Please dont read into this too much - its just what I have found worked for me and may work for someone else too.
When folks talk of precision shooting, they are usually referring to shooting from the prone position. 3 years ago, after I fired my last shot of slow prone in my first NTI match, my score keeper, Staff Sgt. Boyd(USMCR Team, High Master) handed me my score card and pointed out every point dropped due to my inconsistent position. She said, shooting back here(600yds) is all position, it should be no work at all other than pulling the trigger.
Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to get advice and pointers from the best long range shooters in the world, along with several local folks who know what they are talking about. I was going over my notes from the LRFS(Long Range Firing School) and though perhaps I can write up what been going through my head the last few years and save folks some aggravation. Most anything I have read or seen about shooting prone is centered around High Power, but it relates to all shooting and I’ll use a scoped/bi-pod AR10 as my example(pretend its an AR15)..
Position is everything, and you want to set up your rifle with equipment in a way to make the proper position as easy as possible to achieve. Its really easy with the AR platform to make things difficult for yourself with the wrong equipment. Almost every day I look at pictures of peoples “precision” setups, and think to myself, someone needs to set them straight if they ever want to hit anything. I’ve seen people at the range with the most awkward setups and have offered advice, which is at times appreciated, and other dimes completely ignored as they are showing me the one “nice” group they shot of their last 50 shots. But, they probably ignore me because I’m some stupid looking kid
Consistency is the KEY to accuracy
Think of a position you can lay on floor and comfortably watch TV for hours. When you are in position with your rifle, you should be able to fall asleep, and when you open your eyes still be on target.
Keep your spine straight, and your shoulders square to your body. The angel to the target will be determined by your Natural Point of Aim(usually around 15 degrees).
Your head should be as upright as possible, look through the scope naturally out of the center of your eye socket. You don’t want to aim across the bridge of your nose, and you don’t want to look through you eyelashes - you don’t want to strain your eyes.
One eye open, both eyes open, what ever works for you.
The weight of your head rests on the stock with CONSISTANT pressure. Don’t “put” your head against the stock, don’t push your head forward, and don’t pull your head back. Rest it where it naturally rests. I was taught to roll my head down onto the stock. It feels a bit odd at first, bunching up the skin on your cheek(chipmunk cheek), but as your cheek bone contacts the stock the same every time, you’ll notice the time you don’t do it “the same way”. Again, Consistency is king.
(right handed shooters)
The left leg is an extension of your spine, stick it straight back. Toe pointed in and the heel should not be forced to the ground. Let it rest, relax.
Draw up your right leg with your knee bent. This will put most of your body weight on the left side of your body. The further you draw up your knee, the more weight is transferred to the left side. Find what’s comfortable for you. This also lifts your chest and stomach off the ground. This facilitates breathing, reduces pulse transmitted to your rifle.
The left arm should be to the left of the rifle. I bend my arm in, and place the stock into my shoulder – I don’t move to the rifle, I put it to my shoulder. I shoot low, so I can comfortably use my hand as a support if needed. I don’t use sand bags, as I want to practice as I shoot, and I don’t know many people who carry those big sand bags around with them. If they work for you – go for it.
The right elbow should be at a comfortable distance from the body to maintain the shoulder at the desired height. You want to grip the pistol grip with just enough pressure to control the trigger. Find what’s comfortable for you and do it the same every time.
The butt of the stock should be low in your shoulder and close to your neck. Remember, put it in your shoulder in the same place every time. Position the rifle as you would naturally. If you have a bubble level on your rifle don’t worry about it being “centered”, its not there to center your rifle, its there as a reference point. If you position the rifle with a cant, just note the location of the bubble and shoot each shot with the same cant. Yes, cant will effect the impact – but its your rifle, so learn where it will shoot. Its easy to practice, just cant it over one way, and make note of where you hit.
Natural Point of Aim is need to be consistent from shot to shot.
With a good prone position, the rifle will be pointing at the target without using ANY physical force. With a good prone position, the rifle will be pointing at the target without using ANY physical force. With a good prone position, the rifle will be pointing at the target without using ANY physical force. With a good prone position, the rifle will be pointing at the target without using ANY physical force.
If you have to muscle the rifle in any way to the target, you will not do it consistently, and you will exhaust yourself very quick.
What I found works best for me is to lay down, pick up the rifle and aim at the target. When I’m close, I’ll slowly lower the rifle onto the bag or bi-pod. From here I’ll fine-tune my position and natural point of aim.
