Unconventional shooting positions are one of the most widely debated topics in both competition and the hunting realms. Some shooters blindly ignore the fact that they may ever need to shoot their rifle from something other than a bench while others practice shooting off of the most bizarre contraptions on a regular basis. But who is right? Most likely neither is 100% correct but we are going to dissect the discussion and try and get a better understanding on why it is important to practice unconventional positions, but only after you have mastered the basics.
The virtues of the bench/prone
I know the eye rolls have already started. After shooters become slightly competent at rifle marksmanship a lot of them tend to look down on the individuals that still shoot from the prone or off of a shooting bench. But there are very few things that allow you to isolate the fundamentals of marksmanship like a bipod prone or bagged positions on a shooting bench. The only thing that isolates them better is off hand standing (que more eye rolling, but this is a topic for another day).
The basics of marksmanship are not skills that, once mastered, can be ignored. They require regular maintenance and perfection just like anything else, they are absolutely a perishable skill. A few drills each time you go to the range is all you need to maintain those skills at a proficient level. There is a reason there are multiple disciplines of marksmanship dedicated to the mastery and application of only the fundamentals.
A 10M air rifle, for example, is shot indoors, with no wind or environmental factors, with the use of specialized clothing to minimize movement and are too close for minor MV variation to affect their shot placement. Every shot they pull off of center is 100% due to their application of the fundamentals of marksmanship.
That is what makes that discipline so difficult, they have nothing to blame but themselves.
The fundamentals tend to get overlooked as soon as we add in unstable or odd positions, when in fact they are more important than ever. Things like proper trigger control and breathing can have a far greater impact on shot placement when combined with unconventional positions.
The Virtue of barricades
Barricade shooting has become more and more prevalent for people who use firearms professionally in recent years. So much so that the US Army recently started a barricade qualification course of fire that all soldiers are required to shoot on an annual basis. This is partially due to the input of competition disciplines such as 3-gun and PRS, but also because as tactics change people are realizing the benefits of utilizing your environment for support as well as cover.
To do this properly and quickly takes training and practice.
This doesn’t just apply to the tactical or competition environment, but the hunting environment as well. The ability for a hunter to quickly establish a position on a log, boulder, or tree branch could be the difference between filling the freezer or listening to your spouse complain about you being gone all day and having nothing to show for it….again.
As we have progressed with barricade shooting the bar keeps getting pushed to more and more bizarre and unstable props. Matches have had everything from cones, to engineer stakes to yoga balls. The issue with this is that it is getting away from the purpose of barricade shooting and pushing it to a gimmick of “how difficult can we make it”.
If a prop is too unstable in a realistic situation, then the shooter just wouldn’t use it, they would move on to a more stable position that had a better chance of success.
The other issue this causes is that newer shooters are now focusing more time on preparing themselves for crazy barricades and props instead of focusing on mastering the fundamentals and making good wind calls, which is actually the purpose of the sport.
Whether you are a hunter, or a longtime competitor, it is important to push your limits and challenge yourself with realistic shooting positions. If you are a long range hunter, it might be better to focus on tripod positions, while a PRS shooter may need to practice even more unconventional positions.
The slogan for Hog Saddle is a very apt saying for practical long range hunters or competitors.
“A shot is rarely taken from the prone.”
Mastering the fundamentals is only one of the steps on an arduous path that is long range proficiency.