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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I once shot 92/100 at a single target with a prone, slung bolt rifle.

Nothing too amazing there, it's an okay score.

The thing is, I did it blind.*

I got into position. I zeroed in & shot a few sighters. I then went through a couple of checks & finally had a hat pulled over my eyes. Then I fired 10 shots.

If you have a good neutral position, then this is nothing amazing. It should be easily attainable.

You should be able to shoot groups blind as well as you do sighted...

Now read on.

* With a spotter for range safety!

Firstly, this is not trying to teach you to suck eggs. It has been requested, so here it is.

If you know it all already, then this lesson isn’t for you.

If you’re new to shooting, want to improve your shooting, or are about to buy new optics, red dots, lasers, stocks, bipods to try and improve your shooting, then this could well be for you.

Secondly, as it is probably obvious by now, I shoot competitive smallbore. Also I’m English, so some of my spelling might hurt your eyes. Asides from the spelling, we are all brothers of the gun, so where we come from shouldn’t bear on the lesson. I came here to learn from you lot, and hopefully some of what I share will help you too.

I’ve shot bigger than .22. I’ve shot long range rigs, but my time is spent honing the .22 and focusing on the one discipline, leaving me little time for any other.

Regardless of what you do, the smallbore rifle will teach you more than you could imagine. Some people just need to realise that calibre size isn’t the same as **** size… although it is still down to how you use it that counts…

Due to the way a .22 can get tossed around in light wind, and how any movement or twitch can send it off target to a greater extent than the larger rounds, the .22 is a cruel mistress and a demanding master. Get it right at this stage and the rest is a relative easy transition to larger calibres.

Thirdly, I’m going to be bold and tell you what a local top shooter and gun store owner told me when I went to hand him a stack of cash for some rifle parts to fix a problem I was having.

'Sort your position out. You rely too much on gadgets and add on parts, which just mask the problem you have… Sort your position out.’
He turned away $800 so I’d become a better shot. Best $800 I never spent.

(Note: Now's the time to rethink all those bits you were about to buy - or look the receipts out if you've already purchased them...)

Anyway, that neutral position –

I’ll assume for now that you know how to get into a comfortable position, and you’ve had the common sense to go to a gun club or similar where someone with experience and knowledge of shooting has helped get you into the correct (or rather one of the correct shooting positions).

The neutral position is important due to a counter-intuitive lesson I learnt early on:

You don’t aim the rifle.

It sounds wrong, but it’s correct.

Even the diminutive .22 has recoil. It has enough to try and return the rifle to the neutral position the moment the round is released by the easing of the trigger…

The bigger the calibre, the more noticeable this is. You’ve all seen people on YouTube trying a gun for the first time under some brainless idiots ‘supervision’ and the recoil throws that gun left, right, up, down… all over the place… It isn’t being held correctly.

You need that recoil to be straight back and with no barrel kick up.

The neutral position is a stable position that when you are relaxed and asserting no forces onto the rifle, the rifle is perfectly in line with the target, yet shouldered and supported in such a way that the recoil will come straight back in line with the barrel and into the shoulder.
Once you have this position, the rest is easy.

Ha… Not really… You now need to be brutally honest with yourself…

‘Am I really in the neutral position?’

My coach used to get me to close my eyes, count to 20 slowly, then open my eyes and check if I was still on target. If I wasn’t, then my neutral position was obviously not really that neutral.

I would then shuffle my toes, move my feet a little, shift my hips forward, rearward, left and right (calm down at the back, I’m married) to get the sight back on target.

Notice this was pivoting around the hips and moving legs and feet. You don’t need a lot of movement to bring the rifle on sight if you were nearly there already. I don’t move my top half much as the rifle is already cradled in a trained neutral manner.

So I’d shuffle a little and do the 20 second rule again.

‘I’m in position!’ I’d tell the coach.

he’d ask.

‘Yes. Spot on!’

At which point he’d grab the end of the barrel and shake it firmly left and right, up and done (stop laughing at the back of the class… I can hear you).

‘Are you still on target?’


‘Then you weren’t in position’.

If the rifle is shouldered correctly – firmly, but not being forced into the shoulder, it should return to the neutral position and you should still remain on target.

Lots of practice, small adjustments, muscle memory, practice, wobbles and eyes closed and practice, and I can now settle into that neutral position quickly each time – and I still close my eyes for 20 seconds and look back before shooting the first shot – just to be sure.

Now if you are shooting several targets (like a 10 spot card), you are going to have to move, and it’s easy to tell the people who don’t move from those that do, just by looking at the shot card.

