5 Must-Know Rifle Drills

posted on September 30, 2023
5 Rifle Drills Zero Seth Swerczek
Image courtesy of Seth Swerczek.

An instructor who doesn’t remain a student will quickly find himself obsolete or, at the very least, unrelatable. As this is one of my core beliefs, I make it a point to attend as many training courses as possible. Without fail, I learn something new each time. More often, I pick up different ways to relay time-tested information. Recently, I spent a week at Leupold’s facility, where we ran some of its latest equipment through a battery of shooting scenarios that admittedly pressed even the most experienced riflemen to their limits. As interesting as the higher-level tasks were, I was equally intrigued by some of the initial drills that we ran to ensure everybody was proficient enough to move on. Looking back, a handful of them would also be excellent for teaching brand-new rifle shooters the fundamentals of marksmanship and long-range shooting. Here are the five that really stood out:  

5. Recoil Recovery
Although the goal is to hit our target the first time, that is seldom the case when we are starting out. I have a saying that goes, ‘Missing the target is acceptable, but missing the data is not.’ The data that I’m referring to is where the shot impacted, as well as which way the dust it kicked up is traveling. A lack of recoil control is usually the reason a new shooter might miss this information because the rifle jumped too far off target when the trigger was pressed.

Recoil Recovery drill with shooter shown on tire with rifle adjusting optic outdoor desert high plains aridImage courtesy of Frank Melloni.

To resolve this issue, you’ll need to get square to the rifle, relax all of your muscles and control any reaction you might have when the trigger breaks. A drill that I developed begins with selecting a given target and distance and setting your scope’s magnification range to its minimum. Work on firing, spotting impacts and observing their effects the moment the bullet arrives at the target area. As you begin to improve, advance the magnification setting until you can do so at the maximum.

4. Barricade Roulette
Because shooting accurately is easier today than ever before, long-range enthusiasts started challenging themselves by introducing unorthodox positions and bouncing between them on the clock. The sport of PRS (Precision Rifle Series) was born from this premise, as was NRL (National Rifle League) Hunter, which uses these positions to replicate realistic hunting scenarios. Training for these events is tough because they are random by nature; thus, so must be your practice. Start by selecting as many as five shooting fixtures (typically referred to as props) and writing each prop’s name on an index card. Props can literally be anything safe and moderately stable.

man behind rifle sitting on gravel near rocks tires blue drum outdoors resting rifle on barricade tank trap wood 4x4Image courtesy of Frank Melloni.

Objects like folding chairs, ladders, tires and oil drums are some of the most common and usually pretty easy to find on an outdoor range today. Once you have all of your equipment ready, pick out a target, select a random index card, position yourself with the prop, and fire. Shooters can add complexity by adding a time constraint, drawing more than one card, adding more targets, or any combination of the three.   

3. Run The Hill
Long-range shooting is not the complicated task it used to be 70 years ago. Through advancements in optics, ammunition and firearms, landing a 1,000-yard shot isn’t that tough. During my week with Leupold, we were introduced to two completely different Seekins Precision rifles. The first was the HIT chambered in 6.5 mm Creedmoor, topped with a 5-25X 56 mm Mark 5HD, and the second was the DMR, chambered in 6 mm ARC featuring Leupold’s new 2-10X 30 mm Mark 5HD.

outdoor landscape view high desert target range arid environment roadImage courtesy of Patrik-Orcutt.

After each were zeroed, I found myself shooting a drill that I also teach, which I call ‘Running the Hill.’ It is called this because it utilized a gentle upward-sloping piece of land with targets placed approximately 100 yards apart. After zeroing your rifle, solve each distance using ballistic software and fire at each target until you hit. Ideally, you’ll score a first-round impact, which was the case when we used the Hornady 4DOF application. However, if you are using something else, this gives you an opportunity to “true” your data or add an entry into your DOPE book for that day’s given conditions. This drill can easily be modified for rimfire rifles at closer, more attainable ranges, so long as there is some variety in your target distances.

2. Ten Dot Drill
Once we felt our optic was centered, we ran a drill that involved 10 1-m.o.a. targets that we were to engage with one shot each. The drill began with us kneeling behind our shooting mats with a mag in hand, waiting for the “Fire” command.

Man kneeling behind bolt-action seekins precision rifle with hornady ammunition box tent men standing backgroundImage courtesy of Preston Lentfer.

Once given, we dropped into position, inserted our magazines, identified our targets, indexed our bodies and rifles to them, confirmed our elevation and parallax dials were correct, closed the bolt and pressed off as clean a shot as possible. It sounds simple, but missing any of these steps will have an impact on accuracy. This routine does wonders for building the process into a habit, making the entire list instinctual.

1. Build A Perfect Zero
Before stepping foot onto the range, Hornady’s Marketing Communications Manager, Seth Swerczek, gave us an overview of the company’s free 4DOF ballistic app and the importance of inputting accurate data to get it to spit out the correct elevation and wind adjustments. During his presentation, we watched a 20-shot group develop into something that centered nearly 2 m.o.a. away from the point of aim. Later, we confirmed our rifle’s zero by repeating the test and making corrections.

Hornady rifle target grid squares red center holes from rifle shooting bulletsImage courtesy of Hornady's Seth Swerczek.

Although it appears to be a simple optics check, shooting a 20-round group is an invaluable drill for the shooter as well. In ensuring your rifle’s accuracy, you also have 20 opportunities to work on your trigger control, shooting position and follow-through in a comfortable, relaxed setting. This lengthy fire schedule will also uncover any issues with your mount or posture that might not show up when firing lesser groups.

Nothing is more satisfying than hearing that telltale “ping” from a distant steel target, indicating success. However, few endeavors are more frustrating than not arriving on target with no idea why. Consider adding some of these to your routine and enjoy more first-round successes at ever-increasing distances.


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