Shooting positions: Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
This one was requested by the CF-X guy, but it applies to all of us. I could draw fancy diagrams and discuss pressure points and fulcrums ad infinitum, but there are already many books on the subject that do it better. Besides – it doesn’t work! What I’m saying is that there is no “standard” shooting position that is worth the time to listen to, if you intend to “learn” the position. There are a great number of good tips, however.
Tip 1: In the offhand position, placement of the feet is important!
I learned this when I was a baseball pitcher. It’s called control. If you have a practiced pitch motion with good follow-through, how you place your feet determines where the ball goes. I could keep the ball within 12 inches side-to-side at the plate just by how and where I placed my feet. Unfortunately, my 70 mph fastball meant that I was supposed to be a teacher.
Foot placement also works for rifles, shotguns and handguns. It doesn’t matter if you hold your pistol with two hands or rest the forearm of your rifle stock on your knuckles. What you do is get into your firing stance with your eyes closed, take aim and open your eyes. The orientation of your sights tells you how you have to move your feet. Keep adjusting until you are on target – then stop moving your feet!
Tip 1.a: Fine-tuning your feet
You can move just one foot at a time by rotating it left or right a few inches, with the heel remaining in place (or the ball of the foot). This makes small adjustments in your orientation, and it tensions or relaxes your legs at the same time. I shoot competitive 10-meter air pistol, and I like to have both legs under some tension. After I find my position, I fine-tune my feet this way.
Tip 2: Prone position
When I shot competitive 3-position rifle in college, I learned something about the prone position. The first thing is that the placement of your legs determines where you aim (the legs, again!). I had an anal coach who insisted that a shooter’s feet had to lie flat on their sides in the prone position. That didn’t work for me (he actually stood on my foot and couldn’t force it to flatten!), but he did teach me something else that was important. You know how young people sometimes jiggle their legs nervously? Well, I learned that the same movement gets transmitted to the muzzle of the gun, and you’ll never hit anything with your feet flopping around. So, get those legs into a position where the feet can’t flop.
The other tip in prone is to get the forearm of your supporting hand directly under the rifle, so you feel no weight from the rifle. Your forearm acts like a monopod. This relieves all the stress in your supporting arm muscles. Move your elbow from side to side to accomplish this.
I have more tips like this, but I’d like to know that you want them. As I said, there are whole books on shooting positions, so I am going to take a different tack in addressing the issue.