Rifle Marksmanship

Breath Control



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Breath control is another critical element in marksmanship.  If the shooter breathes while trying to aim, the rise and fall of his chest causes the rifle to move vertically and disrupts his sight alignment.  To eliminate this motion, it is necessary for the shooter to briefly stop breathing while firing a shot.

  • Natural Respiratory Pause


    • When shooting, the shooter takes normal breaths then he exhales until he reaches a point called natural respiratory pause.  Natural respiratory pause is the period when the shooter is completely relaxed in his respiratory cycle.

    • The natural respiratory pause lasts just seconds during normal breathing, but this pause can be extended up to 15 seconds for some shooters to fire a shot.

    • This pause should last as long as the shooter feels comfortable with it.  It really depends on the physical condition and the lung capacity of the shooter.  Holding the breath longer than is comfortable will cause a lack of oxygen that can deteriorate vision and affect the shooter's ability to focus on the sights.  Involuntary movements of the diaphragm will occur that will interfere with the shooter's ability to concentrate.  

  • There are two techniques for achieving a comfortable natural respiratory pause

    • Normal Breathing
      • The shooter breathes normally, and as he approaches taking the shot, he pauses, settles into his aiming point, applies trigger pressure, and takes the shot.  It is easier to achieve an aiming point when breathing stops because the movement in the shooter's chest, abdomen,. and shoulders stop.  

      • Getting the aiming point, applying trigger pressure, and taking the shot all occur during the shooter's natural respiratory pause.  This type of breath control is usually preferred by the shooter who is in good physical condition because he can hold his breath longer with ease.

    • Decreased Breathing
      • The second technique for breath control is good for shooters that have trouble extending their natural respiratory pause.

      • As the shooter approaches taking the shot, he applies initial trigger pressure and decreases his breathing.  He starts settling into his aiming point as his breathing decreases to a pause.  He can obtain a proper sight picture during shallow breathing because he is not moving as much.  He then pauses, achieves his final aiming point, and applies continual pressure to the trigger until the shot breaks.

2003 GySgt Gregg White (Ret.)    Contact E-Mail