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4 Basic Rifle Shooting Positions: Fundamentals + Variations

Rifle Shooting Positions

Got yourself a rifle and you’re not trying to shoot your shot at a target?

You’ve come to the right place! Here we discuss the 4 basic positions for shooting, and how to take advantage of each one.

With the target in our heads, let’s begin!

The 4 Basic Rifle Shooting Positions for Marksmanship and Long-Range Shooting

When you’re a hunter, it’s pretty common to not have any gun rest time. In these situations, it’s essential to assume one of the four different shooting positions.

In the end, even without any rest from keeping your guns upright, you don’t want to miss your shot.

But hey, the position you choose could still depend on the visibility of your target.

So how exactly are you supposed to choose which position number to go with? That’s what we’re here for — to build your confidence in practice!

Whether you’re going to use a rifle or a shotgun for hunting, these are the shooting positions you need to learn and master.

Let the hunting and trigger battles BEGIN!

#1 Standing Position

Let’s begin with the most difficult of the four positions? Just to get it out of the way as early as possible.

The Stand Position: Difficulty Level

The position where you’re standing is the more challenging of all the four positions, simply just because there won’t be any other support apart from your own muscle strengths.

And yes, you read that right. And it should be pretty obvious, too.

You’ll be standing on your own, so there’s nothing to lean on to — so it’s not a steady position to work with.

The Stand Position: Effectivity and Efficiency on Target

Apart from being the most difficult, this position where you stand also happens to be the least effective for long distances. That is, the point of this shot is to only use it for more short-range shots.

It’s the quickest position to adopt, and it allows you and your fellow hunter to get a good sight picture of your target. Think of it as an instant vantage point, for example.

The Stand Position: Stances, Hand, Elbow, Arm, and Target

To achieve accurate shooting during hunting with this position, stand perpendicular to the hunting target, with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart. Keep that stance strong on the grass, and the more your bullet shoots directly.

Of course, that’s assuming you’ve been doing some practice shooting.

Right Handers: Body Position and Target Sight

For right-handed hunting shooters, your left hand (or support hand) should be holding the fore-end stock, and your elbows should be pointing towards the grass.

In this position, the body should be aligned as follows: right hand holds the grip, with elbows pointing outwards.

Butt of the rifle? Keep it snug against your shoulder.

And once you’re ready to fire in this standing position, don’t forget to keep your finger off of the trigger until then! Then again, that is the rule of every shooting hunter.

#2 Kneeling Position

The next position we’ll get into is the popular kneeling position!

The Kneeling Position: Body Alignment for Every Hunter

In the kneeling position, the rear knee is placed directly on the grass, with the other leg supporting the elbow of the forward arm.

Think of it as using your leg as a support for both your target arm and firearm, if you’d like.

But you have to remember that in the kneeling position, the elbow should NOT be placed on the kneecap. At least, not bone to bone!

As a shooting hunter trying to keep hand in hand with their fast target, you don’t want to wobble before you even get that shot in.

Instead, your shooting elbow should be placed on the muscle just above your knee.

What’s that called? Right, the quadriceps.

The Kneeling Position: Times to Use for Shooting

This is a position you’ll commonly see when hunters take a waist-high cover, for relatively good sight alignment with their hunting target.

#3 Sitting Position

Ever seen a fellow hunter practicing their shots as they lean against a tree? This is the position they’re most likely to use, then!

Providing the most theoretical amount of rest, the sitting position allows both arms to be supported.

Even then, every hunter must still remember that there should be no direct contact between the elbow and the kneecap.

Keep the elbow holding the rifle barrel just above the kneecap to prevent any wobbling. This is your supporting arm.

What’s good about the sitting position is you’re able to sit down with either your legs apart or with your legs crossed. How do you position yourself depending 0n the trigger situation?

Find out through tons of practice shooting.

Another option you could take with the sitting position is to wrap your arm around your knee and rest the fore-end stock on your arm (which should now be sitting at a bent angle).

#4 Prone Position

Next of the basic shooting positions is everyone’s favorite: the prone position! Commonly seen in shooter video games, the prone position is actually the most accurate and stable position of the four positions and angles.

However, the low angle which is in practice during this position may limit your shooting sight alignment. This is especially true if your sight is blocked by tall grass or grass in between.

On the downside, this shooting position also requires the most rifle shooting time to assume. That is, it’s not as easy to drop down directly to the ground, as compared to standing up for a trigger squeeze.

MUST-READ: When you’re performing a shot with a prone position, one of the things you should take note of is the muzzle of your rifle (and your shooting rifle barrel).

With your body on the ground, shooting hunters can’t help the greater risk of having your ammunition wasted on having contact with the ground or being lodged with a spot of dirt or mud.

Most of the time, you also don’t want to attempt to stand up while holding the rifle in this position.

As you move on from your shots, place the shooting rifle on the ground before standing up. Pick the rifle up once you’re in a standing position, and pay special attention to the muzzle.

No one wants the course of the bullet to go elsewhere.

Hasty Sling: Shooting Technique for All Shooting Hunters (Use at All Times!)