To move my POI (Point of Impact) on cards with multiple targets on I shuffle my feet (for left and right POI) and hips (raise and lower POI).

Some people just push the rifle slightly. They get into a world of problems.

A typical way of shooting a 10 diagram/target card is to go clockwise around it. This gives a great demonstration of the importance of the neutral position.

By sighting up, doing the eyes closed check, adjusting a bit, tweaking a bit, doing the eyes closed bit again, you can be sure your body and rifle is in that neutral position.

Then you let the shot go. You then do the same shuffle, tweak, eyes closed check for the next shot, and the next. Each time reasserting the neutral position.

If you don’t, then the following happens.

You hit centre on shot 1.

Shot 2 is low because you pushed the rifle over, which inherently causes the barrel to drop. It is also slightly to the left, because the recoil tried to push it back into the neutral position.

Shot 3 and 4 just amplify the problem.

Shot 5 and now you’re pushing across and down. The rifle tries to return to that neutral position you had at shot 1. It’s high and left.

Shots 6, 7, 8 and 9 are all returning to the centre now, but still high. Once more the rifle is trying to get to that neutral position of shot 1.

Shot 9 and 10 are more central on the vertical, but high. You guessed it.

You don’t aim the rifle. You aim YOURSELF.

You are a complete unit with your rifle. You have a pivot point at your hips that you can tilt and turn on. If you draw a line down your rifle and along your body, it should always stay in the same alignment as it should move with your body.

Neither you nor your rifle should move individually once you have attained the neutral position.

It’s all common sense, but surprisingly few people are honest enough with themselves to follow the drills each time. They rely on gadgets, add-ons and trinkets bolted to their rifles, when they really need to strip them all off, get some iron sights and learn to shoot properly.


Do you think you have a good neutral position yet?
Are you being honest with yourself?

Here's the check:

  1. Go to a range with your buddy. They are there to act as your eyes for safety, and to blindfold you.
  2. Put up your target.
  3. Get in position. Zero in. Fire a few sighters.
  4. Now get your buddy to blindfold you whilst you are still in position.
  5. Fire 10 shots once they give you the all clear.

If you have attained a good neutral position, your group should be nearly, if not as good, as any groups you have fired with open eyes.

This test is good for several reasons:

  • When you are blindfolded you can't lie to yourself about your sight picture.
  • When you are blindfolded you can't see to try and tweak your aim by moving the rifle alone.

These two things are things we do tend to do subconsciously when we shoot. It takes A LOT of practice to stop doing it.
With this exercise you can actually check how good your position is WITHOUT your own head trying to manipulate the shot.

I'd really be interested in how this works out for you, so maybe some photos and feedback via this thread? Cheers.

The squeeze of the trigger is where the process ends. It isn’t where it starts.

The following link is my gift to you to use and share – I do have permission as long as no one uses it for profit.

Probably the best reference to prone shooting at a competitive level that you’ll find. TO WIN CD AUGUST 2004
If that doesn't work, go here: TO WIN CD AUGUST

Happy shooting.

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Very educational! I'm sure that even some veteran shooters could benefit from this post! Im definitely way off when it comes to big calibers, just no matter what I can't ever keep my lightweight hunting rifle on target, its a 300RUM that rarely ever sees daylight. I have no problems with a .300WM but from there up I have some big trouble, the bad thing is the gun was my great grandfathers and I don't want to put a muzzle break on it, im trying to leave it just as he did.
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So I'll start off by answering my question first . I need instruction .
And here go the questions .
Is it just me or does is take a lot of people a lot of adjustments to get to
a position that has very little if no stress or force on my part imparted
to the rifle . Sometimes it seems to fall into place ,shift my hips a little
feels right , send it . Other times couldn't hold position if my life depended
on if without putting a little push , physical stress , tension whatever you
want to call it into the gun. And those are the shots that take a .5 inch
group at 100yds and turn it into a 1+ group and worse . Aside from shooting
my barrel out ( I say that without sarcasm in reference to a lot of trigger time)
and tons of dryfire what allows one to get the rifle, on target , great position
repeatably and quickly . Sometimes at the range I can do no wrong and some
days I couldn't draw anything under an inch . I believe what I am asking is
have the majority of the shooters that are shooting half moa or better gotten
instruction and do they shoot this level consistently .


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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Sometimes it seems to fall into place ,shift my hips a little
feels right , send it .

Consistency is practice.

I've said it elsewhere - I shoot 98/100 as an average. That's 2 shots in 10 that are 0.003" off tolerance.

