Hunting: The Rapid-Fire Drill

The rapid-fire drill is designed to get you on target fast. Using a target the size of a deer’s vital zone, the goal is to place a series of shots quickly and accurately on target from different shooting positions.photo courtesy of the NSSF

The rapid-fire drill is pretty straightforward. Using a target the size of a deer’s vital zone, the goal is to place a series of shots quickly and accurately on target from different shooting positions. Honing this ability will enable you to take an accurate shot at a deer in situations when you only have a couple of seconds to shoot before the animal disappears—which is often the case when whitetail hunting.

An 8- or 10-inch circle is a good size for a target. Position it about 50 yards downrange while shooting offhand, 75 yards downrange while shooting from the sitting or kneeling position, and at 100 yards while shooting prone. Paper targets work fine, but a metal gong is best if you have access to one so you don’t have to check the target each time you shoot.

Load 3 to 5 rounds in your rifle and have a friend give you a “go” command while starting a timer.

The key to getting good speed on this drill is to start from a solid shooting position. If your natural point of aim is correct, your rifle’s sights should settle back on to the target after recoil, setting you up for the next shot.

Here are some other pointers to keep in mind:

1. Keep your head on the gun.

One of the most common bad habits I see in shooters is the tendency to lift their head from the rifle’s stock after the shot to see the result of the shot. This makes no sense, because they had just been looking through an optic or sight that gave them the best view of the target. Strive to keep your head down.

2. Run the bolt right away.

Another bad habit to avoid is firing the gun, then pausing before ejecting the empty and loading a fresh round. Run the bolt right away while keeping the rifle in the pocket of your shoulder. Practice this until it is second nature. The best way to ensure a follow-up shot on an animal is to get the gun back into action as quickly as possible.

3. Dial back the magnification.

For these drills (and for most hunting scenarios, for that matter), you don’t need much magnification to get your shots on target. Try shooting these drills at 3X or 4X, or even less. The benefit is that the wider field of view will enable you to see what’s going on downrange, and you’ll be able to get back on target more quickly. The last thing you want while setting up a shot (or after taking one) is to struggle to locate the animal because you scope is cranked up to its maximum setting.

4. Keep breathing.

One benefit to placing multiple shots in a row on target is that it will reveal flaws in your form—and holding your breath is at the top of that list. You’ll usually become aware of this on the fourth or fifth shot as you struggle to keep your crosshairs on target and your eyes focused due to a lack of oxygen. Make a point to stay relaxed and breathe normally during the drill.

5. Increase the difficulty.

There are a number of ways to make this drill more difficult, such as increasing the distance from the target, setting a par time as a goal that you have to beat, and placing multiple targets downrange that you have to engage in a particular order. In all of these, you must be able to put all your shots on target before stepping up the difficulty.

Perhaps the most useful way to take the drill to the next level is to start from the standing position with the rifle at port arms and the safety on. At the start of the timer, you need to get into shooting position and get the safety off before making the shot—just as you might need to do while hunting should you come across an animal by surprise.

Bonus Drill

After running the gun dry, load one round and fire it at the target. Keep your spare ammo where it will be during your hunt and practice this motion until you get an extra round into your gun in a smooth and instinctive manner. That extra shot (especially if you shoot a magnum with a limited capacity) just might save your hunt.