- Familiarize yourself with your firearm before you head to the shooting range. Learn how to operate and check the chamber to see if it is clear. Then learn how to load and unload it. Some manuals come with every gun. Read through it before operation.
- Practice shooting your gun at the range. You’ll want to make this a force of habit because, when shooting a big game animal, your adrenaline will pump, and you could make an errant shot. In turn, the more you practice, the more prepared for any situation in the field, adrenaline or not.
- Rehearse your reload. After the initial shot, you need to steady yourself and reload. This, if you haven’t rehearsed, is where a jam can occur. Practice taking your shot and then quickly pulling the bolt back, ejecting the cartridge. Then rapidly, yet smoothly, slam the bolt forward. As most hunters know, you aren’t always going to make the perfect shot, and you might wound an animal. That said, you can see why this is essential in making a follow-up shot(s) and being an ethical hunter.
It’s essential to practice these steps at the range because, in the field, you’ll need to keep an eye out for what’s beyond the animal you intend to shoot. Unlike at the range, there could be other animals near the one you are going to shoot, and you need to be careful not to shoot them, too. Also, they may jump, run or shift positions when they hear your shot. Your re-load needs to be second nature to keep your attention on your target and not shoot another unintended one.
Always cycle the bolt with authority to ensure you get the spent casing out and the new round into the chamber. A lackadaisical cycling, or even hesitation, of the bolt can cause a jam. Practice, practice, practice for safe, accurate shooting.
If you don’t have someone to help you learn to shoot your gun, look for a certified, reputable shooting instructor in your area. One place to find these is through your local gun store. Additionally, you can look online using the Find A Course page at NRA.