The Four Standard Rifle Shooting Positions Explained

When you take ahold of your hunting rifle, how do you hold it? If you were asked to show the 4 common shooting positions, would you be able to adequately explain each one? Some of you may be nodding your heads but others will need some of these explained. Still whether you know what to do when holding a rifle or not, here are some pro tips to make each position work more efficiently for you.


prone rifle shooting position

The classic position with the best stability. Lying down on your stomach behind the rifle gives you very high accuracy. That said, the low angle may limit the view of the target, depending on the environment. It is also not an answer position to get into on spur of the moment.

To get into the perfect prone position, lie down with your body pointing 10-20 degrees to the right or left of the target (depending on your dominant hand). A more modern update the prone position even calls for the body to be more behind the firearm with your strong-side leg slightly bent (think Figure 4). Keep the elbows grounded, with the supporting elbow right beneath the rifle. Your head should be level with the ground. Snug the butt of the rifle into your shoulder then establish a good spot weld.

Pro tip: Use a sling or the “hasty sling” method

When using a sling, the rifle is completely supported by your arm, which in turn is supported by the ground.


sitting rifle shooting position

Although prone is by far the steadiest and is good for beginners, it is also the least used in real life simply because vegetation and other obstacle get in the way. The sitting position offers clearance for low to medium height obstacles. There are a few variations on how to sit, so you can choose the one style that suits you best.

Open Leg

This variation is done by sitting with your body facing to either side of the target (about 30-45 degrees)—again this is dependent on your dominant side. Extend your legs, keeping the knees slightly bent. Let your feet be about shoulder width apart. Your elbows will generally rest on the flesh above the knee or on them.

Cross Leg

While generally taking the same position as mentioned above, you alter the comfort level by crossing one leg over the other into a loose Indian style pose. Optionally, you can cross at the ankles, allowing the knees to be slightly more open.

When seated properly, the sights are in alignment with the target. The shooting hand should have to do nothing but hold the pistol grip and pull the trigger.


kneeling rifle shooting position

The middle position of sitting and standing. Getting into kneeling position is easy. Your weak-side knee and foot point at the target when crouching, and you supporting elbow is propped up onto that knee. Do not rest your elbow directly atop the knee, as it can slip off.

Your dominant-side knee is pointing outward at about 90 degrees. Depending on flexibility, you can sit on the dominant leg or sit on the heel of a flexed foot.


standing rifle shooting position

The least stable position but oftentimes necessary. Only when there is no other option or the vegetation is too high do you stand. The proper position is achieved by resting the support elbow (weak side) against that side’s hip, which is thrusted outward.

Wrap your supporting hand into a hasty sling. Support your weak side by pointing that side’s foot toward the target. Be sure you stock fit is perfect. You need to have your cheek firm against the stock. Keep the shooting elbow horizontal so that you get better leverage. After that, try to isometrically contract the chest muscles for stability upon firing.


There you have it—the four standard rifle shooting positions explained! How many of them did you know? Hopefully, whether you knew them already or not, you gleaned something helpful from this article.

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