How to improve MY accuracy?


November 8, 2009, 09:35 AM

I would like some good advice from the "old hands" around here.

I am trying to improve my target accuracy, but I seem to be stuck at the 4 to 6 MOA level, using iron sights. What do I need to do to get getter accuracy?

Some background:

I'm a bit of a noob. I've only been shooting for about one year. I've been reading everything I could get my hands on, but I lack the years of experience.

I'm older. My eyes have just "turned the corner," and I'm wearing reading glasses to type this. It's not at all fun. I should have taken up this hobby years ago, because I used to be able to tell the sex of a gnat at 100 yards. Also, my hands shake (always have) so I doubt I'll ever be Olympic grade, but I'd still like to improve!

After much research, I bought a Marlin 39A, lever-action 22. I had read that it should be able to just make the hole bigger at 100 yards. (It's an exaggeration, I know, but I keep hearing the words "tack driver." This is not my experience, yet!) I have access to a couple of other 22 target rifles, and I'm noticeably more accurate with them, but still nothing consistently below 4 MOA. (And yes, I keep it very clean!)

I'm using iron sights exclusively, 'cause I've heard that's the best way to learn to shoot WELL. I installed a Skinner peep sight on the receiver.

I just did a bunch of 5-shot groups using lots of different types of 22 ammo with all of the iron-sight rifles I could borrow. (I've heard 22s can be picky.) I didn't notice a huge difference. The absolutely best was Remington Target, but that only got me down to 3.8 MOA on most platforms.

My technique:

Bench rest with cloth/sandbag at the muzzle end of the fore stock. Me sitting, arms propped on table, stock firmly on shoulder, cheek weld, hands in (I think) proper position. 25 and 100 yard targets.

Breath in and out, watch sights rise and fall with breath, natural point of aim, respiratory pause, focus on front sight, slow steady squeeze with pad of finger, watch for follow through.

One more thing. Please don't laugh! :) I bought a Daisy 499 BB rifle to practice at home. The range is a half hour away and I can't get there that often. The 499 is supposed to be "the world's most accurate BB rifle," and it's pretty good. I can get LOTS of 10-yard practice in for cheap at any hour of day or night. Again, iron sights, and again, 4 to 6 MOA is as good as I seem to be able to do.

I'm VERY frustrated, 'cause I keep hearing folks talking about sub-MOA shooting, freehand, while riding a horse, in a hurricane.

Please help me out! I'm in your classroom and ready to learn. :)


If you enjoyed reading about "How to improve MY accuracy?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
November 8, 2009, 10:09 AM
Well, I'm no expert marksman with a rifle, as I rarely get a chance any more to shoot one (my current range is 20-yard handgun only). Did I started out with iron-sighted .22 rifles (have 2 39As myself), so I'll offer some thoughts.

First, it sounds like your bar is pretty high. Yes, the 39A is a fine rifle indeed, capable of fine accuracy, but it's not a bench target rifle. Still, it's a fine rifle to learn basic marksmanship.

Second, regarding iron sights; I love 'em, and it's worthwhile, IMO, to learn to shoot well with them, but there's nothing wrong with using a scope, too. As far as the best way to learn to shoot well, you learn to shoot well by focusing on the 2 fundamentals - sight picture and pulling the trigger without disturbing the sight picture. You can do that well or poorly, whether the gun has optics or not. Do the fundamentals well, and accuracy follows.

Overall, I'd say you're doing very well. Those shooting nice tight groups are nearly all doing it with optics. And mostly with bolt action rifles.

My advice would be to continue to focus on your fundamentals. Ask yourself after every shot how you did based on how well you did these, rather than where the bullet hit. The latter will take care of itself. If you want smaller groups, put a scope on your 39A, or buy a nice bolt-action .22lr and scope it.

Finally, many are big proponents of using good air guns at home to work on your fundamentals, and I'm one of them.

