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Competition shooter Patrick Kelley’s three-step plan to sharpen your modern sporting rifle and 3-gun skills.

Practice is a surefire way to sharpen your shooting skills, whether you’re gunning for increased speed and accuracy with a modern sporting rifle or looking to improve your game in 3-gun competition. Since most shooters don’t enjoy the luxury of unlimited ammunition and range time, however, efficient prep and practice are keys to making it happen.

Competitive shooter Patrick Kelley is a firm believer in the concept. “Anyone can buy an accurate rifle,” he says. “What makes someone a really good shooter is becoming intimately familiar with every aspect of that firearm’s operation, and practicing with it as much as possible.”

He also knows the real world often sets limits on practice time. “People think competitive shooters are all sponsored because we like to wear jerseys and look professional,” he says. “But the truth is, almost everyone has a full-time job and is trying to balance work and family with their passion for shooting. They’re trying to squeeze in enough practice time to shoot proficiently when a match is on the line.”

To help shooters hone their form in a hurry, Kelley offers a three-step plan for high-efficiency practice. While he focuses on the competitive side of the MSR scene, his advice holds water for hunters and plinkers as well.

1. Familiarity Breeds Success
Step one is getting a feel for your firearms. “Handling your guns at home is a great way to become familiar with how they feel and work, so you’re not fumbling around at the range,” he says. “It’s also a whole lot easier to find time to work with guns at home than it is to make extra trips to the range and familiarize yourself with them there.”

Kelley’s personal gun-handling regimen begins well in advance of competitions. In fact, it truly never ends. “I handle my guns during the off-season, but this increases dramatically during my train-up before the season starts,” he explains.

Gun-handling practice includes shouldering long guns and establishing a proper cheek weld, aiming, dry firing, loading and unloading the shotgun (with inert “dummy” shells) and magazine changes with the rifle and handgun. Handguns are drawn from the holster and retrieved from table tops and presented to the target. “I want to be as comfortable as possible with the gun before getting into live-fire practice and competitive situations,” he adds.

If you’re new to the sport, Kelley advises watching videos that offer instruction, as well as those featuring actual shooting competitions.


“If you’re interested in 3-gun matches, pay attention to the different steps involved in competition and work these into your gun-handling practice,” he says. “For example, making fast and smooth transitions between different guns is a huge factor, so devote plenty of time to mounting the gun, dry firing, safely abandoning it and picking up another gun.”

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