Best Rifle Shooting Skills for Accuracy

Stability

Stability is the ability of the Soldier to create a stable firing platform for the engagement. The Soldier stabilizes the weapon to provide a consistent base from which to fire and maintain through the shot process until the recoil impulse has ceased.

This process includes how the Soldier holds the weapon, uses structures or objects to provide stability, and the Soldier’s posture on the ground during an engagement. A stable firing platform is essential during the shot process, whether the Soldier is stationary or moving.

This chapter provides the principles of developing a stable firing platform, describes the interaction between the Soldier, weapon, the surroundings, and the methods to achieve the greatest amount of stability in various positions. It explains how the stability functional element supports the shot process and interacts and integrates the other three elements. Stability provides a window of opportunity to maintain sight alignment and sight picture for the most accurate shot.

 

SUPPORT

Stability is provided through four functions: support, muscle relaxation, natural point of aim, and recoil management. These functions provide the Soldier the means to best stabilize their weapon system during the engagement process.

The placement or arrangement of sandbags, equipment, or structures that directly provide support to the upper receiver of the weapon to provide increased stability. This includes the use of a bipod or vertical foregrip, bone and muscle support provided by the shooter to stabilize the rifle.

Support can be natural or artificial or a combination of both. Natural support comes from a combination of the shooter’s bones and muscles. Artificial support comes from objects outside the shooter’s body. The more support a particular position provides, the more stable the weapon.

  • Leg Position. The position of the legs varies greatly depending on the firing position used. The position may require the legs to support the weight of the Soldier’s body, support the firing elbow, or to meet other requirements for the firing position. When standing unsupported, the body is upright with the legs staggered and knees slightly bent. In the prone, the firer’s legs may be spread apart flat on the ground or bent at the knee. In the sitting position, the legs may also serve an intricate part of the firing position.
  • Stance/Center of Gravity. The physical position of a Soldier before, during, and after the shot that relates to the firer’s balance and posture. The position/center of gravity does not apply when firing from the prone position. The position/center of gravity specifically relates to the Soldier’s ability to maintain the stable firing platform during firing, absorbing the recoil impulses, and the ability to aggressively lean toward the target area during the shot process.
    • Firing Elbow. The placement of the firing elbow during the shot process. Proper elbow placement provides consistent firing hand grip while standing, sitting, or kneeling, and provides support stability in the prone position.
    • Nonfiring Elbow. The Soldier’s placement of the nonfiring elbow during the shot process supports the rifle in the all positions.
    • Firing Hand. Proper placement of the firing hand will aid in trigger control. Place the pistol grip in the ‘V’ formed between the thumb and index finger. The pressure applied is similar to a firm handshake grip. Different Soldiers have different size hands and lengths of fingers, so there is no set position of the finger on the trigger. To grip the weapon, the Soldier places the back strap of the weapon’s pistol grip high in the web of his firing side hand between his thumb and index (trigger) finger. The Soldier’s trigger finger is indexed on the lower receiver, well outside the trigger guard and off the magazine release to prevent inadvertent release of the magazine. The firing hand thumb (or trigger finger for left-handed firers) is indexed on top of the safety selector switch. The Soldier grasps the pistol grip with his remaining three fingers ensuring there is no gap between his middle finger and the trigger guard.
    • Nonfiring Hand. Proper placement of the non-firing hand is based on the firing position and placement of the non-firing elbow to provide the stability of the weapon. Placement is adjusted during supported and unsupported firing to maximize stability. The non-firing hand is placed as far forward as comfortable without compromising the other elements of the position or inducing extreme shooter-gun angle.
      • The nonfiring hand supports the weight of the rifle by grasping the fore arm. It should be a firm but relaxed grip. In all positions it should be as close to the handguard as naturally possible to aid in recoil management.
      • If possible, the firer should strive to have the thumb of the nonfiring hand provide downward force on the handguard. The pressure will provide the necessary force to assist in the management of the muzzle rise from recoil.
      • In all positions it should be as close to the end of the handguard as naturally possible to aid in recoil management.
      • Due to limited space on current MWS rails the above may not be possible but consideration should be given while mounting lasers to achieve an extended grip.

