There is one word that every rifle shooter should know: BRASS. If you learn this word and what each letter in the acronym means, and then apply them to every shot, you can’t miss.

BRASS stands for five words: Breath, Relax, Aim, Slack and Squeeze. Basically, used in the order presented above, you do each step prior to making your shot. Here is what you do:

Breathe: You are in position; you have your target selected and in range and you raise your rifle to your eye. You take a fairly deep breath, exhale it, then take in a half breath and hold it. This does two things: it enriches your blood with oxygen which helps steady your aim, and it gives you more of a steady rest since you are not breathing while taking the shot.

Relax: Perhaps one of the more difficult parts of the sequence, especially if it’s that big buck or predator that you’ve been waiting for all morning. This is the part where adrenalin is beginning to affect your hold, position, and timing—and might make you rush the shot. By concentrating on relaxing, you will notice your sights or crosshairs begin to settle down and not do the “figure eight dance” so much.

As soon as you are as relaxed as the situation allows, you concentrate on sight alignment. If you are shooting iron sights, you know that you have to have that front sight blade locked on the six 0’clock position of your target and your rear sight positioned correctly with equal light on both sides of the front sight blade. Your rear sight should be a bit blurry, with a good clear and crisp front sight blade. Do NOT try to focus on the front sight and the target at the same time. The target should also be a bit blurry. It’s the front sight that counts in accuracy. When shooting a scoped rifle, make sure you have a clear view of the target and the crosshairs with no half-moon shadows on the sides or top of your scope lens. The scope picture should be round and clear and bright. If you have an AO—an adjustable objective lens—you can adjust your parallax and your focus ring so that your crosshairs are clear and sharp and so is your target. And make sure you have the proper eye relief behind the scope so that if your rifle recoils you do not end up with half-circle cuts in your forehead! Part of aiming is also proper grip. There are different schools of thought, but when I shoot from a rest or bipod position, I use my left (non-trigger) hand to support the heel of the stock in my shoulder and pull slightly back into my shoulder with my right hand at the small of the stock. Do not “over grip” as this will produce shaking or unsteadiness due to fatigue.

Slack: This is where you take up the slack on the trigger. Be sure you are very familiar with the feel of your rifle. Every rifle is different, and each one has a different trigger feel and pull. Use the pad on the tip of your finger only. As a old instructors would say, “pull it gently feel the slack taken up—then stop.”
Once you know your trigger feel and how much slack there is, you are ready for the hardest part of the shot sequence, the “squeeze.”

Squeeze: The most critical part of your shot is the last ½ second. It is the part when you launch that projectile down range and will either hit your target—or miss. Most of the instructing I do with shooters focuses on the last bit of trigger squeeze, and that’s where most make their mistakes. The bottom line is that the shot must be a surprise. You should not know exactly when it is going to happen, or try to anticipate it. If you do, you may flinch, jerk, or buck. Flinching normally causes the shooter to close his or her eyes at the last second—a sure miss. Bucking is shoving your shoulder into the rifle unconsciously in anticipation of the recoil. Jerking is “pulling” the trigger instead of squeezing it. Bucking will throw a shot to the left, while jerking will throw it to the right. If you are lining up a prairie dog at 800 yards, you have no room to buck, jerk, or flinch. You’ll miss the guy by a yard! Remember BRASS, practice it, and you’re shots will find their target.