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On the Well-Aimed Shot

Whether hunting, competing or in combat, shooting accuracy is critical. This is how one expert ensures it.

Story and Photos by Ash Hess

Ask five people what it takes to shoot well, and you will get seven different answers. Odds are high you will get three answers that have something to do with proper application of “the fundamentals.” It’s not that
these answers are wrong, but they are complicated answers to a simple problem. This isn’t saying it’s
easy, but simple. The reality is that there are two things and two things only that will result in a projectile landing at its intended destination. These truths came to me via the US Army Marksmanship Unit many years ago but in a downplayed manner. After a lot of research and testing, they went from hypothesis to law. They are:
1) Properly point the firearm (aim).
2) Fire the shot without disturbing the aim.

WITH THOSE PRINCIPLES in mind, this article is focused on the well-aimed shot. There are many factors that decide what that really means. The first two are target size and distance. A torso-sized target requires various levels of effort, depending on distance. At 3 yards, extraordinarily little aiming effort is needed, which is why point or instinct shooting can be fast and effective. That same target at 300 yards requires accounting for things like bullet drop and wind. The well-aimed shot takes all those things into account.

Changing the target size makes the required amount of aim increase or decrease. Getting a hit is different than getting an X ring hit. Just shooting a deer is not acceptable, as we are trying to get an effective and ethical hit. This means we must again account for the effects on the projectile from gravity and wind. Even at close range, aim must be applied to the smaller target – suddenly the sights on the pistol are a lot more important.
This is what I mean by a well-aimed shot. What this also means is that we are responsible for having a proper zero, having bullet drops that are true and tested, and the ability to call wind at distance. We are also responsible for accounting for things like height of the sights above the bore. Many hoods and barricades have bullet strikes due to this omission in knowledge.
Before we get into the process of data gathering, the next piece of the puzzle is you. You have two jobs when you are behind the firearm. The first is to apply the proper aim, and the next is building a position stable enough to hold that aim for the duration of the shot. The projectile will land wherever it is pointed when it leaves the barrel. We see this a lot with pistol shooters. If watching from the side, you can watch the pistol move as the trigger is pressed and – surprise – the bullet strikes low or left. That’s where the sights were when the gun fired. While not the focus of this article, having a quality shot process that is refined, tested and reliable is vital to performance. For now, though, we are going to assume you can fire the shot without disturbing the aim.

THE FIRST THING that any firearm should receive is a zero. Zeroing is the process of adjusting the sights so that the selected bullet strikes at the desired point of impact at a specific range. You should never put a firearm into a position of self-defense, hunting, competition, or anything for that matter, until you have completed this process. You literally have no idea where the projectile is going to land once fired. This is unacceptable.
The first step in a zero is some sort of boresight reference. There are tools available to aid in this procedure such as lasers or collimators. For years, though, looking down on the bore and then adjusting the sights to get them roughly lined up has been effective. Stability is important to this process. I use a tripod and lock the upper into it, then apply minimal pressure to rough align. A boresight is not a zero.

Once I boresight, then I live fire at the range. Stability is king. I see people zeroing from field positions
versus using a rest or bags. This is fine after you get the sights matched to the projectile, as things may change slightly in field positions, but take that out of the equation first. Removing that variable will save you time and let you see the capabilities of the system without you in the loop. Then you can see the effects of the other positions on that capability.

Next, decide a range that you want the point of aim to match the point of impact. For my personal guns, any unmagnified optic gets zeroed at 50 yards and magnified optics get zeroed at 100 yards. This is my near zero. The far zero is decided by many other factors, so ignore that for now. There is a ton of propaganda about near and far zeros, also known as the 50/200-yard zero, that I won’t get into except to say that they are only true for a specific firearm/ammunition at a specific altitude or accepting garbage data.

Targets matter at this point. You want to have a target that allows for extremely specific aiming. Remember, “aim small.” Personally, I use diamonds or squares and aim at the tip of the shape, not center of the shape. If you choose a target with a grid, make sure the measurement matches your optic in either MOA or mils. Otherwise, the grid is useless. Once the group is printed, adjust the sights to match the impacts. The smaller the group, the better the zero. Keep in mind that this zero is only true for the specific cartridge you are using. Switching brands, bullet weights, even lot numbers, will change where the bullet strikes. A few of you will accept the difference and still claim to have a zero. If you do, make sure you have a bit of brush between you and the target to blame that leaf for the miss.

