Sunday, March 18, 2012

Handgun Shooting Positions: One Handed Stance

In the last few posts, we have studied several rifle shooting positions. In the next series of posts, we will look at several handgun (i.e. pistols and revolvers) shooting positions. The first one we will study is the one handed stance.

The origin of this stance dates back to the first pistols and back when dueling was common. The idea was to present the least amount of body surface area to the opponent and this could be achieved by facing the opponent sideways. Another reason was that it allowed the shooter to use the other hand for something else, for example, holding the reins of his horse, or manipulating a door knob.

The one handed stance was taught in the US military for a long time, as illustrated by the image above. However, many soldiers could not manage the recoil of the Colt M1911 pistol and accuracy suffered as a result. Hence, two handed stances have been taught in recent years (which we will cover in following posts).

Many competitive pistol shooting events (such as air pistol events at the Olympic games) also mandate that the shooter should use only one hand, particularly because it is more challenging than shooting two-handed.

Notice how the shooter shoots with one hand holding the pistol and the other hand placed on the hip.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rifle Shooting Positions: Ready Positions

In the last few posts, we've studied various rifle shooting positions. However, we have not yet studied ready positions (i.e.) positions that the rifle may be carried in, when a soldier is on patrol, or a hunter is in the woods etc. These will be covered in this post.

The first position we will cover is the patrol carry (i.e. sling ready) position.
Public domain image, courtesy the Department of Defence. Click on image to enlarge.

In the above image, we see US Army soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division and ANA soldiers on patrol in a village in Afghanistan. Note the position of the men using their slings to support the weight of their rifles. This is the most comfortable carrying position when carrying a rifle for long periods of time, such as on patrol duty. Notice how each soldier ensures that his rifle is pointing in a safe direction away from his fellow soldiers.

The next position we will look at is the low ready position.

In this position, the soldier holds his rifle already at the shoulder, but with the barrel pointed safely downwards, with the finger close to, but not on the trigger. This position is used especially when approaching an area with known threats, as it allows the soldier to quickly transition from this to a shooting position. However, since the weight of the rifle is supported by the arms, it isn't suitable for carrying a rifle like this for long periods of time.

The final position we will look at is the high ready position.

In this position, the soldier holds the rifle to his shoulder, but aims the rifle barrel upwards. This is more useful when the soldier is in a close group with other friendly soldiers and it is not possible to point the rifle barrel downwards safely. It is also handy if the soldier needs to reload or use the support hand for other purposes, such as opening doors. Like the low ready position, this position also allows the user to quickly transition to a shooting position.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rifle Shooting Positions: The Back Position

In our last post, we looked at the squatting position. In this post, we will look at a shooting position that was more popular in the 19th century, but is not seen much these days -- the back position.

Like the name indicates, the back position consists of the shooter lying with his back on the ground, as the following two images show:

Click on images to enlarge. Images are in the public domain.

When we studied the prone position earlier, one of the disadvantages of that position that we'd noted was that it isn't suitable in places where the ground in front of the shooter slopes steeply up or down. The back position can be used in such conditions. This makes the position useful for long range shooting, where the rifle needs to be elevated to a high angle; and also where the rifle needs to be shot down a steep slope. It is also useful for long-bearded men who do not wish to get mud and dust in their carefully groomed facial hair.

To assume this position, the shooter first sits on the ground facing the target and holding the rifle across the body. The shooter then lies down on the ground on his back and turns slightly to the right, to allow his right thigh to rest squarely on the ground. The shooter then bends his left knee (as in the first picture) or places his left leg on top of the right leg (as in the second picture). The barrel of the rifle is then placed on the side of the right knee (first picture) or left knee (second picture). The right elbow rests on the ground and the right hand is placed on the trigger. The butt of the rifle is in the hollow of the right shoulder and the left hand serves to hold the butt in place. The head is raised off the ground, to view the sights properly. Notice that in the first image, the shooter grabs a bit of his left sleeve with his teeth, in order to keep his head steady.

