The Offhand Shooting Position

By Chuck Hawks

These instructions pertain to the right-handed shooter. Left-handed shooters should substitute "left" for "right" and vice-versa. When shooting offhand (that is, from a standing position without a rest), start by standing with your body at about a 45 degree angle to the target, left shoulder forward and left foot forward, left foot pointed at the target. You feet should be approximately a shoulder's width apart. Do not be in an exaggerated stance. Stand upright, weight slightly forward on the balls of your feet--don't lean back. This balanced position will help you recover quickly from the recoil of the rifle.

When you lift the butt of the rifle to the pocket of your right shoulder, your left hand should be comfortably positioned on the forearm (where the checkering is located is usually about right). Your left elbow should be pointing straight down, beneath the rifle, not pointing out to the side. Hold the rifle firmly in both hands, but not in a "death grip."

The stock should be held firmly against your shoulder, the rifle straight (not canting to the right or left), your right hand on the pistol grip and your right thumb wrapped around the grip. Your right arm should be held horizontal, the elbow level and jutting out to your right. The first joint of your index finger should be against the trigger when you are ready to shoot.

Your head should be extended a little bit forward and slightly lowered so that your right cheek rests against the upper left side of the comb (against the cheekpiece if your rifle has one). Your right eye should wind up positioned between 3 and 4 inches directly behind and in line with a low mounted scope. Your head should lean only very slightly to the right. If you rifle's stock fits correctly everything should line up properly and recoil is minimized. The comb should not hit your cheek on recoil. If it does either you are doing something wrong or the stock does not fit you.

This position has been developed over the centuries and has proven to be the steadiest position from which to shoot a rifle offhand in the field. It is also the position taught by the U.S. military. It allows you to smoothly follow running game by turning your whole upper body from the waist. (Don't alter your grip or relative position of your upper body to the rifle, swing from the hips.) There is firm contact with the rifle from the lower front (left hand), back (right shoulder), right side (right hand) and left side (cheek). This basic position can be modified as required by circumstance, but the fundamentals should remain the same.

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Copyright 2003, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.