November 8, 2009, 10:21 AM
Welcome, ArthurDent.

If you're going to use irons, then peeps are the best, as you probably know. Aging eyes will have a little trouble focusing on the front sight, regardless.
IMO, 50yds would be much better to test accuracy than 100yds, especially with a 22 rimfire using irons.
Using scopes may enable one to shoot fair groups at 100yds, but for us older guys, it makes more sense to shoot at 50yds if our sights are not enhanced.
That means the less than desirable groups that you're getting, may be part sighting error, and not really the gun's fault.
If you sight your rifle 1" high at 50yds, it will be close to dead on at 75yds. That is a more realistic limit for a 22 rimfire.


November 8, 2009, 10:30 AM
You are going to need an equipment upgrade.

I am shooting small bore prone to improve my centerfire prone scores. And it is working. I am using old, essentially obsolete competition rifles, that is the Win 52D, H&R M12, and a Rem 40X. The “serious” competitors are all using Anschutz rifles.

They are also using match ammo. RWS, I am using SK (wolf match), Eley is overpriced. The stuff you are using, 4 MOA is not bad.

You can buy one of the best “obsolete” Small bore target rifles on the market from the CMP. They are selling the Kimber Model 82. At $600 these are a bargain. Well not quite, but try to find one of my “old” target rifles for under $600.00.

I have attached some of better prone slow fire targets. My worst targets are closer to your 4 MOA, but you can shoot 1 MOA and under with good ammo and a good rifle.

Also attached is a tricked out M40X and a random 100 yard target that the guy shot with it at Camp Perry Ohio during the Nationals.

What you don't see is the Anschutz behind in the background. 99% of the rifles I saw were Anschutz.

It can be done with practice and the proper equipment. But let me emphasis the practice. You cannot buy shooting skills. Shooting accurately is a skill, and it is only acquired through practice.

November 8, 2009, 10:41 AM
Shooting .22 LR at 100 yards will make you go gray and pull your hair out if you are trying to make one ragged hole. Ain't gonna happen. One teenie puff of wind and your screwed. :banghead:

That is not to say the .22 LR won't shoot well at 100 yards, it will. You are just not going to be shooting bug holes.

Slamfire is right about match type rifles in .22. They are quite a cut above any standard .22 rifles, including the Marlin 39A, which is a fine .22.

I have been hanging out a little with the rimfire Benchrest crowd at my club. I want to get into it. (I really miss the competition of centerfire BR). It is going to take the better part of 2K to get a competitive rifle. Allen Hall has offered to let me shot one of his rifles in a match. (I used to shoot with him in centerfire BR)

Those targets Slamfire posted would be a good guide for you to shoot for. Then when you don't shoot a bug hole, you won't beat yourself up over it. :)

Uncle Mike
November 8, 2009, 10:54 AM
I'm VERY frustrated, 'cause I keep hearing folks talking about sub-MOA shooting, freehand, while riding a horse, in a hurricane.

First lesson....disregard most stuff you hear that is too good to be true! If you see it, then there is a chance you can believe it, right!?! lol hehehehe

Most talk on internet forums and articles written by self righteous gun magazine writers tend to lean towards the 'too good to be true' end of the scale.

As was said, sounds like you have most of it down-pat...your equipment is good, and from what you write, and without seeing you in action, your form seems good.

Ncsmitty said that peep sights are best for open sight use, and he is definitely correct!
The blade sights you are using now may be the reason of your spread. The blade type sight is primarily designed as a compromise between accuracy and ease/speed of use.

Peep sights-

Shoot at 25y, once that is a button hole, move back, adjust your sights, you 'need' the practice and the faith in your equipment it builds by adjusting your sights.
Move to 50y, repeat...move to 100y... did I say 100y, that's asking a lot of a 22LR to begin with, much less a 39A!