Put the rifle to your shoulder and look through the scope. For a major left or right correction, leave your left elbow plated as a pivot and move your hips left or right as necessary. Elevation changes are handled by moving your hips forward or backward against your planted left elbow.
Now make the fine adjustments. Shake the rifle a bit and make sure it settles in the same position. If you don’t settle your position now, recoil will settle it for you later. Moving your hips a bit can refine elevation. Some people will use a beanbag to squeeze/release for elevation changes. This will give no consistency as you are changing the position of the stock in your shoulder. Don’t move the rifle, move your entire body. You may not be able to hold that bag with the right pressure for 45 minutes, but you body will comfortably stay in a good prone position easily for 45 minutes.
Finer adjustments can be made when you are ready to take the shot by controlling the air in your lungs. DO NOT use your right hand to make ANY changes, that variance in pressure will effect your point of aim.
Verify all contact and pressure points. Make sure everything is comfortable and feels right. Take your time, this should not tire you out at all. If you feel strained after a few minutes, you’re not in a good natural point of aim position.
Dry fire a few times, this will help settle your position the rest of the way.
Everyone is familiar with bone support and muscle relaxation for a steady enduring position. As relaxed as you are, there will be some muscle tension. These are your grip, tension to pull the trigger, and your neck, to keep your head from rolling off the stock. If you totally relax, you head will roll off the stock.
Besides constant pressure on the rifle, you need consistent tension in your body. This is required for consistent recoil. The rifle is already recoiling before the bullet exits the muzzle. You may have had a perfect sight picture when you pulled the trigger, but different pressures and tension will affect the shot. Follow through with every shot; do everything the same – consistency.
You’ll know if you are doing it right or not when you watch through your scope at clay pigeons busting 630yds away as you through from shot to shot. The first time you do it, it will be one of those “so this how you do it” feelings I know it was an eye opener for me.J
You need to be as near motionless as possible when you make the shot, you will have to stop breathing. Figure out what works best for you, inhale, exhale, and let out half a breath, whatever… I exhale all I can of what’s in my lungs before I pull the trigger. This is consistent for me as I know when its all gone. I cant tell when I’ve let half or three quarters out. Don’t forget to breath; never hold you breath for more than 10 seconds. I count 3 Mississippi’s, and if I haven’t taken the shot I start over again. The counting Mississippi’s also distracts me from “thinking” about pulling the trigger.
Front sight squeeze; squeeze the trigger without disturbing the sight picture. When the brain sees a good shot the trigger finger subconsciously squeezes the trigger rearward until the rifle goes bang. A simple action, but not a natural action. You will naturally cringe from the bang, and anticipation of recoil, along with the natural tendency to grab the trigger when the sight picture is perfect.
Good trigger control is a learned action, learn it, and practice.
In a precision AR, I’ll assume you have a 2 stage trigger. Take up the first stage before refining the sight picture. When the sight picture is good, increase pressure until it goes bang. Hold the trigger back and follow through. Too fast on the trigger and you’ll grab at it, too slow and you’ll lose the picture or run out of breath. The more you practice, the more natural it will become. You want this to become an automatic action, not deliberate.
Here I am test firing a SPR upper before it goes out to CRANE. This is the most common mistake I see people make when setting up a scoped/precision AR. A standard rifle scope with eye relief for a bolt gun stuck on the A4 receiver. Its not as bad shooting from a bench with my head upright, but prone would be bad. To see through the scope I have to strain to hold my head back so I can get a sight picture. I’m hitting a 10” plate 340yds away every time, but sometimes 3MOA just isn’t “good enough”.
Here’s the other bad idea for a scoped AR. Bad for all the reasons mentioned above, you can see how far back is head is pulled, and his shoulders are basically under his ears. Even with the bi-pod and sand bag, he’s straining. Also note his feet wiggling around on his toes - another consistancy killer. This guy must be experimenting, to his credit he shoots a bolt gun in F-Class(as I like to call - prone bench rest) very well.
As my head is rolled onto the stock, you can see the flesh on top. Remember to rest your head on the stock where it naturally wants to go. Don’t let the placement of your optics determine your position – as seen in the first two pictures.
Work on your position, so everything lines up. If you have a friend with you have them look at your position. You may feel fine, but from above it may be obvious your stock is not fitting, as your shoulder is too far back or forward. If you stay in position long enough, your muscles will tell you which ones are working too hard.
When looking through the scope, look straight through the center of your socket. Make sure your rifle is set up so you can comfortably stay in your position.
The AR platform must be the easiest rifle to set up wrong with magnified optics, do some homework, and explore all your options.