ďNow you need to shoot from your hind legs,Ē I said to Christine.
at me as if I had three heads, a look Iíve grown accustomed to, if not
fond of, she said, ďI donít have hind legs, I have arms and legs, Iím
not a Labrador.Ē
Itís a phrase I
imagine I picked up from some old shooter years ago who had told me I
needed to learn to shoot from my hind legs. It worked for me, and the
fact it causes Christine to fret forces me to use it every chance I get
when in her company.
I expect there
are fair number of folks who have heard it as well. But for those who
are wondering what the hell Iím talking about, it references shooting
while standing with no form of support other than your arms (or front
legs) and the hind legs. In other words, offhand shooting.
is quick to shoot while sitting, her favorite field position, or prone,
over a backpack, her second favorite. When it comes to offhand
shooting, she isnít alone when she avoids it, doesnít want to practice
it and figures that, if she must shoot offhand, she just wonít shoot.
enough. Not wanting to do things we arenít good at seems a common trait
in the human condition. Offhand shooting is one of those things that,
in general, folks arenít particularly good at and thus, avoid.
the years, I have shot more game with a rifle, small and big, from the
offhand position than all of the other options combined.
and circumstances dictate that, not preference. I grew up shooting that
way and then polished my skills as an offhand shooter with smallbore
and highpower rifle silhouette shooting. Itís second nature to me, and
Iíve learned some things along the way that might be useful.
inability to hold a gun steady with only the arms to stabilize it is
the problem. Offhand shooting is the antithesis to what we normally
strive for in shooting ó getting the sights steady on target and a slow
press of the trigger as the gun goes off while the sights stay where
they are supposed to.
possible in offhand shooting. Doesnít matter how strong you are, how
much practice you do, you simply cannot hold a firearm that steady
without support. But folks still try. Theyíll get on target and keep
trying to hold that perfect sight picture and then they get tired, and
pretty soon they yank the trigger in exasperation, and miss. They donít
want to do it anymore ó until they are in the field and the only shot
presented must be taken offhand and the process is repeated.
of fighting what cannot be fought, there is another approach that, if
you can shut off that learned behavior from the bench, you can use the
movement that cannot be eliminated to advantage.
best way I have to relate to this is wingshooting. The hunter sees the
flying bird and swings the shotgun through the path, touching the shot
off as the muzzle of the shotgun swings past the bird.
youíve done this, you know there isnít much wobble in the gun. The
movement keeps it tracking and a quick slap of the trigger completes the
Itís the same principle in
rifle shooting. Letís say you have a target out at 100 yards or so ó it
doesnít matter what it is, a paper bullís-eye, a soda can or a metal
gong. Instead of trying to place the sight or crosshairs directly on the
center while you try to stifle movement that you cannot, start the
sight picture to either side or above or below the target, far enough
out that you can establish a steady movement toward the spot where you
want the shot to break.
As the front
sight or crosshairs intersect with where you want the shot to hit, press
the trigger. The process needs to be quick. Mount the gun to the
shoulder, acquire the sight picture, move across and slap the trigger.
Not a jerk, mind you ó a press in an extremely compressed space of time.
If you try to finesse the shot, youíll be right back to where you were
before, wobbling all over the place and missing. If it doesnít present a
good shot, just as in hunting, let the gun down, take a breath and try
In time, youíll learn to call
the shot ó that is, you know where it is going when you press the
trigger, and you know when it wonít go where you want it to. Donít take
This is the place where a
good trigger is worth its weight in gold. Not, mind you, the competition
triggers that are unsafe for hunting. A trigger that breaks with 2.5 to
3 pounds of pressure is perfect for hunting.
at a silhouette match, a fellow shooter wanted me to try the trigger on
his rifle. When he handed the rifle to me, he told me not to point the
muzzle up or the weight of the trigger would make it go off. Best
offhand trigger I ever used, but a bit too spooky, even on the range.
know some will say just use shooting sticks. Iíve tried them, not to
use, but to see how they worked. They help, but Iím not going to saddle
myself with a gadget that seems more trouble than its worth.
of that isnít to say the technique I describe will make you a great
offhand shooter. It works for me, but Iíve practiced it a lot. If you
try it, youíll need to do the same to get good results. This is more
about sharing something Iíve learned over a fair amount of burned-up
gunpowder that might benefit someone trying to master the offhand
shooting of the long gun.
As to the
terminology, well Iím going to continue to call it shooting from your
hind legs. Your legs do, after all, grow out of your hind end.
Steve Meyer is a longtime Alaskan and avid shooter. He lives in Kenai.