The Rifle Shooting Merit Badge: Your Ultimate Guide In 2024


Rifle shooting is an activity that few youth get to participate in – with the exception of BSA Scouts! So, get ready to hone your marksmanship skills and learn about firearm safety. Being able to use a gun properly could help you secure food or even save your life in an emergency, making it a key preparedness skill to develop.

That’s why, learning to shoot a rifle is perhaps one of the most important accomplishments for you to achieve in Scouting! In this guide to the rifle shooting merit badge, you’ll learn how to safely operate a firearm – which is an extremely important skill and individual right thanks to our Second Amendment.

Before we get started, if you have any Eagle-required merit badges to earn, I’d recommend checking out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to Scouts on their road to Eagle!

Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!

As we embark on this journey to earn the Rifle Shooting merit badge, remember that safety always comes first. First and foremost, guns are deadly weapons. However, with the right guidance and practice, you’ll soon be hitting your targets safely and with 100% confidence. So, load up, take aim, and let’s hit the bullseye for earning this awesome badge! 😀

  1. Do the following:
    1a. Explain why BB and pellet air guns must always be treated with the same respect as firearms.
    1b. Describe how you would react if a friend visiting your home asked to see your or your family’s firearm(s).
    1c. Explain the need for, and use and types of, eye and hearing protection. Demonstrate their proper use.
    1d. Give the main points of the laws for owning and using guns in your community and state.
    1e. Explain how hunting is related to the wise use of renewable wildlife resources.
    1f. Successfully complete a state hunter education course or obtain a copy of the hunting laws for your state, then do the following:
    1. Explain the main points of hunting laws in your state and give any special laws on the use of guns and ammunition.
    2. List the kinds of wildlife that can be legally hunted in your state.
    1g. Identify and explain how you can join or be a part of shooting sports activities.
    1h. Explain to your counselor the proper hygienic guidelines used in shooting.
    1i. Give to your counselor a list of sources that you could contact for information on firearms and their uses.
  2. Do ONE of the following options:
    OPTION A – RIFLE SHOOTING (MODERN CARTRIDGE TYPE)
    a. Identify the three main parts of a rifle, and tell how they function.
    b. Identify and demonstrate the three fundamental rules for safe gun handling.
    c. Identify the two types of cartridges, their parts, and how they function.
    d. Explain to your counselor what a misfire, hangfire, and squib fire are, and explain the procedures to follow in response to each.
    e. Identify and demonstrate the five fundamentals of shooting a rifle safely.
    f. Explain to your counselor the fundamental rules for safe gun handling. Explain each rule for using and storing a gun. Identify and explain each rule for safe shooting.
    g. Explain the range commands and range procedures.
    h. Demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to safely shoot a rifle from the benchrest position or supported prone position while using the five fundamentals of rifle shooting.
    i. Identify the basic safety rules for cleaning a rifle, and identify the materials needed.
    j. Demonstrate how to clean a rifle properly and safely.
    k. Discuss what points you would consider in selecting a rifle.
    l. Using a .22 caliber rimfire rifle and shooting from a benchrest or supported prone position at 50 feet, fire five groups (three shots per group) that can be covered by a quarter. Using these targets, explain how to adjust sights to zero.
    m. Adjust sights to center the group on the target and fire five groups (five shots per group). According to the target used, each shot in the group must meet the following minimum score: A-32 targets: 9; A-17 or TQ-1 target: 7; A-36 targets: 5.
    Note: It is not always practical to adjust the sights (i.e., when using a borrowed fixed-sight rifle). For requirement 2l, you may demonstrate your ability to use the shooting fundamentals by shooting five shot groups (five shots per group) in which all shots can be covered by a quarter and then explain how to adjust the sights to zero the rifle.
    OPTION B – AIR RIFLE SHOOTING (BB OR PELLET)
    a. Identify the three main parts of an air rifle, and tell how they function.
    b. Identify and demonstrate the three fundamental rules for safe gun handling.
    c. Explain the range commands and range procedures.
    d. Identify the two most common types of air rifle ammunition.
    e. Identify and demonstrate the five fundamentals of shooting a rifle safely.
    f. Identify and explain each rule for shooting an air rifle safely.
    g. Demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to safely shoot a target from the benchrest position or supported prone position while using the five fundamentals of rifle shooting.
    h. Identify the basic safety rules for cleaning an air rifle, and identify the materials needed.
    i. Demonstrate how to clean an air rifle safely.
    j. Discuss what points you would consider in selecting an air rifle.
    k. Using a BB gun or pellet air rifle and shooting from a bench rest or supported prone position at 15 feet for BB guns or 33 feet for air rifles, fire five groups (three shots per group) that can be covered by a quarter.
    l. Adjust sights to center the group on the target and fire five groups (five shots per group). According to the target used, each shot in the group must meet the following minimum score: BB rifle at 15 feet or 5 meters using TQ-5 targets: 8; pellet air rifle at 25 feet using TQ-5 target: 8; at 33 feet or 10 meters using AR-1 targets: 6.
    OPTION C – MUZZLELOADING RIFLE SHOOTING (Not included in this guide)
    a. Discuss a brief history of the development of muzzleloading rifles.
    b. Identify principal parts of percussion and flintlock rifles and discuss how they function.
    c. Demonstrate and discuss the safe handling rules of muzzleloading rifles.
    d. Identify the various grades of black powder and black powder substitutes and explain their proper use.
    e. Discuss proper safety procedures pertaining to black powder use and storage.
    f. Discuss proper components of a load.
    g. Identify proper procedures and accessories used for loading a muzzleloading rifle.
    h. Demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to safely shoot a muzzleloading rifle on a range, including range procedures. Explain what a misfire, hangfire, and squib fire are, and explain the procedures to follow in response to each.
    i. Shoot a target with a muzzleloading rifle using the five fundamentals of firing a shot.
    j. Identify the materials needed to clean a muzzleloading rifle safely. Using these materials, demonstrate how to clean a muzzleloading rifle safely.
    k. Identify the causes of a muzzleloading rifle’s failure to fire and explain or demonstrate proper correction procedures.
    l. Discuss what points you would consider in selecting a muzzleloading rifle.
    m. Using a muzzleloading rifle of .45 or .50 caliber and shooting from a bench rest or supported prone position, fire three groups (three shots per group) at 50 feet that can be covered by the base of a standard-size soft drink can.
    n. Center the group on the target and fire three groups (five shots per group). According to the target used, each shot in the group must meet the following minimum score: at 25 yards using NRA A-23 or NMLRA 50-yard targets: 7; at 50 yards using NRA A-25 or NMLRA 100-yard targets: 7.
1a) Explain why BB and pellet air guns must always be treated with the same respect as firearms.

