Hey everyone. I'm trying to learn to shoot from positions well, and I'm finding a greater-than-expected difference between my prone shooting and my sitting. I'm hoping some of you here might be able to help pinpoint my mistakes. I'm posting this here instead of in the Competition shooting forum just because I'm using field positions, not competition ones, and my focus is on practical, not formal, shooting. If this should be posted somewhere else, please let me know (yes, I'm still new around here).
I've only been trying this with the air rifle on the basement range so far, but I suspect I would get similar results in RF or CF.
Prone, I can put 5 shots inside a .5" circle relatively easily, with 4 of the 5 or so overlapping each other. When I go to the sitting position, I'll get two or three inside the black, and the others will be nearly an inch low and a touch right. This happens again and again.
When sitting, the range is about 9M. Prone, it's probably 7.5-8M, because I'm against a wall in my basement and need room for my legs and feet. So yes, the distance is slightly shorter, but not by enough to account for the difference I'm seeing.
So I'm doing something wrong sitting. The shots generally land in one of two places: on target, or low and right. The ones that are off-target are consistently in the same wrong place.
My sitting stance is based on how I understood it in Jeff Cooper's "The Art of the Rifle"; heels on the ground, body about 45 degrees to the target and leaned well forward, upper arms (just above the elbow) contacting the inside of the knees. I try to maintain a consistent cheek weld, though I'm not sure how well I'm doing this.
Another thing: when prone, it feels as though the rifle moves much more when the shot breaks, but it feels like it jumps and returns to its original position. When sitting, the rifle doesn't feel like it moves as much, and I don't get that same "return" feeling.
Any of this give any of you some clues as to what I'm doing wrong in the sitting position? I'm not using a sling, because my air rifle doesn't actually have sling attachment points of any kind.
Rifle is a CZ Slavia 631 spring-piston with the stock iron sights.
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September 9, 2011, 01:36 AM
My opinion about position shooting is finding the feet, legsm elbowm and all the other parts of the body where you are the most stable. What works for one person may not be acceptable for another. This is primarily due to each persons joint limits. An example of this is some people ca sit with there legs under them while others can't. I have extreme diffiuclty extending my legs when in sitting on the floor.
So if you aren;t stable in what ever position change various elements of that stance until you discover what works for your body. I'm not double jointed, some people have extended range of movement as a result.
September 9, 2011, 01:43 AM
Thanks, gamestalker. Whether this is actually a stability issue, a hold issue, a trigger issue, or whatever is still pretty unclear to me. The sight picture when I'm sitting looks nearly as solid and steady as it does prone, and it almost always looks good when the shot breaks. I'm almost, I think, achieving a decent surprise break in both scenarios.
The gun doesn't seem to be wobbling much, or at least, not enough to create the discrepancy I'm seeing. If my position wasn't stable, would one expect the off-target shots to all be landing in the same place? Or would you expect more of a shotgun group?
September 9, 2011, 01:54 AM
The most important part of position shooting is acquiring your natural point of aim (NPA). What this means is when you get into position, we'll use sitting for an example, and you're all "slung up" nice and tight, arms planted firmly on your thighs, you close your eyes and mount your rifle, aiming it at the target. Now open your eyes. If you are in your NPA (which you likely won't be) then the sights should at least be somewhere near the target. If not, make adjustments to your position and/or sling and try again. Repeat until your rifle is pointed at the target when you open your eyes. Do the same for prone.
The reason NPA is so important is that when you don't acquire your NPA, you will be unconsciously bending your body and pushing or pulling on the rifle to get it on target. That is what causes your shots to go to the wrong place.
I shot High Power competition long enough to get my Expert classification and one of the most important things I learned was NPA. Until I got that down, I was constantly fiddling with my sights trying to keep my shots in the 10 ring. Practice acquiring your NPA alot and eventually it will come natural.
A couple of years ago on an elk hunt I had an opportunity at a bull that was 355 yds. away. I had very little time to prepare for the shot and nothing on which to rest my rifle. Without even thinking, I dropped into a prone position, had my sling tight, a good NPA and killing shot off in a matter of seconds. A few years earlier a similar thing happened but this time the bull was running and I only had time to drop into the sitting position, but again, the repetition of competitive shooting paid off. So although positions used in rifle competitions may seem formal, they're very, very practical. Remember, these positions were borne out of the need for our soldiers to hit targets at long distances. As such, they're very applicable in the field.
