shoulder a rifle (or shotgun) its recoil is likely to make its presence known. Unfortunately, that presence tends to be made known in rather painful ways. This particular issue may be a chicken or the egg type discussion for some among us while for others it won’t matter because what is, is. No debate needed.

For the purpose of anonymity – because when you stumble across something in your social media feed, it isn’t always wise to broadcast it complete with pictures – pictures will not be used. But you should get the idea with the help of a description. This has to do with shouldering rifles (or shotguns).

When a long gun is properly shouldered and gripped, especially those of larger calibers, the shooter will feel the recoil but won’t necessarily be marked by it. If a large-caliber rifle is not properly shouldered, it’s going to leave a mark. If that mark is in an unusual location – say, in the middle of the upper arm – it becomes quickly clear the gun wasn’t being held right. Right?

If the person with the unusually-located bruise argues the issue has to do with the size of the rifle rather than their grip, who is right? If they post pictures of themselves shouldering said rifle, pictures showing it tucked against their arm, not their shoulder, you have your answer.

Learning how to use rifles, and long guns in general, is important. Improper grip could lead to all manner of problems from wounding an animal rather than delivering a clean kill to a bullet zipping towards an innocent bystander.

Although this is not officially a “Firearms Food for Thought” post it is a topic fitting for such a debate. What comes first, proper grip and technique or a custom-fit rifle?

What do you think?



katie.ainsworth

Katie is an avid shooter, hunter, military journalist, and Southern girl. Firearms are her passion whether at the range or on a spot-and-stalk after a big buck. She’s a staff writer at The Firearm Blog and writes about guns, hunting, and the military for various publications both online and in print such as Outdoor Life, Handguns, and Shooting Illustrated. Shoot her a message at ainsworth.kat@usa.com


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  • TheSmellofNapalm

    I think that most people who regularly view this forum would appreciate more stimulating and in-depth topics to discuss, as most of us know how to shoulder a rifle….

    • LG

      One might think so. However, with the general obsession for muzzle compensators on small bore weapons, the facts speak for themselves.

      • TheSmellofNapalm

        What’s even funnier is that their obsession has absolutely zero pull in the military or LE fields.

        • Bill

          I strongly discourage their use in LE. Besides, most of us would rather have cans.

      • politicsbyothermeans

        In my day, we didn’t compensate for anything. SGT York is spinning in his grave.

    • BattleshipGrey

      Why can’t we have both? There are those of us that have been into guns for a while, and those that have just picked up their first gun. Nathaniel is always posting very technical, in depth aspects of firearms and others post very in depth optics articles and so on. I’m glad that this blog can be viewed by all no matter how long they’ve been into guns.

    • Bill

      It’s one of those things that “everybody knows,” but could usually improve on. When PopPop first took us bunny hunting I doubt he discussed things like stance, mount, cheek weld, biomechanics, holding tension both in grip and press, the shoulder pocket, recoil management, alternative positions and so forth.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Agreed, but the title and content of this post are WILDLY unrelated.

  • Vhyrus

    So, when I shoot pretty much any rifle above 22lr, I get a slight bruise on my shoulder. Does this mean I’m holding it wrong? I make my shots and the recoil isn’t painful, but you’re saying I shouldn’t have a mark at all.

    As an aside, if the LOP of a rifle is too long for someone, that person may shoulder the rifle improperly in order to get a more comfortable firing grip. So, in that sense it is in fact the gun and not the shooter.

    • Bill

      In my experience, people get bruises when they don’t tie into the gun; i.e. really seat it into the pocket of the shoulder and get a solid cheek weld. Doing so doesn’t allow the gun to “hit” the shooter’s shoulder, but the recoil is absorbed by the entire body and dissipated via the legs when standing.

      It may also be you – your skin type and circulation. I’m on blood thinners and get bruised when people look at me funny. After a shotgun session my shoulder looks like an Impressionist painting, but remarkably the bruising doesn’t hurt.

    • USMC03Vet

      Clothing is a factor too. When I shoot with just a t-shirt I get a nice red irritated and bruised area near my shoulder with my AK due to the grip on the buttpad. When I shoot with something heavier like a sweatshirt no marks. Has nothing to do with holding it incorrectly causing marks. Each rifle is different especially the buttpads and depending how sensitive your skin is.

    • Mikial

      No biggie. Sometimes you just get a bruise. As long as your technique allows you to hit your target and it doesn’t hurt, I wouldn’t worry too much.

  • John

    Really not sure what I just read….was it a commercial for a firearms training school? What’s the name of the school and where is it?

