Shooting Positions: Prone

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Written by Mike Cecil

I'm going to provide you with some beneficial information relating to shooting positions. First off, there are many different shooting positions (sitting, kneeling, standing, etc.) that would take a lot of time to cover. In regards to any position you want to have a grasp of the fundamentals of shooting which are Head Alignment, Sight Alignment, Breathing, and Natural Point of Aim (search for books written by G. David Tubbs for quality material on shooting).

The following is how I’ve been trained to shoot prone when using a bipod or a sling. The definition of prone is "lying flat or prostrate."

1. Body is extended and relaxed and the spine is straight.

2. Shoulders should be level. If a shooter is using a bipod, his shoulders should be square to the rifle and his spine parallel with the center line of the rifle. This will allow the rifle to recoil straight back and return to its natural point of aim. If a shooter is using a sling he will lay with his spine at a slight angle, 10 to 15 degrees off-center of the rifle. This allows the shooter to extend his left hand further forward on the stock to support the rifle and allows the recoil to roll through him while still maintaining a good natural point of aim. Also, this will assist in bolt manipulation (Note: Shooters using a sling should not support the rifle with their muscles rather the sling should support the rifle. If a shooter finds themselves supporting the rifle with their muscles they need to adjust their sling.).

3. Right foot lies flat providing more surface contact. If necessary, the right knee may be drawn up slightly to allow more air in the chest. Drawing up the knee is a good position if a shooter is going to be in prone for an extended period of time.

4. While acquiring a sight picture, avoid an excessive forward tilt of the head. You do not want to feel as though you are looking up at your eyebrows; you want to look straight through the scope or iron sights.

5. The right elbow should have nice, solid contact with the ground. If you are shooting a bolt rifle you should be able to cycle the bolt without breaking position. A shooter should practice racking the bolt without lifting their head off of the stock and without lifting any part of their body or rifle off of the ground. For the shooter using a bipod, his left hand will go under the buttstock, grasping the sling and stud or butthook (if the rifle has one) pulling it into the shoulder pocket just below the collar bone. Having a hand under the buttstock also allows the shooter to make slight elevation changes quickly. Using a rear bean bag for extra support should also be considered.

6. The right hand grasps the pistol grip or palm-swell of the stock. There are many techniques to this and it also depends on the type of stock. For the majority of stocks I grasp the palm-swell firmly without clenching to it. I also want my trigger finger to only touch the trigger, not the stock. My goal is to squeeze the trigger without causing my right hand to push the rifle off-target.

In conclusion, focusing on your form is a key to improving your performance. Maintaining the consistency of your form as you shoot will eventually expose your imperfections. Making the necessary corrections and fine tuning your position will naturally increase your speed and accuracy.

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