Butt Stock. Correct placement of the butt stock in the firing shoulder will aid in achieving  a solid stock weld. Side to side placement will vary

depending on equipment worn while firing. The butt stock is placed high enough in the shoulder to allow for an upright head position.

  • The vertical placement of the butt stock will vary from firing position to firing position. A general guideline to follow is: the higher the position from the ground, the higher the butt stock will be in the shoulder.
  • The term “butt stock” refers to both the butt stock (M16-series) and collapsible butt stock (M4-series) for clarity.
  • Stock Weld. Stock weld is the placement of the firer’s head on the stock of the weapon. Correct stock weld is critical to sight alignment. The firer rests the full weight of the head on the stock. The head position is as upright as possible to give the best vision through the aiming device. It allows for scanning additional targets not seen through the aiming device.
    • When establishing the stock weld, bring the rifle up to your head, not your head down to the rifle. The firer’s head will remain in the same location on the stock while firing, but the location may change when positions are changed. The bony portion of the cheek placed on the stock is the basic starting point. Soldiers adapt to their facial structure to find the optimal placement that allows for both sight alignment and repetitive placement.
    • Figure 6-1 shows the differences in head placement, which effects sight alignment. The firer on the right is NOT resting the full weight of their head on the stock. The picture on the left shows the skin of the firer’s head being pushed down by the full weight of their head. This technique can be quickly observed and corrected by a peer coach.

 


Note. Soldiers’ bodies vary with the amount of flesh and the bone structure of the face. Firers who apply downward force simply to achieve the appearance in the correct (left) image in figure 6-1, on page 6-4, will not have relaxation and will not have a repeatable placement. The goal is to have alignment with consistent placement.


 

Stock weld
Stock weld

 

MUSCLE RELAXATION

Muscle relaxation is the ability of the Soldier to maintain orientation of the weapon appropriately during the shot process while keeping the major muscle groups from straining to maintain the weapon system’s position. Relaxed muscles contribute to stability provided by support.

  • Strained or fatigued muscles detract from stability.
  • As a rule, the more support from the shooter’s bones the less he requires from his muscles.
  • The more skeletal support, the more stable the position, as bones do not fatigue or strain.
  • As a rule, the less muscle support required, the longer the shooter can stay in position.

NATURAL POINT OF AIM

The natural point of aim is the point where the barrel naturally orients when the shooter’s muscles are relaxed and support is achieved. The natural point of aim is built upon the following principles:

  • The closer the natural point of aim is to the target, the less muscle support required.
  • The more stable the position, the more resistant to recoil it is.
  • More of the shooter’s body on the ground equals a more stable position.
  • More of the shooter’s body on the ground equals less mobility for the shooter.

 

When a Soldier aims at a target, the lack of stability creates a wobble area, where the sights oscillate slightly around and through the point of aim. If the wobble area is larger than the target, the Soldier requires a steadier position or a refinement to their position to decrease the size of his wobble area before trigger squeeze.

 


Note. The steadier the position, the smaller the wobble area. The smaller the wobble area, the more precise the shot.


 

To check a shooter’s natural point of aim, the Soldier should assume a good steady position and get to the natural pause. Close their eyes, go through one cycle, and then open their eyes on the natural pause. Where the sights are laying at this time, is the natural point of aim for that position. If it is not on their point of aim for their target, they should make small adjustments to their position to get the reticle or front sight post back on their point of aim. The Soldier will repeat this process until the natural point of aim is on the point of aim on their target.

 

RECOIL MANAGEMENT

 Recoil management is the result of a Soldier assuming and maintaining a stable firing position which mitigates the disturbance of one’s sight picture during the cycle of the function of the weapon.

The Soldier’s firing position manages recoil using the support of the weapon system, the weight of their body, and the placement of the weapon during the shot process. Proper recoil management allows the sights to rapidly return to the target and allows for faster follow-up shots.

