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Rifle Shooting Positions: How To Shoot Accurately

L.p. Brezny | Updated May 24, 2023 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money

When shooting a firearm using good body posture as in correct position can make all the difference in the world in terms of accurate shot placement downrange.

When the military is training a soldier to shoot many hours are spent practicing the correct positions even before taking that first live fire round at a target. 

Shooting positions are classified in several ways. The basic standing position is among the least accurate in general, followed by the sitting with a follow up in the prone position.

We will take a look at the various positions and illustrate exactly how and why each has the outcomes it does in terms of allowing the shooter to make accurate shots.

For more see: the best high powered snipers the US military uses.

image showing two deer targets in range
When you see this and the target is in range use a rest for the very best results.

Standing Position

Quick rest using the box cover on a pickup truck bed
Quick rest using the box cover on a pickup truck bed. Whatever is handy and works for you can be a great benefit.

While the standing position may well be the worst of all positions to use when trying to hit a target it is the most used position because it can be initiated with great speed. It is necessary when hunting heavy cover or jumping moving targets as in upland birds with a shotgun, or rabbits from a ground hide, and just about one hundred other situations where as the shooter will not have time for a hard set sitting or prone position so as initiate an accurate shot.

In some competitive target games even at long range standing is a position that is required of a riflemen. In this case, the shooter needs to train for the position and in correct hold of the weapon, leg stance on the firing line, and even upper body control.

Many years ago I was the coach/instructor of a high school rifle team and trained my shooters for the standing position with the 22 LR target grade rifle. In this case, my young shooters used shooting jackets that when buttoned up and strapped tended to make the shooters upper body quite ridged. While this is all workable when target shooting, in the field the whole deal turns of a horse of a different color completely. There is no time for fancy shooting jackets, and you deal with a situation as it arises, being a leaping mule deer out of some rocks above you, or a whitetail breaking away from deep swamp grass cover. 

A trick I learned from an old buffalo hunter 9 my granddad was to keep the barrel moving in a tight circle when using iron sights. When the movement hits the bottom of the circle during one or more rotations be aligned on the target and send it. The system works with scopes on low power as well. As I have tried it and used it when I was not at all close to any kind of bracing or support rest like a tree, large rock, or even a vehicle.

When shooting from the standing position I try to stop moving regarding a hunting stalk on an animal when I can make use of a tree or something else as a rest. Getting caught in high grass or low brush ( sage by example) in the open and no rest means taking the worst possible shot known to modern man, the off hand freestyle standing shot. 

Of late designers have addressed this problem and developed the tripod rest that locks the rifle in place for a standing shot, and also the bipod two stick high rest that can be carried with ease. Both systems are workable but require some hauling around and set up for the required shot downrange.

Sitting Position

Secondly, the sitting position comes into play here. This is my favorite shooting position and for many good reasons.

Shooting in the sitting position with the knees yo and elbows across the knee caps produces and three point stance regarding the body, and a solid two point additional stance with the shooters arms over the legs.

For a hunter, the use of a shooting stick as an additional devise can again upgrade the accuracy of the shot. I shoot “ sticks” all the time, in fact I never am without a pair on my ruck and carry them in the field almost one hundred percent of the time.

Deer hunters in open country, varmint hunters calling coyotes, and even shotgun toting turkey hunters will use the sitting position with the secondary aid of a tree truck base for a steady headshot on an incoming called bird. 

When varmint hunting as in shooting prairie dogs I will often also aid the backrest associated with a fence post, or telephone/power pole by example. With the shooting sticks, you have two locking points plus the backrest along the length of the human spine. The end result here is a rock solid rest without the need to lay out on the ground which is the preferred position taken up by target shooters and snipers much of the time.

Bench Rest Sitting

As a second option when shooting from the sitting position many shooters including myself use a portable bench rest table. Coupled with a shooting chair the bench rest and sandbags become about the most solid position you can assume for even very long-range shots.

I have shot successfully one-mile targets from a sitting position bench rest. My unit is a three leg surveyors stand which mounts a heavy poly table top designed expressly for a rifle and bag rest.

I have a heavy bench that must be assembled when getting to the rifle range, but this is reserved for a day of static ammunition testing or new firearm accuracy work for writing review. 

Today with the massive use of the modern ground blinds in use by hunters even more use is being made of the sitting position when shooting big game or turkey and varmints. 

As I get older I shoot about 75 percent of my hunting from a ground blind, using a nice chair, and a single post shooting stick under my rifle, bow or scattergun accuracy is a given.

Prone Position Shooting

In my younger years, I would lay out on a Dakota prairie dog town all day and shoot from a shooting mat and a set of bi-pods that were very short and designed for prone position shooting.

Today I do less of it because it is taxing against the neck and spine, but if you can get a clear when positioned shot low on the ground to your target this is considered the most accurate position you can use. With the aid of a simple for-end rest of some type, or even off hand with a rifle sling and tight shooting jacket very long accurate shots can be produced with the prone position.

I have shot training programs in the mountains of Utah and Wyoming that required this position across the board. I was up in years at the time but managed to stay with the kids until a running course was added to the friendly competitions before hitting the ground and getting over my rifle. Save for high stress events shooting prone was still a real advantage during that 1000 yard plus event, as well as several others under different field conditions. 

The major issue with prone as a shooting position is under many additions the ground cover is too high to set up and still locate your target. I have used small pieces of rock, a small rise or hill, and even dead falls to gain some small amount of elevation.

Again like the advise when I started this review a rest is always best. One of the longest shots I ever made on a mule deer from mountain to mountain was in the prone position and using my cowboy hat as a soft rest under a Model 70 Winchester in 30-06 Springfield. One-shot 440 yards and a clean kill being the end result.

In Conclusion 

Regardless of the position is select for a rifle, shotgun, or even bow shot ( crossbow ) I always try very hard to select a rest of some type. Always remember this a rest is best.

Keep it in mind at all times when hunting or general target shooting. I have trained hunters that were having a good deal of trouble hitting much of anything when a warm target got up in front of them using this simple rule. If you’re near a vehicle and need to make a shot use the hood, rear deck, end gate on a truck, or even sit down and put your back against the tire. ( check state laws in this area )

Walk fence lines and use fence posts as added support, and when in timber always stop next to a tree. Don’t leave yourself standing exposed in empty space if at all possible. 

When you have time and have a static position set up with a small field seat that keeps your up and off the ground. Use shooting sticks at all times, and run a gunning pattern through your mind imagining an incoming deer, bear, or whatever, and exactly what you’re going to do in terms of gaining a solid and correctly rested shooting position. This will also help fight off buck fever or basic panic at the sight of that trophy elk or deer by example. In other words, have a plan well ahead of the event.

For similar articles see: how to use a sniper scope.

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