Rifle Training: The Rimfire Regimen for Becoming a Marksman

Follow this plan and you’ll be a much better shot with a centerfire rifle. You’ll need four things: A .22 rifle, ammo, targets, and time to practice.

Rifle First on the list is a good .22 rifle. If you hunt big game, the rifle should be as close as possible to what you use for hunting—not some piece of junk you got at a tag sale, but a serious, accurate firearm. It should be wearing a good scope.

Marlin 917VR
Marlin Model 917VR
The Marlin Model 917VR is a good example of a serious rimfire rifle wearing a good scope.

Ammo In order to follow the rest of the plan below, you're going to need every bit of accuracy you can muster, so you're obliged to buy at least half a dozen different boxes of ammo (skip the hypervelocity stuff, which I've never seen shoot really well). Get high and standard velocity, both solid and hollow point.

Shoot five-shot groups from a bench at 25 yards with each box. Eventually you’ll see that one type of ammo is much more accurate in your rifle than anything else. Get at least a brick of that stuff, which is 500 rounds.

Targets You're after either the NRA 50-Foot Rifle Target (A-36) or the NRA Rifle Silhouettes Target (TQ-14), which are printed by the National Target Company. The former has a dozen bull's-eyes, each about the size of a silver dollar. The latter reproduces the four iron targets used on actual silhouette ranges—chickens, wild pigs, turkeys, and rams, five of each to a row.

The Regimen Post your target sheet at 25 yards. The choice of shooting positions is up to you, provided that you dedicate at least half your practice to the offhand position, which is by far the hardest and one that comes up in the field a surprisingly large percentage of the time. You can shoot kneeling, sitting, or any way you please as long as you don't use a rest.

If you’re shooting at the bull’s-eyes, give yourself five shots at one bull, taking the absolute minimum amount of time to shoulder the rifle, find the bull in the scope, put the crosshairs on it, and fire.

NRA Rifle Silhouettes Target
The NRA Rifle Silhouettes Target (TQ-14) reproduces the four iron targets used on silhouette ranges. You can find them at MidwayUSA at $8.99 for a pack of 100.

With the silhouette target, take one shot at each little critter in a single row. Your goal in this regimen is speed as much as it is accuracy. Squeeze the trigger no more than five seconds after you shoulder the rifle.

Score yourself after every five rounds. A hit anywhere in the bull’s-eye counts. I find that if I’m really concentrating, 12 bulls (or 12 rows on the silhouette target) is about all I can handle in a session before my mental focus wavers and the crosshairs start jumping uncontrollably.

You may find that this drill is less discouraging if you move closer than 25 yards at first, and you may not want to shoot up a whole target.

Over the course of a month or more (or 500 rounds, whichever comes first), you should get to the point where you put either four or five hits on every bull on a target. Once you can do that, go sight in your centerfire rifle, because you’ll be ready for anything.