How to choose the right shooting position for you
While it’s highly likely that you’ve done a lot of your range practice on a bench or shooting table, you won’t have the luxury of that kind of stability out in the field.
That means you’re going to have to master one of the other four shooting positions: standing, kneeling, sitting or prone.
Which one you choose will come down to a number of factors including personal preference, age and mobility, topography, opportunity and even time.
In this quick tutorial, we look at the four basic shooting positions as well as provide some simple tips and tools for improving your stability. For all of these, we will assume you are right handed. For left handed shooters, you may need to reverse some of the procedures.
Shooting from a standing position is probably the least stable shooting position you could choose and the most difficult to master, and should really only be used when shooting within 100 metres.
But there are times in the field where it might be the only reasonable choice you have. It can either be done completely freehand, or with the help of a few simple aides.
If shooting freehand, it’s super important to get your stance right. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your left foot slightly in front. Turn your body about 90 degrees to the right of your target. Now support the rifle with your left arm, which should be tucked in nice and close to your body for extra support. Press the rifle butt firmly into your right shoulder, being careful not to grip it too tightly. Breathe deeply and slowly as you sight in and take aim. Possibly the most important tip with shooting freehand is not to take too long. That doesn’t mean fire haphazardly – you should always be 100 percent certain of your target, and take enough time to ensure you’re got the animal correctly in the sites. But the longer you take, the more waver you’re going to encounter.
You can steady your shot by using a tree, large rock, rifle sling or shooting sticks, which can allow you to stretch your range out to about 250 metres.
Shooting sticks are more than just an aid to balance your rifle. Used properly, they can greatly enhance your stability when shooting from a standing, kneeling or sitting position. They also allow the hunter to pivot quickly if the animal moves.
To shoot off sticks, lean forward slightly onto your left leg, while your right leg forms a triangle for stability – almost like a boxer’s stance. Place the rifle stock firmly into the V of the sticks (do not place the barrel directly into the V). Some people use their left hand to grip the top of the sticks, which can help with stability. Others use their left hand to grip the rifle. Play around with what works best for you.
One important thing to remember when practicing a shooting stance – either freehand or off sticks – is to vary the shooting surface. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find a perfectly flat surface out in the field. If you practice shooting on sloping ground (both sloping up or down), or even on rocky or irregular surfaces, you’ll drastically increase your chances of success when your shot counts.
This position still leaves your shooting arm and elbow unsupported but does offer a little more support and balance than standing, and allows the shooter more control and accuracy. You can shoot from a kneeling position out to about 150 metres.
Turn your body so that you’re on a 45 degree angle from the target. Now lower yourself onto the ground with your right leg tucked underneath you, and your left foot up and slightly forward at a right angle. Put your body weight back onto your right foot. You can rest your left elbow just below your knee to offer additional support.
You can also use a tree, rock, rifle sling or shooting sticks to improve your steadiness and aim.
A sitting position offers a lot more support and steadiness than either standing or kneeling, though it can be a bit more difficult to get up and down for older, less mobile hunters. Being this low to the ground also allows you to use tall grass, shrubs, rocks or bushes as cover. You can shoot from a sitting position out to about 200 metres.
Get into a comfortable position on the ground, either with your legs crossed or out in front of you. Your body should be at about a 30 degree angle to the target.
As with the kneeling position, balance your left elbow near your knee. Now place your right elbow against the side of your right knee. This creates a solid support for your rifle and reduces any wavering. You can also increase your stability by using a tree or rock to brace yourself against.
Lying flat on the ground in the prone position is definitely the steadiest shooting position for out in the field and offers the most accuracy. It is also perfect for longer distance shots – especially anything beyond 250 metres. We have shot prone out to 500 metres with great accuracy.
However, because you are down low, it does require good line of sight and a clear path to the target. Tall grass, dense undergrowth or thick trees may obscure your view or deflect the path of the bullet. It could also be uncomfortable for larger hunters or pregnant women. Lie on your stomach, positioning your body slightly to the left of the target. Keep your legs relaxed and your back straight. You can also lie with one leg slightly bent and forward. Your upper body and arms support the rifle weight. Bend you elbows and lean forward slightly. For extra stability, rest the rifle of your backpack or roll up your hunting jacket and place it beneath the barrel. Alternatively, if you have bipod legs on the front of your rifle, you can use these.
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