From being a large-bore and small-bore rifle competitor in my past I wanted to share some great information with the people that have trouble with the shakes while shooting normal or telephoto photography. A position used in competition rifle shooting can be easily taken into the photography field as a method of shooting.
(used with permission from www.smallbore.us explicitedly, some notes removed that were rules specific to weapon ranges)
Construction of the standing or off hand shooting position
2. Taking the position: STANDING/OFFHAND
GENERAL It is said this is the most difficult of all the shooting positions. As a result of a very small floor area and a very high center of gravity, both the body and the rifle are subjected to considerable movement. The standing position requires a highly perfected firing technique, a properly balanced body, perfect rifle positioning, and non-dominant mental control over the neuromuscular systems. The standing athlete must be able to use the non-dominant mind to stabilize the standing position. Above all the standing position must be balanced and serenely quiet with bone-to-bone contact. The position or body has a natural sway in its attempt to become stable. It is never without movement or perfectly quiet. However, it is possible for the athlete to stop body sway from one half to one second by using the QZ~. During this QZ~ period the body stops all movement and is as stable as the prone position. This is accomplished by the non-dominant mental entities direct control over the neuromuscular system. It is very easy to accomplish and as it can be used in every position including prone, there is no reason the competitive athlete cannot be a Champion without peer.
BUILDING THE POSITION (for a right handed shooting athlete) The standing position is established in the following manner. Feet pointing 80 to 90 degrees to the right of a reference line commencing from the target to the firing point. The upper body turning to the left about 1 to 4 degrees and the rifle firing across the athletes chest and pointing approximately 1 to 5 degrees away from the chest. The degrees specified is dependent upon the structure and build of the shooting athlete. Rifle and rifle stock forward of the pistol grip may not rest against the chest. Care must be taken to keep the trigger hand away from the body during the firing sequence.
BODY POSITION The athlete leans the body slightly (1 to 3 degrees) backwards and to the right, in order to balance the weight of the rifle if necessary. Generally speaking the athlete does not have to lean backwards as long as the even distribution of weight on the legs is accomplished with the purpose of ensuring a balanced stance. In many cases a more upright position with just a slight counter balancing is all that is necessary for stabilizing the position. The feet will only be the width of the shooter shoulders. No wider than the shoulders. Bone-to-bone structure is required in the construction of the position and during the firing sequence, the lungs exhaust all air from the lungs until a balance has been achieved. During this phase, the spine is compressed to finalize the body shooting structure.
HIPS As the body is leaning slightly backward, the hip is thrust forward a little, serving as a support for the left elbow. The last statement is always held as a truth, but, in actual practice the hip is never used in support of the left elbow. The left elbow in fact makes contact with the rib cage and rest on not less than three of the ribs. The amount by which the hip is moved forwards and the body is moved backwards will depend on the build of the athlete. An athletic person(wide shoulders, narrow hips) will move further back for example than a person with very slim hips. The hips are always level.
SPINE The spine generally holds the body torso together and forms a support structure for the torso. Within the athletic position the athlete will find increased stability by compressing the spine during the optimum firing time. The spine is compressed by exhausting the lungs to achieve lung balance and of course the spine will again expand upon the inhaling of new air into the lungs. Excessive twist or back bending for achieving balance will cause the shooting athlete trouble in that the athletes indurance will be shortened during the stress and strain of the excessive twist and muscle restriction.
LEFT ARM The left arm is tucked firmly against the left ribs and directly below the rifle. This means the weight of the rifle is supported by the bone structure of the left arm and is not supported by muscular effort. It is very important for a stable stance with the rifle, that the muscles of the left hand and left arm are completely relaxed, and the rifle rest on the thumb ball joint. The left arm forms a pedestal in support of the bone rifle system. The rifle is further stabilized by firmly holding the rifle stock between the pistol grip and butt assembly against the chest and shoulder or hook under the arm.
KNEE The total weight of the left arm and rifle is supported by the left leg. The upper and lower parts of the leg is straight and the knee is in a normal position. This position must not be forced, otherwise the stable bone-to-bone structure from forearm to the foot will be broken and the position will become unstable. The knees will be subject to considerable stress if they are flexed.
FOOT POSITIONING The feet will be in normal position with the feet not wider than the athletes shoulders. A wider foot position will produce stress and is unstable for the athlete. The feet moved closer together will increase body vibrations and make it difficult to correct the overall balance. The athlete moves the weight mass on the balls of the feet in this manner. Sixty-five percent of the body weight is positioned on the ball of the foot and the remaining thirty-five percent on the athletes heel.
ANKLES The ankles are the most vulnerable part of the standing position. For this reason, they must be supported by suitable footwear. Leather uppers of the shoes must support the foot and restrict the amount of movement of the ankle. The weight is distributed evenly on both legs. The ankles are the most overlooked portion of the standing position in that the athlete seldom uses shoes that will support the athletes ankle and the position.
POSITIONING OF THE HEAD It is a well known the body balance is detected by the ears(hammer and anvil transducer). This means that the head must be erect for body balance maintenance. The balance as we know it is not the balance required by a competitive athlete. The competitive balance required by the athlete is controlled by the non-dominant mind and will last ½ to ¾ of a second. The athlete must time the shot to occur in a two second or less one-shot match in each match shooting position during a competition.
