When discussing the fundamentals follow through really deserves some attention. Like the other fundamentals of marksmanship, follow through is not all that complicated, but easily goofed without some practice and attention paid to what you are doing. The easiest example I have for a lack of proper follow through that everyone has probably seen is what I call “gopher head.” If you have seen somebody take a shot on a rifle with magnified optics pop their head up immediately after the shot, you’ve seen gopher head, and a lack of proper follow through. For starters, what are you picking your head up to look at? You can see better through the magnified optics, so why lift your head? People do it to remind themselves of the location of the target and also because they don’t trust their optics. Trust your optics, guys. Keep your head down, on the stock, and observe your shot through the scope.
Head Down for Proper Follow Through
Picking your head up will change the placement of your head, and your eye, behind the scope. This will have an effect on your consistency from one shot to the next. If you lift your head between shots on the same target, you are hurting your chances of making a hit on subsequent shots by altering that relationship between your head and eye position and your optics. When we talk about proper follow through, we are talking more about things you shouldn’t do than anything you should do. Don’t slap the trigger, don’t play gopher head, what you should do is nothing. You want to remain motionless behind the rifle until the recoil impulse is over. Here’s an easy way to ensure that any movement you make with your body can’t alter the gun’s orientation while the bullet travels down the barrel…don’t move until you see the bullet impact the target, or the dirt next to it! If you see a hit or miss through your scope, it’s now safe to do what you need to do to get ready for the next shot.
Hold the Trigger Back for Proper Follow Through
I mentioned slapping the trigger. Slapping the trigger is easiest to describe with pistol or semi automatic rifles. When people try to shoot fast they will pull the trigger aggressively and quickly, the gun begins to discharge, and the shooter has already released pressure on the trigger to allow it to reset all the way to the point where it begins its travel rearward, and the shooter repeats the process. Try this the next time you are shooting a semi automatic pistol or rifle. Take aim at your target, and squeeze the trigger slowly until the gun discharges, when it fires, keep pressure on the trigger and hold it so it rests at the rear of its travel. Now slowly release pressure on the trigger until the trigger resets itself. You will feel it happen, and a lot of times you will hear an audible ‘click’ as the trigger and sear reset themselves for the next shot. That is how you should fire your precision rifle, your AR15, and your pistol. Don’t slap the trigger by just pulling and releasing quickly and without control. If you are doing that you are not achieving the accuracy potential of that weapon.
The issue with trigger slapping is the time it takes the bullet to travel the length of the barrel. This is an effect magnified with precision rifles because the barrels are longer and the distances more vast and sufficient to show the effects of a slap. As the bullet travels down the barrel, proper follow through dictates a lack of movement on the part of the shooter. You don’t want to be filling your lungs yet, you still want to be at the bottom of your breathing cycle in your natural respiratory pause. You don’t want to release pressure on the trigger, keep it held to the rear. If you start to move your body or alter the pressure of your finger against the trigger, or your shoulder against the stock, you can allow the rifle which is now recoiling in the direction opposite the bullet’s travel to exploit those pressure differences where your body is interacting with the rifle. If you have uneven or inconsistent pressure, and thus poor follow through, the rifle will start to move off axis. The rifle will take the path of least resistance so if you release the pressure on the grip, the trigger, the stock, if you do anything other than lay still allowing the rifle to finish its firing cycle, it will try to move in the direction of least resistance. That means the reticle starts to drift off target, the barrel moves in any number of directions, and all this can happen before the bullet has exited the barrel. The significance of proper follow through is acknowledging that you can alter the placement of your shot by altering your body to rifle interface before the bullet has left the barrel.
Wrapping up Follow Through
So to summarize this post if you want to have proper execution of follow through you want to remain motionless as the rifle fires. Keep the trigger pulled to the rear, keep your body still, observe the shot through your optics in case you have to fire again. Hit or Miss you should see the effects of the bullet somewhere down range. When you have observed bullet impact, it’s safe to start releasing pressure on the trigger so it resets. At that point you can come off the grip completely to run a bolt on a bolt action rifle if that is what you are firing. Here’s a short video to illustrate what I’m talking about. I’m by no means an expert, but you will note that I’m quite still as the rifle fires and afterwards as I ease up on trigger. A lot of people will let off as soon as the gun fires. The gun in this video has finished recoiling back and has rested forward again when I ease up.
If you are interested in some professional instruction on the subject that you can check out from home, I highly recommend you head over to Sniper’s Hide and register for the online training. The owner is an outstanding instructor and describes these concepts, and several that are far beyond our ability to teach to others, in an easy to understand way with excellent video quality and written summaries of the topics. The going price for that training is less than $15.00 USD per month and a bargain any way you slice it. The Sniper’s Hide website can be accessed at http://snipershide.scout.com/