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Finding the best position for rifle shooting

Bradley Bourner reveals how to use your body to support the rifle, relax your muscles and find your point of aim

position for rifle shooting

Finding your correct position for rifle shooting

There are various positions from which you can shoot a rifle. But which is the correct position for rifle shooting for you?

Let’s take a look at some options and see how you can improve.

Remember you should not immediately expect 1in groups at 100m from these positions. Check and work out what you can and can’t expect from each of them. Then you can judge when each is acceptable for live quarry.

Correct position for rifle shooting

Knowing where to take the shot

Keep your centre of gravity as low as possible to minimise the wind’s effect on stability. You’ll never achieve a completely still sight picture — learn to recognise what is an acceptable amount of movement, and where to take the shot. The movement should be tiny concentric circles around your point of aim (POA). Don’t try to prevent movement completely, as you’ll tense up and create problems.

I’m not advising unsupported shots at live quarry, but practise unsupported, and it will give you a stronger position. Sticks should be an extra aid, refining your original position, rather than you building your position up around them.

Once you’ve established which positions suit you best by dry-firing, try with live ammunition to discover which gives you the best recoil management.

rifle skills

When sitting you shouldn’t be using too many muscles, as your skeleton provides the support for the rifle

1. Sitting position for rifle shooting


Legs: Sit down, crossing your legs and relax them as much as possible.
Left hand: This should be holding the fore-end and controlling it, but not gripping. You can use the hand to slide up and down the fore-end to adjust the elevation of the rifle.

Left elbow: Place your elbow in the fleshy part of your thigh, just above the knee. This will give you a strong position, but allow for good recoil management.
Right hand: This should have a firm “handshake” hold of the grip.
Right elbow: As with the left elbow, place this into the fleshy part of your thigh, just above the knee.

This is the basic set-up. Roll your shoulders forward slightly, almost hunching them, to help you find your spot-weld. You shouldn’t be using too many muscles, as your skeleton is providing the main support for the rifle. Test your natural point of aim: bring the cross-hairs on to a target, close your eyes (while remaining in position) and open them again. Adjust your position and repeat until you are naturally aligned.

man cross legged with rifle

It’s important you keep your legs relaxed when shooting your rifle from a cross-legged position

You can help to stabilise this position by stuffing a roe sack or bumbag under one buttock or the other, or you can use this technique if you are shooting up or down a hill.

If you prefer not to cross your legs, and like to have your feet on the ground and knees bent, try to place the backs of your arms over your knees so you aren’t resting your elbow on your knees (bone on bone) and this will help lower your profile.


Adopt the same position as above to bring in the sticks. Remember to place the sticks at an angle, with their feet further away from you than the “V” holding the rifle. This will allow you to “front-load” the sticks.

man with rifle skills

Right-handed shooters should sit on their right knee with the left leg bent at the knee and foot flat

2. Kneeling position for rifle shooting


Legs: To find a low-profile position, try to sit right back on your haunch. The right-handed shooter should sit down on his right knee. Try to find a comfortable position doing this. The left leg should be bent at the knee, with the foot flat on the ground. Spread your legs a bit if you can, as this will give you a wider base and a stronger platform to build your position on. If you think you need more elevation, simply rise up so that you are no longer sitting on your haunch.

Left hand: This should be holding the fore-end and controlling it, but not gripping. You can use the hand to slide up and down the fore-end to adjust the elevation of the rifle.

man holding rifle

Your left hand can be slid up and down the fore-end to control the rifle and adjust its elevation

Left elbow: Try to lean forward, and place the back of your arm (your tricep) over the knee. This will lower your profile. If you require a more elevated position, place the elbow on the fleshy part of your thigh, just above the knee.

man kneeling with rifle

If you think you need more elevation, simply rise up so that you are no longer sitting on your haunch


Right hand: As for all positions, this needs to be firmly holding the grip.

Right elbow: If you can tuck this in to your side, it will help to prevent too much movement, stabilising the position.

Now roll your shoulders slightly forward. Remember that the lower you are, the less you’ll be using muscles, and the more stable you’ll be — a low centre of gravity will help, and you’ll be less affected by wind. Use your roe sack or bumbag to support your position or cushion your right foot. Use your torso to help support the position.


You’ll need to swap knees — the sticks are now doing the job your left knee was doing in the unsupported position, so you can use the right knee to support the right arm and elbow. Front-load the sticks, as with the sitting position. Support most of your weight with your rear knee, so you don’t place weight in the sticks, as this leads to inaccurate shooting. If you can, sit back on your left haunch; it will allow you to place your right foot flat on the ground to give you a solid platform and lower your profile.

Position for rifle shooting

Standing positions, such as this angled “fighting stance”, employ the most muscles

3. Standing position for rifle shooting


For the standing position, there are two options: the “fighting” stance, or the target shooter’s stance. Standing is the most high-profile position, and so the least stable. It also employs the most muscles, so if you can employ any of the other positions, do so. However, you may disturb your quarry by getting into another position, as well as lose valuable time.

The “fighting stance” is a position you step into. Your body is at a slight angle to the target, with the left foot in front. Feet should be shoulder- width apart, knees slightly flexed — don’t lock them. Have a slight bend in your torso, and roll your shoulders forward. Try to relax your muscles.

Your left hand should have a firm hold of the fore-end, and both of your elbows should be slightly splayed.

The faster you can settle into position and release your shot, the better your results will be — if you spend too much time getting on to a precise POA, you’ll start tensing, and this will affect your aim.

A “target” stance requires you to stand more side-on to your target, so with your left shoulder leading. The left hip is pushed forwards, and the left elbow is tucked into the left hip. You’ll find that the left hand is too low, so you may have to use a fist or stretch your fingers to support the fore- end, and you’ll probably have to support it further back as well, just in front of where the trigger-guard is.


If you’re using bipod-type sticks, don’t put all the weight in the sticks — front-load them, and imagine they’re forming part of a triangle with your body. Tripod sticks offer more stability, but less flexibility when moving positions. Quad sticks are easier to move, but they, and bipods, will leave you with some movement.

rifle instructor

Meet the instructor

Brad’s background as a professional stalker, both for private estates and for Forestry Commission Scotland, and his training as a sniper in the Marines, has given him the knowledge, experience and skills to take us through these first steps of achieving accurate, consistent results from your rifle. His advice will benefit you whether you have been stalking for decades or are taking it up for the first time.

Things to remember about rifle shooting

  • Chose the right rifle for the job. A heavy, long-range foxing rifle is too heavy for a mountain hunt. It’s not necessary to have a military sniper rifle that can shoot well at 1,000 yards when you simply want a decent deer rifle.
  • The .22 rimfire is a good platform for people to learn to shoot.
  • Ensure the stock is into your cheek correctly by placing the “V” of your chin on top of the stock and then sliding your cheek down on to the stock. This can help to achieve the correct eye relief and sight picture, and ensure that when you’re firing a heavier calibre rifle the stock is pressed firmly into your cheek so that you don’t feel the smack of any recoil.
  • Hold the rifle with a reasonably firm grip. Imagine squeezing your thumb and forefinger together as you make the shot, and remember to maintain the pressure on the trigger and follow through.
  • Get into the habit of making the shot, watch it hit, reload, re-evaluate, then make the next shot.
  • Stand with your weight naturally through your body. When you are on the target take the shot as soon as you can otherwise you will start straining for the perfect aim, you’ll get tired and start to wobble. You need to be able to fire from any position in case you’e asked by the stalker to shoot from an unconventional position.
  • Practise dry-firing from all positions.

This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated.