How to Shoot an AR-15? A Step-by-Step Shooting Guide for 2023

How to Shoot an Ar-15

The AR-15, a versatile and widely appreciated firearm, is popular among enthusiasts due to its accuracy and adaptability. Whether you’re a seasoned shooter or a beginner, mastering the steps to shoot an AR-15 is paramount for ensuring safety and precision. This comprehensive guide will walk you through each step, provide expert tips, and discuss various field shooting positions to help you become a skilled marksman.

The Importance of Safety

Shooting an AR-15 is a thrilling yet responsible activity that demands unwavering attention to safety and a profound understanding of the firearm’s mechanics. In this guide, I’ll share my insights and experiences on each step in shooting an AR-15, emphasizing safety and responsible gun handling.

Preparing the Rifle for Shooting

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Safety is paramount in the world of firearms. My experience has taught me continually to ensure safety is engaged. Treat it as loaded even if you’re convinced the gun is empty. Confirm that the chamber is clear and that there are no obstructions. Removing optic lens covers for a clear sight picture and loading the magazine appropriately is essential.

Inserting the Magazine

Properly seating the magazine is crucial for reliable round feeding during firing. I’ve learned that a magazine that’s not seated securely can lead to malfunctions.

Verifying It’s Safe to Shoot

Remember to pay attention to the importance of safety checks. A clear line of sight and the absence of unintended targets or obstacles in your firing path should always be confirmed before firing.

Hitting the Bolt Catch

Once you’ve verified that it’s safe to proceed, release the bolt catch chambers a round smoothly, preparing the firearm for firing. This is the moment where the anticipation builds, and keeping your focus is essential.

Anchoring the Rifle in Your Shoulder and Getting in Stance

Achieving a stable shooting stance is key to accuracy and control. My experience has shown me the value of securing the rifle firmly in your shoulder to minimize recoil. Whether you prefer the isosceles stance or another, the key is stability.

Aligning Your Sight Picture and Acquiring the Target

Precision shooting requires aligning your sights or optics with the target. If needed, Adjusting for distance is a critical step for accurately hitting your target. I’ve found that consistent practice improves sight picture alignment.

Verifying Again for Safety

Safety should be deeply ingrained in every shooter’s mind. Before firing, take a final look at your surroundings to ensure no unintended targets or bystanders are in harm’s way.

Turning Off the Safety

Move the safety to the “Fire” position when you are confident it’s safe. It’s a moment of commitment to the shot, and my experience has taught me never to rush this step.

Firing and Observing the Point of Impact

With sights aligned and safety off, it’s time to pull the trigger. Observing the shot’s impact and making necessary adjustments for accuracy is a continuous learning process. Don’t be discouraged by initial inaccuracies; practice makes perfect.

Continuing to Pull the Trigger

Repeat the firing process until the magazine is empty or your shooting goal is met. Remember to maintain focus on safety even as you enjoy the experience.

Safety First: A Principle to Live By

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In any shooting scenario, safety should be at the forefront of your mind. Adhering to these four fundamental rules of safe gun handling is non-negotiable:

  1. Treat Every Firearm as If It’s Loaded: This rule underscores the importance of assuming that every firearm is loaded, regardless of its actual state.
  2. Keep the Firearm Pointed in a Safe Direction: Always point the muzzle in a direction where no harm will occur if the gun discharges accidentally. This simple rule can prevent tragic accidents.
  3. Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger Until Ready to Shoot: Trigger discipline is paramount. Only place your finger on the trigger when genuinely ready to fire.
  4. Be Aware of Your Target and What’s Behind It: Only fire at a target if you know what lies behind it. Bullets can penetrate through objects, making awareness of your surroundings essential.

Loading and Unloading: A Precise Process

Loading and unloading the AR-15 demand precision and care:

  • Ensure both the chamber and magazine well are empty before beginning the loading process.
  • Prior to inserting a loaded magazine, confirm that the firearm is free of obstructions.
  • Proper insertion of a loaded magazine ensures it locks in place securely. Confirm this before releasing the bolt to chamber a round.

