When moving to an alternate position, any errors we put into the rifle will be magnified. When shooting prone, or from a bench, especially with our modern rifles, they can mask a lot of our errors. The stability from the prone position can help minimize the dispersion we introduce. That is definitely not the case when you move to an alternate position. Alternate positions are a necessity, we see them in the field due to terrain and obstacles, we see them in competitions to move us out of our comfort zone. It’s the reason why people who would otherwise consider themselves really good sub moa shooters fall apart when taken off their bellies like found in host of the tactical competitions around the country.
So, how do we manage these errors found when moving to alternate position. It’s called Indexing & Trading. We INDEX on the fundamentals we can maximize and control, and we TRADE OFF on the ones that are diminished or compromised. Understand, not all of these compromises are the shooters fault, but it’s in every tactical shooters best interest to manage them. The fundamentals of marksmanship are the foundation on which all good shooting is built. It’s why with these lessons we spend so much time on them. So when the conditions compromise that foundation, we have to act to shore up the others so the errors are not so great as to cause a miss. So let’s look at each fundamental and what might be a reason why each is compromised.
Natural Point of Aim - This can be compromised in any number of ways, a bad position due to terrain or obstacle, shooting a moving target. When in the prone it’s very easy to overlook the error associated to NPA. However in alternate positions, or shooting slung, a poor natural point of aim will drive the rifle off target. The goal is to not muscle the gun to the target but to point it and your body as one. If you approach the target in a straight, square manner, you’ve gone 3/4s of the way there, maybe even better. In the video you’ll note the really strong wind blowing me off target. This is very noticeable when winds exceed 10MPH. So, you have to trade off on your NPA and index on everything else in order to break the on target. If you sway off target with a compromised NPA and then jerk the trigger you just magnified the error so great, you’ll get miss.
Sight Picture - Sight picture can be compromised by an ill set up rifle, especially if you move from the prone to an Alternate position. Often people find they set up the rifle for only one position and when forced into another, they introduce a large amount of shadowing. Another thought is adding clothing due to a change of season. The rifle set up for summer is now out of position for winter. Its best to adjust your Sight Picture as close as you can to the middle. Remember opening up your FOV by lowering the magnification can increase your eye relief repairing your Sight Picture error.
Breathing - This is a big one that gets magnified as well as NPA. Alternate positions as found in competitions are usually also under the clock. Adding that time factor to our shot will cause a lot of anxiety. We’re scrambling and moving around trying to beat the clock. Also we feel if the position is not perfect, if the sight picture is moving around, by holding our breathe we can steady it up. Remember the first thing compromised when depriving our body of Oxygen is our eye sight. We start to flutter, then shake. So continue to breathe and don’t stop. If you are running & gunning, you can manage your breathing by controlling how fast you inhale & exhale, but still, don’t stop, just manage it. By letting it out in a controlled fashion, we can then exaggerate the natural respiratory pause, allowing us to break the shot at the bottom.
Trigger Control - This is what it is all about, trigger control. Consider the cold, wearing gloves, out hands not as dexterous as we need them to be. This can compromise trigger control. So focus on not crushing it by slowly breaking the shot. Distance should give us time and opportunity, so use that time when it comes to lining up the shot. We practice dry firing so we know exactly what the trigger break feels like. We have to recall that memory when we can’t feel our fingers or the trigger.
Follow Through - Our forgotten fundamental of marksmanship. Be sure to follow through. Speed, or a really light trigger generally compromises follow through. So consider the mental aspect of follow through allowing the recoil pulse to end before moving and compromising the mechanical side of things. It’s follow through that will help you see the results of your shot even in an alternate position. You have to watch the sight, break the shot and hold until you see that result.
We want to index on the ones we can control, and trade off on the ones we can’t. But always remember this your foundation we are talking about so work on them all.