Pay particular attention to your shooting position and style, you have to become 'part' of the rife, or it a 'part' of YOU!-

Follow through is paramount, did you know if you lift your head 'after' the shot, to see what you did, you actually start doing it even BEFORE you press the trigger? It's true!-

Breathing...sounds like you've got hold of that. Stop and hold just before the 'bottom' of the exhale cycle.-

Be as it takes to make the shot, if your in a bind for too long, so will be your accuracy-

Off the bags, don't 'hold' the rifle on target, it should set there with 'no' tension applied of any type, and be right on target.-

Equipment, working and clean-

Quality ammo...ammo that shoots well from that particular rifle-

Just a few of the many things to consider... very few!

Main thing...practice, practice, practice!

and uh...welcome!

November 8, 2009, 11:04 AM
I assume that someone who is very experienced and you respect as a shooter is going to the range with you to observe you shoot. This way they can tell you what you need to work on in a friendly unbiased way. If not, then do that.

November 8, 2009, 11:09 AM
I would echo the folks saying that you need to stop trying to get a lever action .22 to shoot MOA at 100 yards. Isn't going to happen. Few will shoot an inch at 50 yards.

Next from your description, you know the mechanics. Problem is that you are trying to diagnose your own problems.

I would highly recommend doing a couple of things:

Shorten your range you are shooting to 50 yards...or frankly 25 yards. That will take the variables of wind etc out of the picture
Attend an Appleseed program. It is cheap ($70 for 2 days) and these guys are focused of classic marksmanship. They will DEFINITELY improve your open sights shooting and show you how to apply the techniques you are "book smart" on.
Do a search on my user name and "Just attended Appleseed" for a post action report. Also look at the target sighter pictures I with my 308 and a guy next to me with his AR. That is at 25 yards and he is shooting 3-4 other words, don't believe what people tell you about how well they can shoot. Most can't hit crap.
While I don't think that "equipment" is your problem, if you do want to change, I'd tell you to get a Marlin or Ruger autoloader 22. Or a bolt action from Savage or Marlin. More than anything, get something with aperture sights. People that don't know about them have no idea how accurate you can be with them. I shoot my M1A Loaded with aperature sights off a bench and regularly can be 1 to 1.5MOA with no problem.

Jim Watson
November 8, 2009, 11:19 AM
There is a lot of good information here. I have been shooting one of the H&R M12s and have scope bases for my Kimber 82G on order because my main use for it is smallbore benchrest.

I will only add:

(And yes, I keep it very clean!)

A lot of .22s shoot better when allowed to reach a "condition" of bullet lube and fouling buildup. Target shooters do more cleaning than they used to but will still fire some number of rounds before shooting for group or score. Maybe five, maybe fifty.

Bench rest with cloth/sandbag at the muzzle end of the fore stock.

Lever actions are very sensitive to support, try putting the sandbag at different locations, even back under the receiver just in front of the lever.

November 8, 2009, 11:57 AM
There is a lot of wisdom in the posts above. I'd add that one of the most common things i see with novice shooters is poor body stance....mainly while standing, but seated as well. Like any athletic endeavor, shooting requires an active stance...leaning in to the gun! A lot of people lean back to counter-balance holding a rifle up, so they are easily put off-balance by recoil. (less so with a .22, but habits are formed early.) So make sure when you're at the bench that your shoulders are forward of your waist, and you're leaning forward, into the gun.

November 8, 2009, 12:24 PM
kWell.... there is much ground to cover here, but I will chime in with a couple things.
First, your ammo, choose from this list. No it is not complete, no it doesn't have everything every guy here uses, but if you cannot find an ammo from this list, that will shoot a gnat's brain out, then you really need some help.
ANYTHING: cci, eley, aguila, golden eagle.(last 3 are all eley products; eley is
the finest 22 ammo in the world). wolf, american eagle/red box(made by federal)
anything; winchester, federal. any winchester or federal bulk pacs. avoid cci bulk pacs. AVOID REMINGTON AMMO, LIKE THE SWINE FLU! Remmy is terrible, and yes you like 1 type of it, and there are other dudes here who will swear by it; most everyone else just swears at it; it is dirty, stinky, poorly crimped, poorly weighted, etc. Better to just avoid it.
All the mfgrs listed above, make 10 to 20 variants of their ammo, so you could easily from the list above, have 100 or more little boxes of ammo to check.
Plenty to choose from, and proly as many as 5 or 10 will give you excellent accuracy.

