Having thoroughly mastered the principles of aiming, experience only can teach the best positions under various conditions and circumstances. The regulation position, "firing standing," is generally preferred. Many find an easier and firmer position by bringing the left shoulder well to the front, and resting the rifle over the lower part of the left thumb. The advantage of this position is that it brings the left elbow directly under the barrel without any strain on the muscles. Its disadvantage is that, in a side wind, the body is apt to sway sideways, which must be avoided by placing the feet further apart. The Hythe School directs that the rifle be pressed against the shoulder with the left hand, the right holding the stock lightly; but most marksmen prefer while grasping the barrel firmly with the left hand, so as to keep it steady, to hold it well against the shoulder with the right. In all cases, it will be found that the pull-off of the trigger will be lightened by a firm grip with the right thumb.
The standing position depends so much on the personal equation of the marksman as to prevent that extreme nicety of aim required in long range firing. It also renders the rifleman liable to be swerved by the wind, and offers the enemy a better target. Kneeling is open to the same objection, but to a less extent. In the English army, when the fire is in two ranks, the front rank kneel, not only to obtain a steadier position, but to get them out of the way of the rear rank, and thus secure a more rapid and accurate fire.
The favorite position for long-range firing, particularly with a military rifle, is that of the Skirmisher Lying. In taking this position, the legs should be well separated, the toes being turned outward, so as to cause the body to hug the ground as closely as possible. The left elbow should be kept almost straight under the rifle (if placed too far to the left, it strains the wrist), and the barrel grasped firmly with the left hand. The right elbow should be placed a little to the right. To prevent the elbows separating, as they are naturally inclined to do on hard ground, a depression may be made in the ground with the heel of the boot, or something soft placed under them. The hips should be twisted to the left, and the right shoulder well raised, to keep the collar-bone out of the way and afford a firm seat for the rifle butt, which must be held closely against it.
Many of the best shots at Creedmoor and Wimbledon shoot, lying on their backs. Some lie slightly on the right side, resting the rifle barrel over the left leg, the left hand grasping the piece at the small of the stock, and pressing it against the shoulder. In this position, the distance of the rear sight from the eye requires a larger aperture than usual. The following is a favorite back position. The marksman lies on his back, his legs crossed, the left leg under the right knee, and firmly held by the right calf, the muzzle of the rifle resting in the crotch between the knees. The left arm is placed behind the head, the hand firmly grasping the butt of the rifle, the back of the head resting on the left forearm, and the right cheek touching the side of the butt. The right hand holds the small of the stock with a firm grasp, the elbow resting on the ground. In this position, not only the piece, but the entire person of the shooter is perfectly supported, and absolute steadiness is secured. Gildersleeve, Coleman, and other Americans have adopted this position, and Sir Henry Halford and others at Wimbledon concede its advantages. It is doubtful whether any advantage is gained by lying on the back, in shooting with military rifles. The position, Face Downwards, is certainly preferable for military reasons, enabling the soldier to rapidly advance or retreat, to shelter himself behind cover or to entrench himself. Whether the rifleman shoots standing, kneeling, sitting, or lying, after having once tested and become satisfied as to the position best suited to himself, he should practice it until it becomes perfectly natural and easy.
Farrow, Edward S. American Small Arms; a Veritable Encyclopedia of Knowledge for Sportsmen and Military Men. New York: Bradford, 1904. Print.
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