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THE BULLET WILL be lower than your sights out to zero distance, and then depending on the zero, higher or lower to a certain distance, then lower than your sights as the bullet slows and drops. For a well-aimed shot, you need to be able to predict exactly where the bullet will be in flight compared to your sights. In the past this required shooting at those distances and data gathering. It was expensive and time-consuming. We now have computers in our pocket and applications that do math for us. They need some inputs, like zero distance, bullet type and speed. This means we need to get the bullet velocity at some point in our zero session. There are many diverse types of chronographs out there for many different budgets. They will pay for themselves in a couple of range sessions, so make the investment.

At this point, the calculator will start spitting out data. The next step is to do what long-range shooters or snipers call “truing.” This is simply shooting the supplied data and verifying its accuracy. If you put reliable data in, you will probably get reliable data out. We are almost there, so stay with me just a bit longer. Our calculator will also be able to predict the effects of wind on the projectile at this point. We still need to call the wind. This starts easy and gets harder. First is direction of wind, followed by velocity. This isn’t the time to be vague. Championship-level competitors are calling wind speed down to the mile per hour. Left-to-right wind between 5 and 10 mph isn’t going to cut it. Your wind call should be something like, “From the 10 o’clock at 7 mph.” This needs practice and effort applied long before the shooting event.

NOW WE ARE finally ready for a well-aimed shot at distance. We have our zeroed rifle, a true ballistic calculation for wind and gravity, and the adjusted aim point based off that calculation. All we need to do now is press the trigger on that aim point and hold it there long enough for the bullet to accelerate and leave the muzzle. Target size, target distance, our capability, effect on target and time will affect how much fidelity is needed for this. You are accountable for any projectile you put into flight until it lands safely. Winning a match, ethical kills on animals and combat all require the ability to send well-aimed shots downrange.

Editor’s note: Ash Hess is a highly seasoned combat veteran of 22 years with four combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, totaling 52 months. His military training includes the US Army Master Marksman Trainer course, as well as rifle marksman instructor, urban combat leaders’, senior leaders’, army basic instructor, high-angle marksman and unit armor courses. He also wrote TC3- 22.9, the Army’s marksmanship manual.

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Federal Appeals Court Upholds California Laws Banning Gun Shows on Public Property


In a 3-0 decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California laws that ban gun shows at county fairs and other public properties. This ruling overturned a previous decision by a federal judge in October that had blocked the enforcement of these laws.

The laws in question were introduced by Democratic State Senator Dave Min. The first law, which went into effect in January 2022, specifically prohibited gun shows at the Orange County Fair. The second law, effective last year, extended this ban to county fairgrounds on state-owned land throughout California.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Mark Holcomb ruled that these laws violated the rights of gun sellers and potential buyers. He argued that preventing the purchase of firearms at these events infringed upon commercial speech protected by the First Amendment, as lawful gun sales involve such speech.

However, the appeals court took a different view, stating that the laws do not violate the First Amendment. Judge Richard Clifton wrote that the bans simply prohibit sales agreements on public property and do not limit discussions, advertisements, or other speech related to firearms. Clifton noted that a separate, unchallenged state law mandates that the actual purchase of a firearm at a gun show be completed at a licensed gun store, following a 10-day waiting period and a background check.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta praised the ruling, calling it a victory in the fight against gun violence. Bonta emphasized that firearms should not be sold on state-owned property and lauded the decision as a step towards greater public safety.

Gun-control advocates argue that gun shows can make firearms more attractive to children and facilitate “straw purchases,” where individuals buy guns for those who are legally prohibited from owning them.

The case originated from a lawsuit by B&L Productions, a gun show company, which claimed that the ban on fairgrounds sales infringed upon the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The appeals court countered this claim, pointing out that there were six licensed firearms dealers in the same ZIP code as the Orange County Fairgrounds, indicating that the law did not restrict access to firearms.

Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association and attorney for the plaintiffs, expressed intent to appeal the ruling. Michel criticized the decision, asserting that it discriminates against gun culture and infringes on fundamental rights.

As this legal battle continues, the tension between gun rights advocates and those pushing for stricter gun control measures remains high. This case highlights the ongoing debate over how best to balance public safety concerns with constitutional rights in the United States.

What do you think of the recent appeals court hearing?

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National African American Gun Association (NAAGA) Unveils 2024

Dallas, TX – The National African American Gun Association (NAAGA) is thrilled to announce the 2024
National Summit, a dynamic four-day event dedicated to fostering growth within the 2A community. The
summit is scheduled to take place from July 25th to July 28th and will be hosted at the Dallas/Addison
Marriott Quorum by Galleria in Dallas, TX.