Second thing; find someone at your range, to shoot it at 50 yards open sites; find someone you know is darn good, or the range officers' know who
is a really good shot. Lets see if your rifle is up to snuff, it might need some accuracy tweeking, which I will not get into here; someone else may though- I do not know the best accuracy tweeks for a marlin 39, check the Marlin threads at, or over on or is it marlin owners?

Lastly, keep your shooting pattern, once you have learned a good one, the same every time; cheek in the same place, sitting the same way, with the rests in the exact same place under the rifle, exacly!!!! breathing the same, pulling the trigger, achingly slow, the same; Do it all the same, every time.
I would also wait at least 30 seconds between shots, before even starting to prep for the next shot. This will proly give you about 1 minute between shots. Hope this helps.

November 8, 2009, 12:30 PM
how many yards is this at arthur? .22s dont do to well beyond 50 yards

November 8, 2009, 01:15 PM
I have a few thoughts, and a question or two.
Are you going to hunt with the 39? Just a plinker? For practice before hunting with a similar centerfire?

There have been some good responses here, so I'll try to mention a few more things that I've found.

To me, shooting off a bench is pretty much to find out what the rifle will or won't do. Periodic bench testing may also be a good idea as your abilities progress.

Aside from that, the only thing you'll learn from shooting from a bench is how to shoot off a bench. Field positions, at least for me, are more important. I've never seen a bench rest in the deer woods.

I applaud your wanting to use irons. I use them for Service Rifle matches, and keep them on a few of my other rifles, but scopes have one BIG advantage, and that is the single focal plane.

When I was just getting into match shooting, I decided to get a real shooting sling, and there was an IMMEDIATE 10 or 15 point increase in my scores.

Don't discount the value of dry fire. Once you get used to shooting, you'll soon be able to tell where the sights were when the striker fell. In addition, you don't develop a flinch dry firing (shouldn't be an issue with the .22, though).

READ. There's good information available here and on some other sites. I'd also recommend some books on the subject, including "To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak The Truth" by Jeff Cooper. Lots of good info there.

November 8, 2009, 01:29 PM
One more thing. Sight picture is VERY important. Most target shooters use a 6:00 hold on the black, because it gives them a strong reference point to aim at. They adjust the sights to bring point-of-impact into the center.

November 9, 2009, 01:07 PM
Thank you all for your fine responses! :)

It will take me some time to fully digest and use your good advice, but I intend to take that time and work through it.

I appreciate all of the well-considered replies.

November 9, 2009, 01:35 PM
Just two more suggestions. First, if your eyes are as bad as mine and you just see a gray blob on top of the barrel, consider a red dot or scope. Second, if you have room to practice at home, try dry firing at a target that is reduced in size for the range you are dry firing. It can be done at 10 feet succesfully if you reduce the size of the bull. Be sure to use a dummy round since 22s can be damaged by dry firing with a empty chamber.

November 9, 2009, 06:55 PM
If one wants to learn real world shooting skills there is ONE thing you must do.

You must forget that a shooting bench even exists.

As long as you force yourself to depend on that bench you will never learn anything.

November 10, 2009, 06:34 AM
A couple of observations.

Yes, start at a shorter range. Much 22LR competition is at 50 feet. Start there.

Work on basics, breathing, squeezing and follow through. These can be worked on without firing a shot, so practice these as much as you can.

