Follow Through

Ask most people how to shoot accurately and they’ll explain how to aim the firearm, using the appropriate technique for the type sight system you have, and then press the trigger without disrupting the sight picture. What most people don’t realize is that this is only half of the process.

The second half of the sequence is the follow through - recovering from the recoil and reacquiring a sight picture, and resetting the trigger, allowing the trigger to only travel forward far enough to reset the internal components. The follow through, what happens after the bullet leaves the barrel, is just as important as firing the shot.

In a confrontation, we follow through in preparation of firing another round. We don’t know how many hits will be Targetrequired to stop the threat; after every shot, we get ready to shoot again. To follow through in a fight you should do it on the range. With single shot marksmanship drills, firing one accurate round at a time, you follow through, asking yourself “do I need to shoot again?” before coming off the trigger and target to see where the shot went.

The visual aspects of the follow through are important for efficiency. Studies have shown that it takes one-tenth of a second to shift your visual focus from one spot, say to target, to a closer object, the front sight. When you shoot, then look at the target, one-tenth of a second, then refocus on the front sight to fire again, another tenth of a second, you’ve just wasted two-tenths of a second, basically the amount of time required to fire another round.           

Follow through improves accuracy. If you don’t follow through you can start moving your body before the bullet comes out of the barrel. This is the opposite of recoil anticipation, which normally throws a right-hand shooter’s shots low and left. As some people press the trigger they will immediately bring their head up and off the sights to see the target and usually at the same time dropping the arms and tilting the wrists so the barrel points upward. The problem is they do this before the bullet comes out the barrel, so the shots go high.

For precision shooting with a rifle follow through is mandatory. Accuracy depends on consistency. Surgical accuracy requires you to be machine like in your actions, providing a stable platform for the rifle.  As the rifle fires it is pushed back, tilted up, twists, the barrel whips, and about six or seven other things occur. If your platform isn’t consistent, which includes the follow through, you won’t get predictable results.

The same follow through applies with moving targets. If you’re not following through, tracking to keep the sights on target you’ll fire where the target was, or always be behind trying to catch up to the target to fire additional shots.

Shooting accurately is like playing music. You must hit the notes in the proper sequence, but equally important is the time between the notes, the follow through after the shot. Just like a musician it takes plenty of practice to play a lethal instrument. ~ Tiger

Tiger McKee
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama.  He is the author of “The Book of Two Guns” - writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk’s DVD, “Fighting With The 1911 -  McKee’s new book, AR-15 Skills and Drills, is available off Shootrite’s website: