Breath & Trigger Control
When the discussion turns to long-range accuracy, shooters typically focus on cartridges and ballistics; wind drift and drop. But while understanding those principles is certainly critical for making shots at extreme range, the biggest variable is something much simpler—the person staring back at you in the mirror. Without doing your part, no rifle or cartridge, no matter how much potential for accuracy they might have, will ever hit the mark.
Champion long-range shooter Stan Pate lives and breathes this—literally. He counts breath and trigger control to be two of the most important skills to learn for precise shooting.
For breath control, Pate has a checklist he runs down each and every time he takes a shot. He starts by taking a couple very deep, nearly hyperventilative breaths to saturate his blood with oxygen. Next, he begins to let all the air out. When he’s almost out of air, he initiates what he calls a pregnant pause, holding his breath—both in or out--during which time he breaks the shot.
The length of the pause is extremely important.
“I only hold my breath for a matter of a few seconds because other physiological things happen during that time,” Pate says.
One of those effects is the oils in your eyes begin drying out, which prevents you from seeing the target and placing the crosshairs appropriately. Another is your heart rate begins increasing, which decreases your steadiness at the moment of truth.
When it comes time to press that trigger—and press is the key word—Pate stresses that shooters must push straight to the rear with no lateral torque. This requires using just the pad of the index finger. Even with a careful squeeze, wrapping the whole finger around the trigger invariably pulls the sights off target. You might get by with this at close ranges, but not when distances stretch hundreds of yards and beyond.
Pate credits the Savage AccuTrigger as an excellent tool for identifying and correcting trigger control issues.
“If you were to push on the side of the AccuTrigger, it locks up—the trigger won’t engage, and it’s supposed to do this,” he says. “If you pull straight back, it goes off. This forces you to use the sweet spot on your trigger finger for better shooting at any range.”