If you are comfortable with the Marlin 39, keep using it. At one time it was the premier target rifle, granted that was a long time ago, but if you like it use it.

As for the Daisy, I would suggest giving it away and getting a good pellet rifle. Crosman and others market entry level competition rifles that would be a better choice than any BB rifle. With a good pellet rifle you should be able to set up a practice range in your basement. And shooting accurate shots with a pellet rifle will go a long way toward bolstering your confidence and ability with the M39.

Practice, practice, practice. Here is where I differ from a lot of shooters. When I was in competition, my mentor would only have me squeeze of perfect shots. Literally, if I felt my sights waver, if my breathing was off, if a fly landed on my sights, whatever... if it wasn't a perfect shot, I wasn't to take it. The times did not matter. Anyone can should a certain number of shots in a fixed amount of time. It is getting those shots on target that is important. Practice only perfect shots. If that means using the pellet rifle and firing 5 shots a session that's fine. 5 perfect shots are a better learning tool than 50 or 100 average shots. Once you get used to hitting what you're aiming at, the timing will start to decrease.

If you have any questions, ask them, help is on the way.

November 10, 2009, 10:50 AM
Another thing on sight picture; I don't know what your long distance eyesight is like; mine is way above excellent, so even at 100 yds, I split 2 or 3 inch sized dots in half, like a pie, with a horizontal line, then put the top of my rifle post, on that line. The dude above mentioned to put your post or sighting element at 6 o'clock of the dot, then move your sight to drop in your shots, in the right spot. So it really depends on your eyesight here...

November 10, 2009, 07:07 PM
This may have already been said, and I just missed it, but there is a difference between shooting sub-MOA at, say, 25 yds and sub-MOA at 100 yds with a wee little .22LR. Oh, sure, a minute of angle is a minute of angle regardless of range, you just calculate the expanded area based upon the greater distance. Mechanically, that's all there is to it.

When you enter into real-world usage, however, things change. As someone already said, wind plays a HUGE factor with .22LRs. Under similar conditions, your 1MOA groups at 25 yds might expand to 2 or 3 MOA at 100yds, just due to atmospheric influence. Then you add in the human error of sight picture and such and 100 yd, iron-sight, .22LR shooting turns into some combination of marksmanship, optimism, and voodoo.

I'm not saying it can't be done. I've been to 100yd .22 shoots where it is done all day long, but it really will drive you nuts, make good shooters look mediocre, and serve as a real kick in the groin if you fancy yourself some sort of ninja assassin sniper. :)


November 20, 2009, 04:26 PM
Thanks again, all, for the great advice! :)

I'm beginning to realize that accuracy is more of a journey than a destination.

I'm also beginning to realize just how blind I've become in my old age. I've never needed glasses and always had excellent vision, but I'm thinking that part of my problems with accuracy may have to do with my decline in visual acuity. (I should have taken this hobby up 20 years ago...)

Most of my work has been at shorter ranges of about 25 yards, with occasional attempts at 100 yards for comparison. BB work has been at 10 yards inside the house. I'm only starting with a bench, with the goal of eventually learning to be accurate with free-hand techniques. My only objective right now is to be able to shoot paper targets.

Again, so much excellent advice here that I can't really single out individuals, but I do appreciate each of your replies.

Thanks again! :)

November 20, 2009, 04:38 PM
Just keep shooting. Good choice in rifles. It's not meant to be an absolute fine tack driver, but it'll be more than accurate enough.

You may consider installing a low power scope on it eventually, just to give your eyes that bit of help they need.

And if you get tired of shooting paper targets, then get some steel targets...I find shooting paper to be very boring, but ringing steel much, much more fun.

