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Don’t Forget to Breathe - Four Breathing Methods for Shooters


I wake up, burrowed in my sleeping bag, and I feel a chill on my nose and cheeks. I open my eyes and see the silhouette, on the tent, made by the moon light through the tree branches. Suddenly the hair on my arms and neck stand on end as I hear a bull elk bugle in the night. My heart rate quickens as I become excited for the day’s hunt.

The morning is spent climbing, hiking, calling, maneuvering, circling, trying to think on a bull elk’s level and outsmart him. I scurry up a hill. I climb closer, hauling my gun as I maneuver over fallen trees. My heart is pounding and my breath is quick as I try to breathe the thin air. I glance over a knoll to see the bull. He is within a hundred yards from me.

The bull elk screams a bugle that makes my already pounding heart jump in my chest. I duck behind the embankment and try to calm my breathing. Now is the time. He is within range. I have to make a good shot.Whether you are shooting a paper target or hunting a live animal, you want to remain steady.

Don’t forget to breathe -

Whether we are at the range shooting targets, or in the field hunting, breathing is important. We want our sight, scope or pin to be on its mark when we pull the trigger.

Education, shooting positions and firearms are all very important to shooters. Breathing is a very important factor as well. We all breathe. From the day we were born we have unconsciously learned to breathe in and out. That natural motion can help or hinder during shooting.

Controlled breathing is a necessity in shooting accuracy. When you breathe in and out your chest rises and falls. This movement can cause your gun barrel or arrow sight to float on its target. Your breathing may cause you to move at the exact moment you pull the trigger to fire.

Sometimes when you are hunting, you get excited and/or the terrain and conditions cause your heart rate to accelerate. Your breathing becomes more rapid and harder to control. If you hold your breath, you may become light headed and your shot may be off target. It is important to practice your breathing techniques as you practice shooting positions at the range.

There are multiple methods of breathing during a shot. The best thing to do is practice them and determine which works best for you. Once you’ve determined your breathing technique, practice it so it becomes instinctive when you are under pressure.

  1. Exhale & Pause - When you are in shooting position, put your cheek against the stock of the gun. Take in a deep breath. Exhale just a portion of that breath, pause briefly and pull the trigger. The pause should allow you to hold your gun barrel and sights in perfect alignment on the target at the very moment the gun fires.
  2. Inhale & Pause – Relax and practice steady breathing. Double check your shooting position. In your rythm of relaxed breathing, inhale. When your lungs are about half full, pause and pull the trigger. The inhale and pause is similar to the exhale and pause method. Your gun barrel and sights should be in perfect alignment on the target at the exact moment the gun fires.
  3. Full exhale – Make sure you are in proper shooting position. Breathe slowly to relax. Focus on your target. As you breathe naturally, and you are at complete exhale, pause when your lungs are empty and squeeze the trigger.
  4. Breathe Naturally – Breathing naturally takes the focus completely off of breathing technique. You do not  pause at all. Focus on your form and your target as you breathe naturally and squeeze the trigger. Sometimes being consciously focused on breathing can increase heart rate and breathing patterns. The natural breathing technique takes the focus off and you begin to unconsciously form a habit of correct shot timing.

When you are pausing, remember just that. It is a pause, not a hold. When a shooter holds their breath, their muscles tighten and their heart rate can change. This will dramatically change the accuracy of a shot.Practice breathing while working on various shooting positions.

While you are practicing, if you become short of breath, stop. Re-group and practice your natural, relaxed breathing. It is important to steady your breath to decrease the amount of movement your body is making. If you are able, step back. Take a deep breath in. Then exhale and then reacquire your target.

These are basic breathing techniques. I have friends who are Olympic shooters. These elite marksmen practice a technique in which they pull their triggers in between heartbeats. These amazing athletes are extremely practiced and in tune with their shooting. Most of us can only aspire to that level of shooting control. 

In our journey to becoming perfect shooters, we can practice shooting positions, techniques and of course, breathing.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

2012 Long Range Sniper Competition

By Len Lucas, Manager - Technical Customer service and Training (LE/DoD) at Beretta

For the past few years Beretta has hosted the Long Range Precision Sniper Competition held at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland and co-hosted by the Baltimore Washington Metropolitan Areas, Local, State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies; where elite two-man teams compete to earn the coveted title of  “Top Sniper”. In this grueling competition, the participants’ precision, camouflage, stalking and observational skills are put to the ultimate test.

Ten challenging events examine the teams’ expertise in long-range shooting, urban combat and covert maneuvering through realistic conflicts and environments. Bringing together the most elite snipers from around the world, the competition is made up of thirty teams from branches of the U.S. Army, Marines, Air Force and Law Enforcement SWAT teams.

Competitors test their long-range marksmanship and participate in events that push their weapons and combat skills to the extreme, including:

• Poker “Run” Shoot - competitors will run a mile course to get their hearts racing and then engage on the poker card target, best 5 card poker hand. A straight royal flush of any suit being the best hand.
• Observation Exercise - This phase of the competition will test the individual sniper teams’ communication capabilities under difficult conditions. The team will wear gas mask during the first 15 minutes of the observation and shooting phase. The team will scan and memorize as much information about the objects during the 30 minute observation time. This will test the individual teams’ knowledge of judging various distances of different objects that will be randomly placed in designated area from 50 meters to 1000 meters.
• Moving Target Phase - Each competitor fires a cold bore shot on a 1 moa target for a possible 100 points, Then will engage moving targets at 200 and 300 meters.
• Stationary Phase 300 meters and 500 meters - This phase of firing tests the individuals’ and each teams’ stationary marksmanship ability as well as their expertise in dealing with weather effects, operational position shooting, reloading techniques, and overall cohesiveness as a Counter Sniper Team.
• Cold Bore Shot, 200 meter and 500 meter - This will test the Counter Sniper Teams’ ability to accurately engage limited sized targets on a cold bore.
• Obstacle Course - One hurdle after the other, competitors get their hearts racing by running a quarter mile while carrying mission-essential equipment, sniper rifle and a 30 pound equipment pack.
• Range Estimation - This phase of the competition test the individual teams’ knowledge of judging various distances of different objects that will be randomly placed from 50 meters out to 1000 meters.
• Counter Sniper - Navigate in high risk environment and engage enemy targets with mixed non-threat targets.
• Unknown Distance Phase - Test the Counter Sniper Teams’ ability to engage steel type targets at various distances ranging from 100 meters out to a 1000 meters in seven minutes or less.
• Stalking Event - This is the most famous sniper event, competitors are judged on their ability to go undetected in open terrain during broad daylight. In full camouflage, snipers have to move toward their target, while going unseen by spotters, and place an accurate shot.

Beretta’s Law Enforcement / Defense Team was on hand displaying military and law enforcement products
The Total Solution”, sharing information and providing products and training which will aid the
sniper in accomplishing his mission.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

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