We’ve been talking a lot about tripods and positional shooting lately so today we’re going to discuss controlling the wobble zone. The testing of the higher end tripod upgrades continues and you will be hearing more about that soon. However, the wobble zone is a topic that’s worth discussing since it’s something you deal with during any positional shooting work. Essentially, what we’re discussing is the size and path of reticle drift when shooting from an unstable position. It follows a fairly predictable pattern but the size and speed of the wobble zone will vary depending on the stability of the shooting position. Lets get to it!
The Wobble Zone
We all know what it is and recently I’ve seen it described as the wobble zone. It’s an excellent way to describe the arc of movement that the reticle follows while you attempt to hold the rifle on target from an unstable position. In general it follows a sort of lazy figure eight pattern. Say you were standing and taking a shot at a steel plate at 350 yards. As you assume your standing position and sight in on the target through the scope it is impossible to hold the reticle perfectly still. It is an inherently unstable position. So how do you deal with it? There are a number of tricks to help you install some stability into the position but even the best standing offhand shooters know there’s movement to be expected.
The reticle tends to drift left and right with a slight up and down component on the far left and right edges of the pattern. The more stable the position the slower the speed of the reticle drift and the less extreme the upward/downward components. The thing we all need to remember is that the fundamentals apply to every shooting position. The less stable the shooting position, the more important the fundamentals become. If you apply them correctly you can reduce some of the instability and apply some tricks to enhance your accuracy.
Wobble Zone NPA
Possibly the most important of the fundamentals when shooting through the wobble zone is natural point of aim. In order to enhance your accuracy keep natural point of aim in mind. As you assume your firing position and you see the reticle drifting, note the point in the middle. It will swing left and then right but somewhere between the left and right edges is the middle. That is your natural point of aim. You want to try and align your body and rifle so that the majority of the reticle drift is over the target and it only drifts off at the extreme edges.
Just like if you lay behind your rifle in the prone position, you don’t want to muscle the gun onto the target. If you find that you’re only drifting onto the targets on the extreme edges you need to shift your body and rifle as one unit. Just like the little toy green army men. Don’t torque the gun over by twisting your body to align the reticle with the target. If you do that the rifle will try to snap back to the natural point of aim under recoil. Move the rifle and your body as one so that the middle of the figure eight, where you natural point of aim is located, is aligned with the middle of the target. Ideally, even as the reticle drifts through the wobble zone it will only drift off the target on the extreme edges. Then it’s up to you to break the shot while the wobble zone is hovering over the target!
Stabilize the Wobble Zone
Adding stability to the wobble zone is essentially the same process regardless of the shooting position. It’s what we’ve all been doing already and the same tricks you’re probably already using work. If you can stuff a bag between a thigh and calf while kneeling or use a pack to stabilize your elbow on a kneeling shot you will add stability to the position and reduce the severity of the wobble zone. It’s all about points of contact and reducing areas where your body is floating in space and relying on muscle strength.
If you do any reading on the subject, instructors will tell you two things help add stability to shooting positions more than anything else. You want to try and rely on bone support, not muscle, and add points of contact between your body and and the ground. What’s that mean? Think of bone support like this; if you’re standing and shooting off a high wall, locking your knees puts your body weight on your bone structure. If you have a bend in your knees you are using your muscles and tendons to maintain your stance. You can do the same thing with your arms by locking an elbow and leaning on it. You can add bone support in a kneeling position by resting your elbow on a knee and using the upper arm between the elbow and shoulder to lean on. Joints tend to be unstable areas, so try not to rely on joint strength for stability when you can.
Adding points of contact helps as well. If you have to rest the rifle on something small in a standing or high kneeling position see if you can wedge a bag in under the grip or magazine so the rifle is resting on the bipod and a second point of contact. If you can rest your chest against what you’re shooting off of, do so, it adds another point of contact. Marcus Blanchard, an accomplished PRS shooter wrote a book on this very topic called the practical shooters guide. I would put it on the AccuracyTech recommended reading list for anybody interested in competitive shooting as he addresses positional shooting specifically and ways to add stability to your position. Any stability added means a smaller wobble zone and enhanced accuracy on target!
Remember the keys to reducing the wobble zone. Check your natural point of aim and if necessary, adjust it. Add as many points of contact between your body and your rifle and the ground or a stable surface as possible. Try to utilize bone support rather than muscle whenever humanly possible so you aren’t relying on a muscle that’s fatiguing for support. The more tired those muscles become, the less stable you can hold your position. A big part of this is practice guys. You get better at it as you do it, so get out there and shoot! If you have any tips of your own or questions about this article, drop them below in the comments!