Gun Firing Positions - Do You Know All of Them?

Your gun firing position is an essential shooting element.

Perhaps the best way to underscore the value of good shooting positions is to highlight other examples in different activities where getting the basics right is crucial.

Have you ever observed a new home under construction?

When the builder is constructing the basement, he goes out of his way to ensure that the footings are sturdy and level. No matter how well-made the upper porting of the building is, the house is destined for problems with a flawed foundation.

When trying to accurately shoot your rifle, no matter how good your breath control, sight alignment, or other basic shooting skills are, you’ll struggle to take an accurate shot if your firing position isn't correct.

How have you positioned your rifle barrel? Where are your knees located? Are you sitting or standing?

This post gives an overview of the various firing positions and how to execute them correctly.

The Four Gun Firing Positions

If you've ever been to a shooting range, you can look forward to a few things.

For instance, you can expect a rundown of firearm safety rules, but once every piece is in place, the dialogue around shooting positions begins.

The instructor will emphasize your foot spacing, hand positioning, knee bending, and so on.

Why is your shooting position so vital? Why does the conversation move from gun safety to body positioning so fast?

Well, because how you position your gun will determine everything. You'll lay a solid foundation if you get the standard rifle firing positions right.

Further, with proper rifle positioning, you'll experience gains throughout your practice session.

That said, there are four basic shooting positions as follows:

The Prone Position

The prone position delivers the most body support. It is the most accurate shooting position.

Because it is the sturdiest to build, it is the best position to master the basic hunting skills — aiming, trigger squeeze, breath control, and follow through.

The prone is the bread and butter of good marksmanship. It removes the most variables by keeping you low, with most body contact on the ground. Prone shooting positions are great for long-distance shooting because of their stability.

The underlying problem with prone, however, is that it’s slow to relatively slow to get into and out of.

In addition, the surrounding vegetation or terrain can block your shot. In hunting, for instance, your sight can end below logs, the tall grass of a fold in the earth.

There are two variants of the prone — supported and unsupported prone.

Unsupported Prone

The fundamental point to note with unsupported prone is that you want to avoid using muscle power to brace your gun. Instead, build your shooting stance and position on your left elbow if you’re a right-handed shooter.

Lay down on your stomach with your left elbow planted on the ground for this position. Place your gunstock in your cheek and plant your other elbow in the dirt. Unsupported prone builds upon the contact between your left elbow and the ground.

Supported Prone

If you’re carrying a backpack, place it on top of a rock or log to brace your rifle. Avoid placing your rifle directly on a solid project. If you don’t have a backpack, you can use your jacket or folded hat to provide support.

Then, build your position like you would with an unsupported prone position. It is extremely important to use your left elbow — or your dominant hand's elbow — as a fixed brace in the supported prone firing position for more stability.

The Sitting Position

Many hunters prefer this position when sitting against a tree.

While there are several variations of this position, cross-legged with your elbows planted on your knees is the most stable and versatile.

Like prone, this position can be unsupported or supported.

Here’s how to complete a shot placement in the unsupported sitting position:

  • Sit in a cross-legged position, 45 degrees from your target. Focus on establishing bone-to-bone contact.
  • Position your non-dominant element on the same side of your knee
  • Wrap your arm around the sling to hold your gun
  • Sock the stock into your shoulder width
  • Aim at your target. Relax your body as much as possible. Shoot

For a supported seated firing position, you can leverage the help of equipment like a bipod and tripod. Both are telescopic, easy to set up, and most importantly, can fit in your hunting backpack.

The Kneeling Position

The kneeling position is fast and stable when executed properly. Once mastered, it can pay massive dividends out in the hunting fields.

Further, this shooting position is easy to get into and doesn’t require much flexibility. Besides, it enables you to keep your rifle in a ready position while standing. As a result, you take quick follow-up shots without taking your eyes off the target.

To pull off an unsupported kneeling position correctly:

  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, facing your target squarely
  • Place your left foot in front of your body with your toes facing the target
  • Bend your right knee and plant it on the ground
  • Drop your torso to achieve a rigid posture as you sit against your rear leg — Ensure your legs are perpendicular to each other.
  • Plant your left arm’s back against the front of your left knee to enable you to establish your position from bone-one contact
  • Shoot

To get out of this position, rise with your gun in ready position, the muzzle at eye level. That way, you make a quick follow-up shot if need be.

You can use a tripod or bipod to achieve a supported kneeling position. You only need to ensure your tool’s stance is solid enough for accurate aiming.

The Standing Position

The unsupported standing position is the most difficult position to pull off.

With no support apart from your muscles is also the least effective for accurate shooting over long distances.

On the flip side, the standing firing position is the quickest to adopt. On top of that, it offers the best visibility of your target, especially in a dense thicket.

To pull off a standing shooting position correctly:

  • With your feet, roughly shoulder width apart, stand perpendicular to your target. Keep your knees soft and your legs straight.
  • If you’re a right-handed shooter, use your non-dominant hand to support your rifle and vice versa. Keep your hand perpendicular to the rifle, with your forearm resting in the supporting palm. You can plant the supporting elbow on your ribcage or hip.

For a supported standing firing position:

  • Choose a tool that extends high enough.
  • If you’re using a tripod, ensure it is at shoulder level for a solid stance.
  • Avoid using your muscles to position your rifle. The support should hold your gun in position.
  • Ensure the position is as natural as possible for an accurate shot.

The Bottom Line

Mastering these four shooting positions will enable you to cleanly and ethically harvest the game under different circumstances.

Remember, while these positions are favored in different parts of the world, there's no "best" shooting position for all hunting situations.

Each position has its upsides and downsides, and it's up to you to decide which position allows you to pull off the most accurate and ethical shot.

You'll, therefore, want to practice and master each position. That way, you can quickly achieve the most appropriate firing position and make a clean, ethical and accurate shot when it matters.

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