Like the prone position that we studied earlier, this position requires open land in front of the shooter, as it cannot be used where there are bushes or tall grass obscuring the target.

There are some other variations of the back position, such as the Fulton position, invented by a Henry Fulton, who was a civil engineer and later served in the Civil War as a lieutenant of the 12th Regiment New York National Guard, rising up in the ranks to become a Major.
The Fulton Position.
Click on image to enlarge. Public domain image.

In the Fulton position, the shooter lies on his back and draws his knees in a V-shape and crosses his legs. This allows him to position his rifle barrel between the crossed legs. The left arm is then positioned behind the shooter's neck, thus allowing him to support his head; and the left hand grabs the butt of the rifle. While this looks a bit unusual, bear in mind that this gentleman won the first Wimbledon Cup in 1875 and was part of the US team that won the first international rifle shooting match ever (the original Palma match) in 1876. The National Rifle Association also awards the Henry Fulton trophy, named after the man, annually since 1987 to the highest scorer of the team match in the World Long Range Shooting Championship.

While the back position is not seen much these days, it was more popular in the 19th century. In fact, in the first Palma match of 1876, five out of the twelve shooters in the competition shot lying on their backs and seven shot from the prone position. Those lying on their backs averaged 157 points against 154 points for those using the prone position.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rifle Shooting Positions: The Squatting Position

In our previous post, we studied the sitting position. In this post, we will study a related position called the squatting position. This position is also referred to as the "rice paddy squat" or the "rice paddy prone" position, perhaps because it came in handy during the Vietnam war.
Click on image to enlarge. Image is in the public domain.

The shooter places both feet flat on the ground and is bent slightly foward, so as not to lose their balance. It is important to note that elbows should not meet with the knees here (because bone-to-bone contact makes the position unstable). Instead the knees should support the muscles of the upper forearms for a stabler position. This position is somewhat more stable than the standing position, but is not as stable as some of the other positions we've studied so far. This is because there are only two contact points with the ground (the two feet) and the knees support the upper arms.

This position is NOT part of the basic US Army marksmanship course, but is used by some soldiers all the same, as well as by hunters. The advantage is that this position can be very rapidly got into and out of, from a standing position and allows one to quickly duck behind bushes, shrubs etc. Therefore, it allows the person to quickly drop out of sight and not alert the target of his/her presence. It is also useful in places where it is not possible to assume a prone or a kneeling position easily, for instance in a rice paddy field or a swamp.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rifle Shooting Positions: The Sitting Position

In our last post, we looked at the prone position. In this post, we will look at the sitting position.
Click on images to enlarge.

This position is a fairly stable one and has a couple of variants. As you may notice, in the first three images, the shooters are sitting with their legs open and in the third picture, the shooter has his legs crossed.

While this is not as stable as the prone position, this method has a couple of advantages over it. Unlike the prone position, this position is faster to get into from a walking position. It also has the advantage that it allows the user to see over low brush and tall grass, which is sometimes a problem from the prone position.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rifle Shooting Positions: The Prone Position

In our last post in this series, we looked at the kneeling position. In this post, we will look at another commonly used position: the prone position.
Public domain images. Click on images to enlarge.

In the two pictures above, we see two men in different prone positions. In the first one, the man is positioned in line with the axis of his rifle barrel and in the other one, we see the man lying almost perpendicular to the line of his rifle barrel. The feet may also be placed close together or splayed apart.

Regardless of which position is used, this is the best position for maximum steadiness. However, if the person is walking with a rifle, then getting into this position takes longer than the standing position or kneeling position. It is one of the standard positions that is taught by all militaries of the world.

It is not advisable to use this position when handling a large-bore rifle, or one that has huge recoil, because the user risks snapping their collar-bone, due to the fact that the butt of the rifle sits higher on the shoulder than when in the standing or kneeling position. It is also not useful, if the ground in front of the shooter slopes steeply up or down, or if ground cover (bushes, shrubs, grass etc.) blocks the target. However, it is the best position for maximum accuracy and also allows the user to use any bit of available cover.