Chris Sajnog teaches the proper breathing techniques in shooting.

Breathing and Shooting Techniques to Elevate Marksmanship

In this breathing and shooting technique, something we’ve all been taught, if we were taught the correct way to shoot, was utilizing the seven fundamentals of shooting. For a refresher on those fundamentals or what we like to call “habits,” check out Chris’ all-encompassing article titled “7 Habits of Highly Effective Shooters.” He later goes in-depth on each specific habit in subsequent articles. I will add to his article on the fifth habit — proper breathing.

Chris goes into great depth talking about breathing while shooting, when we were all taught to essentially hold our breath to be an effective shooter. Take a deep breath, exhale normally, and then manipulate the trigger to the rear within three to five seconds. Sure there is a time and place for this technique and that’s when taking one steady long-range shot, I say breathe, brother! Suck in that air… it’s about the only truly free thing left in this world anyway, so take it in!

Breathing and Shooting Techniques

Chris and I get this a lot from people asking about this very technique. We say breathe. It’s really not a technique — it’s natural. Close Quarters Combat (CQC) shooting is about shooting while moving, and holding your breath is counterproductive to “doing work” and being an effective shooter. Whether you’re on the range or downrange conducting operations, you must learn proper breathing while you’re shooting.

Chris teaches the proper way to breathe on shooting a firearms

If you enter a room with your team and you are forced to employ deadly force, stopping and taking a breath you get that one perfect shot is going to get a teammate killed. Hesitation during CQC equals negative and undesirable outcomes. CQC is about decision-making and leadership on a grand scale. Remember that CQC is not about saving your own life. It’s about saving your teammates’ lives, and what they do is about saving your life. If you go into the fray thinking about saving your own ass, then maybe you need to reassess what you’re doing.

Okay, so I’m getting back to the breathing and shooting thing. When we’re moving and being physical to keep our energy levels optimal, we must breathe. If you don’t breathe, you’re going to slow down and your brain function is going to suffer. A great thing to do during training is something you should be doing during CQC anyway — talking and conveying your movements to your team. It’s that old adage that if you’re talking, you’re breathing.

Chris does a phenomenal job going into the scientific aspects of what oxygen does for us during exercise and shooting and more importantly, what happens to us when there’s a lack of oxygen. For me personally, when I used to hold my breath when shooting for too long, I would suffer from involuntary eye twitches or what’s called nystagmus. Definitely not a good thing for my sight picture/sight alignment and overall shooting skill set.

Breathing is an essential part of life, but it is also an essential part of shooting.

Once I met Chris and started training with him, I quickly saw that I wasn’t observing a proper breathing technique. Once breathing during shooting became second nature to me, like normal respirations, my shooting progressed to the next level. Nothing good comes from a lack of oxygen. Well, I take that back, when a Tango suffers from a lack of oxygen, this is a great thing!

In Chris’ article titled “The 5th Habit of Highly Effective Shooters,” there’s a quote in there that says it all. He said, “We all know that breathing is an essential part of life, but it is also an essential part of shooting.” Plain and simple, you must practice breathing while shooting on the range and in the house so when you head downrange or respond to a call, you’re ready to respond and take action.

That is in these breathing and shooting techniques. Start concentrating on shooting all your courses of fire while you’re breathing and develop that highly effective habit. You’ll see your shooting progress. Remember, in high-stress situations, breathing keeps you calm, and focused, and putting rounds exactly where you intend to deliver them — center mass!

Editors Note: This post was written by PJ and originally published on

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