    Otherwise…rifles should be held properly when shot…got it!

    • JumpIf NotZero

      If this were an ad for a school I’d say avoid. I can only see “The Importance of Proper Diet” when I look at the picture. And the words, I don’t know, auto-generated I think. I think the entire post was a round-about way to just hotlink to midway’s shooting mat.

      • Rob

        I had the same thought…that the picture would be just as good (if not better) with a title like “The Importance of proper diet and exercise for shooters!”

        I passed on saying that at first, as not to be a jerk…but since I’m being one anyway I’ll up the ante.

        Katie a. I can’t remember the last good topic you have had, what gives?
        If its not a review of something “new” (that’s actually been out a while) it seems poorly written or copy and paste from someone else (who writes English as a second language). Is this the best you can do?

    • Nope not an ad for a school—- That’s something we don’t do.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    For the purpose of anonymity – because when you stumble across something
    in your social media feed, it isn’t always wise to broadcast it
    complete with pictures – pictures will not be used. But you should get
    the idea with the help of a description. This has to do with shouldering
    rifles (or shotguns).

    WTF ACTUAL?

    • Michigunner

      Agreed. I think we need the help of a description to get the idea of this paragraph. It reads like the instructions on a made in China dollar store product.

    • Budogunner

      I’m not a fan of these, “Here is a topic with no contributed information, discuss amongst yourselves” posts. There is no content here. TFB can do better.

      • Suppressed

        And it’s always Katie A.

        I’m pretty sure she was an EEO hire because she is consistently sub-par.

        • CavScout

          Brutal, but I agree. Or worse, especially after the ‘smart gun’ fingerprinting and chipping article… some anti-2A BS right there. After that, no mercy should be afforded.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    “…If that mark is in an unusual location – say, in the middle of the upper arm…”

    That means you should never pick up a gun again because you probably just shot someone to the left or right of you.

  • politicsbyothermeans

    Fundamentals first and always. Most XBox ninjas would be sad pandas if they saw how incredibly pedestrian the lion’s share of shooting is outside the back gate of Fort Bragg. I almost don’t care about the shooter’s perception of recoil as long as they land the shot and don’t learn to flinch as a result. Whether recoil leaves a bruise is immaterial if your form and technique sucks out loud.

  • ZEBRA-wit-RABIES

    WHAT??????

  • Uniform223

    • Bill

      No one posts videos of someone who knows what they are doing shooting that rifle and not doing a Triple Salchow.

    • gunsandrockets

      The Man! at 4:30

  • “Katie A” articles read like a Chinese scammer composing a Taboola article. For the love of Odin please stop these transparent clickbait attempts. You guys post marvelous content…we’d rather have down time than filler posts.

  • Mattblum

    Everyone that I know is quite aware that you have to snug a long gun into your shoulder if you don’t want plenty of pain. The fact that the wanna be tacti cool hurt themselves from time to time is pretty irrelevant, as long as it’s only themselves that they hurt. Of course, we all love to feel superior while watching internet videos of people knocking themselves over with shotguns or blacking their eyes with scopes, but none of us want to be them. Heck, I cringe when I watch them.

  • Zachary marrs

    “What do you think”

    I think this is an incredibly nonsensical post.

  • mike

    What was the point of this article. Scolding people for shouldering wrong without any help in what they are doing wrong or how to do it right. Pointless worthless article.

  • hANNABONE

    …tell me again why I just wasted 1.5 minutes on this commentary? Glad there weren’t any pictures or I might have spent a coupla minutes on here. Sheesh, what was that..?

  • Dave

    Holi Krap? WTF over. Reading that piece was 60 seconds wasted that I will never get back. I understand that she was trying to educate beginners but I don’t think this is the right forum. I’m sure there are beginners among TFB’s readership but how about a spoiler like “Target Audience: Novice” so those of us that learned this stuff when we were teenagers can skip to something else.

    Again, I don’t fault her desire to educate novices.

    • Mikial

      Well, there wasn’t a lot of education to it . . . just a warning that someone could give in three words . . . ‘Don’t mess up.’

  • John1943

    This article contains nothing but the information “hold your rifle (or shotgun) properly or it will hurt.” Nothing else to learn here, folks, move along please.

  • Mike Lashewitz

    Thought I was going to get something out this but I was wrong. See I can admit when I am wrong…

    • Mikial

      Mike, your comment has been the only thing that made reading this drek worthwhile! 😉

  • Mikial

    Does TFB have an editor who reviews submission before they are published, or is it that once you’re accepted as a contributor, you just write it and post it?