Air guns, such as BB and pellet guns, may seem less powerful than ‘real’ firearms, but they still require the same level of respect and caution. It would probably surprise you to learn how many injuries occur, and how many eyes are lost on a yearly basis due to the improper use of recreational guns! That’s why the first requirement we’ll cover is on safety. 🙂

If you’re training to use a rifle, chances are you’ll start off with something like a pellet gun or a BB gun. That’s because properly learning to use these sorts of non-lethal guns can help you master the basics in a much less risky way. Here are 5 keys on how to handle all guns responsibly:

  1. Although air guns may not have the same firepower as firearms, they can still cause serious injury or even death if mishandled or used improperly. The projectiles they fire, such as BBs and pellets, can penetrate the skin and cause significant harm, especially if aimed at sensitive areas or at close range.
  2. Just like firearms, air guns should always be treated as if they are loaded and ready to fire. Never point an air gun at anything you do not intend to shoot, and always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  3. When not in use, air guns should be securely stored in a locked cabinet or safe, away from children and unauthorized users. When transporting air guns, ensure they are unloaded and properly secured to prevent accidental discharge.
  4. Before using an air gun, undergo thorough safety training and familiarize yourself with its operation and safety features. Always shoot under the supervision of a knowledgeable adult or experienced shooter who can provide guidance and ensure safe practices are followed.
  5. Many areas have laws and regulations governing the use of air guns, including age restrictions, designated shooting areas, and safety requirements. Always familiarize yourself with these laws and follow them diligently to ensure the safe and responsible use of air guns

Now that you know these 5 keys for properly handling firearms, here’s a quick video (2:19) explaining a few of the legal rules and regulations for air guns and BB guns.

Additionally, make sure that all BB and Air guns you may own are properly marked, often with a orange tip, so that they aren’t confused for real firearms. In some cases, people may confuse these types of guns as real and call the police, creating an extremely dangerous situation.

A big part of treating pellet guns and BB guns in the same way as firearms has to do with understanding the proper safety protocols. Learning to treat a gun as if it is always loaded and never pointing toward anything you don’t intend to shoot are all techniques you should master with safer BB or pellet guns before moving on to a rifle!

1b) Describe how you would react if a friend visiting your home asked to see your or your family’s firearm(s).

If a friend visiting your home ever asks to see your family’s firearms, the first thing you should always do is find the gun’s owner or a responsible adult and ask them for permission. Under no other situation should you be handling firearms, as misfires can occur, even in cases where a firearm should be unloaded and be considered safe. Here are 4 steps to keep in mind when handling this situation:

  1. Seek Adult Supervision: If you feel your friend is responsible and genuinely curious to learn more, find your parent or guardian together and ask them for help. It may also be a good idea for your friend to get permission from their parents as well.
  2. Educate Your Friend: Ask your friend about their existing knowledge of firearm safety. With its owner to help guide you, talk to your friend through basic firearm safety (which you’ll know from this merit badge!).
  3. Safety: Even if your friend is already familiar with firearms, it’s always a good idea to be 100% safe. Your family member should inspect the firearm before letting your firend see it, double-checking that it is unloaded when initially passing it off.
  4. Say No If Necessary: If you’re unsupervised, politely decline the request. You can say that you’re only able to access and handle your guns when family members are around to ensure everything is safe.

