“Follow-through” is what happens after the round fires. It can make or break your shot. When I was learning serious rifle shooting, I always found the instruction on follow-through to be a bit vague. I knew that it was bad to flinch, and that holding the rifle in a weak manner led to inconsistent shooting. I think that a thorough explanation of follow-through is helpful for shooters who may be having problems with it.
Your bullet remains in the barrel for a while after you pull the trigger. For one, it takes time for the hammer to hit the firing pin. It takes time for the primer to ignite the main charge. It takes time for the main charge to burn enough to create enough gas pressure to force the the bullet to move. Then, the bullet still has to gain speed, and ultimately travel roughly 24 inches to leave your barrel.
How long is your bullet in the barrel? 0.0015 seconds, roughly. Here’s a proof. Skip it if you don’t care.
Let's work backward from the muzzle velocity and final position. Assume 2600fps, 24 inch barrel, constant bullet acceleration. These aren't perfect assumptions, but they'll get us in the ballpark. x = The position of the bullet. The position we care about is 24 inches, or 2 feet. v = Final velocity. 2600fps. a = Constant acceleration. We'll have to solve for this. t = Time, the number we are after. x = (1/2) * a * t^2 and v = a*t, thus a = v/t so, x = (1/2) * v * t thus, t = 2*x/v t = 2*2/2600 = 0.0015 seconds
That’s not a huge number, but it’s not nothing either. And, it doesn’t account for the stuff that happens before the bullet starts accelerating. If your barrel is moving between firing and the bullet’s exit, you are literally “slinging” that bullet.
It’s not enough to keep the rifle still up to the point of firing. You must also keep the rifle still until the bullet leaves. The key is a stable position.
- Use natural point of aim (NPOA). NPOA means that your body is relaxed before firing. To find it, close your eyes, get into a comfortable prone position, then open them. Ideally, your reticle will be on target. The more you have to bend your body to the target, the more “spring” you are introducing to the system. Much of that spring will release during firing, leading to poor follow-through. Close your eyes, reposition, and open them until you are very close.
- Grip the rifle like a firm handshake. Don’t squeeze like a weirdo, don’t limp-wrist.
- Eliminate flinch. Do ball-and-dummy drills with a friend, whereby the friend loads the gun, hands it to you, and you fire. He loads it with either a live round, or a snap-cap. It’s so embarrassing to flinch on the snap-cap that you will quickly stop doing it.
- Pay attention to where your reticle resettles after firing. If it’s not back on the target, you moved a little bit.
- Don’t get ahead of yourself. Be solid until well after the round leaves. AR shooters can hold that trigger, then slowly release to hear the sear reset. This is a great mechanism to enforce slowing down.
- Don’t use a springy support like a weak tree, elbow-on-knee, or some other support that is likely to shift when a bit of force is applied to it. Shifting support = movement. Not good, given the fact that you need to keep that gun still for nearly 2 milliseconds prior to the bullet exiting.
- Don’t try to constrain your barrel’s movement by resting it on something. This will bend the barrel, and will throw the round off. If you don’t believe me, go to the range and try it! It’s more than you’d think.
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