 

SHOOTER–GUN ANGLE

The shooter gun-angle is the relationship between the shooter’s upper body and the direction of the weapon. This angle is typically different from firing position to firing position and directly relates to the Soldier’s ability to control recoil. Significant changes in the shooter-gun angle can result in eye relief and stock weld changes.

Note. Units with a mix of left and right-handed shooters can take advantage of each Soldiers’ natural carry positions, and place left-handed shooters on the right flanks, and right-handed shooters on the left flanks, as their natural carry alignment places the muzzle away from the core element, and outward toward potential threats, and reduces the challenges of firing when moving laterally.

 

FIELD OF VIEW

The field of view is the extent that the human eye can see at any given moment. The field of view is based on the Soldier’s view without using magnification, optics, or thermal devices. The field of view is what the Soldier sees, and includes the areas where the Soldier can detect potential threats.

CARRY POSITIONS

6-12. There are six primary carry positions. These positions may be directed by the leader, or assumed by the Soldier based on the tactical situation. The primary positions are—

  • Hang.
  • Safe hang.
  • Collapsed low ready.
  • Low ready.
  • High ready.
  • Ready (or ready-up).

 

HANG

Soldiers use the hang when they need their hands for other tasks and no threat is present or likely. The weapon is slung and the safety is engaged. The hang carry should not be used when the weapon control status is RED. The reduced security of the weapon may cause the mechanical safety select lever to unintentionally move to SEMI or BURST/AUTO.

 

Hang carry example
Hang carry example

 

 

SAFE HANG

The safe hang is used when no immediate threat is present and the hands are not necessary. In the safe hang carry, the weapon is slung, the safety is engaged, and the Soldier has gripped the rifle’s pistol grip. The Soldier sustains Rule 3, keeping the finger off the trigger until ready to engage when transitioning to the ready or ready up position.

In this position, the Soldier can move in any direction while simultaneously maintaining his muzzle oriented at the ground by using his firing hand. This carry provides control of the weapon, flexibility in movement, and positive control of the weapon’s fire controls.

 

Figure 6-3. Safe hang example
Safe hang example

 

 

COLLAPSED LOW READY

The collapsed low ready is used when a greater degree of muzzle control and readiness to respond to threats or weapon retention is necessary (such as crowded environments). In the collapsed low ready, the firing hand is secure on the weapon’s pistol grip. The non-firing hand is placed on the handguards or vertical foregrip (see figure 6-4).

This carry allows a Soldier to navigate crowded or restrictive environments while simultaneously minimizing or eliminating his muzzle covering (flagging) by maintaining positive control of the muzzle orientation.

 

Collapsed low ready example
Collapsed low ready example

 

 

LOW READY

The low ready provides the highest level of readiness and with the maximum amount of observable area for target acquisition purposes

In the low ready position, the weapon is slung, the butt stock is in the Soldier’s shoulder, and the muzzle is angled down at a 30- to 45-degree angle and oriented towards the Soldier’s sector of fire.

Firing hand is positioned on the pistol grip with the index finger straight and out of the trigger guard. The thumb is placed on the selector lever with the lever placed on safe. From this carry, the Soldier is ready to engage threats within a very short amount of time with minimal movement. 

Observation is maintained to the sector of fire. The Soldier looks over the top of his optics or sights to maintain situation awareness of his sector. The Soldier’s head remains upright.

 

Low ready position
Low ready position

 

 

HIGH READY

The high ready is used when the Soldier’s sector of fire includes areas overhead or when an elevated muzzle orientation is appropriate for safety (see figure 6-6). The high-ready carry is used when contact is likely.

In the high ready, the weapon is slung, the buttstock is in the armpit, the muzzle angled up to at least a 45-degree angle and oriented toward the Soldier’s sector of fire— ensuring no other Soldiers are flagged.

The firing hand remains in the same position as the low ready. The non-firing side hand can be free as the weapon is supported by the firing side hand and armpit.

This position is not as effective as the low ready for several reasons: it impedes the field of view, flags friendlies above the sector of fire, and typically takes longer to acquire the target.

