I’ve often looked at distant targets and thought, these are easy, I’ll just take a knee and shoot. Then I notice other shooters better than myself go all the way down to prone for those “easy” targets.
Sometimes, I’m stubborn and only take a knee, tough it out and end up wasting time. Other times, I look at those shooters and take heed, realizing that getting into prone is ultimately going to save me time by increasing accuracy. After all, I know that I shoot better as I get closer to the ground.
Many years of shooting and training have proved that the closer to the ground I am, the more stable I’ll be and the better accuracy I’ll have. Think about it: We don’t generally zero our guns or check for accuracy from the standing position. If we don’t shoot from a table rest, we generally shoot from prone off a bipod or some sort of rest/support.
“CLOSER TO THE GROUND MEANS CLOSER TO THE BULLSEYE”
Whether the situation is self-defense, hunting or competition, and when time is of the essence, knowing how to correctly get into the most stable position can help get accurate hits on target fast. A solid shooting platform keeps the rifle scope, red dot or iron sights on the target during the rise and fall of recoil. Understanding the body position and how the gun meets your body in prone is the majority of the battle. Proper body position gets the sights quickly back on the target, allowing for a follow-up shot if necessary.
DROPPING INTO POSITION
When I talk about shooting from the prone position, I use the word, “drop,” which is usually referred to as “dropping into position.” As I prepare to drop into position, I identify the target in a proper standing position—feet, knees, hips and shoulders squared to the target.
I first drop to my knees right where my feet are. There is no change in body position. My “two-knees-down” position is a lower version of my standing position. Next, with my rifle in my strong hand, I reach down with my support hand and form a tripod position. Now, I have two knees down, and my support hand is holding up my upper body.
From the tripod position, I simply kick my feet straight back while my upper body comes to rest on my elbows and forearms.
This entire time, I still keep my eyes on the target. You shouldn’t be looking at the ground, because you need to see the target with your eyes before you can shoot it with the gun. Keep your eyes on the target.
Eyes up and face toward the target, I flatten out and spread out. I get my belly on the ground, prop up on my elbows and spread my legs out behind me. I also flatten my feet by getting my ankles and heels on the ground.
The reason for spreading out and pressing my ankles and heels into the ground is twofold: When I spread out, I create a wide, stable base. Then, by pressing my ankles and heels down to the ground, I eliminate the rocking or swaying movement in my body by not having the toes of my shoes and my knees rolling side to side behind me.
The whole objective with prone is to get behind the rifle. Point the rifle at the target, and point your body to the rifle. This will keep recoil in a straight rearward motion. As a result, the sights will rise and fall, rather than jump to the left or right (depending on which side is dominant). Angular recoil is usually caused by not being in line with the bore axis of the gun.
One of the myths I’ve heard over the years is that you should never let your rifle’s magazine touch the ground, because it might cause malfunctions.
Although there are certain long guns that will malfunction when the magazine is pressed into the ground, the AR will not. Honestly, I don’t know how I’d shoot from prone if I couldn’t press the magazine into the ground as a monopod. It makes shooting so much easier and stable. There are very few times I have to support myself only on my elbows due to terrain. It’s not my favorite, but it is way more stable than seated, kneeling or standing.
Finally, a few pointers for shooting from the prone:
If I’m wearing a sling, I usually bring my arm out of it and leave it looped around my neck. For me, it’s my support arm. If the sling is sloppy and loose, I might not have to come out of it: If it’s quickly adjustable for length, I can stay in it and also use it as a tool for stability. It depends on the sling and the gun.
When I’m in the prone, I try to get as low as possible to the ground. I ground the magazine and use my hands and arms to pull the gun not only down, but back, into my chest/collar/ shoulder. If you get down and don’t pull the gun back into your body, you’ll notice that the gun will recoil crazily and drift around on the loose skin and “meat” beneath the butt stock.
When shooting precision shots, remember to breathe. Take a deep breath in, and begin aiming and pressing the trigger on the exhale. The shot should break at the bottom of your breathing cycle. Never hold your breath, because it affects your vision in as few as four seconds.
When I’m in position, and the rifle doesn’t line up with the target, I adjust my hips to change my point of aim. I move my body to move the gun’s point of aim. If you move the gun, you’ll find that you end up fighting recoil, and the gun has to readjust between shots. When I do things correctly, the rifle rises and falls between shots, bringing the target back in the sights every time.
It’s easy to look at a distant target and think, I’ve got this! But if we take the time and get into the prone position, we just might save time in the long run.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.