After many years of research and having had many clients take advantages of our services over the last several years, I have been fortunate enough to be in a position to observe which shooting techniques work and which techniques can be counterproductive to precision shooting.
Of the many factors that determine successful shooting habits, one the greatest, perhaps the
greatest influence on accurate shooting, is associated with rifle forend control and forehand tension. Many hunters, snipers and police marksmen have gradually shifted to the now fashionable crossed arm shooting position, one hand on the grip/ trigger, the other hand supporting the butt, leaving the rifle forend resting free. In my experience, this is not only detrimental to accurate shooting, but is the single greatest cause of my client’s failures in the field- assuming the rifle they are using is accurate. My clients come from all backgrounds, civilian, military, police, farmers, laborers- there is no set stereotype. Many are highly experienced riflemen. Unfortunately, the gradual trend towards the omission of forend control has produced undesirable results when prone shooting at extended ranges. Results range from minor errors through to complete misses.
For those of you who are experienced shooters and use the crossed arm prone shooting position, whether you are a hunter, sniper or police marksman, please be patient and read through this article in its entirety without judgement in order to understand its relevance.
To gain an insight into the current trends in prone shooting (shooting from a bench or lying down), it is perhaps best if we go back to the beginning of the 20th
century and study what came before. In this instance, I would like to begin with the shooting technique of the military marksmen of the early 1900’s, of which there are many great photos to reflect on.
USMC marksman with the 1903 Springfield rifle.
In the above photo, a USMC marksman poses for a photo in the prone shooting position. He is using his sling, double wrapped and the sling is set to optimum tension. The marksman’s fore hand is supporting the forend of the 1903 Springfield rifle as far forwards as he can comfortably hold it without losing the stable triangle his elbows have formed. The forehand will also be locked in place once he settles for his shot. In this example, the marksman is actually cycling the bolt and not fully locked into position. One last and important aspect to note is that the marksman does not use any rest/aid under the forend. Although he could have used his pack, marksmen around the world were trained to shoot off their elbows, demanding an incredibly high level of skill and discipline.
Another US soldier from the early 1900’s demonstrates shooting from the sitting position. Note his fore hand hold. His fingers are in an optimal position of control.
A British sniper in Italy during WW2.
In early days, marksmen did not use a front rest for two reasons. The first is that of tactics, it was considered imperative that the soldier be able to advance forwards at a run, then drop to the prone position and be able to shoot quickly- as quickly as possible. There was no time for making use of front rests in early military training doctrine. In practice however, soldiers did make use of rests wherever possible, mostly in the form of natural terrain such as high spots in the ground. Sand bagged trench tops were also used, all of which greatly aided precision shooting as well as offering cover to the soldier.
By the second world war, shooting from the elbows as seen in the picture of the British sniper above, was regarded as a necessary skill however field rests were considered the norm. Rifles of this era, as well as those used in the first world war, were very heavy and did not produce substantial recoil. The fully wooded designs also enabled these rifles to be fired from a variety of shooting positions and grip tensions, without undue effect on the point of impact. By the end of the second world war, the rifle sling was used more for carrying the rifle than as a shooting aid. Close observation of photo’s also reveals that marksmen were no longer holding the forend well forwards but instead, simply cupping the forend at the front of the magazine well. The British sniper pictured above appears to be one of the few marksmen that maintained early doctrine, he looks pretty serious about his business too. The guy is a machine!
Canadian sniper during the second world war. Note the more relaxed position in line with the common practices of the day.
Following the second world war, for whatever reasons, military marksmansip and more especially sniper training, took a turn for the worse. British snipers seemed to fair the best, maintaining organized training however; rather than re-opening the P14 rifle project with the goal of creating a more appropriate rifle, the British Ordnance department withheld funds and the SMLE was remodeled to house the T65 7.62 cartridge (.308 Win). It was many years before the British finally upgraded. Today, the British sniper is armed with the extremely well designed Accuracy International rifle.