This annual gathering marks NAAGA’s celebration of its 9th anniversary, continuing the organization’s
commitment to the rich tradition of arms in the African American community. NAAGA aims to expose,
educate, and motivate African American men, women, and youth to exercise their 2nd Amendment
rights responsibly.
Exciting Features of the 2024 National Summit:

  • Luxurious Venue: The summit will unfold at the recently renovated Dallas/Addison Marriott Quorum
    by Galleria, providing attendees with a sophisticated and comfortable setting.
  • Diverse Programming: With over 50 breakout sessions, attendees can delve into topics such as the
    history of arms in the African American community, youth and gun safety, women in the firearms
    community, political action, situational awareness, personal defense methods, and a dedicated session
    for African American firearms instructors.
  • Entertaining Events: The summit will feature a range of events, including the Sneaker Ball – a night of
    fashion, awards, and dancing; the Queen of Defense Breakfast – an interactive event for women only;
    Family Night at the Black Invitational Rodeo and Bullets and BBQ – a day at the range filled with training,
    fun, food and friendly competition; a social mixer, open range time, hourly gun giveaways, and
    opportunities to explore products from top manufacturers at the Vendors and Exhibits area.
  • Community Engagement: Attendees can connect with thousands of African American gun owners and
    supporters from across the country, fostering education, training, and fellowship.

NAAGA invites all individuals passionate about 2nd Amendment rights, safety, and responsible

firearms ownership to participate in this enriching event. For ticket information and registration, please visit For media inquiries, please email

About the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA)
Founded in 2015, NAAGA stands as a unique brotherhood and sisterhood in the firearms industry. The
organization is dedicated to educating and training the African American community on the rich legacy
of gun ownership, offering support, safety standards, and cultural inspiration.

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New Hampshire House Passes Pro-Gun Bill Protecting Firearm Purchasers’ Privacy


On Thursday, May 30th, the New Hampshire House of Representatives made a significant move in favor of gun rights by passing House Bill 1186, an act designed to protect the privacy of firearm purchasers. The bill now awaits Governor Chris Sununu’s signature, and supporters of the Second Amendment are encouraged to contact the Governor to advocate for this crucial legislation.

Key Provisions of House Bill 1186

House Bill 1186 specifically prohibits the use of a unique merchant category code for transactions involving firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories. This measure is designed to protect the privacy of gun owners by preventing the tracking of gun-related purchases through credit and debit card transactions. The bill also includes a provision for civil penalties for any violations, ensuring that individuals and businesses comply with the new law.

Protecting Gun Owners’ Privacy

If signed into law, HB 1186 will be a vital safeguard for gun owners in New Hampshire. By preventing the creation of a specific merchant category code for firearm-related purchases, the bill ensures that transactions cannot be easily tracked or used to compile a gun registry. This protection is essential in preventing bad actors from using financial data to interfere with lawful gun ownership.

The Importance of HB 1186

The passage of HB 1186 represents a significant victory for gun rights advocates and a reaffirmation of the Second Amendment. The bill addresses a growing concern among gun owners that their purchases could be monitored or restricted through financial institutions. By safeguarding the privacy of these transactions, New Hampshire is taking a strong stance in protecting the rights of its citizens.

The NRA and its members are urging Governor Chris Sununu to sign HB 1186 into law. Supporters of the Second Amendment and gun rights advocates should contact the Governor’s office to express their support for this critical legislation. Prime sponsor Rep. Jason Janvrin (R-Rockingham) and other lawmakers who backed the bill deserve recognition for their efforts to uphold the privacy and rights of Granite Staters.

House Bill 1186 is a crucial piece of legislation that protects the privacy of firearm purchasers and upholds the rights of gun owners in New Hampshire. By preventing the use of specific merchant category codes for gun-related transactions, the bill ensures that financial data cannot be used to create a gun registry or restrict lawful purchases. Governor Chris Sununu’s signature on this bill will be a significant step forward in defending the Second Amendment and protecting the privacy of gun owners.

Contact Governor Chris Sununu today and urge him to sign House Bill 1186 into law. Your voice is essential in ensuring that this critical legislation becomes law and continues to protect the privacy and rights of all gun owners in New Hampshire.

Contact Information for Governor Chris Sununu:

Phone: (603) 271-2121


Make sure to express your support for HB 1186 and emphasize the importance of protecting the privacy and rights of gun owners.

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