 

High ready position
High ready position

 

 

READY OR READY-UP

The ready is used when enemy contact is imminent. This carry is used when the Soldier is preparing or prepared to engage a threat.

In the ready, the weapon is slung, the toe of the butt stock is in the Soldier’s shoulder, and muzzle is oriented toward a threat or most likely direction of enemy contact. The Soldier is looking through his optics or sights. His non-firing side hand remains on the hand guards or the vertical foregrip.

The firing hand remains on the pistol grip with the firing finger off the trigger until the decision to engage a target is made.

 

Ready position or up position
Ready position or up position

 

 

STABILIZED FIRING

The Soldier must stabilize their weapon, whether firing from a stationary position or while on the move. To create a stabilized platform, Soldiers must understand the physical relationship between the weapon system, the shooter’s body, the ground, and any other objects touching the weapon or shooter’s body. The more contact the shooter has to the ground will determine how stable and effective the position is. The situation and tactics will determine the actual position used.

When a shooter assumes a stable firing position, movement from muscle tension, breathing, and other natural activities within the body will be transferred to the weapon and must be compensated for by the shooter.

Failing to create an effective platform to fire from is termed a stabilization failure. A stabilization failure occurs when a Soldier fails to:

  • Control the movement of the barrel during the arc of movement
  • Adequately support the weapon system
  • Achieve their natural point of aim.

These failures compound the firing occasion’s errors, which directly correlate to the accuracy of the shot taken. To maximize the Soldier’s stability during the shot process, they correctly assume various firing positions when stationary, or offset the induced errors with other firing skills during tactical movement.

As a rule, positions that are lower to the ground provide a higher level of stability. When the center of gravity elevates the level of stability decreases as shown in figure°6-8.

 

Firing position stability example
Firing position stability example

 

FIRING POSITIONS

The nature of combat will not always allow time for a Soldier to get into a particular position. Soldiers need to practice firing in a variety of positions, including appropriate variations. There are 12 firing positions with variations that are common to all Soldiers. The positions are listed highest to lowest. The primary position is listed in bold, with the position variations in italics:

    • Standing
      • Standing, unsupported.
  • Standing, supported.
    • Squatting – This position allows for rapid engagement of targets when an obstruction blocks the firer from using standard positions. It provides the firer a fairly well-supported position by simply squatting down to engage, then returning to a standing position once the engagement is complete. The squatting position is generally unsupported.
    • Kneeling – The kneeling position is very common and useful in most combat situations. The kneeling position can be supported or unsupported.
  • Kneeling, unsupported.
  • Kneeling, supported.
    • Sitting – There are three types of sitting positions: crossed-ankle, crossed- leg, and open-leg. All positions are easy to assume, present a medium silhouette, provide some body contact with the ground, and form a stable firing position. These positions allow easy access to the sights for zeroing.
  • Sitting, crossed ankle.
  • Sitting, crossed leg.
  • Sitting, open leg.
    • Prone – The prone position is the most stable firing position due to the amount of the Soldier’s body is in contact with the ground. The majority of the firer’s frame is behind the rifle to assist with recoil management.
  • Prone, unsupported.
  • Prone, supported.
  • Prone, roll-over.
  • Prone, reverse roll-over.

Soldiers must practice the positions dry frequently to establish their natural point of aim for each position, and develop an understanding of the restrictive nature of their equipment during execution. With each dry repetition, the Soldier’s ability to change positions rapidly and correctly are developed, translating into efficient movement and consistent stable firing positions.

Each of these firing positions is described using in a standard format using the terms defined earlier.

 

STANDING, UNSUPPORTED

This position should be used for closer targets or when time is not available to assume a steadier position such as short-range employment. The upper body should be leaned slightly forward to aid in recoil management. The key focus areas for the standing supported position are applied as described in below:

 

Standing, unsupported example
Standing, unsupported example

 

SQUATTING

This position allows for rapid engagement of targets when an obstruction blocks the firer from using standard positions. It allows the firer a fairly stable position by simply squatting down to engage, then returning to a standing position after completing the engagement.