Firing: A Skill to Develop

Firing the AR-15 is where the excitement reaches its peak. Here’s how I approach it:

  • I maintain the AR-15 on safe until I’m ready to shoot. It’s a practice that prevents accidental discharges.
  • Switching the fire/safe selector to “fire” only occurs when I’m confident in my target and fully prepared to fire.
  • I take a steady breath, exhale halfway, and squeeze the trigger calmly. Maintaining a smooth trigger pull contributes significantly to accuracy.

Recovery from Positions: Enhancing Your Skills

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Transitioning between shooting positions is a skill that enhances accuracy:

  • Becoming proficient at switching between positions comfortably and quickly can significantly improve your shooting experience.

Efficiency Factors: Keys to Success

To become a skilled AR-15 shooter, these efficiency factors have proven essential:

  • Keeping Your Rifle Cleaned: Regular cleaning is vital for proper function and to minimize malfunctions that can affect your shooting performance.
  • Avoiding Dirty Ammo Unless Necessary: Clean-burning ammunition reduces fouling and malfunctions, enhancing your overall shooting experience.
  • Holding Strong Against Recoil: Maintaining a firm grip and cheek weld helps manage recoil for quicker follow-up shots.
  • Maintaining Situational Awareness: Always stay aware of your surroundings and ensure safety before firing. Prioritizing safety, both for yourself and those around you, is paramount.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Shoot an AR-15:

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Is the AR-15 More Powerful?

The power of an AR-15 depends on what you’re comparing it to. If you’re asking whether it’s the most “dangerous” or powerful firearm legally available, I think it’s not. However, if you’re comparing it to a typical handgun, it is more powerful for the most part.

But remember that “powerful” can mean different things—kinetic energy, magazine capacity, penetration, etc. The AR-15 fires a relatively small caliber (5.56), so it delivers high speed but might not pack as much punch as other firearms.

How Is an AR-15 Different From an AK-47?

The AR-15 and AK-47 were designed with slightly different priorities. The AK-47 is a robust battle rifle designed for reliability and simplicity. It uses a larger round than the AR-15 and is known for its dependability. However, it offers less customization and versatility.

On the other hand, the AR-15 prioritizes modularity and customization. It’s designed as a platform that can be tailored for various battlefield roles. An AR-15 can be chambered in different calibers, while an AK cannot. AR-15s also feature largely interchangeable components, which the AK lacks.

Is an AR-15 easy to shoot?

I think the ease of shooting an AR-15 depends on your familiarity with firearms. For experienced shooters, it’s relatively straightforward. However, beginners might have a learning curve, mainly due to the recoil. Proper training and practice are essential for safe and accurate shooting.

What do you shoot out of an AR-15?

Depending on its chambering, you can shoot various types of ammunition from an AR-15. Common options include .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO rounds. Some AR-15s can also be chambered in larger calibers like .308 Winchester.

How hard does an AR shoot?

The perceived “hardness” of shooting an AR-15 can vary from person to person. It typically has manageable recoil, especially when compared to larger caliber rifles. With proper technique and training, many shooters find it comfortable to shoot.

Is an AR-15 good for beginners?

In my experience, whether an AR-15 suits beginners depends on the individual’s comfort level with firearms. It can be a good choice for beginners who receive proper training and follow safety protocols. However, it’s essential to start with lower recoil rounds and gradually build skills to ensure safe and enjoyable shooting.

Is an AR-15 Worth Buying?

The worthiness of purchasing an AR-15 hinges on your specific requirements and personal preferences. The AR-15 is a versatile and dependable rifle that can perform exceptionally well in various shooting situations, encompassing hunting, target shooting, and even home or self-defense. If you are searching for a top-tier firearm capable of fulfilling various roles, I recommend seriously considering acquiring an AR-15.


Mastering the art of shooting an AR-15 involves more than just pulling the trigger. It requires a deep understanding of safety, loading, firing, unloading, and selecting the right field shooting position for your purpose. By following these guidelines and practicing regularly, you can become a skilled marksman, ensuring safety and accuracy in every shot you take.

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