Guns > Rifles

Practical Riflecraft (Page 2)

Your hardware does little good if you don’t wield it ably. Merely pointing a rifle and pulling a trigger will not bring game to bag, despite what caliber you shoot, the price of your optic or the construction of your bullet.

Decide what you will use to carry ammo; where it will reside; and how you will move your hand between the ammo and the rifle’s chamber or magazine without looking. Practice three kinds of reloads. All of them are begun with an open bolt.

Perform a low load by maintaining a firm hold on the fore-end with your weak hand while lowering the gun to waist level. Keep your eyes on the target. Use your strong hand to acquire one fresh round at a time. Place each one firmly in the magazine well, pushing down on each one to ensure it slips beneath the feed lips. Close the bolt on a fresh round in the chamber as you use both hands to raise the rifle to eye level. Place your finger on the trigger only after your eye finds the target through the scope.

Perform a position load by maintaining a firm hold on the fore-end with the weak hand to maintain pressure on the rifle against your body. Keep the gun in your shoulder, your eyes on the target. Without looking, find your cartridge wallet with your strong hand, and acquire a fresh round. Reach up and place it in the open action, and push down on it to ensure it seats beneath the magazine feed lips. When the magazine is topped off close the bolt and resume shooting.

Perform a tactical load similar to the position load. But instead of loading one cartridge at a time acquire a full load of rounds—enough to top off the magazine in one motion. Without taking your eyes off the target, diligently work to seat each round beneath the magazine feed lips. This takes practice. Loose cartridges don’t always cooperate. But master this method and you can top off an empty magazine and be back in action faster than you ever imagined.

Learn to manage recoil. Buy and use a Past slip-on recoil pad on your shoulder. “Don’t let the gun roll you,” says New. “You need to be in control; don’t let the gun run you or dictate what position you’ll use or how much you’ll shoot during a range session. It’s a matter of pre-programming your body to manage recoil, to minimize the movement during recoil.”

Call your shots. You should have a good idea where your bullet impacts the target before you confirm it with a look downrange. This is easy if your focus resides on the sight when the shot breaks. Before you check point of impact, ask yourself whether you can remember the location of the sight when the gun discharged. Record your called shot in a range data book then compare it to the actual point of impact.

When you start sending live rounds downrange, remember you have a loaded firearm in your hands. The definition of “loaded” is a stoked magazine—a round need not be in the chamber. Muzzle awareness is paramount at all times. When the game is killed or the day ends, unload your rifle completely and tell others you’ve done so. Always keep in mind the first two rules of NRA firearm safety: Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. (The gun will be loaded because it’s in use.)

Prone is the most stable position you can take, since your torso and legs maintain constant contact with the ground. With each elbow planted firmly, you create three points of contact and what can be a benchrest-solid platform. Terrain or vegetation often rules out the position.

How to Get There—Hold your rifle by the fore-end in your weak hand, and drop to your knees. Fall forward, using your strong hand as a brace. Straighten your legs, spreading them far apart. Lay your heels flat on the ground, toes pointed outward. Plant each elbow on the ground, lift the rifle with your weak hand, and tuck the butt into your shoulder with your strong hand. Keep your support elbow directly beneath the fore-end to provide stability. Now check your natural point of aim. If needed, adjust to it by angling your body slightly toward your strong side. Sometimes prone is too low, but you should always consider it first when choosing a position.

Advanced Tips—The international position provides a slightly higher line of sight and fire. It can also be more comfortable because it alleviates pressure on your chest. To get there, bend your strong-side knee toward your strong-side elbow, and adjust your elbows as needed. This raises your torso, which gives you a better line of sight/fire. Beware: It is a less-stable platform, as your chest will no longer be in contact with the ground.

The Hawkins prone is the lowest of all, but it provides the least clearance over obstacles. To adopt it, make a fist with your support hand around the front sling swivel and rest your fist and the rifle’s buttstock on the ground. Flatten your elbows to either side.

Recovery—Grip the rifle by the fore-end, release it with your strong hand, and use that hand to push up off your chest. The buttstock will rest on the ground. Straighten your strong-side elbow, and when your legs enter the equation, tense their muscles and rock backward to your knees. Swing your weak leg forward and place your foot flat on the ground. Grip the rifle with both hands, and rise to a standing position, stepping forward with your strong-side leg to maintain a balanced stance.

Alternatively, if the terrain and your physical ability enable it, you can rock back farther when rising off your chest, and in one motion rock from your knees all the way back to a flat-footed, squatted position then stand. Keep the rifle in your shoulder and pointed downrange, scan and assess as you rise.

Next to prone, the sitting position is the most stable position you can adopt. It’s usually the one most hunters take in the field when they’re not using a rest because it comes naturally. Trouble is, most hunters rarely try it on the range, thinking they can figure it out if the situation dictates. But when they do so in the field, their muscles resist due to inactivity. If you’re over the age of 40 I suggest you practice this one. Considering the vagaries of terrain and vegetation, it presents the most useful tool to a hunter without a rest, but only if one’s body is ready to adopt it.

How to Get There—Stand 45 degrees into your strong side, your weak shoulder facing downrange, and cross your ankles. Holding the rifle in your weak hand, drop to the seat of your pants, using your strong hand to brace your fall, and sit cross-legged. Place your elbows in the pockets formed by your bent knees. Hold the rifle in your weak hand, and use your strong hand to place the rifle butt in your shoulder pocket. Now scrunch low … lower … sink into position.

Advanced Tips—This is as low as you can go while seated, and next to prone it’s the most stable position. But if you have a “pronounced” midsection you’ll never get here without practice; scrunched as you are, you’ll compress your diaphragm and it’ll be hard to breathe. Practice on the range to stretch muscles and work out joints. If sitting cross-legged presents a problem, plant each foot flat on the ground and rest your triceps on your knee caps. Be careful: This exposes you to twitching knees.

Recovery—If your legs are crossed unfold them and place your feet flat on the ground, knees up. Grip the rifle by the fore-end in your weak hand, and place your strong hand on the ground behind you. Bend your strong leg underneath the tripod formed by your weak leg and your body. Push with your strong hand and rise to your strong knee. With your weak hand still gripping the fore-end, lay your weak elbow over your weak knee, bring the rifle to your shoulder and lean into the kneeling position. Rock forward and rise to the standing position. Keep the rifle shouldered as your rise to the offhand position.

This is my favorite position because it gives me three things: a stable, three-point shooting platform I can reach in an instant, a commanding view of the field and the ability to move quickly should the situation change. With practice over the years, I’ve proven to myself I can be about as accurate in the field from the kneeling as I can from the sitting, mainly because it’s more comfortable for me to adopt. The downside is it’s hard on the knees if you must hold position for a long time. Rmember, kneeling is simply not as stable as prone or sitting.

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