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Questions for precision rifle shooters re techniques. Login/Join 
Freethinker
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In watching several videos of military sniper competitions, I saw that most shooters did not wrap their thumbs around the grips of the rifles, but rather leave them on the side of their shooting hands (usually right). I’ve seen that described as “same-side-thumb-grip.” What are your thoughts about that technique? Do you use it yourself? Advantages/disadvantages?

Second, last summer a military group used my agency’s range for several days of training. The designated marksmen in the group were using rifles chambered for 7.62×51mm, and only fired them in semiautomatic mode. I noticed that the shooters reached forward and grasped a leg of the bipod and pulled back with their support hand, something I’d never seen before. Most of the shooting they did was rapid covering fire rather than highly accurate shots. After pondering the question it seemed to me that it was perhaps a way of controlling recoil for faster follow-up shots. Is anyone familiar with that technique? Thoughts?




“I can’t give you brains, but I can give you a diploma.”
— The Wizard of Oz
 
Posts: 39825 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Let me preface my comments by stating, once again, that I am NOT a sniper, have never been a sniper and I have no delusions of ever being a sniper. I don't even play one on TV. I am just an old long range rifle competitor. So keep that in mind when reading my comments.

With that caveat out of the way, let's get to the questions.

The placement of the thumb of the trigger-pressing hand. Yep, some like to do it alongside the bolt, others do the classic crossover. The pistol grip on my match rifle is quite thick and that's good for me as my fingers are quite long. I have used the crossover method all my life, so when I tried the same side as the rest if the hand, it felt very strange. I tried it for a while and did not notice any difference. I'm talking a few matches here, not just a few shots. Further thinking about it led me to realize that I hold the pistol grip with quite a light touch. I describe it has holding a live bird. Under control with little to no pressure. The match rifle is on a bipod and a read bag, I am not holding it on target with my shooting hand.

My trigger finger is always alongside the bolt, pointing at the target, until I am ready to shoot. At that point, the finger gets to the trigger and will press the trigger within second or two, or it comes out and goes back alongside the bolt. Remember, my trigger is 1.5 ounces and no safety.

Question 2.
Yep, I've seem that on videos and I've even seen some people do that during an F-class match. It rarely ends well. The types of bipod used in F-class are various and many have the ski-type feet. You do not want to interfere with the recoil of the rifle, you want the followthrough to be organic, unadulterated so to speak.

It's like this; if your shooting regimen involves an action right after you pull the trigger, before the followthrough is complete, you're fighting against yourself. What you want to train yourself to do is take the shot, do the followthrough and let the rifle recoil and then count 1001, 1002. The do whatever you need to do next. If you train (practice) to open the bolt, or catch brass, or grasp the bipod right after you have pulled the trigger, you are tensing some muscles in anticipation of the action and this is while you're pulling the trigger. You want the pause between pulling the trigger and moving.

If you go to a shooting range, you see people popping up to look at the target as soon as they fire. Bad! So see others cycling the bolt at high speed, and so on. If you go to an F-class match, you will notice that the top shooters are motionless at the time of firing and then seem to slowly wake up after the shot is gone and on target. You would think they are dead or asleep. Proper followthrough is critical in long range precision marksmanship. Follow-up shots are more critical for snipers. On that note, go re-read my caveat at the beginning of my post.
 
Posts: 2953 | Location: Texas | Registered: June 20, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Freethinker
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Thanks for your comments. They are exactly the sort of thing I am hoping to get.

quote:
Originally posted by NikonUser:
Proper followthrough is critical in long range precision marksmanship.


This is the one thing about my technique I believe I’m most deficient at. I see it mentioned from time to time in discussions about precision shooting, but I just keep forgetting about it when shooting myself. I appreciate the reminder.

There can of course be situations in which a fast follow-up shot is desirable, and much Internet advice directed at tactical and would-be tactical shooters is to reload (cycle the bolt) quickly. As I think about it, that advice should be examined more critically: The best way to avoid having to make a quick follow-up shot is to not miss with the first.




“I can’t give you brains, but I can give you a diploma.”
— The Wizard of Oz
 
Posts: 39825 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The thing is, you can be very quick to reload, AFTER you have done your proper followthrough. It's the same thing as learning to draw quickly; do it slow and deliberate at first, making sure that you have let the rifle recoil and do its thing.

Whenever you see someone trying to learn to do something quickly, they set themselves up for failure by doing it fast right from the start; and failing miserably. The best way to be come very fast is to first become very proficient. If you want to learn the quick draw, start very slow and make sure your motions are correct. Then practice slowly over and over, and over and over again, before doing it over and over again. What you are doing is building "muscle memory" which is essentially forming the neuron passages in your brain. You are building the memory, and speed is not critical. When your hands can pull the handgun effortlessly, without you thinking about it and controlling it, you will magically start speeding up the same steps over and over again.

Same with the rifle, consciously force yourself to do the follow through, count 1001, and then lift the bolt without moving your body. At first it will seem awkward but that will soon pass. At some point (a few hundred rounds,) you will not have to think about it, your muscle memory will kick in and do it for you, very quickly and smoothly.
 