Following the second world war, the U.S military completely abandoned sniper training. U.S marksmanship is probably the most relevant topic to this article due to the wider media that surrounds the U.S miltary. Curent trends, tactics and weapons of the U.S military influence all other allied military organizations to one degree or another as well as influencing hunters, both in an actice and passive manner.
When the U.S began their campaign to halt the spread of socialism, drawing the line across south east Asia, their military had no snipers and no sniper weapons. USMC Captain Jim Land (distinguished Marksman) was tasked with organizing a sniper school, candidates and weapons- all on the fly. Although Land was able to pull a few Garand rifles out of retirement, the main source of sniper weapons came from factory sporting rifles, primarily the Winchester M70 followed by Remington rifles- all chambered for the .30-06 cartridge. These rifles were accurized in country and issued to sniper teams. One of these snipers, Gunnery Saergent Carlos Hathcock, became legendary for his tremendous feats.
The use of huniting configuration rifles marked a major change from the former full wood captured barrel rifle designs. Techniques also changed accordingly. The U.S Sniper not only used natural terrain as a forend rest, but also deliberately used his pack as a dedicated shooting aid. The change to a free floating barrel also dictated that the exposed barrel must not touch the shooting aid/rest. If the barrel toughed anything, the point of impact would shift. Captured barrels did not suffer this.
AS the Vietnam war continued, the U.S military finally obtained a dedicated sniper rifle, the Remington M40A1 7.62. This rifle was very much in line with the modern bolt action heavy barreled varmint hunting rifle. Due to the long fat barrel, recoil of the 7.62mm cartridge was relatively mild. Shooting habits were also changing. While Captain Jim Land and instructers like Hathcock encouraged optimum shooting habits, away from their units for months at a time, many snipers developed relaxed techniques which would eventually become integrated into normal shooting practices.
A young sniper team in Vietnam.
Pictured above is a two man sniper team during the Vietnam war. The young soldier is holding his rifle in a casual manner, a sign of very little time allocated to training due to the demands of this conflict combined with no ongoing support structure. The rifle is rested on the soldiers helmet,an adequate but unstable platform. His fore hand is under the magazine well, the sling is not in use.
Following the Vietnam war, mostly through the hard work and persistance of people like Major Jim Land, the U.S military continued to develop a dedicated sniper organization and training school. The rifles have changed very little, if at all, since the adoption of the M40A1. Shooting habits have however changed.
The USMC sniper now typically holds his rifle in the crossed arm position while the forend of the rifle rests on a pack. Recoil of the M24 rifle is mild and generally, very little control is needed to maintain POI (point of impact). Nevertheless, in recent years, the USMC and allied nations have adopted the .338 Lapua and .50BMG chamberings which require somewhat greater attention to technique. While these weapons systems have recoil suppression devices such as muzzle breaks, recoil is still somewhat greater than the M24 rifle. Shooting techniques have not changed accordingly and is an issue that remains un-addressed.
It is highly likely that competitive shooting had a huge influence on the current prone shooting position used by allied snipers. The crossed arm hand hold is popular in various competitive disciplines due to the steadiness the shooter can obtain from this position. Extremely heavy rifles and low recoiling cartridges enable the crossed arm hand hold to be used with optimum results.
The crossed arm hold
Traditionally, military shooting techniques have influenced civilian hunter shooting techniques. In earlier days, a great majority of our male civilian population either underwent cadet training or full military service. Many of these habits were then passed from hunter to son. In recent years, this particular method of passing on information has deteriorated however hunters have a wider source of information. Military techniques are observed in TV documentaries, books, the internet and sadly- Hollywood. Accordingly, shooting techniques have continued to mirror military trends. Along with this, competitive shooting has influenced the prone technique adopted by hunters. The one aspect of civilian precision field shooting that has deviated from the military and differs vastly from competitive shooting is the use of high power, light weight rifles. Hunting rifles (including heavy barreled rifles like the Remington Sendero) are often less than half the weight of competitive rifles, generating two or three times as much recoil.
A proportion of civilian shooters have stayed with the traditional hand hold methods however the crossed arm hold is growing in popularity for prone shooting. the combination of modern hunting rifles producing high recoil and the cross armed hold, is very detrimental to precision shooting. More so in the field where conditions are not as controlled as they are at the range.
