Due to the movement created by breathing it is near impossible to release an accurate shot without holding the breath. However as soon as breathing is suspended the body’s functions begin to deteriorate as hypoxia (oxygen starvation) sets in. The eyes ability to function is the first to go followed by the muscles, which begin to contract erratically. Not least there is a feeling that ‘I must breathe, I must breathe….’ as the body tries to protect itself. All of which are not conducive to firing a controlled shot. These ill effects can be avoided if breathing is suspended for only a short period of time. This is around 10 seconds on an exhalation, slightly more on inhalation. When breathing in, the chest muscles become tense, relaxing as you breath out. As we desire to reduce tension in a shooting position it is therefore desirable to suspend breathing on exhalation.
The following diagram shows a typical breathing pattern:
The bottom of a normal breath. It is possible to breath out more but not completely empty the lungs.
The top of a normal breath. It is possible to breath in more (hyperventilate).
It can be seen that the breathing is generally within the rhythm of a normal breath. In this case the shooter takes 3 normal breaths and towards the bottom of an exhalation the breathing is suspended for around 10 seconds whilst the shot is released and follow through takes place. The actual point of the pause, the number and depth of the breaths etc. is quite individual and depends upon the physiology of the shooter. What is important is that the pause in breathing is not extended beyond the 10 seconds. It is preferable to release the shot and follow through in considerably less than that, around 4 to 6 seconds. This may be possible in good conditions however it may be necessary to use more time in bad weather. In any case if the shot is not fired in the time that is normal for you discipline yourself to bring down the rifle, take a few breaths to re-oxygenate the blood and repeat the process.