Seven physical components to proper air rifle shooting technique

Seven physical components to proper air rifle shooting technique

Dr. Neda Nozari, Member of ISSF & ASC Medical Committees



Shooting is a high precision sport for which several attributes and capacities are required in order to achieve the highest level of performance. This includes striking control, experience, posture control and shooting skills[1].


As we know, the technique for air rifle differs significantly from other shooting disciplines. For example:

Rifle vs running target:

ü  moving vs stationary target, open vs closed shooting position, limited vs unlimited aiming time, less vs more supportive shooting clothing

Rifle vs pistol:

ü  pistol supported by one arm vs. rifle supported by both arms and upper trunk, no supportive vs supportive shooting clothing[2]


Specifically, air rifle requires the shooter to have a high level of precision, stable technical skills and strong psychological skills[3]. Skilled air rifle shooters keep their rifle stable and achieve consistent accuracy during prolonged aiming periods.


The aim of this short article is to highlight the most important physical components to a proper air rifle shooting technique.


Physical components of a proper air rifle shooting technique[4]


      i.         Stability of hold

The steadiness of the rifle barrel by measuring horizontal (X-axis) and vertical (Y-axis) standard deviations of the location of the aiming point from the target center during the last second.

    ii.         Aiming accuracy

The preciseness of aiming by measuring the mean location of the aiming point during the last second.

   iii.         Cleanness of triggering

The stability of the rifle during the triggering phase by measuring movement of the aiming point during the last 0.2 s.

   iv.         Time on target

The total length of the execution of the shot by measuring total aiming time spent continuously on the target.

     v.         Aiming time

The amount of time that the aiming point is in the target area before the shot.

   vi.         Timing of triggering

The timing of the triggering action by measuring the time period when the mean location of the aiming point is closest to the center of target: 0–0.2 s before the shot.

  vii.         Postural balance

Postural balance is measured as the standard deviation of the center of pressure location in shooting direction and perpendicular to shooting direction during three time periods: 7–2 s before the shot, 2–1 s before the shot, and 1–0 s before the shot.




Measuring the physical components[5]


For measurement, you can use from a designed platform equipped with strain-gauge transducers in each corner of the force triangular platform. Triggering moment is identified from the balance data based on microphone data. The signals are collected and stored on a personal computer for the next analysis.



Figure 1. Schematic image of measurement set up.

Optoelectronic shooting systems

Nowadays, electronic systems and software are popular in the field of shooting sport. These systems can measure and store the hit point of the shooting score, the displacement information of shot tracking, aiming ability (direct the rifle barrel to the target center) and holding ability (shooter’s ability to keep the rifle barrel stationary in relation to the target)[6]. All data is recorded by an optical transmitter-receiver unit attached to the barrel of the rifle together with a reflector attached around the center of the target. Then data is transferred to a personal computer for further analysis. (See Figure 1above for the schematic image of measurement set up). 


The optoelectronic shooting training systems demonstrate and quantify the seven physical components in air rifle shooting technique including aiming time, stability of hold, time on target, cleanness of triggering, aiming accuracy, timing of triggering, and postural balance. With the help of the electronic systems and software, all measurements can be executed during normal shooting training or in competition[7].


The take-away


Coaches should consider designing balance training in addition to shooting technique programs for the weak shooters to improve their shooting position postural stability[8].


Analyses identified that stability of hold, cleanness of triggering, aiming accuracy and timing of triggering were the most important predictors of a good shooting performance, accounting for 81% of the variance in shooting score[9]. From these factors, the holding ability in the horizontal direction was the most important component accounting for 54% of the variance in shooting score[10], then aiming accuracy, timing of triggering, and cleanness of triggering accounting were for 16%, 9%, and 3% of the variance in shooting score.


Although the direct effect of postural balance on performance is small, accounting for less than 1% of the variance in shooting score, its indirect effect can be greater through a more stable holding ability.  Holding ability is related to postural balance at interindividual levels in highly skilled shooters. Skilled shooters have more stable postural balance in all shooting directions including medio-lateral and antero-posterior. 


Between these shooting directions, the ability to control the antero-posterior balance in the last phase of the shot execution is the most important part in stabilizing the rifle movements and achieving to superior shooting technique[11]


It should also be noted that shooting performance typically decreases from training to competition situations. This includes a decrease in holding ability, aiming accuracy, cleanness of triggering and postural balance. Studies reported that changes in shooting performance from training to competition situation were significantly related to the changes in horizontal holding ability[12]. Shooters and their coaches should extend competition status to training program associated with psychological training interventions in order to be able to keep the horizontal holding ability in competition at training situation level[13].


Studies also showed that simultaneously target psychological interventions have a moderate positive effect on athlete performance, and this effect may last at least a month following the end of the intervention. Sports psychology may assist the shooter’s ability to maintain and transfer his or her training results to a competition situation[14].






Skilled and successful rifle shooters have a smoother and more efficient rifle movement while aiming than less-skilled shooters[15].The seven physical components  above should be used in assessing shooters’ technical strengths and weaknesses to assist them perfect their skills.


New shooting electronic systems can be a used as a measure of shooting technique and performance. Thanks to these systems, coaches can analyze specific patterns of rifle handling, reaction time and accuracy among shooters of differing skill levels. 


With the assistance of electronic systems and proper coaching,   rifle shooters should be able to develop these seven physical components faster and likely achieve greater success.

[1] Yapıcı A, Bacak Ç, Çelik E. Relationship between shooting performance and motoric characteristics, respiratory function test parameters of the competing shooters in the youth category. European Journal of Physical Education and Sport Science. 2018 Sep 13.

[2] Ihalainen S, Kuitunen S, Mononen K, Linnamo V. Determinants of elite‐level air rifle shooting performance. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. 2016 Mar; 26(3):266-74. Ibid 2.

[3] Mononen K, Konttinen N, Viitasalo J, Era P. Relationships between postural balance, rifle stability and shooting accuracy among novice rifle shooters. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2007 Apr; 17(2):180-5.

[4] Ibid 3. 

[5] Ibid 3.

[6] Mononen K, Viitasalo JT, Era P, Konttinen N. Optoelectronic measures in the analysis of running target shooting. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. 2003 Jun; 13(3):200-7

[7] Ibid 3.

[8] Ibid 

[9] Ibid 

[10] Ibid and Ball K, Best R, Wrigley T. Body sway, aim point fluctuation and performance in rifle shooters: inter-and intra-individual analysis. Journal of sports sciences. 2003 Jan 1; 21(7):559-66.


[11] Ibid 3. 

[12] Ihalainen S, Mononen K, Linnamo V, Kuitunen S. Which technical factors explain competition performance in air rifle shooting? International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching. 2018 Feb; 13(1):78-85 and Ihalainen S, Linnamo V, Mononen K, Kuitunen S. Relation of elite rifle shooters’ technique-test measures to competition performance. International journal of sports physiology and performance. 2016 Jul; 11(5):671-7.

[13] Ibid. 

[14] Brown DJ, Fletcher D. Effects of psychological and psychosocial interventions on sport performance: A meta-analysis. Sports Medicine. 2017 Jan 1; 47(1):77-99.


[15] Lawson BD, Ranes BM, Thompson LB. Smooth moves: Shooting performance is related to efficiency of rifle movement. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting 2016 Sep (Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 1524-1528). Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.

Dr. Nozari