In this 2021 photo, Zac Greenier of Hampden, a member of the Trident Armory Shooting Team, competes in the Standby to Fly Benefit Match held at the Hampden Rifle and Pistol Club. Credit: Courtesy of Melanie Darrigo Photography

Ryan Donahue is the director of Brand Management at American Outdoor Brands, where he pursues his passion for anything firearms-related. The former director of production in motion pictures oversees accessories for many brands including Caldwell, Frankford  Arsenal and Smith & Wesson. Ryan holds several patents for digital movie technology.

As we see an upward trend of first-time gun owners, it’s imperative for users to get comfortable handling their guns — this will dictate the future of their shooting skills.

As opposed to rifles, handguns represent a bit more of a challenge to master. Therefore the key to improving overall performance and accuracy lies in educating yourself about your gun, perfecting your grip and practicing your aim so that when you’re up against a real target (at a range or outdoors), you have the perfect grip, stance and trigger control to hit your targets.

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Now, whether it’s a handgun or rifle and you’re a newbie or an experienced shooter, there’s always room for improvement. Below are five simple and helpful tips to help improve your accuracy and hit your targets consistently, intentionally, and repeatedly.

Look for a stable platform or rest

If you’re taking your new firearm to the range, it’s important to have a stable platform and a rest to practice shooting. This will be one less thing you’ll need to concentrate on while shooting.

While in the range, look for a solid shooting bench and a rest that holds the gun well. Companies like Caldwell are well known for their   rests, meeting all sorts of styles including bolt-action, lever-action and pump-action, among others. While shopping for an appropriate rest, make sure it can hold the rifle steady so you can reduce clenching, mitigate recoil, and shoot more accurately.

Train with coaches

Another way to improve your accuracy is to simply get coaching from somebody — a professional firearms instructor — to show you where your technique needs improvement so you can speed up your learning process. Shooters often go out to ranges or hunting sites, make multiple mistakes, and then casually stumble upon what works for them.

You can make this process easier and faster (and less painful) by finding a coach who specializes in the type of shooting you want to do. This can range from competitive shooting to pistol- or rifle-focused shooting. Improve your accuracy by getting online, performing due diligence and learning from the experts.

Dry-fire practicing

Dry-fire shooting, or firing with an empty gun, is an easy, safe and free type of training that will help you improve your skills and accuracy.

If you can’t get to the range, it’s a great alternative to work on your form and shooter press. Some of the best shooters in the world practice dry-fire shooting to keep constancy and muscle memory.

With the price of ammo constantly fluctuating, you can cut the cost out of your budget by incorporating dry-fire into your schedule and having a surprisingly helpful skill builder.

Ensure proper equipment

Make sure that shooting equipment is in good working order and properly fits your firearm to avoid problems or unwanted mistakes. If it’s not deep-cleaned or mounted correctly, your firearm won’t be performing at its best, significantly affecting your accuracy, to say the least.

Is your rifle upgraded or bedded to get it to shoot more accurately? Invest in a new barrel, for example, or upgrade your trigger — cleaner, less travel — to help you shoot more accurately. Sometimes the key is just to upgrade your firearm to help increase accuracy.

Invest in your ammo

What many first-time gun owners don’t know is that if you shoot the cheapest ammo, your accuracy will be poor. By investing in quality gear, guns and ammo, you’re already improving accuracy.

Beginners may not be able to tell the difference but, at some point, when accuracy becomes a focus, you may want to reach for that $60 box of ammo instead of the $30 box. And when you’re really ready to take the next step, you can look at   loading your own ammo — leave the factory loaded ammo behind and start hitting your targets consistently.

At the end of the day, becoming a shooting pro takes time, patience and consistent practice to improve and maintain accuracy when hitting the range and hunting sites. These tips are sure to help both new and experienced shooters take their shooting skills to new levels.