High recoil and the crossed arm hold
When an accurate but high recoiling rifle is fired using the crossed arm hold, the rifle reacts violently, kicking rearwards, upwards and to the right or left. While many shooters assume that the bullet has left the bore well before the rifle recoils, this simply isn’t true. The force of opposites is always equal. Any minor changes in shooter position affect these forces and any lack of control allows a degree of random results. Using the crossed arm hold, groups at 100 yards tend to be oval, strung slightly to either 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock. A rifle capable of grouping .75” at 100 yards will often produce a 1.5” group or in other cases, the group will appear optimal, but with the occasional flier over a succession of for example, three test groups. A low recoiling rifle will quite often shoot to a similar level of accuracy regardless of differences in technique.
A high recoiling rifle does not necessarily have to mean magnum power. A light weight 7mm08 or .308 Winchester sporting rifle generates significant recoil inertia, as does a medium to heavy weight magnum chambering. Muzzle brakes or suppressors do help minimize recoil and therefore do have a positive effect on recoil related accuracy. Nevertheless, good habits should always come first.
High energy cartridges like the .338 Lapua and .50BMG produce significant recoil regardless of recoil taming devices. By significant, I do not mean significant felt recoil- regarding the .338 atleast. Again, we need to be concerned with the recoil effecting potential accuracy for precision shooting. The crossed arm hand hold, regardless of military doctrine, can be counterproductive to magnum rifle shooting, especially away from the rifle range and out in the field.
Personally, I find the crossed arm versus magnum recoil issue to be very frustrating. In many instances, I have had greater success teaching new hunters, to shoot accurately at long range, than I have had with experienced shooters carrying ingrained shooting techniques. Recently, one of my beginner clients went out and shot a 2.5” group at 700 yards with a lightweight Magnum in mild but gusting winds. What is more important, is that he now finds this sort of shooting relatively easy.
Some of you will be wondering-“ Isn’t there a level of repeatability involved when leaving the forend to free recoil”. Yes there is, in the best case scenario it is repeatably average performance.
Hold that forend
I have absolutely no doubt, that one of the keys to precision shooting is adequate forend control. This is easily demonstrated by shooting a group using the crossed arm hold versus a group shot using the traditional forend hold and a front rest (sand bag or pack). The differences are not subtle, they are obvious.
One of the difficulties of the traditional forend hand hold, is putting this method to use in a repeatable manner in the field. The crossed arm hand hold was not adopted because it was better, it was adopted because it was easier. Easier doesn’t mean better, if anything, it means lazier. Humans are good at repeating lazy. The traditional forend hold requires practice and a level of discipline, especially at the point in time when the practice at the range is in the process of being transferred to the field. In the field, it is (I’m going to say it) easier to adopt a relaxed position, often with too much focus on the target and not enough on personal technique. I know this because not only have I seen my clients do this, but because I have done it and still do it from time to time, unnecessary changes in grip position, changes in tension- bad news.
How too- the nuts and bolts
The first method of optimum forend control is via the sling. The sling should be either single or double wrapped, as depicted by the USMC marksman in the very first photo of this article. Pick one method of using the sling and stick with it. The sling should feel firm against the arm but not so tight as to be under great stress. Any changes in sling tension can and will alter precision shooting at long ranges- to one degree or another.
The elbows should form a stable triangle and the forehand should be in front of the magazine floor plate or if you are short in the arms, your hand should be partly on the floor plate and partly ahead. The wrist of the forehand should be rotated slightly so that the palm of the hand is centred under the forend. The fingers should be pressed firmly (claw shape), gripping at a reliable anchor point that won’t easily slip under recoil. On rifles with thin forends, the shooter may actually have to grip the top line of the stock where it forms a junction with the barrel. Beavertail forends are much easier in this regard.
The traditional handhold technique combined with a front rest. Sling is double wrapped. Legs spread, heels down. Forehand has a good grip on the stock and is thrust into the side of the day bag, although in this picture, it looks as though it is resting on top of the bag.
