Tips for Firing a Rifle Offhand, Part 1

offhand shooting - iron sights

The primary goal in marksmanship is being able to hit what you are aiming at. The scenario may be simple target shooting, hunting game or personal defense. Whatever the scenario, a great deal of practice is needed.

For most of American history, rifle marksmanship has been an essential skill. The rifle will save your life, win competitions, put meat on the table and clear the homestead of dangerous animals.

The rifle has greater range and energy than the handgun or shotgun and will prove to be a versatile all-around firearm.

It is unfortunate that I see a trend among many shooters—including those that should know better—of confusing survival skills with useful rifle shooting. Taking a deer at 200 yards is a useful accomplishment.

If you do not spend time hunting, but rather like to go to the range and expend hundreds of rounds of ammunition while performing competition based tactical movement, that is fine. But do not confuse this type of shooting with useful skills.

The ones that really need that type of training have titles like Special Agent, U.S. Marshal, or Private First Class. In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse (on top of our present Ignoramus Apocalypse), you will be well-trained.

Being a good shot for its own sake is a good thing. But we should also develop useful skills, such as being able to fire a rifle offhand.

Choosing the Right Caliber

Winchester Ammo - Offhand Shooting
The author’s go-to caliber choice for offhand shooting is .308 Winchester.

One goal I am serious about is taking game cleanly. Taking game at extreme range or with an underpowered rifle is a stunt. If you are that good, my hat is off to you. I am very serious about hunting ethics.

I do not hunt for a trophy, although I realize the positive impact such hunts have on deserving guides and the local economy both here and abroad.

I own more than one AR-15 rifle and consider them great for recreational target-shooting, personal defense and varmint hunting. They are well suited for deer-sized game to perhaps 100 yards—with proper loads such as the Hornady Black loading.

For deer-sized game, I use the 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester and 7mm Remington Magnum. I was lucky that my grandparents taught me to shoot using the affordable and light=kicking .22 caliber rifle.

There is no one solution to all of your needs, although a good .308 self-loader comes close. The .22 caliber rifle is one rifle you must have. It should be the beginner’s rifle. The Ruger American or the Ruger 10/22 are good choices.

Ruger also offers American-made, good-quality bolt-action rifles in the popular calibers. My choice is the .308 Winchester. This cartridge is accurate and has sufficient power for any game in America, depending on the user’s skill and the range.

Hornady Manufacturing offers several loads allowing for good versatility. If you hand load, the sky is the limit for custom-grade loads.

Choosing the Right Scope

TRUGLO Sights - Offhand Shooting
TRUGLO offers several affordable, high-quality scopes and sights that are ideal for offhand rifle shooting.

For most of us, a good start is to learn to use iron sights first. A good set of sights with a bold front post and an aperture rear sight. The sights should be adjustable.

The buckhorn or semi-buckhorn sights of the typical .30-30 are more useful than most realize, but they take time and effort to master. If you choose a rifle scope, a quality optic is essential.

You do not have to spend a thousand dollars, but you will spend the price of the rifle for a quality optic (with few exceptions). The Leopold rifle scope is a good choice, and there are affordable options.

TRUGLO offers affordable scopes that do the business for a modest price. Bushnell offers a wide range of excellent optics. Service varies with different types of scopes and you should purchase the best you can afford. Brightness, quality and image clarity are important.

The scope must be properly mounted in a solid mount then sighted in. The elevation and windage adjustment is simple enough and may be done at 25 yards during the initial stage Be certain to fire the rifle and scope combination at 100 yards to confirm the zero.

I generally set the zero one to two inches high at 100 yards, depending upon what range the rifle will most likely be called on. Be certain the eyepiece comes to the eye comfortably and you have the correct eye relief.

In the beginning, the shooter should use a solid bench rest firing position, firing from the bench and taking every advantage for accuracy. But at some point, you will need to practice from a field firing position… unless all you are preparing to do is punch paper.

Be sure to check out the second part of this blog series, where we get into firing positions and the drills necessary to master shooting any rifle offhand.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (2)

  1. My grandson and I practice offhand shooting in my basement with a bore mounted laser. The first time we did this exercise, he thought I couldn’t hold the rifle steady on the target. Then I gave him the rifle, and he tried.
    He was amazed at how much the laser pointer moved on the target (a small white plastic bottle about 25 feet away) as he held his rifle up to his shoulder in offhand shooting position. He then showed the old man (me) some respect.
    We did the same thing with a couple pistols.
    I explained to him that I had decades of practice, while he had only a few months, and that practice does make perfect, or, at least better.
    I also told him that I was considerably stronger than him (he’s 12), and that makes a world of difference.
    The laser exercise is one we engage in often, and is free, and improves our shooting experience when the time comes to launch lead for real.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.