We MUST discuss the simple issue that breathing creates when making a sniper rifle shot that is WAY out there. Breathing has an enormous effect on the accuracy of your shots. Our thoracic cavity expands and contracts as we breathe in and out. Over the years of our life we become well practiced at this procedure, so much so we do it without much thought. This is going to have to change when we want to make that long range shot. Our breathing cycle will cause the cross hairs of our scope reticle to move vertically, possibly moving the cross hairs completely off the target. This movement causes vertical stringing. (Bullet group strung vertically on target)
We have to learn to control our breathing cycle, if you expect to make the hit. There have been many theories on this, and we should look at three primary methods.
- Lungs Full: Some experts say you should hold your breath with lungs full. This method induces muscle tension in the body.
- Half Lung Method: Do you know exactly where 50% of your lung capacity is every time?
- Empty Lungs: Normal respiratory pause
The empty lung method as this is pretty easy to reproduce and if you study your own breathing cycle you will soon realize you have a normal empty lung respiratory pause. Try it yourself; feel the pause after you exhale, just before you start to inhale again? This would be a GREAT time to get a clean trigger break. This will also allow for the lowest possible body position when lying in the prone position enhancing stability.
In a perfect world at the range, or when your target is unaware of your presence this works well. Some advocate deep breathing before this final pause in respiration to increase your oxygen supply. The brain and eye performance suffer after around 4 seconds of diminished oxygen. If you have not taken your shot after around 4 seconds, start your breathing cycle again and reset.
OK, what do we do if we are faced with a limited exposure target? We cannot expect the target to expose itself to coincide with our breathing cycle and there may not be enough time to exhale to our preferred empty lung respiratory pause. You must be able to stop breathing and take the best shot available at the time. You may not get a second chance.
Practice both methods with Dry Practice and Live fire. Although breathing comes so easy, it is one of the most difficult things to master, but you must, if you want to make the hit at long distance.
A video presentation of this part of the sequence of shooting is available at ATAC TV. Tom Clarke and Lawrence Bolton with ATAC TV discuss how important breathing is to the accuracy of your shots.
ATAC TV How To Video Here: Sequence of Shooting Part 3 Breathing