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How to Shoot Full Auto [A Beginner’s Guide]

Getting the chance to shoot a full auto submachine or machinegun? We'll cover some tips and tricks so you stay safe, shoot straight, and have lots of fun.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hold down the trigger and feel a full auto come to life?

For some people that can seem a bit intimidating. 

But really it isn’t that hard!

With a few minor changes to your normal shooting stance and grip, you can be well on your way to enjoy mag dumps and brass piling up around your feet in no time.

Freedom Angel
In America, we make Freedom Angels!

From submachine guns to full-sized heavy machineguns, learning how to shoot a firearm in full-auto is fairly easy…follow along and I’ll break down exactly what you need to know before you visit your first full-auto range.

Table of Contents


Each Range is Different

When you shoot full auto, each range is going to have different ways of doing things (if they allow it all).  

Here in Las Vegas, it is almost universal that if someone rents a full auto, a range officer is standing right next to them the entire time they are shooting.

range safety meme

This is not only to ensure the gun doesn’t run away from the person, but also to give them pointers and try to make it as fun and exciting an experience as possible for them.  

Some ranges will limit your rate of fire.  Don’t be upset if you can’t just hold the trigger down and shut your eyes.  Often ranges want you to do some short bursts on their guns, partially to get you used to the feel of shooting full auto, but also because it can be hard on the guns themselves.  

Other ranges will let you run the trigger like you were fighting off a wave of invading aliens. If you aren’t sure, ask whoever is working.

The range staff that works with the autos, will ideally be able to guide you through your questions.  

If you aren’t sure about something or have concerns, let them know.

Here in Las Vegas, a good bit of the range officers’ pay comes in the form of tips, so most of the staff will be all too happy to spend time going over any details you might want.  

Variety is the Spice of Life

The world of guns can lend itself to different features attracting different people.  

Full autos are no different.

Submachine guns are going to run differently than full auto rifles.  Giant mounted guns are going to handle a bit differently than either of the other two.

There are a few things you’ll want to know and keep in mind about each type of gun so that you can operate successfully on each platform.

Submachine Guns: A Gateway Gun

You might be wondering what the difference between a machine gun and a submachine gun? 

A submachine gun shoots pistol caliber ammunition.

Generally, these will be lower recoil, have reduced ranges compared to rifle caliber machine guns, and require a few considerations with grip.  

Guns like the Kriss Vector Super V, Thompson, H&K MP5, and Uzi are all popular examples of submachine guns you are likely to run into at a rental range.

We Want You To Try out Some Rifles!

Now, few things are more iconic in the world of guns than the military rifles like the M4/M16 or the AK-47.  

Many people own the semi-automatic versions of these guns, but how cool would it be to get to experience the real deal?  

Other guns to be on the lookout for that you may encounter, are definitely worth shooting are the SCAR (either the light or the heavy), the G36, and any number of bullpup rifles like the Tavor.

Each one will operate slightly differently and have a different feel than the others. Discovering your own preferences on them is part of the fun of trying them out.

Hands-On Learning

One of the most important aspects of shooting full auto is your grip.  

Your support hand (for right-handed shooters, this will be your left hand) should grip the gun and pull it back into your body.

This allows the gun to sit firmly just inside your shoulder, and acts as a way to both steer the gun and control it.

This is the most important part of the grip, as your support hand is the overachiever that is doing most of the work.  Your strong hand will rest relaxed, but firm against the gun’s grip and that’s about it (in most cases).

Shooting hand is relaxed, non-shooting hand is doing all the work pulling the rifle into your shoulder
Shooting hand is relaxed, non-shooting hand is doing all the work pulling the rifle into your shoulder

Footwork is Key

Here’s the deal: right behind the grip, the stance is the next most important thing.  

You have set your body up to handle the feel of a machine gun shooting. It’s not nearly as difficult as you might think though.  

Lean into the rifle, weight on your front foot with your rear foot in a stable position
Lean into the rifle, weight on your front foot with your rear foot in a stable position

The two major points here are leaning into the gun, which will help to manage the amount of recoil you feel, and making sure you are balanced.  

