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Shooting in the prone position.
Accurate shooting is all about getting rid of any factors that will cause the bullet not to go where it was aimed. In an ideal world the rifle is held absolutely steady when aimed at the target and does not move even the smallest amount until the bullet has struck the target and this can be achieved for every shot.
In the real world this does not happen, but there are things we can do to help us get nearer to an ideal world.
The 4 principles of marksmanship.
Hold: getting yourself into a comfortable position that allows you to support the rifle firmly.
Natural Alignment: by positioning your body correctly the rifle wants to naturally point at the target. If you get this right you can have your rifle aimed exactly at the centre of the target, close your eyes, take a couple of breaths and when you open your eyes again the rifle is bang on target.
Aim: looking through the sights so your eye is always looking through the same place on the rear site and seeing the same sight picture through the front sight. Remember to focus your eye on the front sight not the target.
Shot Release: only the index finger moves and that only moves backwards. no force is applied to the rifle that may cause it to move to the right or left.
Applying the 4 principles.
The following assumes a right handed shooter, for left hand just read right for left.
When shooting you need to be comfortable with as little stress to any part of your body as possible. The first thing is to lie down behind the rifle so when the rifle is picked up and held in the aim position it points naturally at the target.
Looking at the diagram you can see that the body is between 5° and 15° to the line drawn from the muzzle of the rifle to the centre of the target. The body is tilted slightly onto the left side by pulling up the right knee so that the thigh is at about 45° to the spine. If you pull your leg up too far then too much weight will go onto the left elbow. This position also rolls the abdomen off the ground and stops your breathing becoming restricted and shallow. If possible both feet should be pointed to the right. The left elbow is almost but not quite under the rifle with your shoulders being at least 60° to the rifle. If you look carefully you can see that your body is a series of triangles. With the help of a well fitting shooting jacket and sling you should now be in a comfortable and stable position.
So far we have got into the basic prone position. Now we want to tweak our position to achieve natural alignment.
With the rifle in the aim position the left elbow is almost under the rifle. The rifle is laid across the palm of the hand with the fingers and thumb of the left hand lightly gripping it and supporting the majority of the weight. The left arm and right shoulder provides the alignment of the rifle to the target. The right arm and hand is there to provide a trigger finger but should not be taking much of the weight or interfere with the aiming. If the right hand is taken off the rifle the sights should stay upright; if they fall to the right move the elbow to the right. If it falls to the left move the elbow to the left. With the right elbow out to the right to allow the right hand to grip the rifle comfortably, the rifle is lightly gripped and the top of the index finger is touching the trigger. Imagine your left elbow is fixed firmly to the ground: it cannot move. If you want to shoot accurately you will make sure it does not move until you have finished the detail. Looking through the sights you should see the target. If the aim point is low shuffle your hips backwards: if it is high shuffle your hips forwards. If the aim point is left or right, shuffle your hips left or right.. For small amounts of left/right adjustment you can bend or unbend your right leg slightly. When you are completely relaxed and you are bang on target then you have reached a point of natural alignment. This can be tested in a couple of ways, first close your eyes breathe in and out a couple of times. When you open your eyes you are still on target. Secondly with your eyes closed get a friend to push the muzzle down about 25 mm (1”) and release wait a second and open your eyes - you should still be on target.
The next step is to get the head and the sights right. The head should be as much as possible at 90° to the barrel of the rifle so you are looking straight through the sight with your eyes in their naturally relaxed position. Looking through the sight with your head tilted forward or at an angle can cause the muscles of your eye to become fatigued and cause the shot to be misplaced. Put your cheek on the comb of the rifle and look through the rear site. Get the feel of it. Notice where your cheek comes and what the sight picture looks like because if you want to shoot consistently that's where you need to put it next time. Some people put bits of sticky tape on the comb so they have something to feel against their cheek. Now looking through the rear sight focus on the front sight, it is much easier to align a slightly out of focus target with a clear sharp foresight than the other way round. This only leaves breathing. Unfortunately we cannot stop breathing for more than a few seconds so it is important that we control it carefully. As you breathe you will notice the end of the barrel rising and falling. You want to be lined up with the bulls eye about half way through a breath.
Now for the moment of truth - releasing the shot. With the target lined up as much as possible, breathe in and out, in and out, in and halfway out and hold. Making any final adjustments to the aim gently move the tip of the index finger backwards slowly but firmly. If you snatch the trigger the shot will be misplaced. Remember there is a significant delay between the message leaving your brain to fire and the bullet leaving the muzzle therefore you must not alter your aim or position. This is called the follow through and is very important to accurate shooting.
Regardless of where the bullet strikes the target, use the right hand to reload. Try to move as little as possible - remember consistency is doing every thing the same again. If the bullet holes are very close together then you are getting it right and the sights can be adjusted to put all the shots through the centre of the target. If they are spread out load and shoot again and look carefully at your technique to try to see where you are going wrong. Get someone to watch you.
Information on this page is from personal experience and from information I picked up on the NRA Club Instructors Course.