The Support Hand and Rear Bag
It’s very hard to see and understand the role of the support hand when it comes to shooting your precision rifle in the Prone. It’s hidden by our body position and the subtle movements are masked by the attention put on the firing hand.
We know, the firing hand has two tasks,
- To Manipulate the Trigger without disturbing the lay of the sights
- To hold the rifle in the shoulder pocket supporting Trigger Control
So what does the support hand do ?
We know it’s holding the back of the rifle, but many people only see it holding the rear bag. We use a rear bag to support the butt of rifle in the vertical plane. The support hand controls this by relaxing or squeezing the bag. So if we are holding the rear bag, how do we support the horizontal plane with the butt of the rifle ?
The support hand has to do several things at once, manipulate the rear bag elevation, and then hold the butt of the rifle.
I use my thumb and index finger to hold the stock, and my, Middle, Ring and Pinky to adjust the rear bag.
Part of our job when shooting the rifle dedicated to recoil management. This helps up maintain consistency and rapidly follow up by minimizing movement. Recoil management is not just about loading the bipod, especially with Magnums. We can effect the recoil of the rifle by how we hold the rifle, manipulate the trigger and support the rear of the rifle.
The rear of the rifle is very important, why because any movement at the butt will be magnified at the muzzle. As I have mentioned before, recoil will follow the path of least resistance much like electricity. If you give it a path to follow it will take it and exploit it. This can be by shooting with an unloaded bipod, a poor grip on the stock with the firing hand, or not supporting the rear of the rifle.
We don’t want to let the rifle fishtail in the shoulder pocket on recoil. This moves the muzzle in an inconsistent way and has the potential to beat the bullet out of the muzzle. So be sure to support the rear of the stock.
Lastly, the support hand has to take over for the firing hand when we run the bolt. After the shot is taken, we have to reach up with the firing hand to run the bolt and reload the rifle. We put movement into the shoulder pocket, so the support hand has to hold the rifle in place. If we don’t hold it in position we need to start over and reset out position. It’s this dance that gets over looked because of all my research, nobody mentions this it pertains to recoil management. But holding the butt of the stock in the shoulder pocket, we have better position from shot to shot, and it makes our follow up shots that much quicker and more accurate. The ill effects of movement can change our NPA if we let it.
So watch the video, and understand the support has a job to do beyond holding the rear bag. The pressure is not nearly the same as the firing hand, I would say, if I had to put a value on it, to be about 1/3 of the pressure used by the firing hand. The value for the firing hand is equal to the weight of the rifle, the support hand is 2/3rds less.
I will say, that with something like an F Class rig or Benchrest , this would be much less. They use a much heavier rifle and more robust support system. So the personal interaction between shooter and rifle is a lot less. They depend on not only the design of the rifle stock, but the front and rear rest to do a lot of the work for them.