Perform the following to assume a good squatting firing position:

  • Face the target.
  • Place the feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Squat down as far as possible.
  • Place the back of triceps on the knees ensuring there is no bone on bone contact.
  • Place the firing hand on the pistol grip and the nonfiring hand on the upper hand guards.
  • Place the weapon’s butt stock high in the firer’s shoulder pocket.

Note. The firer may opt to use pressure from firing hand to rotate weapon to place the magazine against the opposite forearm to aid in stabilization.

 

Squatting position
Squatting position

 

KNEELING, UNSUPPORTED

The kneeling unsupported position does not use artificial support. Figure 6-12 shows the optimum unsupported kneeling position. The firer should be leaning slightly forward into the position to allow for recoil management and quicker follow-up shots. The primary goal of this firing position is to establish the smallest wobble area possible. Key focus areas for kneeling, unsupported are:

  • Nonfiring elbow. Place the non-firing elbow directly underneath the rifle as much as possible. The elbow should be placed either in front of or behind the kneecap. Placing the elbow directly on the kneecap will cause it to roll and increases the wobble area.
  • Leg position. The non-firing leg should be bent approximately 90 degrees at the knee and be directly under the rifle. The firing-side leg should be perpendicular to the nonfiring leg. The firer may rest their body weight on the heel. Some firers lack the flexibility to do this and may have a gap between their buttocks and the heel.
  • Aggressive (stretch) kneeling. All weight on non-firing foot, thigh to calf, upper body leaning forward, nonfiring triceps on non-firing knee, firing leg stretched behind for support. Highly effective for rapid fire and movement.

 

Kneeling, unsupported example
Kneeling, unsupported example

 

KNEELING, SUPPORTED

The kneeling supported position uses artificial support to steady the position (see figure 6-13). Contact by the nonfiring hand and elbow with the artificial support is the primary difference between the kneeling supported and unsupported positions since it assists in the stability of the weapon. Body contact is good, but the barrel of the rifle must not touch the artificial support. Forward pressure is applied to aid in recoil management. The key focus areas for the kneeling supported position are applied in the following ways:

  • Nonfiring hand. The nonfiring hand will hold the hand guards firmly and will also be pushed against the artificial support. Hand positioning will vary depending on the type of support used.
  • Nonfiring elbow. The nonfiring elbow and forearm may be used to assist with the weapon’s stability by pushing against the artificial support. The contact of the nonfiring elbow and forearm with the structure will vary depending on the support used and the angle to the target.
Kneeling, supported example
Kneeling, supported example

 

 

SITTING, CROSSED-ANKLE

The sitting, crossed-ankle position provides a broad base of support and places most of the body weight behind the weapon (see figure 6-14). This allows quick shot recovery and recoil impulse absorption. Perform the following to assume a good crossed-ankle position:

  • Face the target at a 10- to 30-degree angle.
  • Place the nonfiring hand under the hand guard.
  • Bend at knees and break fall with the firing hand.
  • Push backward with feet to extend legs and place the buttocks to ground.
  • Cross the non-firing ankle over the firing ankle.
  • Bend forward at the waist.
  • Place the non-firing elbow on the nonfiring leg below knee.
  • Grasp the rifle butt with the firing hand and place into the firing shoulder pocket.
  • Grasp the pistol grip with the firing hand.
  • Lower the firing elbow to the inside of the firing knee.
  • Place the cheek firmly against the stock to obtain a firm stock weld.
  • Move the nonfiring hand to a location under the hand guard that provides the maximum bone support and stability for the weapon.

 

Sitting position—crossed ankle
Sitting position—crossed ankle 

 

 

SITTING, CROSSED-LEG

The crossed-leg sitting position provides a base of support and places most of the body weight behind the weapon for quick shot recovery. Soldiers may experience a strong pulse beat in this position due to restricted blood flow in the legs and abdomen. An increased pulse causes a larger wobble area.

