In part one of this blog series, we covered why choosing the right caliber and scope are important for firing a rifle offhand. Now we’ll get into the right firing positions and drills needed to master firing a rifle offhand.
These drills are necessary to master any rifle. They are also very useful for personal defense. You may have an advantage in personal defense with the rifle, but only if you have mastered the rifle.
I consider all of these drills offhand shooting, as they are not accomplished by firing from a benchrest position.
Position and Shot Placement
Prone fire is the most stable and, not surprisingly, you may fire more accurately with the prone position than from rest (if you do it correctly). Line the rifles bore center with the supporting structure of the body, the spine, lined up as nearly as possible.
Recoil energy will be absorbed by this structure. This natural support makes for a very solid firing position. The gun stock will be solidly placed in the shoulder. The support hand is for forward on the forend without the arm touching the rifle.
Keep the rifle steady, but not so hard a hold that your body shakes. You are firing one shot that must strike the mark and this means a steady trigger press, straight to the rear. Some trigger actions are heavier than others.
First, take up the travel of the trigger and then slowly press the trigger straight to the rear. Keep the trigger to the rear for a moment then release it and allow the trigger to reset.
Remember that a slight movement such as breathing may move the crosshairs and throw the shot off. Don’t forget accuracy is how close you are to the object you are firing at. Precision is the closeness of the bullets to each other on the target.
A properly sighted rifle should hit the target at 200 yards. That is accuracy. A precision rifle will place its shots into 1 MOA at 100 yards.
Sighting and Trajectory
To properly sight the rifle, fire a group at 100 yards. If the group is splayed about the target, something is wrong. If the group is 2 MOA or less, you are shooting to the rifle’s accuracy potential. Observe the center of the three-shot groups you have fired.
Then adjust the scope so that the center of the group is in the center of the reticle. Elevation is moved up or down, windage left or right. Many of us prefer a sighting in a process that gives us a rifle that is sighted for an inch or one and one-half inch high at 100 yards.
This depends on the caliber and allows the shooter to easily maintain a good probability of getting hits to 200 yards. Understand the rifle’s trajectory and fire your load and rifle to confirm.
Hash marks on the reticle should be memorized for holdover or hold under at various ranges. As an example, the kill area of a deer-sized animal is generally regarded as eight inches.
I prefer to err on the side of caution and the range, at which you may get all of your shots in an eight-inch circle from a field position is the deadly range for the rifle and shooter. For some, it may be 150 yards, for some a little more.
When firing offhand, the butt of the rifle must be firmly toed into the shoulder. The hand grasps the semi-pistol grip or pistol grip and the support hand pulls the stock back into the shoulder. The body is bladed to the target.
The support hand is as far forward as possible—but don’t touch the gas block. It gets pretty hot. Surprisingly, accurate fire may be done from the bladed standing position, but I have found that for most shooters, the standing position’s accuracy deteriorates rapidly.
For a few aimed shots, the standing position is an excellent field position. But it isn’t for sustained fire. Remember always bring the eye to the sights as the rifle is held rigidly, not the rifle moving to the eye. Keep your feet a shoulder apart.
The offside leg is slightly forward. The knees should be flexed, allowing them to act as a shock absorber. The upper body is always more rigid than the lower body. Standing barricade isn’t much different.
I prefer not to lay my body against the barricade or wall, opting for the ability to move out of the barricade quickly if needed. Using a tree for support in the wild translates well.
When you are firing from the barricade, be certain not to rest the barrel’s muzzle against the support. This may cause the shot to go wild.
The Kneeling Option
Another firing position that is useful in the field is the kneeling position. This position may be adopted quickly with sufficient practice. The stance begins with the firing side knee dropped to the ground. The support (or weak side) knee is raised.
The support side elbow is placed on the upraised knee, just forward of the point of the knee in the ideal firing position. By kneeling back at a severe angle on the support side foot, you may have an even more stable position.
If you are too heavy or stiff to do this properly, a great deal of work is ahead of you.
As I have often said, if you are responsible for the safety of others and cannot perform simple drills on demand due to a lack of practice, the family, friends or children that rely on you are pretty much lost.
Age Is Just a Number?
I am no longer young and the drills more difficult than ever. I can master bench rest firing just fine, but then again, who cannot? When moving into the prone or kneeling position, the bones creak.
Arthritis and old injuries from battles with protein-fed ex-cons have left my joints sore and probably in need of replacement. I have learned to throw my hips and body when rising. Working this into my shooting drills is in the works.
When firing from prone, it isn’t difficult to rise by shoving my hands under my chest and pressing up. I’m thankful my upper body isn’t racked by such injuries and problems.
One last tip: when firing from cover, do not fire from a position in which the spent cases may strike cover or a barricade and bounce back into the ejection. It happens.
Rifle marksmanship isn’t easy, but it is essential. Practice getting into the firing position and dry fire as much as possible. Then practice with the real thing and master the rifle. It may be the best gunmetal friend you have ever had.
Do you have any other tips for firing a rifle offhand? Let us know in the comments below.