Get up! Mastering precision rifle marksmanship means mastering all shooting positions — not just prone.
When training military personnel, we often tell the snipers, “Prone is the rare shot,” especially in urban areas. Both manmade and natural obstacles liter our fields of view no matter where we travel, from hunting situations to long-range matches. The well-rounded marksmanship knows how to adapt their surroundings to make a successful shot, and although ideal, prone opportunities aren’t often available. Looking at the different shooting positions one must practice, we have:
Field shooters are “across the course” marksmen. In other words, we have to master all four of these shooting positions in some way to consider ourselves a proficient long-gun shooter. That doesn’t automatically mean they’re all unsupported or require the mastery of sling shooting, but it does require you get off the bench or your belly and practice them.
Supported positions are not always as easy as just dropping the forearm onto a support. There are certain aspects we want to address: The style of rifle can have a say in your success, so people have devised other tools to help with our support system in the field.
Support Reigns King, No Matter What
For example, we employ a variety of bag styles to support both the shot and the shooter. The heavy sand-filled bags support the rifle on hard surfaces, while the light puff pillows support the shooter’s positions.
Instead of using shooting sticks, try carrying a single tripod for a do-all solution. I often tell people that if you wanted me to hike across varied terrain with the potential of targets of opportunity along the way, a single tripod would solve every problem I encounter. There’s a reason why I have invested more than $1,500 on a tripod. It works.
Thanks to the excellent training provided by the competition circuit, we recognize the tools and shooting positions to execute these shots under time and using various types of support. We have adapted bags and tripods to quickly and effectively engage targets from an alternative position with a high level of success. The critical element is, of course, the proper practice.
It’s much easier to show you what these positions can look like versus talking about them, but at the same time, I do have some tips to help you determine the best method to use:
- Keep your shoulders in front of your hips
- Support the firing elbow when possible
- Balance the rifle using your support
- Understand recoil management
- Lower the power setting on your scope to open up the field of view
- Contact the rifle with a soft support when able
- Tripods are always your friend
The Golf Parallel
Simply put, the various shooting positions are designed to get you over obstacles — the higher the obstruction, the taller the position. If the world were free of obstacles, prone would be enough … but that’s not the case. I highly recommend that you practice these shooting positions dry and initially focus on these two elements:
- Building your positions quickly and efficiently
- Understanding your wobble zone
The fundamentals of marksmanship will directly translate to these alternate positions. And if you thing about it, golf and rifle shooting have a lot in common.
More Long-Range Shooting Info:
- Buying the Perfect Precision Scope
- Ballistics Basics: Initial Bullet Speed
- The Effects Of Air Temperature On Bullet Flight
- Mils vs. MOA: Which Is The Best Long-Range Language?
We address the ball by lining up our body, which for shooters is the natural point of aim. We check our alignment in the swing; for shooters, this is our sight picture, and we open up the eye box by lowering the magnification of the scope. Then comes the full swing and follow through. For shooters, this action is trigger control and again, follow through — the forgotten fundamental. Follow through it’s a must, regardless of the sport.
The fundamentals will translate to every single situation and all the weapons we employ, regardless of discipline. From handguns to carbines, hunting rifles to high-dollar ELR Rigs, the fundamentals will follow you regardless of the platform.
Practice Does Make Progress
One of the best ways to practice the application of these alternate positions is to shoot a match. It’s not uncommon for the current style of precision rifle competition to have as much as 60 percent of the shots from a position other than prone. It’s a great way to get spun up in the best practices without having to wade through the styles that should be passed over. Today, we have a host of matches across the country, as well the NRL 22 League that can be found just about everywhere.
Inexpensive .22 matches are a great way to get your feet wet without the big dollar commitment in both equipment and travel. Single-day .22 caliber matches are popping up across the United States, and their return on investment cannot be overstated: You spend a little but learn a lot in this type of event. They are often alternate-position-heavy events.
With .22 rifles being lightweight and inexpensive to shoot, they are the perfect training tool. Heck, many of us shooting the Vudoo 22 rifles have invested just as much as our centerfire precision rifles, and that’s okay — they’re a ton of fun for the entire family.
Here’s to no wind.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.