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Thumb Position for Bolt Action

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by 9mmepiphany, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

    Dec 27, 2002
    northern california
    Where do you put the thumb of your shooting hand when you're shooting a bolt action rifle with a semi-pistol grip...like on a Remington 700 or Savage 110?

    I've seen folks who grip the semi-pistol grip with the hand wrapping around behind the back of the bolt and I've seen folks who lay their thumb on the stock on the same side as their shooting hand.

    I figure it might be akin to folks shooting a pistol where some shoot thumbs forward and others lock down their thumbs.

    Is there a correct way?
    Is there a trade off between the styles?
    Is there a reason other than, "That's the way I was taught?"

  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Sep 17, 2007
    Eastern KS
    Most anyone with experiance shooting military bolt-action 03 Springfields will probably favor laying the thumb on the right side of the stock.

    If you don't, you may get a bloody nose from your thumb hitting your nose every shot.

    As for the more modern design stocks with pistol grips, go with whatever feels best to you.

  3. Wheeler44

    Wheeler44 Well-Known Member

    Feb 15, 2007
    It is possible to induce "muscle" by wrapping the thumb around the stock...Much less likely to "muscle it" with the thumb on the same side as the trigger finger....
  4. Hud

    Hud Well-Known Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Central California
    rcmodel is spot on (as usual).
    My Dad bought an Enfield No. 5 Jungle Carbine in 1960 ( I was 15).
    It only took about 3 shots & a busted upper lip to determine that it wasn't a good idea to wrap my thumb over that straight combed stock. Didn't much like the steel framed, rubber mallet recoil pad either.
  5. stubbicatt

    stubbicatt Well-Known Member

    Aug 23, 2007
    Laying the thumb along the right side of the stock (for right handers) does reduce the tendency to muscle the rifle, as said Wheeler 44. That or along the top of the stock gently laying there behind the striker, with a bit of "pinch" to make trigger manipulation easier.

    Experiment and see what works for you.
  6. Bart B.

    Bart B. Well-Known Member

    May 20, 2008
    There's an easy way to find out what's best. Doesn't requre shooting any ammo so you can do it at home.

    Put your rifle atop rests on a table then find something outside to aim at. A door knob on the house across the street is excellent. Or a knot in your neighbor's tree a hundred yards away. I used the hole in a bird house about 70 yards away to do this years ago.

    Hold the rifle with your thumb at one place, then carefully dry fire a few shots noting how the rifle jumps/wiggles when it fires. The scope's reticule will bounce around the aiming point a bit.

    Do this for a dozen or more shots with your trigger hand thumb over the pistol grip and straight out in front on its side. You'll soon learn why top competitive shooters wrap their thumb over the top of the pistol grip for better trigger control. Especially with the heavier trigger pulls. Works well with bolt action as well as semiautos. The key is to only move your trigger finger without gripping tighter with the thumb and other fingers. A firm grip, not a tight one, is typically best.

    One other thing....if you're one of thousands who flick your finger off the trigger as soon as the firing pin's released, that'll make the rifle jump even more. Keep pulling back with the same force after the firing pin's released; this is called "follow through." In actual shooting, don't take pressure off the trigger until you've stopped moving from recoil. If you can't tell whether or not your're a finger flicker, have someone watch you dry fire. It's not nice to wiggle your rifle while the bullet's going down the barrel by flicking your trigger finger.

    Best way I know of to learn good follow through with ones trigger finger is to use a handgun with a flat topped front sight. Cock the gun, place an empty .22 rimfire case atop the front sight then gently squeeze the trigger to dry fire the gun without the case falling off the front sight. When you can keep the case atop the sight ten times in a row, you've mastered follow through.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2010

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