Monday, September 27, 2021

Shooting From The Back (Supine) Position


 While was on a short hike this weekend, eying the steep slopes above and below me, I started thinking of shooting positions, imagining how an ambush might be carried out or I might take a shot on game below me. 

    The trail I followed was, for the most part, along a hillside which slope was greater than 45-degrees and with gently rounded ridges. The vegetation was mostly short dried grasses of 8 to 10 inches high with the occasional bunches of blooming thistle or some other wild flower--in other words, no cover and limited concealment. There was no location on the ridge line where someone could simply sit or lie prone aiming their rifle over a bit of cover and take a shot. Rather, they would have to be partly or wholly positioned on a down slope to shoot at anything lower on the slope. 

    There are four basic shooting positions taught to rifle shooters: the prone position, the kneeling position, the sitting position, and the standing (aka, off-hand) position. (See these two excellent discussions of the shooting positions and using a hasty sling from Peterson's Hunting and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department). Now, I didn't actually try some of these positions, but it was obvious that most of these positions would be unworkable and actually pose a risk of sliding or falling face first down the side of the hill. Even the sitting position could potentially put the center of balance high enough to slide or tumble down the hillside.

    But there is another basic rifle position that used to be quite popular and probably would have worked well: the back or supine position (aka, the Creedmoor position). This apparently first appeared in the 18th Century as a stable platform for long distance shooting, became popular among competitive long distance shooters in the late 19th Century, before fading from use in the mid-20th Century. (See here and here). Related to it would be shooting while lying on one's side.

    Although the supine and side laying positions are occasionally mentioned in the shooting literature today, they are not considered ideal positions or ones that might be selected on purpose. Rather, they are discussed as positions that you may find yourself in due to an accident (falling onto your back or side) or while shooting around a barrier. (See, e.g., this article from Off The Grid News). But thinking about it, the supine position would be ideal for shooting downhill on the steep slopes I was traversing.

     Although it might seem to not offer much improvement over the prone position, there are significant advantages. First, instead of laying so the blood rushes into your head, your head is above your body. If you started to slide, instead of your face breaking new ground, it would be your shod feet. And if you had to start climbing or start traversing the slope, it would be a simple matter to simply roll over onto your side or stomach from the supine position and then get up or just start climbing, whereas a face down prone position would be somewhat problematic to maneuver around to start climbing or get on one's feet without sliding down the hill. 

    And, in fact, after researching this issue after the hike, I found an article from the Match Rifle Shooting Association of Great Britain and Ireland that discussed various shooting positions which had this to say about shooting from the supine position:

The supine position originally found popularity in the late 1800s although its exact origins are debatable. There are some who suggest that it originated from stalking and sniping where attempting to shoot downhill. In this scenario the prone position can be uncomfortable and unbalance. Lying supine with your feet down the hill and towards the target is the more natural position to adopt.

(Underline added). Now, obviously, if the grass was higher or there were lots of brush, the sitting position might be more appropriate--and, in such environment, there would be a better opportunity to dig your heels into a clump of grass or a root to prevent sliding. But if you live in an area with steep slopes and limited cover, it may behoove you to practice shooting from the supine position.

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