How to control breathing while shooting

The best technique of how to breath while shooting can be a tough one. Are we talking about shooting rifles? Offhand or sitting? Single shot pattern? Breathing while handgun shooting? Different camps fall to different conclusions on this topic. So instead of choosing just one, let me offer up a couple I use the most frequently.

Forget the table, the rock solid rest, the trigger control, squaring the butt against his shoulder. If he’s not breathing right none of it matters.

Note: I am NOT implementing trigger use with this post as in my opinion it’s a stand-alone post all its own best set up by this one first.

  • Some say take ONE deep breath in, slowly let it out then line up your sights at the bottom of your breath then jerk the trigger. This is how I would direct new hunters with a deer (buck or doe let’s be honest, it happens to the best of us whether or not headgear is present) or any big game that works you up for that matter when your heart is in your throat. Even further, what if you’re not hunting midwestern style sitting on a stand? What if you just stalked this animal for like 5 miles and are completely short of breath and out of gas? You’re not gonna have the time to slow your heartbeat down enough many times before the animal leaves, so narrow it down to ONE long calm breath in, then let it out. You’ll be at your steadiest at the end of the breath. IF for some reason you’re not on your target then start the breath over. There’s no need to rush when an ethical shot is at stake and you DON’T want to hold your breath. It’s an easy habit to get into and a hard one to break.
  • Others will say practice taking several slow deep breathes in and out until your heart rate slows way down, then let loose on the trigger when your full breath is about halfway out. Sniper style would dictate (from what I’ve read, I’m NOT a sniper outside of my dreams) slowing your breath AND heartbeat way down so you can pull the trigger in between heartbeats. It’s when you’re at your steadiest and the crosshairs won’t jump on you. This also allows the shooter to squeeze the trigger and let the gun “surprise” him. I use this style most often when shooting from the bench.
  • Both of the above methods are specifically designated toward rifle shooting. As basic as they are, they don’t cover in great detail semi-auto or tactical rifle shooting, handgun shooting, and even breathing while reloading. One final ALL ENCOMPASSING point that applies to any shooting discipline (regardless of the weapon) about breathing is this. Your breathing needs to be consistent AND intentionally steady. 

Control your breathing, and you control your accuracy.

Shooters don’t often realize that when their accuracy struggles they very well could be failing to control their breathing. Relax your shoulders, open up your lungs and chill and your accuracy will improve. And not just your accuracy, but your safety. The calmer your breathing comes, the more sound your mind will be and the more thinking through what you’re doing comes easily.

Do you have a breathing trick or even a way to remind yourself to breath when you’re shooting?

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