How to Hold a Rifle from a High Power Rifle Silhouette State Champion, My Preferred Standing Shooting Position.

My Personal Rifle Shooting Technique

How To Hold A Rifle - Standing Offhand Rifle Silhouette Shooting Position and shooting technique

It is important to state I use this method successfully shooting Rifle Silhouette which is completely offhand rifle shooting. As of March 2014, I have won 26 NRA Smallbore Rifle Silhouette Matches, 8 NRA High Power Rifle Silhouette Matches and an Arizona NRA High Power Rifle Silhouette State Championship. I am not the best at Rifle Silhouette however; I am very successful at it.

This is not intended for military tactical type shooting positions. It is for precision shooting similar to what a sniper might need to do.

You will see many different postures and shooting techniques used at the NRA Smallbore Rifle Silhouette matches. The people shooting Rifle Silhouette tend to be the average person doing what they learned growing up or what they picked up at the Rifle Silhouette shooting range from other people who learned at the range. There are no training classes in NRA Smallbore Rifle Silhouette target shooting. There is training information to be found for the Olympic types of rifle shooting sports. My rifle shooting technique is based on what is taught to the world class shooters in the Olympic rifle shooting sports. It is not going to be the only way you can shoot at the steel targets of Rifle Silhouette. There are years of training and experience behind the Olympic target shooting programs and they must know something about the best positing to hold a rifle shooting offhand. That is why I use it as the my guide for shooting at the Rifle Silhouette range. I do not claim to be an expert instructor and what I state here may not be perfectly aligned to what is taught in Olympic Rifle Shooting sports. I was never taught by anyone. I did my own research as to how they are taught. If anyone recognizes an error in a statement made here feel free to let me know.

The Basics of The Proper Posture

Every proper shooting technique is based on balance. The most stable posture you can have while holding your rifle on target is the requirement. If you are not balanced in your stance it will add movement to your rifle. This means keeping your body and rifle weight vertical and directly over your feet. If your posture is such that you are off balance, your weight is off-center in any direction, you are forcing your muscles to make the weight adjustment required to hold you in balance. This is an element that can add wobble in your rifle as you are trying to hold on target. The basis behind this posture is to make it the easiest for your mind and body to make the adjustments necessary to stay stable.

The Feet, Legs and Hip Positioning

The feet should be about 18 inches apart or about shoulder width. The right foot should be 90 degrees from the target direction. The left foot is turned slightly towards the target. There should be "slightly" more pressure of weight on the balls of your feet for more balance and control. 

The legs are straight but relaxed. Do not force the knees into a locked position.

The hips might be slightly forward to help the elbow rest against the body. Adjusting your hips may not be required depending on the persons size and shape.

The Upper Body Positioning

The upper body has a slight lean to the rear foot to adjust for the weight of the rifle. The amount of lean required varies depending on the height and weight of the person. The point is to comfortably balance the weight of the rifle and the upper body over your feet. 

The shoulders are in-line with the target. This forces the rifle butt to be held more on the ball of the shoulder joint instead of inside the shoulder.

The left elbow should be underneath the rifle and resting against your body to directly support the weight of the rifle. If you do not do this it is doubtful you would ever make it to Master Class. Every top shooter uses the elbow against the body for one reason - stability. 

The Head Position

The Head should be vertical. The sense of balance when standing is always done while your head is in an upright position. Why try to train it differently? To do this, I cant, or tilt, the rifle to properly see through the rifle scope. I also need to have the scope rotated in the opposite direction to see the crosshairs level while sighting. If you look at the full sized pictures, you can see it in the Standard Rifle picture. Note the difference in the scope knobs relative to the rifle stock. The Hunter rifle is not as bulky and is canted less for me.

NRA Rifle Silhouette Hunting Rifle Holding Position NRA Rifle Silhouette Standard Rifle Holding Position and canting of the rifle

The Left Hand Rifle Hold

Your left hand hold is very important (right hand for lefties) and should be resting under the rifle at a good balance point of the rifle. If your left hand is not comfortably transferring the weight of the rifle through your wrist to your forearm, it will be a serious source for wobble because of its forward position on the rifle. My holding point is typically just in front of the trigger guard. The overall point on the rifle hold is that your arm muscles are not having to hold the weight of the rifle which adds to the stability of the hold. There are a few varieties of holds with the left hand. Find one which puts the least strain on it for the most stable results. 

The Right Hand and Trigger Finger

The right hand should be comfortably on the rifle. It should not be there to manipulate the rifle; only for the finger to manage the trigger.

The trigger finger should have only the tip of the finger activating the trigger. The finger does not wrap around the trigger at all and should definitely not be in contact with the rifle or trigger guard. ALSO NOTE: Until you are in a position where you are nearing the target and getting ready to fire, your finger should be on the outside edge of the trigger guard. 

In Conclusion...

No matter how you decide to stand and hold the rifle it is important that you do it consistently every time. With the proper balance and rifle positioning, it should be easy to find the target. If you are inconsistent on your standing position and hold of the rifle, it will make it much more difficult to learn how to be steady on the target. Try to find something that feels good and stick with it for a while. After you get better on your ability to hold steady on target it will be easier to test changes in your body/rifle positioning. You will be a better judge on if it is an improvement or not. When you have found a consistant and comfortable base for your rifle shooting position you should be able to aquire the target quickly. From a position of holding the rifle down and looking at the target, it should take little time to pull the rifle into poisition and find the steel target in the scope.