In a real-world SHTF scenario, odds are you’re not going to be shooting from one position the entire time you’re in a firefight. This is where advanced marksmanship comes into play, practicing this may very well save your life one day.
In this article, I’ll go over different shooting techniques ranging from shooting while behind cover, to shooting while on the move. Simply reading this article won’t prepare you for anything, so make sure you practice what you learn regularly.
“Marksmanship” is the term used to describe shooting techniques, as well as the basics. If you hear the term “marksmanship” from someone, they’re most likely referring to the techniques used in shooting. Because it would be unnecessary to say “shooting techniques” repeatedly, the word “marksmanship” is mostly used to simplify the term and narrow it down.
In a war zone, service members never stand out in the open like on a shooting range, and shoot at a stationary target. Why do you think things will be any different if SHTF and where you live becomes a warzone? You’ve heard the term “practice makes perfect”, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. If you only practice shooting at a stationary target, that’s all you’ll be good at. You need to broaden your training and train how you would really fight.
Why Practice Advanced Marksmanship?
As a prepper, your marksmanship skills could mean the difference between life and death when SHTF. Since you won’t have the luxury to have your enemy standing still the entire time like a target does at a shooting range, you should train how you fight. Even though it’s called “Advanced Marksmanship”, it should be a priority to make it second-nature. There are many instances post-collapse that would make advanced marksmanship necessary.
These are a common occurrence in today’s world, imagine how much home invasions will increase post-collapse. Being able to defend your home and your family against any threat is the cornerstone for prepping. Someone who forcibly comes into your home is no friend of yours, most of the time. Most home invaders are after money, valuables, or even after your life.
Threats in the Wilderness
Most of the time when you bug out, you’ll spend some time in the woods. Do you really think you’ll be the only person who goes this route post-collapse? A lot of panic will ensue after a catastrophic event, and panic makes people do unspeakable things. If you run into a looter (or any type of threat) on your way to your bug out location, you’ll want to know more than your opponent. Knowledge is power, and that power could mean you winning the firefight.
The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy (or girl) with a gun. Think of the recent terror attacks around the world, most of which could have been stopped by someone with the proper knowledge and means of doing so. If you find yourself in a legitimate firefight, advanced marksmanship will give you the upper-hand. It may even save your life, and the live of others.
The First Few Seconds of a Firefight
In the first few seconds of a firefight, adrenaline will be skyrocketed, you’ll get “tunnel vision”, and more than likely, you’ll begin to hyperventilate. There’s not much you can do to counter these effects. If there was, there would be no need for articles like this. The best thing you can do to prepare yourself is to train hard, and then train some more. The more you train, the more these techniques will become second nature when SHTF. This way, you don’t have to think about what to do, you just do it.
When you get shot at, the first thing you should do is shoot back. While you return fire, seek an area where there’s cover. Never hide, hiding will kill you. There’s a big difference between hiding, and taking cover to return fire. The first 15 seconds of a firefight determines who has fire-superiority, which means whoever has more firepower, will dominate the 15-second fight. Winning the 15-second fight is imperative, if you don’t, then your enemy has a far greater chance of walking away alive.
After you take cover, you need to think of what’s called the “3 D’s” in your head. These 3 D’s are distance, direction, and description. Make a mental note of these three things because they’re very important for how you’re going to engage them from cover. If you’re in a group of people, yell them out loudly so everyone in your group can hear.
This is self-explanatory, make a mental note of how far away the person shooting at you is. If they’re 1m (3.25ft) to 50m (164ft) away, that makes them close range. If they’re 50m (164ft) to 100m (328ft) away, that makes them medium range. Anything over 100m (328ft) classifies them as long range, these measurements become important for what decisions you’ll make in the next section.
If you’re by yourself, you can make a mental note of what direction your threat is from you. If you’re in a group, you’ll yell out a direction 1-12 o’clock from the group, not just from yourself. This is important because it gives your team a general sense of what kind of cover they should be seeking and in what direction.
