Hitting the Mark: How Mental Training Can Improve Your Target Shooting Skills and Accuracy (Rifle, Pistol, Trap)

Program Your Performances from Within

The steady hand, the sharp eye, deep focus, and the calm mind - mental training delivers your best performances when it counts most, under competition pressure.

Do Anxiety or Nerves Affect Your Target Shooting During Competitions?

Or a Successful Shooter Looking To Improve Technique and Results Even Further?

Mental training allows you to take control of the nervousness and perform with machine-like consistency.

Regardless of whether you use a rifle, air rifle, pistol, handgun, or even a crossbow, mental training strengthens performance - right across the wide range of elite skills required to be successful.

Only different levels of mental strength separate competitors, at the highest level - because the levels of ability and skill are already extremely high. That's why many came to me to improve their mental strength, as they knew the mind was the vital X factor they were looking for.

And so I would teach them how to 'visualize' their shots in advance, purely in their mind - to pre-program their muscle memory and bring about more mental clarity during competition. 

 This way you walk into your next competition feeling mentally prepared, because in your mind, you will have already 'performed' at that competition many times in advance.

Preparing your mind for an event allows you to overcome common competition anxiety that forces a lot of shooters to seize up.

It is during visualisation where you also reinforce your highest levels of technique (slow-motion imagery sets technique with amazing efficiency), while helping you to master new skills more quickly.

This adds a new dimension to your rifle, pistol or trap performances - a kind of "secret weapon" your opponents do not have at their disposal.

You can also put exaggeration to good use here, to highlight and target various abilities, within the imagery - such as imagining you possess your own ultra-sharp telescopic vision of the target, etc.


So who uses mental training in shooting? Now, let's take a look ...

Champions Who Train Their Minds
(ie. those who have publicly discussed using mental training techniques)

Target Shooting Champions:

Lanny Bassham - Olympic Gold medalist in rifle shooting and author of "With Winning in Mind"

 Matt Emmons - Olympic Gold medalist and World Champion in rifle

 Kim Rhode - Gold medalist and World Champion in shotgun

 Nicco Campriani - Olympic Gold medalist and World Champion in rifle

 Abhinav Bindra - Olympic Gold medalist in rifle

 Henri Junghänel - Gold medalist and World Champion in rifle

 Zhu Qinan - Olympic winner and World Champion in rifle

 Petra Zublasing - World Champion in rifle

 Vincent Hancock - Gold medalist and World Champion in shotgun

 Zhang Shan - Olympic winner and World Champion in shotgun

This is just a tiny sample. Now let's look at Trap shooters...

Trap Shooting Champions:

 Matt Dryke - Olympic Gold and World Champion

 Jessica Rossi - Olympic Gold and World Champion

 Giovanni Pellielo - Olympic Silver medalist and World Champion

 Marco Innocenti - Olympic Silver medalist and World Champion

 Alexey Alipov - Olympic Bronze medalist

 Roberto Schmits - Olympic Bronze medalist

 Catherine Skinner - Olympic Gold and World Champion

 Michael Diamond - Olympic winner and World Champion

 Kimberly Rhode - Olympic Gold and World Champion

 Richard Faulds - Olympic Gold and World Champion in shotgun

So as you can see, you are in pretty good company, when it comes to using this type of training...

The world's best use these methods, so why shouldn't you?


  Keys to Success

Those who are equipped with both strong physical shooting skills - plus who are also mentally tough - become a true force to be reckoned with, at any level of competition.

It's that slight edge which sets you apart from the rest.

Preparing your mind allows all kinds of shooters to mentally prepare for their next event - no matter whether they are using rifles, air rifles, shotguns, pistols, airsoft pistols, revolvers, other handguns, or even crossbows.


You customize the visualisation each time to suit your changing needs - for your next events, the venues, gun types, different competitors, etc.

Mind Training Benefits

Mind Training Benefits to Rifle, Pistol (or Trap Shooting) Success:

• Overcoming barriers - both long and short term issues

• Increased clarity of mind

• Relaxed intensity eagle-like vision

• Trance-like levels of concentration

• Stronger technique while executing your shot

• Steady hands, head and perfect trigger control

• Removing hesitation to shoot

Greater belief in your ability and technique

• Dissolving self-doubt and negative inner dialogue when in the heat of competition

• Breaking out of slumps in form, and thriving under the pressure of competition conditions.

• Strengthening your practice drills - such as timed, weak-side, moving target, multiple target, and one-handed drills - or in trap, swing-through, pull-away, tracking, follow-through and focus drills.

As you can see, there are very few areas of your shooting that your mind cannot improve. This is because it is the very source of all your shooting experience, memory, expertise, knowledge, and body movement - basically everything you need to control your rifle or pistol.

Everyone has their own personal rate of improvement - in relation to how long it takes to strengthen results, and by how much - though in most cases it simply becomes an ongoing process of neverending progress.

You truly get your first glimpse of when your mind has optimized your performance when you experience the almost unnerving feeling that you simply cannot do anything wrong.

This mental state is known as 'the Zone' - where you are firing at your absolute optimum level, on autopilot. It is inevitably a great and memorable day whenever this occurs.

Some people find the exercise of visualisation easier to use than others - that is, imagining their optimum performance in their mind on a regular basis, in order to create a new subconscious blueprint.

This is where some guidance from mental trainers such as myself can help to make the process far clearer, easier and more achievable, and in quicker time, rather than trying to source all the information yourself from a vast range of different sources.

If at any stage you find it easier to be guided through the process entirely - I also have a guided hypnotic visualisation for shooters you can check out further below.
You can also listen to the audio below for more info about visualisation.








Competitors often wonder what range of skills can inner training improve?

The answer is... almost all of them. For instance...

• technique and form for rifle, pistol, shotgun, etc.

• dry-firing for trigger control, breathing, and sight alignment

• accuracy

• adjusting equipment, such as scopes, sights, and bipods

• shooting in different positions such as prone, kneeling, and standing

• using cover and concealment in different scenarios

• body mechanics for stability and accuracy

• breathing during shooting to improve accuracy

• practice techniques of other great competitors and bring them into your own training

All these aspects and more can be reinforced with visualisation. So dont give this highly competitive distinct advantage away, because most other shooters are not using it to its maximum potential.

Common Issues During Competition or Practice

Even experienced competitors can make simple mistakes in competition (often due to stress) or in practice - and mental training helps to keep these to an absolute minimum - such as:

• Improper grip
• Poor stance
• Incorrect sight alignment
• Flinching
• Jerking the trigger
• Poor follow-through
• Lack of practice
• Environmental / weather factors
• High-stakes scenarios
• Long-range shots
• Adverse conditions
• Unfamiliar equipment

Or in Trap:

• Rushing shots
• Failing to maintain form
• Focusing too much on the gun
• Overthinking
• Poor target selection
• Times or moments when the most pressure is experienced in competition
• First shot
• Final shots
• Shootoffs
• High-stakes competitions
• Personal milestones
• Pressure to perform
• Technical issues
• Physical stress
• Mental stress
• Environmental factors

However the mind can overcome these factors successfully, by making you feel either relatively immune to them, or through the belief that you know you can adapt, and handle anything that happens on the day.