Shooting downhill, using a single sling wrap. The terrain is actually too difficult to allow a double sling wrap. The single wrap is the most versatile method of using the sling however it is important that the sling is set to an optimum length so that tension can easily be maintained in situations such as those pictured here.
Single wrap, left view
The trigger hand needs to be pinching the grip of the rifle and this takes a bit of thought. There really isn’t an ergonomically perfect grip design for prone shooting. Regardless of your grip design, it is important to take note of what the trigger hand is actually doing. Try this right now (you won’t need a rifle). Point your index finger like it is a pistol, the way you did when you were a kid. In this position, with the index finger pointing forwards, press your middle through to little finger against the palm of your hand. Now, bring your thumb down (yes, de-cock that hammer please) until it is pressed against the mid knuckle of the middle finger. You have now formed an ideal pinch for precision long range work. One last note regarding the trigger finger, the’ tip’ of the index finger should be resting against the trigger as the shot is taken, not the joint of the index finger. Don’t laugh, I have seen snipers with this habit, not picked up during their basic training.
The forend of the rifle should be resting on a suitable aid. Sand bags are good for initial sighting in and load development but to zero for the field, a sand bag is far too different in density compared to a pack and the POI will shift drammatically. If a pack is to be used as a field rest, the shooter needs to develop a two stage approach. Start with sand bags to assess rifle performance and set the final zero by shooting over the pack.
As with many things that are worthwhile in life, practice is the essential key to repeatable, precision shooting using the traditional forend hand hold technique. The shooter must practice duplication of both fore hand and rear hand tension. Changes of tension will invariably shift the POI to some extent.
During practice, it is imperative, before taking final aim, to ignore the target for a moment and conciously gain awareness of which muscles of your body are being used and how much tension each muscle is exhurting. Too much tension or ‘muscling’ the rifle creates in-accuracies due to the difficulty of duplicating these conditions as well as muscle shakes. Too little tension is also undesirable. The shooter needs to have a firm grip with good muscle control yet without excessive intervention.
Check list before the shot:
Duplicity of the following:
· Legs spread, heels down
· Sling wrap method
· Sling tension
· Forehand position
· Forehand tension
· Rear hand tension
· Eye position or cheek weld
· Wind awareness
· Trigger control
Practice until these things become automatic.
Another two factors which have an on effect accuracy when prone shooting, are recoil pad position on the shoulder and the relationship of fore hand and pack rest. The recoil pad should be set high for optimum results so that the top of the comb is level with the top of the shoulder. Occasionally I will come across a shooter who has learned to hold his or her rifle with the recoil pad centred lower on the shoulder in an attempt to soak up recoil in what is conceived to be a potentially ideal manner. In practice, the opposite is true, the soft tissues at the junction of the chest and shoulder are prone to bruising and pain which later, becomes a flinch. Where do you hold the recoil pad? Do you actually remember?
The relationship of the fore hand and day bag can be extremely detrimental to accurate shooting. Please pay careful attention to this, as it is often overlooked. Once in a while, I come across a shooter who uses a pack (or day bag) as a front shooting aid, places their hand on the pack and the forend in the hand. In other words, the hand is sandwiched between the pack and the rifle forend. This helps the shooter increase or decrease the height of the rifle, a seemingly harmless and effective means of control. But for some reason, the results are extremely bad. Using this technique, some shots will arrive on target in a perfect manner while others are so much off target, as to cause complete misses on game or field targets at ranges of as little as 250 yards. Any shooter can fall foul of this habit so it pays to double check the position of the fore hand in relation to the pack.
The hand sandwich!
Ideally, the fore hand should sit flush with the side of the pack. If extra control is required (fast shots at long range are a good example), loose material from the pack (providing the pack features suitable material) can be collected and scrunched by the mid to little fingers and wedged between the hand and forend. The forehand is then brought back a few inches, a couple of inches down, then driven into the side of the pack. The shooter must always feel anchored when shooting over a pack, “dug in” is another good analogy.
Mid process of grabbing some material.
Now I am locked in place. This method only works with soft bags or half filled bags that require shaping to obtain the desired height.
