So we’ve talked a lot about positional shooting lately. Especially, as I’ve been preparing for my first national level match in a while. We’ve talked about the importance of dry fire. What we haven’t done much of is talk about positional shooting itself. What positions are commonly encountered? Which sort of props or obstacles you might be likely to encounter at a match? How do you approach them? These are all topics that will take some time to hash out. So this will be another multi part series! For this week, we’re just going to get started!
I don’t know where the term came from but that’s what it’s usually referred to. It means taking a shot at a target at an extended range from a position other than prone. My first experience with this was when Competition Dynamics was running the Sniper’s Hide Cup years ago. They were sort of infamous for designing stages where you couldn’t engage targets from the prone position. This forced people up off their belly and into other positions. As these were “field” style matches you often saw people employing tripods to help get the height they needed to clear obstacles.
With the advent of the Precision Rifle Series, and now the National Rifle League, we have points race style match series that have advanced positional shooting even farther. The national level matches that make up these different organizations always feature a healthy dose of positional shooting. Gone are the days of shooting an entire match from the prone position. These days you encounter a number of props and obstacles. Vehicles, Hay Bales, Rocks, Ledges, Barricades, Fences, Bar Gates, 55 Gallon Barrels, and the like are all pretty common.
Positional Shooting Positions
You can still break all this down into some basic shooting positions. Standing, Kneeling, Sitting, and Prone. There are variations of those depending on the obstacle or prop used for a stage. Then you get into things like high and low prone or high and low kneeling, etc. The four basic positions, though, are the tools you have to address the stage. Then there are tricks to help make your shots more stable. The process of picking a shooting position and employing tricks to add stability is often referred to as “building a position.” When you see people try this out the first few times it can be slow and painful to watch!
I’ve seen people time out on stages without firing a shot because they were struggling to build a solid position. Never forget there are some strategic considerations to make if you get into competition. Why burn through all your time trying to build a position to engage a single target when there are other targets available you could engage from the prone? We’ll get into some of that stuff in later parts of this series. Likewise I’ll show you guys some of the tricks I use that I’ve picked up along the way to add extra stability!
Positional Shooting Basics
If you’re looking for an excellent book on the topic, I suggest you check out The Practical Shooter’s Guide, by Marcus Blanchard. He does an excellent job breaking down the different positions and how to add stability to each one. He also goes over a number of basic core concepts that I wholeheartedly agree with. For example, the farther you get away from the ground the less inherent stability you have to work with. Pretty straightforward right? Sitting is less stable than prone, kneeling less than sitting, etc. As you move away from the ground you have less support for the rifle.
That puts more of the responsibility for stabilizing the shot on the shooter. This is where you get into things like using bone support versus muscle support to stabilize a shot. As you get away from the prone position we all love so much, you need tricks to aid stability. How can you add points of contact? Are there ways to stabilize an otherwise unstable shooting position? The answer is yes. He’s got a lot of good information in the book. The age of social media has been helpful as well. I’ve picked up a couple tricks just checking out photos from matches. You’ll see a guy using a tripod a different way or supporting the rifle in a seated position different than you normally do it. Try it!
Break out the rifle and try some of what you’re seeing other guys do. This is one reason I advocate participating in competitive shooting matches as often as your schedule and budget allow. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also the single greatest teacher there is. Experience will trump just about anything else out there. You can read about and practice stuff all day. Nothing will help you learn faster than actually doing it, on the clock, with some pressure added into the mix!
This is just a primer. As I work on a lot of what we’ve discussed getting ready for a match at the end of April I’m going to get some photos and maybe some video for you guys. Then I’ll try to break down the different positions and explain them. Then I can try to show you some tricks to add stability to those different positions so when you encounter them, you have a plan. That said, get out there and try it! Try as much of it as you can! Watch what other people do. You will see a wide variety in how different shooters approach the same problem. Note which ones score better and maybe try their way if you didn’t have a plan of your own! Questions or comments? Drop em below!