Basic Rifle Marksmanship- Part 1, by Mark Bunch

For most of my life I have been a rifle shooter, competitor, and instructor. I have also carried a rifle in combat when people I didn’t know shot at me. I know a fair amount about the subject and would like to share some of the things I have learned about basic rifle marksmanship along the way. A man or woman with a quality rifle and the training to use it is a formidable combination indeed.

What are you going to use it for?

Just as with handguns, a prospective buyer needs to know what he/she is going to use a rifle for in order to choose the correct tool for the job. You generally get what you pay for in life, although there are some pretty good value priced rifles. There is also the option of buying a good quality used rifle from a pawn shop or gun dealer.

Basic Rifle Marksmanship

It is hard to imagine owning only one rifle, but I have in fact known men who did. A popular quote from long ago is: “Beware the man with only one rifle as he knows how to use it.” That is generally a true statement. But this certainly doesn’t mean that all people who own one rifle are adept at using it. Nor does it mean those with multiple rifles are not proficient.

Types of Rifles

There are just a few different types of rifles but countless thousands of variations of each with different stocks, sights, triggers, and in different calibers.

Black Powder/Muzzle Loaders

Black powder/muzzle loaders are great for civil war reenactments. They are a good option for those who cannot legally pass a background check, as they allow you a level of protection and ability to defend yourself/hunt if you are legally allowed to do so. I am not a big fan of this class of rifle, but I do own a couple of them just in case.

Lever Action Rifles

Lever action rifles helped win the west with the Winchester model 1873 likely being the most popular rifle of its era. Other models by Winchester, Savage, Henry and Marlin usually contained the year of their invention. Examples include the Marlin model 1881, Savage model 1895, et cetera. I have always been a big fan of lever action rifles. I am also a fan of being able to have a handgun and rifle chambered for the same cartridge. This has always appealed to me. Quality lever action rifles can be purchased from Henry, Winchester, Marlin, Cimarron, and Rossi in multiple calibers.Basic Rifle Marksmanship

Bolt Action Rifles

Bolt action rifles can be had in pretty much every caliber in existence. These rifles have the distinction of being used in every instance where reliability and accuracy is paramount to survival. Police sharpshooters, military snipers, and long distance competitors all use high quality bolt action rifles and optics. Winchester, Remington, Savage, and Ruger all make fine bolt action rifles.

Semi-Automatic Rifles

Semi-automatic rifles, such as the AR-15, AK-47, SKS, 10/22, M1A, M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, and to a lesser degree the Browning BAR and Remington 7400 auto loaders, are very popular. They can be obtained in pretty much any caliber you want to shoot, all the way from 22LR to .50 BMG.Basic Rifle Marksmanship

Single Shot Break Open Rifles

Single shot break open rifles, such as the New England series of handy rifles, are great for young shooters and those looking for an inexpensive hunting rifle that will hold up for a lifetime of reliable use.

Combination Rifles

Combination rifles, such as the Savage models with an upper rifle barrel and lower shotgun barrel, are pretty common. Both Mossberg and Savage have made good quality, reliable, over under combo guns. I personally own a Savage with a .22 magnum upper barrel and a 20 gauge lower barrel. This is a great gun for my future wife, Nikki, for hunting small game and fowl.

Pump Action Rifles

Pump action rifles are pretty rare these days, but they are a good choice. They include rifles such as the Remington 7600. I have had a couple of these come through my gun shop, and I thought they were well made and a good choice for shooters.

Double Rifles

Double rifles are typically used by African hunters or guides where everything you see wants to kill you. I had an uncle once who bought a .610 Nitro Express double rifle for what reason I will never know. I can proudly state that I shot that rifle exactly twice, which was once more than anyone else in my family ever shot the thing.

Caliber Choices for Rifles

This can be a little bit tricky for novice shooters, but here are some good guidelines to stick to. If you are only going to own one rifle, it should be in .308. It will kill anything walking this planet. There has been more data accumulated on using this cartridge for every application under the sun. Ballistics, reloading data, performance, and barrel life are all great aspects of this cartridge. Additionally, the fact that it has been a military cartridge allows for easy resupply.

.223/5.56 is probably the most popular rifle cartridge today. Pretty much everyone I know owns at least one AR15, whether they like guns or not.

I would also recommend the following calibers of .22 long rifle– .260/6.5 CM, .270, 30.06, .300 Win Mag, and .338 Lapua Magnum. Stay away from those goofy short action magnum cartridges that Winchester came out with a few years back as all they really do is burn out the throat of your barrel in record time and detach your retinas. There are a couple of exceptions to sticking to only U.S. cartridges such as the 7.62 x .39 mm (AK-47 and SKS ), 7.62 x 54 mm (Mosin Nagant 1891), and 7 and 8 mm Mauser rounds from Germany.

Fundamentals of rifle marksmanship/Bone Support

Just as with shooting a handgun, basic fundamentals will go a long ways toward helping you master your new rifle. Bone support is absolutely critical when shooting a rifle, as they are typically three or more feet long and their weight can prevent you from being able to hold and aim it for long periods of time if you do not use bone support to assist you. Once you lock your support arm under your rifle, you will become much more stable and be able to actually hold position while you take aim, regardless of whether you are shooting offhand, sitting, kneeling, or prone. Lock the elbow of your support arm into your body or into the ground and you will be amazed how much more accurate you will be.

One of the great training grounds to learn bone supported position shooting is to compete in local CMP shooting matches. You will learn how to shoot in various positions, such as shooting, kneeling, prone and standing offhand.Basic Rifle MarksmanshipBasic Rifle Marksmanship

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part one of a two part entry for Round 71 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate that is good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
  6. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  7. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  8. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by,
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  9. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  3. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  4. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  5. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  6. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from (a $240 value), and

Round 71 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. I recommend project APPLESEED,my son and I just finished a 2 day course in Manchester TN and I was very surprised on what I didn’t know about marksmanship.My son and I were pretty good shots but lacked the proper mechanics to become great shots.Appleseed is a real bargain at $60.00 for 2 days and you get a history lesson at the same time. We had a great time and learned a lot.

  2. I agree, Project Appleseed is great for new shooters and experienced ones too. For the past 4 years I have taken numerous kids each time. Everybody has a great time and meet new friends. The history lesson is great too. If you score over 210 on the AQT target you will earn your rifleman patch, but it takes some work, stage 2 & 3 are the hardest due to the allowed times, 1 & 4 are easy. I hope this year 3 of the youth I take will earn theirs.

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