How to Shoot an AR 15: 12 Top Tips for Using an AR 15 Like a Pro

AR 15 | How to Shoot an AR 15: 12 Top Tips for Using an AR 15 Like a Pro | Are you trying to learn how to shoot an AR 15? Read this article for the best tips for using an AR 15 like a professional.

When it comes to using firearms, television and movies can be somewhat misleading. While the notion of diving head-first through the air while shooting a pistol in each hand is certainly exciting, the reality of it is outlandish and fantastical.

When it comes to assault rifles and machine guns, movie legends like Arnold and Sylvester have led us into a false sense of security in terms of accuracy. Hip-firing machine guns (especially with one hand) and landing headshots are next to impossible. 

The truth is, learning how to shoot an AR 15 accurately takes a lot more skill, precision, and intention. While there are drills that can help you improve your point-and-shoot accuracy, you need to start with the basics. 

Keep reading for our top 12 tips on how to shoot an AR 15, which includes a few tips for advanced shooting.

Basic Tips on How to Shoot an AR 15

As with any art or skill, learning how to shoot an AR 15 means starting at square one. You can’t expect to pick up an AR 15 for the first time and start winning shooting competitions. Becoming proficient requires time, repetition, muscle memory, and discipline. 

This is ever important for those interested in AR 15s for defense purposes. You can’t defend your home, your life, or your family with a tool you don’t know how to use. 

However, anyone handling a firearm should take the time to learn their weapon of choice. Here’s how you can start with an AR 15.

  1. Memorize and Implement the Universal Firearm Safety Rules

First and foremost, while an AR 15 is great for recreational activities like target shooting, shooting competitions, and prairie dog hunting, at the end of the day, it’s a deadly weapon. As a responsible gun owner or handler, you need to familiarize yourself with the universal firearm safety rules:

  • Treat every weapon as if it were loaded
  • Never point your weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot
  • Be sure of your target and everything behind it
  • Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire
  • Keep your weapon on safe until you’re ready to fire

These rules are designed to prevent accidents and save lives. They should always be taken seriously.

  1. Get Familiar With Your Weapon

For the best results, when learning how to shoot an AR 15, try to stick with the same weapon. We recommend buying and outfitting your rifle to fit your body and purposes. This may mean customizing with an AR 15 lower parts kit, specialized sights, a fore-end grip, etc.

Regardless, you need to be comfortable and familiar with your weapon. It should serve as an extension of your body, rather than a separate object. Additionally, using your weapon keeps the settings the same (buttstock extension, sight position, and more).

  1. Choose the Right Stance

Learning how to shoot an AR 15 requires starting with a solid foundation. Your firing stance needs to be strong, stable, and consistent. By consistent, read the same every time.

There are two main stances you should choose from: weaver and isosceles.

The weaver stance is a boxing-style stance designed for balance and mobility. Your feet should be roughly shoulder-width apart, and your back toes (dominant side) should align with your front heel. Your weight should be forward as if it were driving into the weapon.

This stance sets your body at an angle, providing less target area for attackers and allows you to move quickly if necessary.

The isosceles stance is designed for balance and stability. It’s ideal for people wearing body armor, as it exposes the entire front of the torso. This stance keeps the feet at shoulder-width apart and centers with your body. 

While this stance has you facing directly toward your target, it allows you to aim your weapon down the center of your body rather than down one side. It also allows for greater flexibility while rotating your torso to check your left and right flanks.

  1. Establish a Consist Check-to-Stock Position

Sight alignment is one of the most important factors when learning how to shoot an AR 15 accurately. How you adjust and consequently align your sights depends on where your face rests upon the buttstock.

Once again, consistency is key. Your cheek-to-stock position needs to be the same every time. Practice pulling your AR 15 up to your cheek over and over again, using tape, a marker, or other indicators to help you align your cheek accurately until it happens naturally.

  1. Get Efficient with Iron Sights

While shooting with scopes and red dot sights can be much more fun, learning how to shoot an AR 15 using the iron sights is paramount to your comfort with the weapon. They will always be there, whereas other sights can be broken or run out of battery power. 

Those scenarios are unlikely to happen if you’re diligent and careful. However, look at using iron sights as learning how to walk before you can run.

Typically, this is done by centering the single front sight between the two rear sight prongs. Then “lollipop” your target on top of the front sight.