Every hunter (whether left-handers or not) knows that one way to steady shots when you don’t have any gun rests is to use your rifle sling.

But how exactly?

How to Perform a Hasty Sling: Step-by-Step Guide

Use your rifle string to create tension between your shooting arm and your rifle. The good thing about this technique is that you can use it in not just one position, but all of the 4 positions previously mentioned!

Each of the positions has their own charm, but it doesn’t hurt to have a bit more hunting accuracy and support in there during the shooting season.

So how exactly are you supposed to perform a hasty sling order without noise and eyes losing focus?

Hasty Sling for Right Handed Shooting Hunters

Unfortunately, the hasty sling tends to be a little confusing for shooting beginners, even with all kinds of shooting positions. So let’s begin with how to do this technique for a right-handed shooter, shall we?

Step 1: Rifle Out

If you’re right-handed, you want to hold the rifle out with your right shooting hand. At this point, let the sling hang down.

Step 2: Left Arm Through the Opening

Afterwards, place your left arm through the opening that was formed between your shooting rifle and your sling.

Now, raise the left arm up, and behind the sling. You should be able to feel some tension and support at this part of the process.

Step 3: Grasping the Shooter Rifle

Afterwards, simply slip your hand back over the sling, and grasp the fore-end stock of your bullet rifle.

Step 4: Keep Usual Shoulder Width Apart in Practice

With your usual shoulder width (in practice), shoulder the rifle, and your bullet should be ready to shoot out with great accuracy!

Checking if You Got the Technique Correctly

Like we said, there are quite a few steps that require your hands to be all over the place. IN fact, some beginners may lose sight of the sling as they go.

How do you know if you did it right and the support is at the correct place?

Here are a few parameters to check!

Parameter 1: Tension

Well, if the sling is at its correct length (enough for support), the resulting tension when you shoulder your rifle should steady your shooting hand.

Parameter 2: Sling Against Your Chest

More than that, however, the rear sling swivel should also cross your chest. At least, when your rifle is held against your shoulder.

Parameter 3: Sling Wrap Around Position

Providing you a good site for rest, the sling will be wrapped around the outside of your left arm, somewhere nearby the elbow. In hindsight, it will pass over the crook of your arm, and then inside your forearm.

How to Perform the Technique in the Best Way Possible, in All Shooting Positions

With a variety of ways in which you could loop your arm, it’s only right that you make sure you’re doing the right thing!

On that note, here are a few pointers and criteria that you, as a shooter, can double-check!

Criteria 1: Shooting Position

One of the good pointers to keep your eyes on as you do this is to make sure that your shooting position is not cramped.

Criteria 2: Adjusting? No Thanks

It would also be best for the sight of your bullet if you don’t find the need to adjust your shooting position as you perform this useful technique.

Criteria 3: Comfortability and Line of Sight

This should be comfortable, snug, and make you feel the safety of the technique.

With some loops all over the place, there’s no doubt that this should be practiced just as much, if not more than whatever shooting position you seem to be weak at.

After all, the key to the rifle, making a good shot, and being comfortable in a shooting position is constant trial and error.

Just make sure to keep your muzzle guarded as you do so.

BONUS: Shooting Supports

When making an accurate shot, the support available for your rifle is just as important as the shooting position that you decide to take.

So here are a few accessories that you could use to support your trusty rifle, especially when you’re out of rest during the shoot!

Bipods

Bipods are simply two legs that attach the rifle for rest and support.

Other models of the bipods have telescoping legs which could be used for kneeling positions. In fact, they’re incredibly stable and a very much recommended tool to have.

But when you’re pointing each gun out, don’t forget that bipods mean you have an extra weight to carry around as you hunt.

Would you choose consistent accuracy and support over comfortability as you run? Your pick!

Shooting Sticks

Another accessory that you can consider are shooting sticks!

These are simple and straight support legs that support each of your guns but also collapse for easy carrying.

The thing with the shooting stick is you don’t necessarily have to buy it. You could actually improvise with a stick or any solid object that you find in the shooting trails for a solid rest and support.

Which of the Four Shooting Positions Provides the Least Support?

When working with a firearm, support is CRUCIAL.

While all the shooting positions have their very own uses, it’s still wise to be aware of which has the least support. That way, you’re able to find a way to make up for it.

The position which provides the least support for your firearm? It’s the STANDING position.

In this position, you’re standing with no other support but your muscle weight. And this makes it a challenging feat to take a hold of your target.

With enough practice, however, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue!

BONUS TIP: It also helps to learn and get used to aiming and shooting with both eyes open to be prepared for any situation.

Conclusion

When aiming for a target, knowing how to position yourself in such a way that maximizes your ability is the KEY.

If you’d like to improve your handling even further, perhaps it’d even be a good move to check in with the NRA!

Which position is your favorite?

About the author

Christopher Wade

Christopher Wade is a true outdoorsman. After spending most of his career as a firearms expert and instructor in Nebraska, he retreated to the great outdoors to enjoy retirement.

Christopher’s expertise in handling firearms and hunting gear are what propelled him to create the Shooting Mystery blog. He hopes for all readers to gain useful and practical knowledge for enjoying their time outdoors.