Becoming a Better Marksman (Part 3 – Rifle Firing Positions)

Rifle Firing Positions

You’ll read in the next post about trigger squeeze and proper aiming techniques, but before we go over those fundamentals, I’m going to give you a brief explanation of the various firing positions and their pros and cons.

The basic concept that you should understand is that the steadier you can hold your rifle, the more accurate you will shoot.  A shaky rifle improperly held will likely lead to a “miss” or worse yet, an injury or accident.  How do we keep the rifle from shaking?  I’m glad you asked.  Selecting the most stable firing position and using it properly will help.  Add proper firing techniques and you’ll be hitting the “bullseye” before you know it.

Prone Supported

Prone Supported

Prone Supported provides excellent accuracy but is rarely convenient in the field.

The Prone Supported firing position is by far the sturdiest choice.  However, it does have drawbacks.  For Prone Supported, you will lay your body on the ground as flat as possible and rest your rifle on a sturdy object to fire.  There are commercial rifle rests available for this but I’ve found that a sandbag or rolled up sleeping bag works perfectly.  The Prone Supported position allows for long-range shots and excellent accuracy.  That being said, when you’re in the woods deer hunting, it’s quite difficult to attain a Prone Supported position.  Most “field” shots will be in other, less sturdy positions.  I recommend that you use Prone Supported at the range when adjusting your sites and scopes.

Prone Unsupported

Prone Unsupported

The Prone Unsupported position is identical to Prone Supported except that you will be holding your rifle as opposed to steadying it on a sturdy object.  Prone Unsupported still provides a great deal of accuracy and is somewhat easier to attain in the woods.  That being said, it is often overlooked since most of us don’t want to lay down on the cold and wet ground.  If you are considering this position, I recommend that you take a tarp or sleeping pad to keep you off the ground.

Sitting Supported

Sitting Supported

Sitting Supported is accurate and convenient. It is probably the most useful firing position for hunting.

I have taken more deer in the Sitting Supported position than any other.  There are a lot of options as to how you want to sit and what you want to use as support.  I’ve often sat with knees bent and feet on the ground and used fallen logs for support.  This is my top choice as it’s easy to attain in the forest, it provides plenty of accuracy, you remain mobile enough to look in all directions, and you can quickly adjust your position for firing in unexpected directions.

Sitting Unsupported

Sitting Unsupported

Similar to Sitting Supported, you take a sturdy seat but omit the support. I generally avoid this position.  More often than not, if I’m going to sit down, I plan my location so that I have a support.

Kneeling Supported

Kneeling Supported

For the Kneeling Supported position, you’re weight should rest on your front foot and back knee (refer to picture.)  This position has proven itself useful time and again when squirrel hunting with rimfire rifles.  Take your kneeling position and rest your rifle on a limb or against a tree.  It’s quick to attain, steady, and allows for quick adjustments and movement.  When still hunting (walking around hoping to see something), this is my favorite firing position.

Kneeling Unsupported

Kneeling Unsupported

The Kneeling Unsupported firing position is an often overlooked position.  It’s slightly steadier than the Standing Unsupported position but less steady than the Standing Supported position.  I don’t think I’ve ever used this position in the field.  Experiment with it and see what you think.

Standing Supported

Standing Supported

This is a quickly attainable position that provides a steady platform for firing.  Similar to the Kneeling Supported, it works well with still hunting.  Imagine quietly walking though the woods when a deer surprises you at seventy yards away.  You’ve stopped directly beside a sturdy tree.  Moving to another position will likely spook the deer so you simply lean into the tree and support your rifle on a branch or against the tree.  I’ve used this position many times in my hunting adventures with much success.

Standing Unsupported

Standing Unsupported

This is the least steady of the positions but a marksman can still use it when necessary.  If, because of circumstances, you can’t move to a better firing position, you have to be able to fire Standing Unsupported, or what many call “off hand.”  Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders relaxed, and your elbows pointed down and close to the body.  In this position, proper firing techniques are imperative.  Prone Unsupported is shaky and firing properly at the right time will make all the difference in your accuracy.

Conclusion

All of the firing positions mentioned have their strengths and weaknesses in the field.  Experiment at the range so that you know which positions will work best for you in the field.  As much as we all like the tight shot groups at the range, practicing in a Prone or Sitting Supported position doesn’t provide you with the best training.  You have to practice shooting in all of the positions, especially the less sturdy Standing, Sitting and Kneeling Unsupported positions to be a better marksman.

Visit SmoothingIt.com soon to read the conclusion of this series on Becoming a Better Marksman.  In the next post, HomeSteadDad will provide you with lessons on safety, basic marksmanship skills (trigger squeeze, site placement, etc) as well as the basics of pistol firing positions and grips.

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