Your foot position can vary a bit depending on the types and calibers of gun you are shooting (as well as your body type), which will get into more below.

The Foundation is Laid, What’s Next?

Now that we’ve talked about the basic differences of grip and stance, we’re going to go into a bit more detail about different types of machine guns you might like to try out.  

Different types of guns will have a different general feel to them, and each will have slight modifications to both grip and stance, which we will go over.

Minor Changes for Major Success

Just like the different types of full autos are slightly different than one other, the shooter has to make slight adjustments for the platform they are firing.  

The basic concepts are the same, but a few minor tweaks will set you up for a big payoff.

Submachine guns are going to have a bit more muzzle rise than most other auto platforms.  

This can be due to a few different factors, be it the rate of fire (like in the case of the Kriss Vector), the back end being heavier than the front (the Thompson is a clear example of this), or simply because the gun is fairly light (like the MP5).  

Thompson Sub Machine Gun, Hickok45
Thompson Sub Machine Gun, Hickok45

The key to controlling submachine guns is going to be in your grip.

The support hand should apply a little downward pull to offset that muzzle trying to climb towards the ceiling like it is on a stair stepper. Keep that muzzle level to the floor and watch the holes in the target add up!

Support hand applying just a little downward pull on a submachine gun

Rifles, on the other hand, are going to be a combination of grip and stance.  

This is due to the fact that rifle rounds are bigger and pack a bit more punch on average than your submachine guns.  I don’t want you to think that makes them less fun to shoot, or crazy to control.

Ready to go full auto with an M4
Ready to go full auto with an M4

You just have to put in a bit more work.

For people new to shooting full auto, I recommend taking a small step forward with your support foot.  

You then want to bend that front knee and sink your weight onto that leg, which will lean your weight into the gun.  Combine this with using your support hand to pull the rifle snugly into your shoulder, and you have set yourself up for a ton of fun with most rifle systems.

The Big Boys are Fun Too

Once you get into guns that are bigger than the normal rifle, you are looking at mounted or rested guns.  

Things like the M-249 SAW, the M60, the “Ma Deuce”, and others are some of the most fun, and honestly, the easiest guns to shoot.  

Full Auto M2 - for when you really, really need fire superiority.
Full Auto M2 – for when you really, really need fire superiority.

Simply put, the guns are so heavy, the shooter doesn’t feel much of the recoil (as long as the weight of the gun is rested on a bipod or it is mounted on something).  You aim, squeeze the trigger, and enjoy the thrill.

As each of these guns will vary in how they are set up and operated depending on where you shoot, it is tough to describe stance or grip to you.  It is best just to ask the range officers or owner of the range where you happen to be shooting them for suggestions.

This also brings me to my next point…

It’s All About You

Keep one thing in mind when you decide to finally take the plunge into shooting full auto: you are there to have fun.  

The fate of the world isn’t resting on your shoulders at the rental range.

As long as you are being safe, following the range rules, then you only two things to try and accomplish: relax and enjoy yourself.  

Rambo Full Auto
Happiness is a belt-fed weapon.

If you try something out and aren’t enjoying it, let the staff know. Often times they will be able to offer tips to help get you into the fun zone or swap the gun out for something you will find a bit more enjoyable.  

Should you find yourself the Las Vegas area, stop by The Range 702 and say hi, I’ll be more than happy to talk any time!

Have you shot full-auto yet? Tell us about it in the comments! If you’re getting ready to head to the range, don’t forget to check out the Editor’s Picks for all of our favorite rifles, pistols, optics, gear, and more!

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1 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Anonymous ;)

    The last few times I've had to qualify at my (undisclosed) air national guard base before deployments, the instructors skipped the practice portion after sighting in and went straight to qualifying in the interest of time. This left us with extra ammo for "fun time"...burst or semi, standing or prone as long as we burned through our extra 100ish rounds as quickly as possible lol

    December 12, 2018 4:42 am
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