If I can put 8 shots in perfectly, then why can't I put in the other 2?

Simply put: I'm not concentrating or I'm not paying full attention to what I should be doing (or what I tell others!).

It's not easy - Don't forget that.

In your case you've already said you have some spot on days. Much like my 98. So you're more than capable.

On the good days, really figure out what you did. Write it down. It's then a matter of repeat, repeat, repeat.

I even spent months (and still occasionally) practising getting into position in the hallway of my house. I put up a 1/8" target on the wall and used that to sight in on. I'd then get up, and get down and do it again.

After getting my position roughly sorted by my coach those years back, I just listened and acted on what tips I was told.

As I said in the post, the person who got me on track after initial training was a shop keeper doing himself out of a sale.

One thing I found was using a high power scope (x24) at 100yds off of a sling really showed up my pulse and breathing patterns. The darn cross hairs were seemingly all over the place. I soon realised that the centre dot was only moving around 0.75MOA, but it was doing so in a repeat diagonal figure of 8, whilst blipping up ever couple of sweeps. This was breathing and pulse. A few sling adjustments reduced the pulse impact.

From that I spent hours down the range sorting my breathing and heart rate. I even stop the coffee during match seasons.

I don't like using scopes, I prefer the purity of the aperture sights - BUT the scope really tells you a lot about your control.


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I got a lot of good instruction from my father, and a lot of ammo. He shoots better than my grandfather, who was himself Expert-rated on the Springfield 1903. I grew up shooting at mostly living things, and got pretty good at that...good enough I don't much bother with it anymore except to maintain the skillset.

I then took up competitive shooting, got some more help, and started coaching as well...local kids, other shooters with issues I knew how to fix, etc. I started writing my thoughts on this very forum, and sorting out what others knew, and what they "knew".

Finding some goals to attain, and other shooters to "chase" and model, I did take one paid class on positional shooting.

I read, and study, and calculate, and bother my engineer friends (1 ME, 1 EE, and a Materials and ME). I buy expensive out-of-print books (when necessary) to study the history of shooting around the world, and buy the cutting-edge publications to stay there myself. I do the math for myself, on real paper, with real pencils.

I practice and practice and practice...I used to have a 10m range set up in my house on which I shot International Air Rifle targets until 1 and 2'o'clock in the morning some nights. I branched out into pistol, smallbore, silhouette; this was as cross-training, but I found them to be instead valid in themselves.

I continue to coach and write and THINK about shooting almost every single day. When I am not at work, I think about my shooting in some way or another, every waking minute of every day...always trying to find a better way to do something. It can be as simple as a "bankers pen" attached to my clipboard so I don't have some other shooter 'borrow' my pen forever, all the way to which $4,000 set of rifle components will help me win an NRA Long Range National Championship.

My NPA on the range comes as a result of living it--in my brain--from the time the alarm went off in the barracks.

The only word to describe it is "lifestyle". It's like that, for me, and if you take a look at Raven's photo above, and really sit and THINK, you'll find that there's not a single thing the man's doing that isn't deliberate.


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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
I've edited the post and added an exercise for people to try.:cool:

'A lifestyle...'
You got that right.

What I eat, when I eat, what I drink, when I drink , when I go to bed, how much sleep I have - Governed by my sport.

Drink plenty of water. Get a good nights sleep. Your eyes need that. Look after your eyes.

A good diet & fitness - maintain a good pulse & controlled heart rate.

Talking & coaching helps cement your own knowledge.

Talk to the old guys. Listen to what they do. They've forgotten more than we'll learn.

Get your mind around what you do. A good shoot starts & finishes in your head. A bad state of mind, a bad attitude - it shows in the score.​

I've become very 'zen' in my coaching. A good shoot is often over hours/days before even getting to the range, simply because someone's headspace (between their ears type) is not tuned correctly to the task in hand.

Shooting at the top end is a skill of diminishing returns.

One key thing people forget is to enjoy it. Relish the good shoots & learn but don't dwell on the bad.

I still get as much joy from shooting a clear card as I did on my very first clear card.

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Thanks for the great thread guys. I really enjoyed the comment on NOT relying on gadgets too much.
I recently started some competitive shooting with SAHGCA ( South African Hunters and Game Conservation association ), we only shoot out to 300m as it is supposed to simulate realistic hunting distances. Shooting my .270 off a bipod has taught me a lot about position.
I still have a lot of work to do to reach the level I want to achieve and threads lie this help a lot.
I also coach air gun 3P at school level. Getting the neutral position concept into a kids head is half the battle won!