November 20, 2009, 07:53 PM
In addition, practice with a bb gun, or better, a pellet gun will help with sight picture and concentration. You may want to try a pellet pistol to learn concentration and sight alignment and control. Even peep sights cannot make up for vision loss at my age. At the suggestion of someone else I tried it but still could not focus well enough to shoot well.
I would suggest trying a CZ 452 with a scope if you want to improve. I'd say for your age and equipment you doing pretty well. Don't ask more of yourself and your rig than you are capable of. +1, a very high percentage of what you read is pure b.s.

November 20, 2009, 08:05 PM
Another thought is to learn to shoot without sights. Many vets have learned this in the Army. You would need an instructor as this takes proper form and practice. I still have a bb gun without sights for teaching this technique. It's
not for precise distance shooting but for hunting and defense at close range.

November 20, 2009, 08:41 PM
Don't hold your breath, exhale slowly and squeeze the shot off.

November 21, 2009, 06:21 AM
You'll do fine eventually. Especially if you follow all the advice in here. Several, well really a lot of years ago, I wanted to get real good with my 30-30 lever and did just about everything that has been listed here. I found one of the best things was to have the range officer, who was a really good shot, watch me shoot occasionally. If I started to get into a bad habit he would spot it immediately and could correct me. It is very difficult to catch your own mistakes. However the best thing you have going for you is that you want to learn how to do it right. That usually breeds a winner!

November 21, 2009, 10:03 AM
Since nobody said this ,I'm going to add my 5 cents.
Breathing is best done through your nose, not mouth. Slow deep breath through your nose supplies lots of oxygen to your brain and forces you to relax your whole body.

November 21, 2009, 01:05 PM
I just have a few things to add, that I don't think were covered (or maybe just missed):

1. Figure out how accurate YOUR rife is. Not sure that's something you mentioned... How can you know if you're shooting poorly if you don't know what your rifle can or can't do? See if you can borrow a gun vise from someone and very carefully line up everything exactly the way you think it should be and do some 5-shot groups. (Make sure the vise doesn't clamp down too hard on the forend of the stock. Snug is plenty.) This is your baseline. If you're shooting 4 MOA, but the rifle shoots 3 MOA, you're not doing as bad as you think.

2. The trigger makes a HUGE difference. The difference between a 5-6lb. trigger pull and a 2lb. one is tremendous. That said, getting good at shooting a heavy trigger will make you better when you use a light one.

3. I found that shooting in various positions actually improved my ability to shoot from a bench. Similarly, shooting off-hand improved my ability to shoot while sitting. Basically, by making things harder on yourself, you get better when things are easier.

wade rigsby
November 21, 2009, 06:37 PM
i think that shooting a bb gun taught me a lot of the fundamentals for shooting. I still shoot pellet guns in the back yard. I learn a lot about what I am doing wrong when I shoot pellet.
A lever gun is not a great gun to be shooting off the block due to the fact that you have to lift the gun out of position to eject the spent round. now you have to get the gun back in the right position to aim and shoot again. You are starting all over at settling in. but if the lever gun is the way you want to go then plink away. You breathing will through you off. I agree with ROB. Do not hold you breath. You loose o2 to your muscles and eyes and then you start to shake. Remember small movements at the bench are large at the target. Keep you feet under you as to stabilize your position. I see that you are using a sand bag in the front, do you have one in the rear. If not, get one. Do not rely on your body to keep the rifle in position when you can prop it up. Maneuver the rear bag fore and aft to change the line of site of the barrel. Most newbies make the mistake of aiming at the X. aim under it and adjust the site for a bullet impact on the X. this will insure you are aiming at the same point vise aiming where the bullet hit. Your target can fool you when ironing at 100. take a paper bag to the range and just use a marker to color a 1 inch dot on it. Always aim at the bottom of the dot regardless of where the bullet impacts. There is nothing you can do about shots fired only about the shots coming up. This is just some basic stuff my dad taught me I hope it helps you. There are many different ways to shoot. When you find your way share it with us all, it will only make us all better shooters. Keep shooting. And teach others to shoot.

If you enjoyed reading about "How to improve MY accuracy?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!