Another thing that's equally as critical is Follow Through. Very simply, when the shot breaks, you should do your very best to keep the sights on the target. To practice this, the instant after you fire at the target, force yourself to keep the sights on the bull for a second or two. This and learning NPA really caused my scores to climb rapidly.
One other thing to check when using a sling; make sure the barrel is free floated and does not contact the stock in the barrel channel. This because if you're using a good tight sling, as you should be, and the barrel is contacting the wood, when you really get the sling tight, it will pull the forearm tight into the barrel which will change your point of impact.
If you really want to know how to shoot a rifle in positions, I'd strongly recommend this site:
http://www.usrifleteams.com/forums/index.php?act=idx as well as the CMP forums. Just ask questions.
Likewise there's a good article here:
September 9, 2011, 01:31 PM
35 Whelan beat me to it. It is all about natural point of aim. He gave you instructions on how to check it and establish it. Now go and apply it, you'll be glad you did.
September 9, 2011, 02:06 PM
Thanks, 35W and CoalDragger. I'll try that. Could it be that when I'm making NPA errors, I'm making the same errors every time? Would that be why my off-target shots are always in the same place?
I thought I was being fairly aware of my NPOA, but does the prone position sort of "force" you into it more than sitting? I could see that being the case, actually, but I'd be interested to hear the voice of experience on that question.
September 9, 2011, 02:34 PM
Sitting is an easier position to lose NPA in than prone no doubt about it. You have more going on in sitting than prone. In prone all you really worry about is the position of your elbows since for the most part your torso and legs will stay more or less in the same place.
In sitting your ankles, and but are more likely to shift around, not to mention getting your elbows onto the right part of your knees the same exact place every time for support. Simply getting yourself adjusted into a good solid sitting position oriented on the target where you have a good NPA can be pretty difficult.
September 9, 2011, 09:58 PM
My first goal is 1 hole groups. If I don't get that I would take a group with 2 clusters over no clusters. I think yes you had a flaw that you repeated consistently.
I always shot offhand & never tried sitting or prone. So the newness of it showed.
Sitting was my worst position. I worked at it. I tried crossed leg and just could not get it. I went to crossed ankle and that helped. Now I can shoot either about the same. Don't grab the fore end, let is sit in your hand. Do not put you elbow joints on your knee joints. That is like trying to stack two balls. Get some flat muscle on one side of the connection. Make sure the rifle butt placement & cheek weld is consistent. I added a strip of sandpaper the the butt of my air rifle as it was slipping. I index my (trigger) thumb to the rifle & cheek to the thumb. I don't have aperture sights. My front sight blade is nickel so I painted it black, when it starts to wear off I can tell in sunlight.
Also try a square orange aiming point. I mostly shoot on NRA targets (round black) but change them up some times just for fun.
One of my first observations of experienced shooters at a match was they get into position make minor adjustments and bang. I was off, under correct, under correct, over correct, under recorrect, Oh heck the clock is ticking. That guy next to my just shot 3 rounds & I am not comfy yet. Now I am a bit better at getting the NPA quicker. At first from sitting & prone it seems I was working to hard to see the sights. So you know my position was bad.
September 9, 2011, 10:58 PM
WNTFW, thanks for the advice. Sounds like we shoot in a lot of the same ways; for years, all I ever shot was standing/offhand. And I think I actually still do better offhand with the air rifle than sitting.
I'm sitting with my legs open, rather than cross-legged or ankled. Perhaps I could try those. The open-legged position, though, seems the fastest to get into and out of, so it seems the most practical as a field position.
I keep hearing that NPA should be my first priority. So I'll try to master that and go from there. If my problem was sight picture or trigger pull, one would expect the same results from sitting and prone, but that's not the case. So it's got to be something about the position.
I do notice, too, that my off hand (supporting the forestock) actually gets sore rather quickly if I hold the position for too long; it's as though it's not used to stretching that way, but it has to stretch a little bit to get the elbow directly under the rifle. Again, the portion of my upper arm adjacent to the elbow is what is in contact with the inside of the knee, which applies just a little bit of pressure to both steady the arm and keep the elbow directly under the rifle. Is this wrong? To adjust NPA, I shift my feet left and right, and move my left foot in and out to adjust for elevation. Body leans well forward.
September 9, 2011, 11:56 PM
Get into position, aline the sights. Close your eyes and Wiggle the rifle a little. When you open your eyes, the sights should be alined. If not adjust and do it again. For prone the support arm elbow should be as far under the rifle as you can get without over doing it.