This is a very important factor to consider when it comes to a firefight, especially if you’re in a group. Calling out your enemy’s description not only means calling out what they’re wearing, but also what type of weapons they have. If there’s 3 men wearing black with AK-47s, and you’re by yourself with only a Glock 19 9mm, you might want to break contact. You should never initiate a fight with less than 3-1 odds.
Shooting While in Cover
If you’re behind cover and you don’t return fire, you’re giving your enemy the chance to advance on your position and eventually kill you. You need to return fire, even if your enemy has the advantage and you’re going to break contact. The longer you keep their heads down, the more freedom of maneuverability you have. In a firefight, you should use the “bounding” technique.
This means when you move, you should only be up and running for 3 seconds at a time. Say in your head “I’m up, they see me, I’m down”, this is a good subliminal tool to use when you want to bound. By the time you’re done with the sentence, you should already be either prone, or behind your next cover and concealed position. If you’re up for any longer, your risk of getting shot increases by the second.
When you’re behind cover, wait for a lull in gunfire to return fire. Nobody’s superhuman, so don’t try to be the hero and shoot while your position is getting hammered by accurate gunfire. Once there’s a lull, don’t shoot at them just to suppress, shoot to kill. The person who runs out of ammo first, dies first. Make sure you make every shot count, so if you come up from behind cover to shoot and they retreat behind cover at the same time, shoot a controlled pair into their cover and wait for them to make the next mistake.
Optimize the amount of cover you have. If you have a wall you can use to brace your weapon on, do it. Use the environment to your advantage. If you’re shooting from the side of your cover, change position. Don’t set a pattern, or your enemy can catch on and shoot you once you poke back out again. Never shoot from the same position more than twice in an engagement if you can help it, if you can confuse your enemy, you’ve already won (depending on your accuracy).
If you use a tree as cover, make sure you choose a tree that’s thick enough to actually stop bullets. Don’t pick a tree that’s 3 inches wide, you’ll look stupid and you’ll get shot. When you use the tree, you should shoot from the side that’s the same as your dominant side. This way, you can move the same-side knee out to “hug” the tree and rest your shooting elbow on the knee. This maximizes your cover, as well as a stable position to fire from.
Shooting on the Move
Shooting while moving is the exception, not the rule. You should never do this unless you absolutely must. It’s incredibly inaccurate, and can lead to many mistakes (like tripping). If you take contact while you’re moving, return fire in the general direction that you heard the rounds coming from while you run to cover.
If you’re bounding, concentrate on covering more distance while you run, rather than shooting. Sometimes, however, there are instances where you have no choice but to shoot while moving (like room clearing, or initial contact). In these scenarios, there’s many things you can do to help your accuracy, as well as mitigate the risk of tripping. All of this becomes much easier if you’re in good shape, so if you’re not, make sure you start.
The method of walking and shooting requires a good stance, as well as a steady base. While you walk, bend your knees slightly and (while keeping your back straight) lean your torso slightly forward. This gives you a steady base and the recoil of your weapon won’t rock you as much while you’re moving
Imagine you’re trying to keep a watermelon between your thighs while you walk as well, this will prevent you from walking too narrow which will cause you to trip.
While you shoot, you can use many techniques as far as trigger squeeze timing goes. My favorite technique is shooting on the same foot. This allows me to steady my shots, and keep a steady rhythm.
To do this, pick a side (I like my non-dominant leg, so my shooting stance is natural when I fire) and every time you step forward with that side, you squeeze the trigger. You’ll find that your shot groups are tighter, and your breathing is more controlled if you find a rhythm when you shoot while moving.
Make sure that when you’re moving, you never cross your feet. Some people like to cross-over when moving from side to side. This is incredibly stupid, because one small shift of your balance will cause you to fall over, potentially taking you out of the fight.