One possible problem caused by having the forehand locked against the pack, is the risk of pushing the pack so far forwards, that the barrel comes to rest on the pack rather than the forend. As previously mentioned, if the barrel touches the pack, the POI will shift dramatically. The two main solutions are to either adopt a compact day pack/ day bag or utilize a stock design with an extra-long forend. The HS Precision A1 (Remington Sendero) stock has exactly these desirable features.
Many of the modern day packs/ day bags really are a waste of time. Some have bulky internal frames that are springy, a real hindrance to accurate shooting. Some have so much stiffening in the material, that the shooter may as well be using a tree stump as an aid. Others have so many belt buckles, lapels and pockets, they look like a mental patient facility. The best design, though it is never as easy to organize kit wise, is the simple sack type day bag. This also has the advantage of being compact enough to fit in a main pack.
The main negative aspect of using a pack as opposed to a bipod with the traditional fore hand hold, is that the butt stock needs another form of rest aid when shooting at ranges beyond 300 yards. This is primarily why the crossed arm hand hold has become so popular. Some day bags have exterior lapels for the attachment of a bedroll or poncho. If a poncho is stowed accordingly and in a cram bag, the cram bag can be quickly detached and used as a rear rest. For shooting inside 300 yards, a rear rest isn’t critical. But out past this range, aids become critical. Some of my more disciplined clients are able to shoot quite accurately out to 800 yards without a rear rest however my advice is, if time is available, set up a rear aid. I tend to use the natural lie of the land as my rear rest, my day bag as the front rest if I am shooting without a bipod. If the terrain does not allow for this, I will then pull an item of clothing from the bag and use this. Really, this stuff is all about procedures. Procedures simply require sound methods combined with practice.
I have shifted my right arm out of the way to show the poncho being used as a rear rest for long range shooting. The day bag and poncho are a very steady combination.
So on our check list, we need to add at the beginning:
· Correctly set up aid or aids.
When using a high recoiling rifle combined with the traditional forend hand hold, it is important to remember that inattention to forehand position and grip tension will affect accuracy. Not too long ago, I observed a young man shooting a Tikka T3 Lite chambered in .308, a very high recoiling rifle/cartridge combination. It took some time to get the young man shooting accurately at the range before we could move into the field. In the field, I had to re-address his shooting habits over the course of the trip. The young client listened, learned and very much enjoyed himself, especially at the end of the day when he head shot a porker pig cutting its way through the undergrowth of a valley floor at 280 yards. It really was a triumphant moment. Hopefully my young client will remember that good shooting technique is something that has to be continually monitored throughout his shooting career.
One of the more common habits of beginners is after a period of brief success, the shooter attempts more challenging shots while subconsciously allowing habits to slip. The shooter shifts from a state of confidence, to a state of overconfidence followed by misses in the field, followed by complete frustration and a drop in confidence, both in him or herself and in the rifle. This is a difficult phase for the shooter. After a failed shot, the shooter questions many of the variables that could have come into play such as- is the rifle still shooting straight, did I not allow for wind, did I jerk the trigger, did the animal (if hunting), move as I pulled the trigger, is the scope set correctly. Note that none of the above variables address forend control and this is typical thinking. Forend control is usually the least (if at all) variable considered when trouble shooting misses. Yet time and time again, it has been proven to me that a lack of forend control is the number one cause of misses in the field.
Beginners and intermediate experienced shooters tend to be the easiest clients for me to work with, having no pre-conceptions. Experienced shooters are sometimes very much set in their ways and are unable to rationalize why I want them to change habits that have served them well for many years. New to intermediate experienced shooters are happy to book tutorial long range hunting trips with us, experienced shooters simply want to book a hunt. The trouble is, the actual shooting on our hunting block can be very demanding, a combination of steep terrain, uneven ground when prone shooting, undergrowth, adverse environmental conditions, my cooking from the night before and small targets at extended ranges. Minor, seemingly irrelevant errors at the range become huge errors under these field conditions.
Bipods are now the accepted norm for prone shooting. The advantage of a bipod is that it is immensely steady, extremely fast to set up, repeatable and allows the day bag/ pack to be used as a rear aid.