September 10, 2011, 11:41 AM
Crossed leg gets your feet/ankle under you knee/thigh. Crossed ankle to a lesser degree. Think of it this way you are trying to get the weight of the rifle to tranfer to the ground and the steadyness of the ground to transfer to the rifle. The less influence you have in between the better. I try get relaxed as possible and any of my leg parts are just something to stack my elbows/arms on.
Repetition does help. I don't get sore any more. The thing with air rifle is you either fully or partially break position on each shot. So there is some relief from position. No recoil to speak of but you do have to reestablish position somewhat on each shot.
Closing your eyes, going through a few breathing cycles and then opening them help check yourself. It still come down to sight alignment and trigger. NPA just helps the good sight picture, squeeze trigger moment last longer and is more repeatable.
Sitting on a sight picture that is good is a mistake. Once it is as good as it gets it is time to shoot. A good sight picture won't get better, so guess where it is heading. Once the shot process starts to break down it is time to back off and start fresh.
September 12, 2011, 10:39 AM
Seated is the position that is the most open to interpretation, since people have so much variation in leg/arm length and body height. What works best for one won't necessarily work best for everyone else. If you master the seated position, it can be just about as stable as prone. It is very practical too, since in the field many times high grass or brush will keep you from seeing the target in prone.
The main variations of seated are cross legged, crossed ankle, and open leg. You have been using open leg. It does indeed work well in the field, say for sitting on a hillside shooting down into a ravine. It isn't really any faster to get into than the other seated positions, though. Interesting that Jeff Cooper teaches to put the flat of your arm behind your knee. You might get away with that with an airgun or a rimfire, but with a center fire, it will knock you off your NPOA more with every shot if you do it this way. If at all possible, you should have your elbows IN FRONT of your knees. When you lean forward and your upper body weight pushes down on your elbows, this locks you into a tighter position and helps to stabilize against recoil if you are shooting a high powered rifle. Some people have long legs and short arms and cannot get their elbows in front of their knees... others are too fat or out of shape. Most folks can do it if they limber up a little and practice their positions. If you can only get one elbow in front of a knee, try to make it your trigger side elbow, since it is affected more by recoil. If you can't its OK, just do it like Cooper describes. The main thing you don't want to do is to have the ball of your elbow resting on the ball of your knee. That is the most unstable of all.
Cross legged is the version I prefer for greatest stability. For cross legged, you sit almost "Indian style" with your legs crossed. however, your legs are not laying flat like with indian style... you have to sort of lock them together with your feet holding them up so your knees stick up in the air a little, so you can get your elbows down in front of them. As for which leg to put in front, I and most others put my trigger side in front; but try it both ways and see what works best for you. Also experiment with how close together your feet need to be to hold your knees at the right height. This position is so stable because when you hunch forward, your upper body weight really locks your elbows, knees, and crossed legs together in a nice tight, self-supporting ball that doesn't take any muscle to maintain.
Another version, which is kind of a cross between the other two, is crossed ankle. That is like open legged, except that you cross your lower legs out in front of you. This locks them together and adds a little stability. Some people find doing it this way makes it easier to get their elbows in front of their knees.
Though it isn't really a seated position, I also might say a word about the kneeling position. I find this to be the most practical position for the field other than standing, and I use it all the time when it is necessary to take a quick shot but I want a little more stability over a standing position. It is a lot quicker to get into than a seated position. It also holds you a little higher than seated, which is good for seeing over obstructions. When kneeling you have your trigger side knee on the ground and sit on its foot. You have your support-side foot planted in front of you with your elbow resting in front of its knee. As for your trigger-side foot, the one you're sitting on, some people can lay it flat and others have to point it, with the ball off the foot on the ground. You should "let your heel hit ya where the good lord split ya." You should "chicken wing" out your trigger-side elbow, since you don't have anything to rest it on, just like you would in standing. This opens your shoulder pocket better.
In all of the above positions, your support hand should be open and relaxed, and not muscling the rifle. your trigger-side hand should be pulling the rifle back into your pocket with just enough force to keep it there (which won't be much, if any, if you are using a sling).
Hope this helps! Man I wish I had an airgun range in my house! That would be some good practice.
September 12, 2011, 12:01 PM
The biggest help I have found for all of this was the 2 day AppleSeed course. The instruction was great and I watched my group size shrink by the hour. Lots of practice from prone, sitting, kneeling, and of course, standing.
September 12, 2011, 02:09 PM
We teach field positions in depth. Here are some ideas