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Home / How to / Getting Started: Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Use AR15

Getting Started: Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Use AR15

As one of the most prolific firearms in US history, the AR-15 still stands as a versatile semi-automatic rifle that any shooter can modify, upgrade, and make their own.

The AR-15 rifle is accurate, reliable, and very comfortable for most hunting, home defense, and shooting applications.

Still, even if you have the best AR-15 platform, it’s worthless if you don’t know how to properly use it.

Today, we’ll show you how to shoot an AR-15, and we’ll also touch down on overall safety procedures and, of course, good firearm etiquette.

Rules to Follow When Shooting an AR-15

To excel as a marksman when using the AR-15 rifle, the main essence of the rifle lies in the skill of the shooter. However, there are a couple of rules to pay close attention to if you want to exceed your AR-15 skills.

It doesn’t matter if you’re using a Mossberg shotgun, a bolt-action rifle, or an AR-15 – if you don’t stick to these important guidelines, you will fail the safety protocol. This is by far much more important than sheer precision and skill.

To make the best use of the AR-15’s reliability, defend yourself against assailants, and stay on top of the hunting game, you need to follow these rules.

Sight Alignment/Sight Picture

Before you ponder how to use AR15 rifles, you first need to prove your hand/eye coordination as a hunter/marksman.

Aimin is one of the most important pillars of good rifle marksmanship, and this also goes for AR-15 enthusiasts.

The use of traditional sighting methods like iron sights, as well as more fancy tactical methods like red dot sights and lasers, all depend on how you efficiently align your front post and rear aperture to your target.

You must properly align the front post, both x and y coordination, with the rear sight. Your front sight tip should fall into the center of your rear aperture of your sight.

Trigger Control

How to shoot AR 15 rifles largely depends on how you maintain your trigger control.

Trigger control goes hand in hand with safety procedures. This is important because when you’re aiming, you need to gradually pull the trigger so as not to disrupt your aim alignment.

Fast, janky trigger pulls contract your other muscles, and this causes you to move the entire aim alignment. Be mindful when pulling the trigger to improve target acquisition.

Breath Control

Breath control is always a main concern with rookie shooters; everyone struggles with it, but no one understands that it takes years of practice and consistency.

How you breathe when you’re aiming/shooting is critical because of how you move when your lungs contract.

The slightest movement makes a huge difference, especially when you’re shooting from far distances.

Always make sure you keep your natural respiratory pause of 2-3 seconds. Do not strain, but do not take shallow breaths. Mastering this technique may take some shooters years to figure out.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to maintain extended pauses when you hold your breath for 10 seconds before pulling the trigger.

Eye Relief

Eye relief means how far is your aiming eye from the rear sight of your rifle scope. Keeping your eye slightly far from the sight ensures you don’t hurt your eyes when the recoil kicks back.

Safety first, even when aiming from a distance or practicing how to shoot an AR 15 with scopes.

Holding Your Rifle

Goes without saying, but holding your rifle and how you assume your position is highly imperative.

Some shooters sadly do not have this etiquette covered and often have a very loose or too rigid stance when holding the rifle.

You should always keep the rifle buttstock deeply into your pocket but not too rigidly so as to cause discomfort. This is to ensure proper and firm aiming when practicing how to shoot AR 15 rifles.

Natural Point of Aim

Last but definitely not least is the importance of your point of aim.

A natural point of aim is how you hold the rifle and where it points to when you’re not in shooting positions.

When you’re standing relaxed, your rifle should fall via support by your natural posture so that you have a “cemented” aim.

You can test this by aiming at a target, closing your eyes, taking deep breaths, and then opening your eyes again. If you’re still aiming at your target, you’ve found your natural point of aim.

Step-by-Step AR-15 Shooting Guide

How to shoot an AR 15 properly largely depends on the following AR-15 shooting guidelines as one of the most important steps to take, both as a rookie and as a veteran hunter.

When Loading

  1. Before doing anything, make sure you confirm the chamber and mag well are empty.
  2. Once that’s assured, keep the fire selector on ‘safe’.
  3. Insert a fresh mag and confirm it’s engaged when the bolt is fully closed and forward.
  4. Make sure you always hit the bottom mag so that it locks in. Otherwise, malfunctions may occur.
  5. See the charging handle? Pull it back towards you, and once the bolt moves back it will make the dust cover fling open.
  6. Once that’s done, release the charging handle so that the bolt will go forward.
  7. This will strip a new bullet from the mag.

When Aiming and Firing

  1. Always make sure the AR-15 has the safety on.
  2. Never let your finger rest on the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  3. Once ready, press the safety selector so it points to ‘fire’, take a deep breath, and pull the trigger slowly but steadily.
  4. Once done, click the safety back to ‘safe’.

This is the essence of how to shoot an AR-15 properly.

When Reloading

  1. Once you are sure that the last round is fired, the mag is empty, and then you will know that the bolt is locked back to the rear.
  2. Make sure you see the ejection port when checking for the last round and that the bolt is locked back.
  3. When you are sure that the bolt is locked back and the mag is empty, press the mag release to drop the spent mag.
  4. Don’t insert a new mag just yet! Press the bolt release so that the bolt moves forward, and then chamber another fresh batch.

Once all is done, always switch the rifle to ‘safe’ mode before putting it in your gun safe.

Proper Gun Etiquette

  1. Always imagine the gun is loaded.
  2. Always aim the AR-15 in a safe direction.
  3. NEVER let your finger rest on the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  4. Besides aiming at the target, be always sure what’s behind it.
  5. Learn how to disassemble and how the mechanism of your AR-15 works.
  6. Use the right ammo in the right caliber.
  7. Always clean, lube, and protect your gun with proper gun liquids.
  8. If a malfunction occurs, do not move your shooting position for 10 seconds. Afterward, point the muzzle at the ground and slowly unload the weapon.
  9. NEVER rely on the gun’s safety.
  10. Be mindful of where you are and who you’re with. Losing your balance from a broken twig may spell disaster.


Once you’ve learned how to shoot AR-15 rifle, you will see that it’s a lifelong learning process where even the most hardened veterans still learn something new and improve their skill with this prolific semi-auto rifle.

Applying these marksmanship guidelines will not only improve your overall skill on how to shoot an AR 15 but will always maintain a proper safety protocol.

At Mid State Firearms, safety procedures are a top priority, and we encourage every shooter to practice these important steps before honoring the AR-15 rifle.

Stay safe, shoot straight.

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