Rifle Shooting Positions

When you are hunting there will be times when you won’t have a gun rest and you will need to assume one of four different shooting positions, either prone, kneeling, sitting or standing. Many times visibility of the target will determine which position you adopt. Practice shooting from each of these positions.

Watch a video on Shooting Positions

ProneHunter prone

Shooter in prone position

The prone position is the most accurate of the four; however, the low angle may limit your view of the target if there is tall grass or brush in-between. It also takes more time than the other positions to assume. Pay special attention to the muzzle of your rifle as there is greater risk that it will contact the ground and may become lodged with dirt or mud. Do not attempt to stand up while holding the rifle. Before rising, place it on the ground, stand, then pick up the rifle, again paying special attention to the muzzle.

KneelingHunter kneeling

Shooter in kneeling position

For the kneeling position, the rear knee is placed on the ground; the other leg supports the elbow of the forward arm. The elbow should not be placed on the kneecap, bone to bone, as this will cause you to wobble. The elbow should be placed on muscle, usually the quadriceps. Many hunters use this position in waist-high cover.


In the sitting position, both arms are supported. The same care should be taken to avoid elbow to kneecap contact. You can sit with your legs apart or crossed. You can also wrap your arm around your knee and rest the forestock on the muscles of your bent arm.

Shooter in sitting position Shooter sitting cross-leggedShooter sitting, knees high

Many hunters use this position when sitting against a tree.

Hunter sitting against a tree

StandingHunter standing

Shooter in standing positionWith no support other than muscle strength, this is the most difficult position for accurate shooting. It is the least effective for long distances and should only be used for short range shots. This is the quickest position to adopt and affords the greatest visibility of the target, especially in dense cover. You should stand perpendicular to the target with your feet roughly shoulder width apart. For a right handed shooter, the left hand holds the forestock, elbow pointing down. The right hand holds the grip, elbow pointing out, but not exaggerated. The butt of the rifle should be snug against your shoulder. Remember to keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.

The “Hasty Sling”

Hasty Sling Position

One way to steady shots when you don’t have rest is by using your rifle sling to create tension between your arm and the rifle. This technique is called the “Hasty Sling” and can be employed in each of the four shooting positions. As with the shooting positions, practice the Hasty Sling so you are confident using this technique.

Rifle held out with sling hanging

If you are right handed, hold the rifle out with your right hand and let the sling hang down.

left arm through sling

Place your left arm through the opening, above the sling and below the rifle.

left arm up behind sling

Next, raise the left arm up and behind the sling.

slip hand back over the sling and grasp forestock

Then slip your hand back over the sling and grasp the forestock of the rifle.

shoulder the rifle

Shoulder the rifle as you normally would.

Sling at correct length

If the sling is at the correct length, the resulting tension created when you shoulder the rifle will steady your hold.

sling across chest

With the rifle held to the shoulder, the rear portion of the sling will cross your chest.

outside view of sling wrap

The sling will wrap around the outside of your left arm, near the elbow, pass over the crook of your arm and inside your forearm. The forward end of the sling will be on the back side of your left hand.

Your position should not be cramped or cause you to adjust. It should be comfortable and snug. If it is not, you will need to adjust the length of your sling.

Shooting Supports

Having a support for your rifle can be crucial to making an accurate shot, maximizing the potential for a clean kill. There are several accessories available to help support your rifle.


BipodsBipod OTS bigger buckShooter using a bipod support, prone

Bipods are two legs that attach to the rifle for support. Some have telescoping legs and can be used in the sitting or kneeling positions. They are very stable but do add weight that you must carry. Shooting sticks- a simple straight support that collapses for easy carrying. Sometimes an appropriate shooting stick can be found in nature.

Spontaneous rests

You may have to improvise as the situation dictates. A limb or fork in a tree may serve as shooting rest. When hunting out of a blind, the ledge of the window will afford a support. Always support the forestock of the rifle, not the barrel. Avoid placing the forestock Closeup of tree restShooter using tree restdirectly on a hard surface. Buffer the spot with a glove or a hat. Also be careful where you place your hand. The recoil of the rifle firing may pinch your hand or fingers if placed between your rifle and a hard surface.