Even when you’re with friends, it’s your responsibility to stick to the rules. Too many times, innocent young people like yourself have hurt themselves or others through careless gun usage. Not you though! By following these protocols, you are putting yourself in a much safer position as a rifle owner. 🙂

1c) Explain the need for, and use and types of, eye and hearing protection. Demonstrate their proper use.

Rifles also pose certain dangers to the user, particularly in terms of vision and hearing. Backfires and misfires can occur, which may cause serious injuries to your eyes, and even blindness! Rifles are also very loud by nature, which over time can cause hearing loss.

As a Scout with plenty of years of growth ahead, it’s essential that you protect both your eyes and ears from long-term damage. The following are various types of hearing and eye protection that should always be used while firing a rifle:

  • Safety glasses and goggles offer different levels of coverage and impact resistance for eye protection.
  • Earmuffs and earplugs provide varying levels of noise reduction for hearing protection.
  • These types of protective gear safeguard against flying debris, loud noises, and recoil during shooting.

To demonstrate proper use, ensure your eye protection fits securely and covers your eyes entirely, while your hearing protection should create a tight seal around your ears to minimize sound exposure. Remember to wear them consistently during shooting activities to mitigate any risks effectively!

1d) Give the main points of the laws for owning and using guns in your community and state.

To give the main points of the laws for owning and using guns in your community and state, start by researching the relevant legislation and regulations. Look into local and state laws regarding firearm ownership, possession, and use, as well as any specific requirements or restrictions in your area.

Helpful Link: Here’s a handy article explaining gun laws state by state! When researching the laws in your area, pay attention to factors such as age restrictions, background check requirements, permits/licenses needed for firearm ownership, and regulations regarding the carrying and storage of firearms.

Once you have gathered this information, summarize the key points concisely. Highlight any important regulations or restrictions that individuals in your state need to be aware of, and be sure to share these with your merit badge counselor. Pay extra attention to the laws that would most likely impact you or your family!

1e) Explain how hunting is related to the wise use of renewable wildlife resources.

This may be a surprise to you, but hunting actually has a very positive impact on the preservation of renewable wildlife resources! It serves to keep populations within sustainable limits and helps to maintain ecosystem balance. Moreover, licensing fees generate revenue for conservation efforts through permits, and taxes, funding habitat preservation and wildlife research.

Hunting also fosters a connection to nature, leading to increased advocacy for conservation and stewardship of the environment. Hunters can support the wise use of renewable wildlife resources by balancing conservation with sustainable harvest practices. Here’s a great video (7:45) explaining hunting and sustainable wildlife management in more depth!

1f) Successfully complete a state hunter education course or obtain a copy of the hunting laws for your state, then do the following:
1. Explain the main points of hunting laws in your state and give any special laws on the use of guns and ammunition.
2. List the kinds of wildlife that can be legally hunted in your state.

To fulfill this requirement, you can enroll in a course — find one through your local wildlife agency or Hunter-ed! — or obtain a copy of the hunting laws for your state. These resources typically cover essential topics such as firearm safety, hunting regulations, seasons, bag limits, and any special laws pertaining to the use of guns and ammunition.

Alternatively, you can familiarize yourself with federal laws related to hunting and wildlife conservation to gain a thorough understanding. After studying the materials, discuss your insights with a counselor, highlighting the main points of hunting laws in your state and any unique regulations.

Helpful Link: Here is a great website that allows you to find the hunting and fishing laws in your state!

There are many main points of hunting laws, although these may differ from one state to another. Here’s a quick overview of what your area’s hunting regulations will likely cover:

  • Licensing: Hunters generally require licenses and permits.
  • Bag Limits and Seasons: Specific types of game are only allowed to be hunted during specific types of year, and there are also maximum limits as to how many animals can be harvested.
  • Weapon and Ammo: There are laws that dictate what types of firearms and ammunition can be used for hunting.
  • Hunting Zones: Many states are divided into various zones where there are different hunting regulations.
  • Hunting Hours: In most states, there are laws regarding when you can and cannot hunt, including start and end times for hunting each day.
  • Hunter Education: There may be laws surrounding the hunter education and safety courses that one has to take.
  • Landowner Rights: There are laws that address the rights and responsibilities of landowners in regard to hunting appropriately.
  • Species Protection: There are some species that are protected or maybe off limits to hunting thanks to various conservation efforts.
  • Tagging: Hunters are generally required to tag their kills and to report them to the appropriate wildlife authorities.
  • Ethical and Fair Chase Guidelines: There may be laws that emphasize ethical hunting practices, including fair chase principles which dictate that hunters need to give animals a fair chance.