NOTE FUNCTION: The athlete does not therefore lower the head onto the rifle but bring the rifle to the athletes head. The saying is bring the rifle to the head, never the head to the rifle. The rifle may have to be canted one to two degrees and this is no problem as long as it is accomplished the same way each shot.. In some cases the rifle cant indicates that the rifle stock is not correctly positioned in the right shoulder pocket or the rifle stock is not correctly adjusted or sized for the body measurements in the standing position. Generally you will not Cant the rifle in the standing position.
RIGHT SHOULDER The standing shooting position, the shoulders must be relaxed and at right angles to the spine including parallel to a line between the target to firing point. The spine must be compressed in order to achieve bone-to-bone contact and stabilize the standing position. This requires compression of the spine when the lungs has expelled the air to a point when the lung balanced and failing in its attempt to inhale or exhale.
RIGHT ARM The standing position, a good shoulder contact is important. But it is not always easy when the shoulders are almost parallel to the rifle stock for the hook or but assembly to be held securely under the arm or against the biceps and ball of the shoulder. Even with the shoulder pushed forward, the area of contact is not large enough.
The only solution is for the right arm to be slightly raised allowing physical contact and achieving rifle control during the optimum firing period in standard rifle and the arm down when using the hook under the arm. This resistance is necessary in order to reduce or eliminate rearward movement of the rifle as a result of the trigger pull or the breaking of the shot.
RIGHT HAND The right hand holds the rifle stock securely from one-shot match to the next one-shot match. The fingers must remain in their natural, curved position all the time. If the finger muscles are flexed, a `hook' is formed . The grip is firm, as the outstretched muscles of the open hand do not tire as easily as in the clenched hand. Furthermore, when the hand is clenched, the muscles of the lower arm are flexed and this must be avoided at all costs. The `hook' formed by the fingers holding the hand grip of the stock, and depending on the type of rifle, pulls the rifle stock firmly into the shoulder or upper arm using the middle two fingers of the right hand. The thumb lies loosely against the stock. As in the kneeling and prone positions, the wrist is extended in a natural position. The right index finger should not press against the stock. The slight movements caused by the trigger pull could easily be transmitted to the stock thereby causing lateral movements. This could cause or result in complete misses.
LEFT HAND The success of the entire position depends principally on the position of the left hand. It is the left hand that determines the steadiness of the rifle position, final height of the position and final stance of the athlete. There are many different possible combinations of hand an finger positions.
NOTE: Possible left-hand grips during a match.
a. The palm of the left hand is turned forwards, the lower arm muscles are relaxed and the weapon is supported. This is not recommended as it places excessive strain upon the muscles and therewith restrict the abilities of the left arm during position construction and functional work.
b. The rifle is held with its weight directly supported by the forearm, palm facing toward the body and upturned with the rifle resting on the thumb ball joint. Arm muscles are again relaxed. As the rifle rest on the ball joint of the up turned palm, the shooters fingers are curved in contour of the stock without direct contact or griping by the fingers on the rifle stock.
Preferred method and currently used by World Class Shooters.
c. The weight of the rifle rests securely on the back of the hand, and thereby on the forearm. Palm is facing the body and the rifle is resting on the knuckles with the fingers pointing to the rear parallel to the rifle stock. This method is also not recommended to the shooting athlete.
PRESENTATION OF THE RIFLE IN THE STANDING POSITION
A problem arises in rifle presentation during the construction of the standing position. The big question by many shooting athletes is what is the rifle doing in relation to the body. We will review the possible methods used in placement of the rifle in the position.
1. The rifle is presented while using the shoulder pocket of the right shoulder. Such a use of the shoulder will make the rifle presentation point 3 to 15 degrees away from the chest and requires the body to twist excessively to the left in compensation for the rifle presentation of 3 to 15 degrees during position usage. The right arm will position itself along the left center of the ribcage.
2. The rifle is presented while laying across the chest while insuring the trigger hand and finger will not touch the body. This presentation of the rifle requires the rifle stock butt to be placed at the upper arm instead of the right shoulder pocket. Preferred method and one that is used successfully by current World Class Athletes. Care must be exercised when placing the left arm down outside the rib cage. The arm can slip during the firing procedure upsetting the rifle presentation and point of aim. In this case the butt hook is placed under the arm but not in the arm pit. The arm can be dropped to the side as a test to determine if the hook is positioned correctly without changing the rifle position or aiming point.
Item 1 has the ADVANTAGE of placing the left arm into a fixed position which has a buttress of muscles for preventing the arm from sliding or otherwise moving during the firing sequences. This method locks the left arm into location. The DISADVANTAGE is the rifle must point out and away of the shooting position causing stress and tensions on the shooting position. The procedure also increases the twist of the spine causing additional uncomfortable stress during shooting sequences. Item 2. has the ADVANTAGE of placing the left arm in one of two places on the rib cage, left center and left side rib cage. Additionally, the rifle is moved closer to the body thereby reducing the 3 to 5 degree rifle position away from the body and reducing the amount of spine twist required during the shooting sequences. The DISADVANTAGE is the rifle is closer to the body and the shooter must be careful not to violate the rules by allowing the rifle to touch the body in front of the trigger hand grip and the forward portion of the rifle. This also includes the trigger hand touching or being supported by any part of the body during the shooting competition. Otherwise this is the preferred shooting position of world class shooting athletes.
COMPETITIVE SHOOTING IS 98% MENTAL, 2 % PHYSICAL AND 100% SUPERIOR PERFORMANCE.