Dave Barham turns to the Internet for help with his standing shots
Dave discovers a new trick to aid stability for his dodgy back
It’s been a month since my back decided to go all wonky on me, and while I’m now allowed to sit down at my desk and write, I’m having to be quite careful with what I do and how long I do it for.
‘An hour at a time,’ is what I’ve been told by my chiropractor, whether it be sitting and writing, or standing and shooting, I’m to do no more and rest up for an hour between tasks.
I was hoping to get out shooting some rabbits this month at a local paddock, but my chiropractor said, ‘no’. That warning pushed me to research my standing shooting technique further, because I still can’t get down to my usual sitting shooting position and I still have the urge to shoot – even if it’s just paper targets and tin cans in my back garden!
After a good old delve into the depths of the Interweb I discovered some really useful information, which has helped me out no end whilst practising. What’s more, I’ve learned a rather nifty sling technique, which is going to come in very useful when I’m back out in the field, hunting.
During my extensive search I stumbled across two well-known stances for taking standing shots; the fighting stance and the target shooter’s stance.
The ‘fighting stance’ is a position you step into, and is one that is used by the military worldwide. Your body is at a slight angle to the target, with the left foot in front of the right (if you are a right-handed shooter). Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, knees slightly flexed – don’t lock them. You should have a slight bend in your torso, and roll your shoulders forward while trying to relax your muscles.
Your left hand should have a firm hold of the fore end of the stock, and both of your elbows should be slightly splayed.
The faster you can settle into position and release your shot, the better your results because if you spend too much time thinking about it, you’ll begin to tense up and this will affect your aim.
I took some photos of my stance and discovered that my left foot is pointed straight at the target, my right foot is about shoulder width apart and pointed at 45 degrees to the target, which all seems to be correct.
The ‘target’ stance requires you to stand more side-on to your target, with your left shoulder leading (if you’re a right-handed shooter). Your left hip is pushed forwards, and the left elbow tucked into the left hip. Doing this makes your left hand drop too low, so you will have to stretch your fingers or use a small beanbag to support the fore end of the stock. It’s not a stance I feel comfortable with, but for many it can work well,
USE YOUR ARMS
Standing to shoot is the most high-profile position and therefore the least stable. It also uses the most muscles. Your arms are the weakest link. Nobody can hold a rifle even relatively steady for very long, so obviously arm strength is an issue.
I read a very interesting piece about the use of arms when taking standing shots, and after reviewing my stance I tried this tip and it felt so much more solid.
For the most part I had been shooting with my right arm (trigger-finger arm) tucked into my body. Then I read about lifting the elbow to above horizontal to help pull the rifle butt into my shoulder, and after just five minutes of shooting like this I could feel the effect.
To do this, you need to keep your triggerfinger elbow no lower than horizontal – higher is better because this helps to set the butt into the shoulder more. Give it a try and see how you get on with it.
THE HASTY SLING
This is another great technique I discovered online, and it’s very popular with hunters shooting small and full-bore rifles in the USA, where taking a standing shot at live game is often a necessity. It’s called the ‘hasty sling technique’, and it’s really easy to set up. What’s more, it gives a far more stable platform to shoot from. You should try it and see if it helps you, too.
All you have to do is hold the rifle in your right hand and slide your left arm (supporting arm) as far forward as possible so the sling strap sits on your tricep.
Now grab the fore end of the stock with your left hand and place the butt of the rifle into your right shoulder, with the sling still sitting on your supporting arm tricep. If you’ve done it right, the whole set-up should lock up and you can stand there holding the rifle with just your left hand for a much longer period than you could without the sling.
I used to do something similar by wrapping the strap around my wrist, which does also help, but as soon as you compare that tactic to the ‘hasty sling’ method, there’s no going back, I can assure you.
TIME TO RECOVER
I’ve really been enjoying these stand-up shooting sessions, and the more I do it the more accurate I’m becoming. I know that taking a shot at live quarry from a standing position is always going to be a last resort for me when out hunting, but it feels good to know that I can hit my mark at close range if I need to.
As soon as I’m given the all clear by my chiropractor, I shall be back out in the field, and putting some long-awaited meat on my table, I hope! Happy hunting folks.
By raising your trigger finger elbow above horizontal, it forces the rifle butt deeper into your shoulder. Dave used to wrap his sling around his forearm for added stability – not anymore! With the sling wrapped tightly around the wrist, it does add a degree of stability.
Dave’s normal standing stance is okay, but a few minor adjustments made all the difference.
Your left foot should be pointing at the target, with your right foot a shoulder’s width apart, at about 45 degrees. To perform a ‘sling-assisted hold’, hold the rifle in your right hand and pull the sling as far up your left arm as possible. Now grab the rifle stock with your left hand and place the butt into your right shoulder.
Give it a try, you can hold the rifle for ages with your left hand because a lot of the weight is taken by your upper left arm.