Instead, you should strafe from side to side by never moving your feet closer than shoulder-width apart. In doing this, you’re actually adding the ability to move faster, while cutting out the risk of falling.
Clearing rooms while in a team is challenging, clearing them alone can seem impossible. You need to clear every angle, every dead-space (behind a couch for example), and every threat. Once you step through a door, you’ve already committed.
A doorway is a fatal funnel, which means all gunfire will be directed at the doorway if there’s an enemy or enemies in the room. If you pause or hesitate while you’re in the fatal funnel, you will more than likely die.
This technique is incredibly useful as a prepper for many reasons, one of them being to clear your bug out location of threats after you’ve arrived. There’s a good chance that someone else may have found it, so it’s up to you (or you and your team) to make sure it’s safe before you make yourself comfortable. The worst thing you can do is “assume” something is safe, this leaves your life, and your family’s life up to chance.
If you’re by yourself, you should “pie” the corner, or doorway before you enter. When you pie something, you’re slowly aiming around a corner, or entryway. This minimizes your exposure while you clear a larger area.
If there’s a larger threat (like a machine gun) than you can handle, you can always move back. That’s the beauty of using the pie method, you can always go back if necessary. You can also use this method for turning a corner in a hallway, or clearing a dead-space inside of a room.
You’re not Rambo, so don’t act like it when you clear rooms. Your movement should be slow, and methodical. There’s a saying “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”, this means if you slow it down, you’re less likely to make mistakes. This makes your movement through each room faster than it would be if you tried to rush and kept making mistakes, or worse.
You should check every door before you enter a room, run your hands along the crease of the door where it meets the frame to check for wires indicating a trap.
Also, check the door handle to see if it’s unlocked before you kick the door in. If you don’t, you’re exposing your body when you don’t have to, in order to kick in an unlocked door. If it is locked, and you know there’s no innocent people inside, only enemies, you can fire a few rounds through the door immediately before you kick it in.
Be careful doing this, there are a lot of unseen variables when it comes to clearing a room, so this method should only be used when you’re in a “move fast, or die” scenario. When you’ve entered the room, the first thing you should see is the middle. Immediately after you’ve cleared the middle, you need to pick a side of the room and dominate the near-corner. Once you’ve cleared the near-corner, you can move your point of aim to the corner diagonal to it. Once you’ve cleared the main level of the room, make sure you check the ceiling for peep holes cut in it. While impractical, holes are often cut in the ceiling in some advanced defenses to optimize an ambush on an unsuspecting victim.
If you find yourself ambushed after you’ve already entered the fatal funnel, you need to match their level of violence, then go past that. The only way you can survive an ambush is becoming more violent than the ambusher. If you can’t, you’ll simply die, there is no in between.
Think of it this way: when you were younger and your sibling would attack you, you had to “one-up” them to beat them. The same thing goes for ambushes, shoot more than they do. Use the box drill (described below), or the NSR drill.
If you enter through the doorway, and someone tries to grab your barrel, don’t panic. Think clearly, they’ve only grabbed your barrel, they can’t stop a bullet. Shoot them anyways, then keep moving. Another method of getting past a “rusher” (combatant who rushes you), is a “muzzle thump”. Your barrel is made out of hard metal, hitting somebody with the end of it is incredibly painful and incapacitating if done with enough force.
If all else fails, and you can’t match their violence, a last resort would be throwing a grenade into the room. Not everyone has grenades readily accessible, so this might not even be an option for you. if there are multiple enemies in the room, follow the order of succession described above. If you leave any sectors un-cleared before you move onto the next, you risk getting killed. Tip – never skip dead-space. These areas are very common for people to hide in, and once you’ve passed it, they’ll pop out and attack. A good way to think about it is “clear dead-space, or you’ll be dead.”.