  1. Consider Upgrading to a Scope or Red Dot Sight

Once you’ve gotten comfortable and proficient with iron sights, you can (and should) upgrade to more advanced sights. There are plenty of options out there:

  • High-magnification scopes – hunting and precision shooting
  • Mid to low-magnification scopes – target shooting, recreational hunting, reactive shooting
  • Red dot sights – target shooting, reactive shooting, competition shooting
  1. Use the Best Grip for Your Body Type

Next, learning how to shoot an AR 15 means establishing a firm, consistent, and practical grip. This means adjusting the components of the rifle to fit your needs. 

Most AR 15 platforms are highly customizable in terms of positioning and extra accessories (lights, lasers, sights, grips, etc.). You can adjust the buttstock for different lengths (and sometimes cheek heights),  the fore-end grip positioning, and how close the scope sits to your face.

You want a firm grip on the weapon, but you shouldn’t be white-knuckling it, which will lead to fatigue and cramping in your arms, hands, and fingers. The elbow of your dominant hand should be tucked down tight, not held out to the side like on movies. The buttstock should be snug in the crevice between your should and chest, not on your actual shoulder.

  1. Learn How to Squeeze the Trigger

Surprisingly, your trigger pull has a lot of impact on where your bullets land on a target. For example, using too much finger on the trigger can pull the gun toward your dominant side while firing. Additionally, pulling the trigger too hard, flinching, and/or anticipating the kick of the weapon can also throw off your accuracy.

Slowly squeeze the trigger with the pad of the tip of your finger, don’t let your finger wrap around the trigger. Each shot fired should almost come as a surprise. However, you must follow through with each shot, not allowing yourself to flinch, bounce, bob, take your eyes off the target, etc.

Advanced Techniques

Finally, let’s talk about some of the advanced techniques you might want to start practicing to learn how to shoot an AR 15 like a pro. Only attempt these after you’ve mastered the basics and never neglect the firearm safety rules.

  1. Fire and Movement

In a tactical situation, you can’t expect to stand still while aiming at motionless targets who aren’t shooting back. You’ll need to be mobile. Sometimes, you’ll need to be able to shoot while moving.

To practice, walk straight forward with your eyes down the sight of your weapon. Notice how much the weapon bounces. To control the bouncing and increase stability, practice walking by placing your heel down and slowly rolling down the outside of your foot onto your toe for each step.

Slow and steady is the ticket.

  1. Using Cover

Exercise a lot of caution and self-awareness while learning how to shoot an AR 15 using cover. It’s easy to lose your senses and let your weapon “laser” or point at unintended targets. Muzzle awareness is paramount to safety.

Set barriers you can crouch, kneel and lay behind to practice shooting from behind cover.

  1. Point-and-Shoot Drills

Point-and-shoot drills are not only great for developing reflexive and reactive shooting skills, but they’re also a lot of fun. However, it’s important to start extremely slowly here to avoid firing rounds off into the ground or other unintended targets (like your foot). 

We recommend starting with dummy rounds where you can safely dry-fire, load, reload, and chamber rounds. Practice keeping your weapon in the ready position (pointed toward the ground but ready to draw into firing position, eyes forward on the target). On a signal, pull the weapon up to the firing position, acquire your sight picture, and pull the trigger. 

Freeze where you are. Refocus down your sights and determine (speculate) where your shot would have landed. Once you’re comfortable and competent, start using live ammunition.

  1. Shooting from Multiple Positions

Finally, get comfortable shooting from multiple positions in succession (while keeping the muzzle pointed downrange at the target). Start in your standard standing position and fire off a few rounds. Then, transition to a kneeling or crouching position and fire a few more rounds.

Next, transition onto your butt, with both legs in front of you at roughly 45-degree angles, fire more rounds. Finally, decline into an almost prone position, shoulders and head off the ground and squeeze off two to three more rounds. 

Do this drill slowly and carefully. Focus on precision shooting and smooth transitions from one position to the other. For even more advancement, practice reversing the movements as well, working your way back into a standing position from the floor.

Looking for More Tips and Advice?

If you’re looking for more great tips and advice outside of learning how to shoot an AR 15, we can help you out there, too. Check out some of our other articles before you go for expert advice on everything from business marketing to men’s hairstyles. 

Good luck, and remember, safety should always be your top priority when handling firearms.