The negative aspects of bipod usage include increased vibration potentially decreasing accuracy, lower portability and injury to the forehand during recoil with the forend hand hold technique. Most bipods have hard edges that during recoil, come back and strike the mid knuckle of the index finger. On my left index knuckle, the skin is scared and calloused from test shooting rifles fitted with bipods over the years before bothering to develop better techniques.
Regardless of the difficulties or complexities involved with combining the use of a bipod with traditional forend control, the potential for loss of accuracy due to increased muzzle jump (bipod feet on hard ground), demand that forend control be regarded as a major concern.
Using the bipod with the traditional handhold technique. Day bag is used as a rear rest for long range shooting.
Again, a simple method for keeping the knuckles at a safe distance from the bipod is to use a stock that features a long forend. The HS Precision A1 stock is absolutely perfect regarding hand clearance, keeping the bipod clear of knuckles during harsh magnum recoil. Another method, if using a stock with a short forend, is to protect the knuckle using some form of binding. This can be an annoying set up but a binding on the forehand index finger can be made to last three days or so in the field without needing attention.
One the most comfortable but rigid shooting positions when using a bipod, is to place the forehand on top of the scope. This is a difficult technique to master but is a very effective method of forend control when using a bipod.
To use this method, which we will call the overhand control, reach deeply into the sling so that it comes up against your bicep. Rolling the arm clockwise, bring the sling to lock against the forearm as you hook your forehand over the scope, between the elevation turret and front bell. By placing the elbow down gently, the arm and the rifle become locked. The only difficulty with this method is the potential to muscle the rifle, causing minor shifts in POI. The shooter must be careful to not actually pull the rifle down in an attempt to control recoil and instead, develop a level of tension (control) of the muscles of the hand, without actually transferring this tension to the scope. The hand must be resting on the scope but not tightly gripping it. Relaxed but firm are the keys to this followed by practice in order to gain repeatability/ muscle memory.
Overhand control left view
Overhand control right view
Client shooting with over hand control, rifle was under full recoil as the photo was snapped. Groupings were between .18" and .2" at 100 yards
Make no mistake, this method of control does take time to learn. The overhand technique is also useful when a pack is used as a front rest, especially if the body is in an awkward position due to terrain.
Overhand control over day bag. Ideal for the very uncomfortable shooting position I was in, lying facing downhill but trying to shoot above the line of my body.
Perhaps one day, a bipod manufacturer will develop a unit with the provision of a soft guard, something to protect the hand from the bipod when shooting using traditional methods and short forends.
Unfortunately, most shooters simply cannot utilize a bipod with optimum results, I am amongst this group and although some of you will have seen video clips or photo's of myself using a bipod, when it really counts, I use a day bag and poncho. Statistically, most shooters feel very steady (on target) when lying prone, using a bipod at the 100 yard range. But when a group is fired, it is much larger than if it were fired off either sand bags on the bench, or a day bag on the ground. For this reason, I try to discourage the use of bipods during our tutorials.
Clients undergoing our tutorials, sometimes state that the day bag feels a lot less steady than a bipod and that the crosshair is wondering around the bull by a quarter to half minute while aiming. This wobble is quite common. Yet when groups are fired, the groups average 1/3 smaller than groups shot using a bipod.
Below are the average results of three different shooters using 7mm magnum rifles of various configurations. What is most surprising is that these figures have not been rounded off to any large degree:
Sand bags and bench- .3MOA
Day bag front / poncho rear / lying down- .5MOA
Bipod front / day bag orponcho rear / lying down- 1.5MOA
Obviously, the lower the recoil inertia, the smaller the differences will be between different forms of rest. Nevertheless, I have seen shooters produce similar results with typical hunting weight .308Win rifles. Many clients like to perform their own comparisons while they are using our range and services and in every case, the bipod has eventually been removed in favor of a day bag.
