sighting in deer rifle
Light Touch: Squeeze the trigger with just the tip of your finger. Brad Fenson

When sighting in a deer rifle from a benchrest, your goal is to shoot the tightest groups possible at your aiming point to ensure a precise, consistent point of impact when hunting. But it doesn’t take much to sabotage that goal. A little too much pressure on the forearm or buttstock, a little too tight a grip, or too much finger on the trigger can all push a bullet to a spot where you don’t want it to go. Here are four key details to pay close attention to in order to set up right, shoot better from the bench, and ensure your gun is ready for the deer woods.

[1] The ­Forearm

If you have a free-floating barrel, you don’t want anything touching it when the bullet speeds through. Clamping the forearm into a gun rest can create pressure points that cause the stock to contact the barrel, throwing your shots off. Pushing your fore-end against a solid object to gain stability can do the same. Instead, rest it on a sandbag so there is no pressure exerted on either side.

[2] The ­Buttstock

How you handle the other end of the stock is just as important. The buttstock should also sit naturally on a rest. In this case, clamping it in creates torque that will result in a different point of impact. The butt should nestle against your shoulder but not too tightly and with no undue pressure from either side. Set it on another sandbag or put it in a loose stirrup, such as on a Lead Sled.

RELATED: Benchrest Shooting: More on Groups

[3] The Grip

When you grip the rifle and extend your finger to the trigger, pay attention to how tightly you hold the gun. Most people wrap their thumb over the top of the grip and pull their palm in tight. But too tight a grip can create unwanted torque. If you’re having problems, try placing your thumb on the side of the gun instead of over the grip. You may be surprised at how much it tightens up your groups.

[4] The ­Trigger

Use the tip of your finger to gently squeeze the trigger. Too much finger on the trigger can pull your gun to the left or right when the recoil drives back against your hand. You want nothing to hinder the rifle’s recoil from coming straight back into your shoulder. When that happens, your body does a better job of absorbing the recoil—and you will shoot better, too.