Rifle Marksmanship

Seven Factors Common To All Shooting Positions



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In addition to the three elements of a good shooting position, there are seven factors that are common to all shooting positions. The seven factors affect your ability to hold the rifle steady, maintain sight alignment, and control the trigger.  The way these factors are applied differs slightly for each position, but the principles of each factor remain the same.  It is important to become familiar with these common factors and how they apply to each shooting position.

Note: The following procedures are written for right-handed shooter; left-handed shooters should reverse directions as needed.

  • Left Hand
    • In all positions it is desirable that the hand guard of the rifle rest in the "V" formed by the thumb and index finger of the left hand. The left wrist is straight with the rifle resting across the heel of the hand. The left elbow should be positioned under the rifle to create bone support and a consistent resistance to recoil. The fingers can curl around the hand guard, but should apply only the minimum amount of pressure to prevent the hand from slipping on the hand guard, the configuration of the body in the different positions will affect the placement of the left hand along the hand guard.

  • Rifle Butt in the Pocket of the Shoulder
    • Place the rifle butt firmly into the pocket formed in the right shoulder. This reduces the effect of recoil, helps steady the rifle, and prevents the rifle butt from slipping during firing. Although the exact placement of the rifle butt in the shoulder will change from position to position, consistent placement of the rifle butt in the shoulder pocket within each position is essential to firing tight shot groups and maintaining a true zero.

  • Grip of the Right Hand
    • The pistol grip or stock is grasped firmly with the right hand, and the forefinger is placed on the trigger with the thumb and remaining fingers wrapped around the pistol grip or stock. Firm rearward pressure should be exerted to help keep the rifle butt firmly in the shoulder, reducing the effects of recoil. The trigger finger should be placed naturally on the trigger and care should be taken to ensure that the trigger finger can move independently without dragging on the side of the receiver. A proper grip allows the trigger to be moved straight to the rear without disturbing sight alignment.

  • Right Elbow
    • The right elbow should be positioned naturally to provide balance to the position. If the elbow is correctly positioned, it helps to form the pocket in the right shoulder where the rifle butt rests. The exact placement of the elbow varies with each shooting position but should remain consistent from shot to shot, ensuring the resistance to recoil remains constant.

  • Stock Weld
    • The placement of the cheek against the stock should remain firm and consistent from shot to shot. Consistency of stock weld is achieved through proper placement of the rifle butt in the pocket of the shoulder. A firm contact between the cheek and the stock enables the head and rifle to recoil as a single unit. This provides quick recovery between rapid fire shots, keeps the aiming eye centered in the rear sight aperture, and prevents the head from bouncing off the stock during recoil. Eye relief is the distance of the eye from the rear sight aperture. A correct shooting position will determine the distance between the eye and the rear sight. Although the distance from the rear sight to the eye varies between positions, consistent eye relief within each position is essential to accurate shooting.

  • Breathing
    • Breathing causes movement of the chest and a corresponding movement in the rifle and its sights.  To minimize this movement and the effect it has on your aim, learn to control your breathing and extend your natural respiratory pause for a few seconds during the final aiming and firing process. When firing rapid fire shots, it may be necessary to take small short breaths to produce a respiratory pause between each shot. The respiratory : pauses help to maintain natural point of aim, however, holding your breath too long may lessen your ability to maintain focus on the sights.

  • Relaxation
    • Relaxation prevents undue muscle strain and reduces excessive movement. If proper relaxation is achieved, natural point of aim and sight alignment are more easily maintained.

2003 GySgt Gregg White (Ret.)    Contact E-Mail