The Prone Position

After learning your rifle’s mechanisms and sling, you are ready to learn the basic firing positions.  As stated earlier, all field positions represent a compromise between stability and mobility.  The offhand position is very mobile, but unsteady, as the rifle has only the sling and the shooters support hand to steady it.  The prone position is the most stable, and hence the most accurate, but is immobile, as the shooter is prostrate.  Further, it limits the shooters field of vision if low-lying scrub or tall grass is between the target and shooter.  The sitting position is a good compromise in these instances, as it places the shooter above the grass and scrub, is stable (if the shooter assumes it correctly), and is more mobile than prone (easier to assume and return to a standing position than prone).  The AQT requires shooting from the offhand, sitting or kneeling (shooter’s choice), and the prone position.  Since you will sight in your rifle from the prone position, and it is required for both the three hundred and four hundred meter strings of fire, I will address the prone position first.  Again, although I am not and never will be a Marine, the USMC’s Rifle Marksmanship is a top shelf document and an invaluable reference for the new would-be Rifleman (you are not a Rifleman until you score expert on the AQT; until that day, you are just a cook).

The prone position provides a very steady foundation for shooting and presents a low profile for maximum concealment. However, the prone position is the least mobile of the shooting positions and may restrict a Marine’s field of view for observation. In this position, the Marine’s weight is evenly distributed on the elbows, providing maximum support and good stability for the rifle (Rifle Marksmanship, 5-8)

Of the prone position variations, I will cover the cocked leg prone position with the loop sling.  It is the most common prone position (the other being a straight-legged variation) and the most comfortable in terms of absorbing recoil.  If time is pressing, the shooter can also use the hasty or hasty-hasty slings in the prone position as well.  It is easy to get into the prone position. To begin, place a loop sling on your support arm, as explained previously.  There are two ways to get into the prone position from standing.  One may kneel and kick his feet behind him; or, one may kneel, and move forward into the position.  In a field situation, you will base your choice on available cover and time (if moving forward into position would cause you to crowd your cover, you would want to move back into position; similarly, if you may want to move forward to find cover). Since we are adapting this to fieldwork, not competition shooting, you will need to be able to do either. In both variations, use your support hand to break your fall, and to help you get into a strong prone position (Figure 1).  If moving forward into position, use your rifle butt and support arm to help you move forward into position.  If moving back into position, kick your feet back, and lie down into position.  You will need to lie down, body facing at an approximate forty-five degree angle, body facing toward the strong side, with the rifle facing the target (Figure 2).  Once lying down, roll onto your support side (the left, for right-handed shooters). Keep the support elbow firmly on the ground (this is the foundation of your position). Move your body around the elbow until your sights are on target, finding your natural point of aim.  Do not try to move the rifle’s sights on target with your arms.  Your rifle must face the target naturally. Finding and maintaining your natural point of aim is what separates the Riflemen from the cooks. Keep your support elbow directly under the rifle’s stock. If the rifle is not immediately above the elbow, it will pull your shot off the target. This may be hard on your shoulder, at first. You will develop the requisite flexibility with practice.  Your support leg should be straight, and your strong leg drawn up, until its knee is nearly touching your strong elbow.  This bent leg helps to absorb recoil, and is important in delivering sustained, accurate rapid fire (Figure 4).  Your sling should be so tight that you have to place the stock in the shoulder with the strong hand.  When you bring the strong side elbow down, it creates a cam motion that really tightens the rifle into the shoulder pocket.  You will need that sling tight, because the third stage of the AQT is rapid fire, preparing to for that truism of riflery: “A Rifleman fires every shot rapid fire”.  Scoring expert on the AQT requires accurate rapid fire

(Figure 1, using your arm to support your weight)

(Figure 2, getting into the prone position)

(Figure 3, settling in)

(Figure 4, the prone position)

It is from the prone position that you will likely sight in your rifle. Many gun owners only shoot from the bench. They never develop any real skill that way. It certainly does not prove how accurately they are capable of shooting. A Rifleman never shoots from the bench (handloaders may shoot from the bench, to work up a new load; even then, shooting from the prone is better exercise). A well-established prone position is nearly as steady, and allows the shooter to track his progress, and improve his ability. You will use the prone position for two stages of the AQT (three hundred meter rapid fire and four hundred meter slow fire), simulating real-life situations. The prone position makes the shooter a small silhouette, and allows for accurate fire at longer ranges.

Next up, the sitting position.

That was essay number two. I’ll probably draw some fire over that not shooting from the bench bit. I still stand by it. What does shooting from a bench prove, that your rifle is mechanically accurate? Big deal. If you, the shooter, can take your rifle, snap in, and hold a two inch group, you’re already a better shot than ninety-nine percent of gun owners on the planet. If you have a super-gee-whiz Buck Rogers AR that will hold sub-one-inch groups from the bench, but you can’t hit a bull in the ass on Sunday morning with it, what good will it do you? The former is much more preferable, to me, than the latter. For what it’s worth, I can hold my shoots inside a four MOA with any old surplus I can get (excepting Indian), and certainly well enough to score expert on the AQT. Is that super-fantastic? Well, it’s crap, if you believe the gun rags. They also regularly screw their test rifles into a vice before testing them, too. How well do they do in real life? They never answer those questions. That’s another rant, for another time.

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