As a general rule, I would suggest that if bipods are to be used, they are best utilized on heavy barreled, low recoiling rifles. My little .308 Tactical featured in the pictures is on the light side. It shoots reasonably accurately with a bipod but with occasional fliers that do not occur when shooting over a day bag. I have to be very vigilant with forend control (grip tension) when a bipod is fitted.
When using high powered cartridges generating high recoil interia, use a day bag as a front rest.
I only shoot a .243/M24/suppressed .30-06/ braked 7mm Remington Magnum. Is any of this forend control technique really of any benefit to me?
As discussed earlier, allowing the forend of a light recoiling rifle to free recoil is often of little to no detriment. Nevertheless, the crossed arm hold does not make for good transferable skills, a situation which is overlooked by military, police and civilian shooters. If you think police marksmanship is fairly pat, think again, the current M700 Model P rifle with its lightweight stock and short 20” barrel, generates quite high recoil in its factory, unsuppressed configuration. There is certainly enough recoil to cause fliers and potentially negative consequences at ranges beyond 100 yards. It is impossible to maintain a sight picture during let off with this configuration. Regardless of whether the average encounter is 70 something yards, this should never excuse lax technique.
Good shooting habits should be adopted regardless of recoil or inherent stability of the firearm. It really is surprising how such a seemingly small factor can have such a pronounced effect on success in the field. To some, it may seem odd to even consider such a factor as being something worth writing an article about.
I am going to say it again, the crossed arm hand hold is one of the major causes of misses in the field amongst my clients and these clients come from all backgrounds and all levels of shooting experience. High recoiling rifles do not produce optimum accuracy when using the crossed arm hand hold however high recoil does not necessarily mean magnum power; it can also be generated by light weight rifles chambered for standard capacity cartridges. Errors are sometimes only small but quite often, POI suffers so much deviation, that the shot misses its target altogether.
By developing and practicing methods of optimum forend control, the marksman becomes much more attuned to the rifle and able to understand how the rifle is likely to shoot from a variety of positions. Eventually, the shooter can advance to being able to utilize two or three different prone position hand hold techniques with an understanding of potential errors. The experienced shooter will know that at 100 yards, he can “get away with” X technique. Out at 200 yards, he can use Y technique and can predict that the bullet will strike slightly high and perhaps left. He will also know that out past 400 yards, small things make a big difference. Although I have been drilling set techniques throughout this article, terrain will often dictate that methods be modified to suit. The key here is to simply have an awareness of cause and effect. Modify your technique and monitor results (while working your bolt as fast as possible!).
All I ask is that readers at least try the described methods in this article and do so in a concerted manner, not half hearted. If you have the time and are willing to try, you will soon realize that it takes much longer for me to explain and convince the reader of the merits of these methods, than it did for you to experiment with technique and discover something worthwhile.
Below is an excerpt from the book ‘Marine Sniper’ written by Charles Henderson (http://www.charleshenderson.net/Novels/MarineSniper.htm ). This gives a description of legendary sniper Carlos Hathcock’s preparation during his victorious 1965 Wimbledon cup match. Hathcock was using a .300 Winchester Magnum…
He laid his rifle on its side and began counting clicks as he turned the windage knob on the
side of his rifle’s telescopic sight. After noting the change in his data book, he checked his leather sling, making sure that it was adjusted to the proper length and wrapped around his upper arm at the exact spot where he had looped it each time he fired. With the sling making a half twist around his forearm, he slid his left hand, shielded by a thick leather shooting glove, up the hand guard of his rifle’s stock and jammed it tightly against the D-ring and swivel that held the sling to the rifle.
Slowly, Hathcock leaned his weight on his left elbow and began working the rifle’s butt tightly into his right shoulder. “Got to be tight. No room for it to slip, not here.” As the sling tightened and stretched to accommodate the tight fit of the rifle into his shoulder, he felt the strap bite painfully into his upper arm and trap the blood in his left hand and fingers. He looked at their tips protruding from the shooting glove and watched them turn red and deepen to purple.
(NB: The historical photos in this article were obtained from the internet. Unfortunately, it was difficult to find the original owners of these pictures. If any of these historical photos belong to you and you wish to be acknowledged, please contact me. Likewise, photos can be removed. N.F.