Former military snipers at the famous FTW Ranch in Texas are wise enough to tell their students: “We don’t teach THE way, we teach A way.” That’s a realistic philosophy born of experience. The right technique for one shooter may not work perfectly for another. But I’m modifying my prone shooting technique anyway.
I was testing a prototype Ruger Hawkeye in 6.5mm Creedmoor and a new Swarovski Z8i 2-16x50mm scope during a recent visit to FTW. Dough Prichard suggested I line up prone directly behind and in-line with my rifle. My dogma rose like force shields around the U.S.S. Enterprise. Where was this guy coming from? Every rifle shooting manual from the Army’s to the Boy Scouts’ has been showing the prone shooter with his body angled anywhere from 20 to 40 degrees from his target. I’ve been shooting that way for more than 40 years. But for once I kept my ears open and my mouth shut.
“When the rifle recoils straight back into your shoulder it has less tendency to torque up and away from line-of-sight,” Doug explained. “It should then return close to its original position so you can get back on target for a follow up shot. You might even see your hits or misses. Let’s try it.”
This was hard to take for someone who thinks he knows it all, but I played along. And it worked!
I positioned the Swarovski BRX-1 reticle on the 100-yard target, exhaled and let my body sag into as much ground contact as I could. Then I fought my 16X magnified wiggles, relaxed my grip until they calmed, and timed heartbeat-induced vibrations while I tightened the crisp, 3-pound Ruger trigger. It snapped. I didn’t magically see the hole appear in the paper, but when the rifle came out of recoil, the target was back in view. The 140-grain Hornady ELD Match bullet had impacted a half-inch left and a quarter-inch low.
Now, a 140-grain bullet from a 6.5mm Creedmoor, launching at 2,700 fps, hasn’t the recoil of a 30-378 Wby. Mag., but still… Finding a 100-yard, 6-inch bull after recoil — in a scope set at 16X —isn’t standard in my world. Doug’s idea seemed to have merit.
During the next several hours I fired 140 rounds at steel plates out to 700 yards. Past 350 yards I saw those sleek, efficient, low-drag ELD bullets slap steel or kick up dust nearly every time. In most cases my target was at least back in view after recoil, which is a big deal considering the narrow field of view you get at 16X. At normal hunting powers from 4X to 10X, I should keep my targets in view and see my hits and misses every time. That’s useful information. This old dog has learned a new trick.
If you, like me, learned traditional prone shooting from a comfortable angle, you might want to test the FTW in-line position and see if it doesn’t improve your ability to stay on target.
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