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A lot of good information here. I always find it interesting to listen to people that are perusing the upper echelons of their sport. Some things cross over to tactical-style shooting quite well, while others can be a detriment.

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
A lot of good information here. I always find it interesting to listen to people that are perusing the upper echelons of their sport. Some things cross over to tactical-style shooting quite well, while others can be a detriment.
That's why I joined up with Sniper Central all those years ago. I figured there are skills and mind sets that LE and Mil snipers/sharpshooters use that could possibly benefit me. Turns out it was a two way street - and one benefit is other people interest allowing me to share what I know. Typing it out and putting it in a way that others can use reinforces it for me too.

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This is spot on with the road I've started down ... I'm on the second step of the 1000 steps (the first was realizing I needed to go down this road). My regimen right now is dry firing and counting the NPA required before the 20 count eyes closed test results in no moment of sight on target, then squeezing trigger, cycling and restarting. My dry fire ratio (NPA to rounds fired) is 1.8, my field ratio is 2.4 .. the field is not smooth and level like the living room. Using .22LR with iron sights. No pods, bags or sling.
What I will pull from this thread is to modify my field targets, so I have 10 little circles to fire at and fire one round at each (as above) that looks useful.
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(be careful what you wish for ;) )

So far it is mostly numbers ... and complaints ...

In the past 24 hours I've dry fired 18 rounds (trying to get at least 30 per day or 150 per week) and taken an average of 1.8 NPA (20 count checks) per round fired.
In the field, in the past 24 hours, I've fired 10 rounds (10 per day is goal) and taken an average of 2.4 NPA checks per round fired (the field is not as soft and level as the living room floor :) ).

Biggest "complaint" is non-firing wrist is uncomfortable some times. Those times tend to require 3-5 NPA where as the more comfortable the non-firing wrist is, the more likely to cost 1-2 NPA per round. Twisting the wrist around to get it as far under the forearm of the weapon is the issue. This might just be a "Joe" problem as I fractured my wrist 10 years ago and did not regain 100% of the ability to twist that wrist clockwise, which is what is needed to get all the way under the gun. So I'm realizing the getting the non-firing arm as far under the gun "as possible" might be the best I can do.

Plan is to continue drying firing with a sprinkle of field firing until things settle down. I'll watch the NPA ratios and see if they are improving and also try to figure out why some shots take more NPA that others, or rather what is wrong with the position when it takes more 3-5 NPA versus 1-2 NPA. I can tell that there are times when I get on a "roll" and get several 1xNPA in a row. Having to extend the non-firing hand farther out, causes more twist and more discomfort.

Well, that's about it so far. I'd consider what I've done to be trying to establish the baseline, so I'll try to see if I can improve on the baseline and my metric is ratio of NPA/Shots for both dry fire and field fire and once I set up the 10 circle type targets the second metric can be average distance from center of aiming point. It will be interesting to see if there is any correlation between high NPA required for a shot and distance from center of aiming point.
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I would suggest using a sling until you are settled. Then if you wish to shoot with no sling, you can drop it and carry out the checks again.

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I got out recently inherited LE .303B with sling that seems to be adjusted properly for me and tried first NPA on living room floor and nailed - it the first 20 count eyes closed check, and no discomfort. I looked back at the pic of that guy with the space rifle in the green house ;) on the previous page to make sure I got the sling right. I've fired at clays with long shotguns with slings, but actually I don't think I've ever fired prone with a sling, except for this LE.

Another suggestor had suggested "Bone Only", so I was trying that. But my wrist situation might indicate a compromise. Before I read your post I had a "5er" which means I couldn't pass the NPA check 5 times in a row and my wrist was not comfortable. So I had tried moving my first finger to the non-firing side, still supporting some weight with the heel of the non-firing hand. But that sounds more "non-standard" than using the sling and postponing the "Bone Only" idea.

So, I'll hook the sling back up to the .22LR. It is a Tactical Interventions sling, so hopefully I can adjust it for sling shooting. Normally I use it as a carry sling for which ever rifle it is hook to.

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Bone only? I take it you mean nothing between you & the rifle?

I wouldn't recommend it if you have a wrist that has been injured or aches. Don't put your body through it as you may end up in a situation where you have to stop shooting altogether due to aggravated injuries.

My winter season matches were made all the more 'interesting' with two broken legs. Got them by pushing too hard training. No point in trying too hard if it's to your own detriment.

Additionally, padding between you & the rifle will stop pressure points (so reduce potential swelling, numbness or pins and needles). Padding also all but eliminates pulse in the forehand (as with the 'space gun' picture:eek:).
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