Shooting from an Unsupported Position, A Beginner's Guide
This post may not be the most helpful for experienced shooters, but you're welcome here too. If you are new to the world of shooting or have never used a shooting sling, this will help you see if the role they play fits your needs. I like to think of an accurate rifle in terms of parts. The most accurate rifles are an assembly of accurate and precision made components. Extend this thinking to everything you attach to your rifle and adding a shooting sling makes good sense.
I had a humbling experience one Fourth of July when I was invited by my father in law to attend an annual back yard shooting competition. The target seemed too easy, it is deceptively simple. A piece of paper with four-one inch dots printed on it sits 25 yards away. Five shots are dedicated to each position; standing, kneeling, seated, and prone. Magazines are limited to 10 rounds to require a mag change half way through. My score for the shoot was significantly lower than I thought it would be going into it. I shot 13/20, missing all of the standing shots and two of the kneeling. I had spent most of my shooting practice firing from prone with a bipod and this drill was a reality check for me. There's a good reason most of my practice has been done from prone with a bipod, I shoot better! It's more fun to shoot tight groups at distance, but the truth is that I've never had the time after a shot has presented itself to lay down, deploy a bipod, and get lined up for a shot. Unsupported shooting positions serve as a good reality check for our lead-sled using 1/2 moa grouping egos. So, here is a brief overview of each of the different shooting positions along with some of the benefits and shortcomings of each.
Shooting from a standing position is the fastest in terms of target acquisition to shots on target, but it is also the least accurate. I recommend firing from a standing position when you do not have time to get into a more stable position or if there is something close enough to support from. Accuracy is greatly improved by bracing against something like a tree or fence post if you're lucky enough to have one within arms reach when you need it. Shooting from a standing position is not much improved with a shooting sling. The lack of an anchor point for your support arm once it is looped into a sling minimizes the benefit of the tension placed on the arm. The best thing you can to is drop from a standing position to squatting or kneeling.
The TJ Prone, or Slav Squat, or Rice Paddy Prone is a great position if you have the mobility for it. At a glance it looks uncomfortable and downright off balance, but it works well when done right. The benefits are that it is one of the fastest slung positions to assume. If your feet are stable and somewhat level, you can drop into a squat while looping up. Anchoring the medial head of the triceps on the support arm at the top of your knee provides a good amount of muscle on muscle contact for stability. The downsides of the squatting position are the potential flexibility limitations, your friends may make fun of you, and I found bolt manipulation to be somewhat more difficult, although I am using a Ruger M77 Hawkeye mk2 in this photo (they have a notoriously rough action).
A kneeling position is more achievable in terms of flexibility and is almost as fast to drop into. The anchor point for the support arm is also very similar. Make sure the back of the shooting loop is at the intersection of the rear delt and the long head of the triceps. Your dominant side leg should be either underneath your glutes or behind your body and bracing your torso upright. I prefer *not sitting* on my leg as you can see below. This was the method we learned at designated marksman school and it has stayed with me although ankle position is important. It can get uncomfortable pretty fast if your ankle is in a bad spot.
This brings us to my go-to position for shooting with a shooting sling, seated. I would argue that seated is hands down the most practical shooting position for the widest range of applications. When hunting, I will usually go straight from standing to seated, slinging up once I'm sitting. I find this position works well on uneven ground and will use it on driven hunts where the deer are moving out from cover that is in a draw below my position. With the exception of two animals, all of the deer I have harvested were taken from a seated position. The principles are the same as the previous two positions, ensure a solid anchor point, and proper sling position. The benefit of a seated position is that for most of us, the contact area with stable earth has been greatly increased. Notice the wet spots at my elbow and knee, and how they avoid contact. A good anchor point should be muscle on muscle contact as much as possible.
This brings us to the last position, prone! Some people swear by using a shooting sling in the prone position. I don't shoot very often from prone while slung but I have been working on it. There are two important things to note about the use of a shooting sling in prone. First, a compromise will have to be made in your loop tension. It takes a larger loop to use a shooting sling prone than it does for squatting, kneeling, or sitting. A happy medium can be found where the tension while prone is tolerable and still works in each of the other positions. The second thing to note is that depending on your sling swivel location, the shooting loop may slip lower down your arm. To fix this, tighten the slide down loop keeper onto your arm as pictured below.
The best shooting position is always going to be the most stable position that the situation allows time for. Taking the time to practice with all of them will add those options to your toolkit so you can rely on them when you need to. I recommend dry fire practicing from each shooting position with your shooting sling. Dry fire practice with your shooting sling will improve your efficiency looping up and accuracy from each. As with any handling of a firearm, ensure that the weapon is unloaded before pointing it at anything you do not want to destroy. Follow the 3 rules of firearm safety whenever handling a firearm. If you need targets for dry fire practice we have free targets available under Free Shooter Resources! If you are in need of a shooting sling I recommend one with a lifetime warranty like our RS-1 Reinforced Loop Sling, RS-2 Rifleman's Essential Sling, or our RS-3 Cross-Body Carry Sling.
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