Long Gun Accuracy — Stop the Wobble

By Bob Campbell published on in Competitive Shooting, How To, Safety and Training

When it comes to rifle shooting, fast hits are what counts in hunting and personal defense scenarios. When sighting in the rifle from the benchrest, we have all of the time in the world. Recently, I sighted my personal M1A1 with Leatherwood scope in from the rest and enjoyed 1 MOA groups with Federal MSR Fusion ammunition. I cannot expect a fraction of this accuracy when firing off hand at the 100-yard line.

This shooter is at a steep angle as far as the cover goes but the shoulder and muzzle are in line.

This shooter is at a steep angle as far as the cover goes but the shoulder and muzzle are in line.

I have some experience hitting small targets at known and unknown distances. You must have an investment in time and ammunition to build this skill. The rifleman must learn to assume the kneeling position, rollover prone, and firing from the barricade position in order to maximize his accuracy and limit the wobble as he fires.

In a personal defense situation, or when confronting an active shooter, there should be horizontal or vertical support somewhere if the geography is inhabited versus a field situation. This may mean God-grown trees, man-made buildings, or even vehicles. There should be something available to brace the rifle and prevent wobble.

This will greatly increase our accuracy potential. While most personal defense situations occur at modest range, when you factor in a moving target and adrenaline dump, you need all the bracing possible. The brace of opportunity may be a light post or a delivery truck. Therefore, we should be aware of the proper use of bracing and how to make hits from such a brace.

Bracing against a pole using a rifle sling

The combination of a sturdy sling and a solid rest makes for excellent accuracy potential.

With the simplest firing brace, you will be able to fire about as accurately as from a solid benchrest firing position. As an example, many shooters are able to fire MOA groups from a benchrest, but this is reduced to perhaps 4-5 MOA from a standing position. When you really need the rifle, you will probably need only one shot, and that initial brace will be vital.

The important thing when using a support is to keep the shoulder lined up with the wall and the rifle sights aligned with the eyes. The line from the shoulder blade to muzzle should be straight. The firing-side foot should be in line somewhere between the butt plate of the rifle and the trigger. This makes for an excellent overall firing position.

If kneeling and maximizing cover, you may wonder which knee is up. The fact is either may work well as long as the firing elbow or support elbow is in contact with the knee that is up. I usually use the weak side knee, because that is what I have done for many years. However, I find that when the cover is low, I am better served with the firing knee up and the support elbow riding forward and a bit down on the knee.

Bob Campbell shooting a lever action rifle braced against a post

Firing from a sturdy firing position, a lever-action rifle may be fired quickly. Note the spent case in the air.

When firing the .223, I see too many shooters counting on that instant second shot. Well, that instant second shot isn’t as fast as you think, and a miss can send either a coyote or an active shooter scurrying before you are able to get off a second shot. And some of us still rely on the super-accurate, hard hitting .308, or whatever we have on hand to solve a problem.

If you fire, and it takes longer to get back on target and you observe motion in the red dot or reticule as you recover from recoil, perhaps your position isn’t as solid as you think. Think solid, but avoid muscle tremor. When the muscles are tight, they will begin to tremor within a few minutes of assuming the firing position.

The support hand firing position is different when firing from a supported position. The shoulder socket hold and cheek weld are not. When firing from a braced position, you will place the flat of the stock—whether a synthetic stock or a quad rail—on the support. It may be a wall or a thin tree. The hand may be placed small finger up and use the thumb and forefinger as a brace. Or, you may run the fingers down the forward portion of the stock and the thumb over the top as you brace if the support is under rather than to the side of the support.

Law enforcement officer shooting from behind a concrete wall using a bipod

This LEO shooter is making the most of cover. (Courtesy Colt.)

Remember, the support is supporting the rifle instead of the body, which is the point of assuming the braced firing position. The use of a good sling such as the Blackhawk! tactical sling makes for a steady firing position, and it is much better when using the braced firing position. Try different supports, and align the sights in dry fire. As an example, there may be times when the support will only accept the muzzle and muzzle brake, or you may not be able to brace the rifle at all, but you must use the hand or forearm to accomplish the brace.

Summary

Use a braced position whenever possible and practice movement and firing accurately. While the braced position is good to use, it isn’t perfect unless the shooter practices.

Do you have a tip to stop the wobble? Share it in the comment section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (6)

  • Steve Lawrence

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    I now avoid all use of slings as a support. I also always try to get my support as close as possible to the breech. Reasons? Most notably in “assault rifles, many slings mount on the side. Others, like AR cause monstrous shift of poa with sling pressure. The liklihood of getting the same pressure each time, zero. Also, the AR even with free float handguards has massive shift relative to where the horiz support is on the handguard. Compensate for a shift of poa when supported via rest or sling will result in shift when offhand, or when the support shifts or changes.
    Slings worked great when we were shooting o3a3’s but with msr and assault rifles, many if not most will shift poa.
    Regards

    Reply

  • Mike

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    Keep in mind the top photo shows concealment, nothing like cover. Cover is protection from a bullet. Most can go through plywood.

    Otherwise good article.

    Reply

  • Joey Fletcher

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    The shooter that is on the steep angle can not hit the broad side of a barn……unless this was a pose photo.

    Anyone that shoots knows you can NOT rest the free floated barrel of any rifle on the muzzle. But an AR rifle is the worst. It does not have the size to hold up the weight of the rifle much less than a man holding down to steady.

    Try to post true info

    Reply

  • Michael

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    Military training taught prone, kneeling, and from a fox hole.

    Growing up in agricultural eastern Washington, I learned tree, fence post, rock, sloped ground, or a wadded up jacket. Anything affixed to the earth give a great shooting support.

    Coyotes, badgers, foxes and feral dogs are opportunistic hunters and know that birthing time is a banquet.

    I learned to depend on terrain to provide cover and a stable shooting platform. Being successful at killing coyotes will tune your shooting skills better than any made up scenario involving a fixed target. Get out in early spring through June and help ranchers protect their livestock. Approached with common sense and communicate safety and you’ll probably be welcomed with gratitude.

    There’s great pleasure in hitting your quarry at 1,000 yards or, calling one in to 15 yards and dispatching it with a pistol or shotgun.

    Our practice usually centers around clay pigeons at 500 yards. It takes 1/2 moa shooting to hit one every time. I can’t do that unsupported.

    Reply

    • R K campbell

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      Excellent comments thanks for reading.

      Reply

  • 70's Ops

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    Nice article. This is valuable information for all shooters, but especially for novice and intermediate shooters.
    Using available static objects, plus a nice bi-pod, and yer in there. I always preach “real world” practice, and this fits nicely.
    As you find different objects and positions, you’ll begin to find the ones that work best for you. If you are comfortable, you’ll get off much better shots, with nice quick 2nd shots. You know if yer too heavy to fold in certain ways, or too old, or medically unable to attain certain positions. Its all improv. But try to stay within what you know are your limits and you’ll see the difference on paper, or hear it on steel. Of course, adding adrenaline and fear can change things dramatically. That’s why so much practice, with so many different bracing options. Soon you’ll be a “black belt”. Remember its ALL time behind the controls. It takes 10,000 hrs to master a skill.

    As always
    Carry on

    Reply

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