Finally, compile a list of wildlife species that are legally hunted in your area and emphasize the importance of adhering to all regulations and ethical practices while engaging in hunting activities. You can find a list in the website I linked above on the “Animals Legal to Hunt” column! 😉

1g) Identify and explain how you can join or be a part of shooting sports activities.

To locate and get involved in local shooting sports activities, start by researching local ranges, clubs, or community organizations that offer programs or events related to shooting sports. You can typically find information about these opportunities online by Googling “firearm activity (your city).”

You may also find these activities through social media, or by contacting local sports and recreation departments. Below are some of the best ways to get involved in a shooting community, listed in order from novice to expert!

  • Learn the Basics: If you are new to shooting, consider taking a basic firearms safety and marksmanship course. This is a great way to make connections with fellow beginners!
  • Obtain Necessary Permits and Licenses: Depending on your location and the type of shooting you wish to pursue, you may need to obtain permits, licenses, or certifications. 
  • Join a Shooting Range: Find a local shooting range or club that accommodates your preferred shooting discipline.
  • Take More Advanced Courses: You can always take more advanced shooting courses once you gain some experience!
  • Participate in Competitions: If you’re interested in competitive shooting, look for local matches and competitions in your chosen discipline. 
  • Join National or International Organizations: Consider joining national or international shooting organizations, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), USA Shooting, or the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF)!

Finally, attend introductory sessions, open houses, or orientation programs offered by these organizations. At events, networking with experienced shooters in your community and seeking guidance is a great way to learn about more events and activities you could consider attending!

1h) Explain to your counselor the proper hygienic guidelines used in shooting.

It might sound really odd to say that proper hygiene is a part of shooting, but it most certainly is. Remember, it’s about your safety and the safety of everyone around you! The following are the most important rifle and shooting hygiene points to remember:

  • Always keep your hands clean and residue-free to prevent contaminating equipment and firearms.
  • You may need to wear personal protective equipment based on the type of shooting you are doing.
  • Always clean all range equipment after you are done shooting, especially if it was shared.
  • Wear the right kind of shooting clothing, including that which covers your skin, so you don’t get exposed to debris, dust, and the elements.
  • When you are handling firearms and ammunition, do not touch your face.
  • Always clean and maintain firearms to prevent malfunctions from occurring.
  • Do not excessively contact primer or lead points when handling ammunition.
  • Always cough and sneeze into an elbow or a tissue.
  • Do not eat or drink on a shooting range.
  • Trash and spent casings always need to be disposed of in the appropriate containers.
  • Respect your fellow shooters and be courteous.
  • Avoid sharing equipment whenever possible.

with your counselor, you can also discuss the proper storage and handling of firearms and ammunition to prevent contamination and maintain a safe shooting environment. Be sure to also emphasize the importance of following range rules and regulations related to hygiene and cleanliness! 🙂

1i) Give to your counselor a list of sources that you could contact for information on firearms and their uses.

Even more than most pursuits, rifle shooting requires research! It’s important to learn about this sport and the firearms you’re operating from reliable sources. To compile a list of sources for firearms and their uses, consider various reputable groups such as:

  1. Firearms training organizations or shooting clubs that offer educational resources and courses on firearm safety and usage.
  2. Government agencies responsible for regulating firearms, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) or state-level departments of fish and wildlife.
  3. Books, magazines, blogs, and websites focused on firearms and shooting sports, authored by experts in the field.
  4. Local firearm retailers or shooting ranges may offer educational materials or seminars on firearms and their uses.
  5. National Rifle Association (NRA)
  6. Gun Owners of America (GOA)
  7. National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF)
  8. Firearms and Ammunition Industry Trade Associations
  9. State Wildlife Agencies
  10. Firearms Manufacturers’ Websites

I’d encourage you to look through as many sources as possible at first, and then find a few that you really enjoy. By checking back every few days and learning something new each time, you’ll be a pro with your firearms in no time! Remember, precise practice and continued repetition are the fastest ways to develop your skills. 😀

Congrats on Finishing Part 1 of the Rifle Shooting Merit Badge!

Great work getting this far and learning this much useful info about riflery! In these requirements, we’ve built a ton of firearm skill and confidence, preparing you for a whole range of adventures in the future 😉 . You definitely deserve a break at this point; give yourself a pat on the back!

Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Riflery merit badge click here (article in progress).

Also, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here. PS: The article also links to my ultimate badge guides that’ll help you answer your merit badge worksheets!

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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