Perform the following to assume a good crossed-leg position:

  • Place the nonfiring hand under the hand guard.
  • Cross the nonfiring leg over the firing leg.
  • Bend at the knees and break the fall with the firing hand.
  • Place the buttocks to the ground close to the crossed legs.
  • Bend forward at the waist.
  • Place the nonfiring elbow on the nonfiring leg at the bend of the knee.
  • Establish solid butt stock position in the firing shoulder pocket.
  • Grasp the pistol grip with the firing hand.
  • Lower the firing elbow to the inside of the firing knee.
  • Place the cheek firmly against the stock to obtain a firm stock weld.
  • Place the non-firing hand under the hand guard to provide support.

 

Sitting position—crossed-leg
Sitting position—crossed-leg

 

SITTING, OPEN-LEG

The open-leg sitting position is the preferred sitting position when shooting with combat equipment. It places less of the bodyweight behind the weapon than the other sitting positions. Perform the following to assume a good open-leg position:

  • Face the target at a 10 to 30-degree angle to the firing of the line of fire.
  • Place the feet approximately shoulder-width apart.
  • Place the nonfiring hand under the handguard.
  • Bend at the knees while breaking the fall with the firing hand. Push backward with the feet to extend the legs and place the buttocks on the ground.
  • Place the both the firing and non-firing elbow inside the knees.
  • Grasp the rifle butt with the firing hand and place into the firing shoulder pocket.
  • Grasp the pistol grip with the firing hand.
  • Lower the firing elbow to the inside of the firing knee.
  • Place the cheek firmly against the stock to obtain a firm stock weld.
  • Move nonfiring hand to a location under the hand guard that provides maximum bone support and stability for the weapon.

 

Sitting position—open leg
Sitting position—open leg

 

PRONE, UNSUPPORTED

The prone unsupported position is not as stable as the prone supported position (see figure 6-17). Soldiers must build a stable, consistent position that focuses on the following key areas:

  • Firing hand. The firer should have a firm handshake grip on the pistol grip and place their finger on the trigger where it naturally falls.
  • Nonfiring hand. The nonfiring hand is placed to control the weapon and is comfortable.
  • Leg position. The firer’s legs may be either spread with heels as flat as possible on ground or the firing side leg may be bent at the knee to relieve pressure on the stomach.

 

Prone, unsupported example
Prone, unsupported example

Note. The magazine can be rested on the ground while using the prone unsupported position. Firing with the magazine on the ground will NOT induce a malfunction.


 

PRONE, SUPPORTED

The prone supported position allows for the use of support, such as sandbags (see figure 6-18). Soldiers must build a stable, consistent position that focuses on the following key areas:

  • Firing hand. The firer should have a firm handshake grip on the pistol grip and place their finger on the trigger where it naturally falls.
  • Nonfiring hand. The nonfiring hand is placed to maximize control the weapon and where it is comfortable on the artificial support.
  • Leg position. The firer’s legs may be either spread with heels as flat as possible on ground or the firing side leg may be bent at the knee to relieve pressure on the stomach.

Artificial support. The artificial support should be at a height that allows for stability without interfering with the other elements of the position.

 

Prone, supported example
Prone, supported example

 

PRONE, ROLL-OVER

This position allows the firer to shoot under obstacles or cover that would not normally be attainable from the standard conventional prone position. With this position, the bullet trajectory will be off compared to the line of sight and increase with distance from the firer.

For example, in the figure below the sights are rotated to the right. The trajectory of the bullet will be lower than and to the right of point of aim. This error will increase with range.

 

Prone, roll-over example
Prone, roll-over example

 

PRONE, REVERSE ROLL-OVER

This position is primarily used when the firer needs to keep behind cover that is too low to use while in a traditional prone position. The bullet’s trajectory will be off considerably at long distances while in this position.

This position is the most effective way to support the weapon when the traditional prone is too low to be effective and where a kneeling position is too high to gain cover or a solid base for support.

 

Reverse roll-over prone firing position
Reverse roll-over prone firing position

 


 

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