Today's Muzzleloader Alaska Alaska Department of Fish & Game

Hello, hunter! Alaska's online muzzleloader hunter course has moved. Click here to go to the latest version of the Today's Muzzleloader Hunter in Alaska course—the official muzzleloader safety course of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The following course material is for reference only. Please go to the new course to complete your Alaska Muzzleloader certification.

Using Correct Rifle-Firing Techniques

Using correct firing techniques will help you steady the firearm for the most accurate shooting. These basics are mastered only through practice. Further study will help you understand other factors that can affect your accuracy, such as wind, heat, and parallax.

Firing a muzzleloader while sitting

dry firing: Practicing shooting with an unloaded firearm
parallax: Optical bending of telescopic crosshairs in relation to the target

Shooting from a Rest: Learn to fire your muzzleloading rifle from a supported position to get used to the proper firing procedure.

  • Sit at a bench or table with the forearm of your firearm resting on a firm support, such as a sandbag, placed on the bench or table.
  • Position the butt of the firearm against your shoulder that corresponds to your master eye.
  • Resting your cheek against the comb of the stock, grasp the wrist with your trigger hand and place your index finger on the trigger.
  • Rest your non-trigger hand vertically under the butt of the stock to help steady the firearm and adjust its height. Some shooters prefer to put a small sandbag under the firearm butt and squeeze it to raise and lower the stock.
  • Practice the firing fundamentals described next by dry firing your gun. Focus on aligning your sight properly, controlling your breathing, and holding your aim.

Practicing the Five Firing Fundamentals: There are five fundamental elements of rifle firing—aiming, breath control, movement control, trigger control, and follow-through. All of these elements work together as one process and should be practiced together in this way.

  • Aim: Align your sight with the target. (See “Sight Alignment.”) Follow two guidelines when you aim.
    • Keep both eyes open to ease focusing and reduce eye strain.
    • Keep your aiming time brief. You can’t maintain the firing fundamentals effectively for long periods
  • Control Your Breathing: Your breathing can move the firearm just enough to throw off your shot. These tips will help you to adopt the correct technique more easily.
    • When you’re ready to shoot, draw a deep breath and exhale about half of it.
    • Hold your breath as you squeeze the trigger.
    • Bear in mind that if you hold your breath too long, your heart beats faster, which increases your pulse and causes the firearm to move. If you notice this happening, take another breath and start over.
    • At times, the excitement of spotting game will make it more difficult to control your breathing. Try to relax and follow the correct procedure.
  • Hold Your Aim: Learning to hold the firearm steady is a challenge. Rather than attempting to eliminate all movement, concentrate on two actions.
    • Focus any necessary movement on the target.
    • Minimize the area of movement.
  • Squeeze the Trigger: Jerking the trigger or abruptly clenching the trigger hand can move the gun enough to cause a miss. To avoid these motions, hold the gun comfortably.
    • Grasp the wrist of the stock firmly.
    • Position your fingertip comfortably on the trigger. The trigger should rest on the end of your finger—between the first joint and fingertip.
    • To squeeze the trigger without jarring the gun, simply apply slow, steady pressure until the gun fires.
  • Follow Through: After the bullet fires, be sure to continue the squeeze or follow-through to avoid jerking the gun before the bullet leaves the barrel.

Protecting Your Firearm for Dry Firing Practice

A great deal of practice is necessary to instill the five firing fundamentals until they become one smooth process. You’ll want to begin by practicing with an unloaded firearm—this is known as dry firing.

  • When you begin learning to fire a firearm, do so without loading it. You can repeat the process, including firing, without risk or the need to reload.
  • Dry firing a muzzleloader results in repeated striking of the hammer against the nipple or frizzen. Protective measures should be taken to allow you to practice firing without damaging the nipple, flint, or frizzen.
    • Protecting a Percussion Lock Firearm: Place a rubber faucet washer over the nipple so that the hammer strikes the washer instead of the nipple itself.
    • Protecting a Flintlock Firearm: Replace the flint with a piece of hard wood.


One commonly used shooting technique for muzzleloaders is the B.R.A.S.S. technique. It stands for:




Squeeze the trigger

Squeeze more (for follow-through)

Alaska Department of
Fish & Game
White-tailed deer tracks
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Official hunting safety course for Alaskan hunters last modified: September 11, 2012
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