Every shooter knows the steadiest field position for precise rifle shooting is prone. Fewer know how hard prone is to achieve.
You don't just flop down and shoot. Here are just some potential problems:
- You lie in water, mud, snow, or cacti. Youch! Look before you flop.
- You lie behind a bush, boulder or tall grass. Pretty tough to see through, let along push a bullet through. Make sure the cover is short enough to permit shooting with your muzzle about a foot above the ground.
- You lie down only to realize your target is uphill. The steeper the uphill angle, the more difficult it is to lower the toe of the butt stock and raise the muzzle enough to shoot up. As you do the scope's eyepiece tilts ever closer to your eye and the butt drops ever farther off your shoulder. The result: you'll be absorbing the rifle's recoil with your forehead! Scope cuts are no fun!
- Once you're on your belly, it isn't easy to shift left or right. If your game walks or runs, you won't be able to swing with it. Be prepared to shift, scrape and reposition and hope the critter stops.
- If you're shooting a long magazine in an AR-15-style rifle, it may poke in the ground, preventing you from getting low enough to shoot prone.
- If you're shooting a lever action, there may not be room to cycle the lever for another shot.
- With the muzzle within a foot of the ground, muzzle blast will kick up dust, snow or moisture such as a helicopter's prop wash. Best have the wind at your back to blow this debris away from your scope and face.
Grass height alone can mess up a prone shot. The steadiest prone shooting is done with a fixed bipod on the forend and a small butt pad under the stock's toe.
All this makes the prone position sound pretty bad! But it can be darn good when:
- You're on a rise or ridgetop shooting slightly downward with nothing blocking the way.
- When you can lay your rifle across a pack with maximum contact.
- When you use a short bipod plus a small bean bag or slider pad under the toe of the stock. Letting the rifle recoil smoothly and consistently back aids accuracy and consistency.
- When you have plenty of time to line up on a calm, standing animal.
Shooting down from the lip of a ridge or boulder is an effective use of the prone position.
With the above in your favor, a prone shot is among the steadiest you can take, which is why most extreme-range shooters use it. Beyond about 400, perhaps 500 yards, other field positions aren't quite steady enough. Prone with an attached bipod or backpack really steady things. Practice this a lot and you can train yourself to take advantage of the steadying influence of prone shooting.