Point, and Shoot
A great technique to optimize your accuracy during CQC (close-quarters combat), is using the index finger on your support hand to “point” at your target before you engage them. Think about it, when you point at anything, you use your index finger. Your body is naturally used to referencing this as your subliminal natural point-of-aim. When you’re in a CQC environment (when shooting close quarters is likely), stick your index finger on your support hand on your rifle out as if to point where your barrel is pointing. This way, if you have to make a split-second shot and you don’t have time to aim, your shot placement will be more accurate because you’re pointing at it.
There are seven main shooting drills that we’ll go over and if practiced a lot, can greatly improve your lethality in CQC. Shooting drills are methods of shooting that directly translate to shooting in the real world. Every scenario is different when it comes to a real-world firefight, and since we train how we fight, our shooting drills should be different too.
This is the most common shooting drill, commonly referred to as the “double-tap”. Firing a controlled pair into your target means that you fire two well-placed shots into your target’s chest cavity. Once you’ve fired these two shots, you assess the situation and if necessary, fire another controlled pair. This is a great technique to use in all generic shooting scenarios, because if the first hit doesn’t kill them, the second one will.
The Hammer Pair Drill is used when you don’t have as much time to shoot two well-placed shots into your target. This drill is very quick, meaning your trigger squeeze is one right after the other. If you have your basic fundamentals down, this should be an accurate drill to perform. Sometimes two shots aren’t enough to stop the threat, that’s why there are other drills.
The Failure Drill is commonly referred to as “two in the chest, one in the head”. This is a great technique (if you have the accuracy to support it) for CQC, and can also be a deterrent for other potential threats when they see their companion go down with two well-placed shots, followed by a head shot. You won’t always have the luxury of utilizing the failure drill, so don’t rely on this drill just because it looks cool.
The Non-Standard Response (NSR) drill is when SHTF and you must unload as many rounds into your target as possible to stop the threat. To perform this drill, simply raise your weapon up, and unload 10-15 rounds into your target’s chest cavity. This is a practical drill if someone pops out from around a corner just feet from you trying to kill you.
The Zipper Drill is a fail-safe way of incapacitating your target. To perform the zipper drill, fire 5-6 rounds in succession into the enemy’s spinal cord, starting from the bottom and working your way up towards the head. This drill is extremely effective because if you damage someone’s spinal cord, they can’t fight back. It’s a brutal, yet effective way to end a CQC engagement quickly.
The Box Drill is used if there are two targets close together that both need to be neutralized in a quick succession. To perform the box drill, fire two rounds into the chest cavity of the biggest threat (generally the person with their weapon up first), followed by two rounds into the chest cavity of the second threat. After your second hammer drill, you will fire a round into the head of the second threat, and then a round into the head of the biggest threat. This ensures that you maximize your effectiveness with only one weapon.
The Disability Drill is a great way to practice shooting and reloading with your non-dominant hand. Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong) tends to show its ugly face very often in a firefight. Because of this, you need to train accordingly. To shoot with your non-dominant hand, you need to shoot with your non-dominant eye. You can’t accurately shoot with your non-dominant hand while still aiming with your dominant eye.
Shooting drills are a great way to safely practice for real-world scenarios at a static range. When you first start training on a drill, start off slow. Remember, slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Don’t move onto the next drill until you’ve perfected the last one. Bruce Lee once said “I fear the man who’s practiced one kick 10,000 times more than the man who’s practiced 10,000 kicks one time.”.
Advanced Marksmanship is a great category of marksmanship to train on, but only if you’ve perfected the basics. Don’t try to run before you’ve learned to walk, otherwise you’re limiting yourself and how great you could have been. Don’t try to learn drills before you’ve gotten down your trigger squeeze. If you train on these techniques, you’ll greatly improve your combat-effectiveness when SHTF.
I’m an active-duty infantryman with the U.S. Army, and I’ve served a combined-service of over 5 years. Throughout my career, I’ve learned various survival techniques, as well as self-defense techniques. I specialize in weapons, long-range reconnaissance, distance shooting, and long-term isolation survival. I’m a very conservative, very “to the point” kind of person.