Posts: 2953 | Location: Texas | Registered: June 20, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Freethinker
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Good points, NikonUser. I’ll start with dry firing on the follow through. One complication for me is that if I draw back the bolt of my 308 Tikka too quickly the case usually fails to eject and ends up lying in the ejection port. At a smooth moderate speed there’s never any problem. Strange, it seems to me, but has ever been that way.




“I can’t give you brains, but I can give you a diploma.”
— The Wizard of Oz
 
Posts: 39825 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Good advice to ponder, for me. I am taking a rifle class, in a couple of weeks, that is built for manually operated rifles. Ranges will be inside 200 yards, mostly 50 and in. I was wondering if I would be able to do decent follow through while also wanting quick cycling of the bolt.
I will concentrate on not yanking the first shot and then worry about snapping the bolt quickly.

Thanks for the reminder.

Bruce




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Posts: 3329 | Location: NV | Registered: October 06, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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You know, it is said that bad habits are hard to unlearn. I have also heard anecdotes from shooting instructors, military or civilian, that it's easier to teach someone who has never shot than to correct a long time shooter.

This is all due to muscle memory. Do something incorrectly at first and keep doing it, and then it's ingrained in you and tough to get rid of. So it is important that you do it correctly from the start. Rifle shooting is easy, aim at the target, press the trigger without moving the rifle and let the rifle recoil. Rinse, repeat.

The best way to learn to press the trigger without moving is dry-fire, as you said. But make sure you account for followthrough on your dry fire. Don't jump up immediately to lift and close the bolt to recock the trigger; press the trigger making sure nothing moves and relax. Then cycle the bolt.

I had a friend with whom I used to go shoot pistols (yeah I shot handguns also.) He kept asking me for pointers and to tell him what he was doing wrong. He had the nasty habit of placing the index finger of the non-shooting hand under the front of the triggerguard, where it starts going up to the receiver. You could actually see his fingertip turning white with the pressure that he was putting on it. That extra tension was detrimental to any decent accuracy in his shooting. Try as I might, I could not get him to stop doing that permanently. He would remove it for a shot or two and then it would get back there again. I even threatened to cut off his finger. Big fat lot of good that did.

Anyway, he never could get rid of that but it's not an issue anymore; he passed away 7 years and 2 months ago.
 
Posts: 2953 | Location: Texas | Registered: June 20, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Freethinker
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Friends are seldom the best people to correct others’ bad habits. They don’t criticize and correct as they should, they’re not taken seriously by their friends, or both. Unfortunately.
And although it’s been years, condolences about your friend. You evidently miss him.




“I can’t give you brains, but I can give you a diploma.”
— The Wizard of Oz
 
Posts: 39825 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by sigfreund:
I noticed that the shooters reached forward and grasped a leg of the bipod and pulled back with their support hand, something I’d never seen before. Most of the shooting they did was rapid covering fire rather than highly accurate shots.

This isn't something I would normally do from prone, but it can be a useful technique in some situations, such as:
- Shooting from a tripod where a rear bag or rear support isn't available. In such instances I prefer to pull down on a sling attached to the front of the rifle, stabilizing the sling tension against one tripod leg. But I will pull down & back on a bipod leg if necessary. I practiced this technique last weekend, in preparation for upcoming matches.

- Shooting from barricades, such as Vtac walls, from kneeling through standing positions. I will sometimes grab the left bipod leg, while the bipod is pressed against the Vtac wall. Depending upon whether I'm pressing into the wall or pulling back from it, I often grab the left bipod leg and squeeze it against the wall.

- Shooting from a large boulder or tree trunk/brach, from kneeling through standing positions. Depending on the support and stability of the rock or tree, holding the bipod sometimes stabilizes the rifle.
 
Posts: 6021 | Location: Colorado | Registered: January 26, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Freethinker
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Thanks as always, fritz, for those comments.
I have been experimenting with some things that are similar to the techniques you describe, but you give me others to consider.




“I can’t give you brains, but I can give you a diploma.”
— The Wizard of Oz
 
Posts: 39825 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by sigfreund:
quote:
Originally posted by NikonUser:
Proper followthrough is critical in long range precision marksmanship.

This is the one thing about my technique I believe I’m most deficient at.

There can of course be situations in which a fast follow-up shot is desirable, and much Internet advice directed at tactical and would-be tactical shooters is to reload (cycle the bolt) quickly. As I think about it, that advice should be examined more critically: The best way to avoid having to make a quick follow-up shot is to not miss with the first.

There's an old adage -- we can't shoot fast enough to make up for misses. A little trite, but the statement has some merit. Follow through is absolutely critical to precision shooting. IMO a good shooter can get away with a little sloppiness in trigger follow through in a low-recoiling 6mm and 5.65mm bore heavy bolt-action rifle, but virtually every other rifle needs proper follow through. Definitely for magnum calibers, definitely for semi-autos, and amazingly definitely for 22lr and PCP air rifles.

Follow through is a part of what allows us to see our own impacts and our own bullet trace.

For longer shots in steel competition, a few of us here (me, offgrid, Alpine) have played with cycling the bolt while the bullet is in flight, then getting eyes back on target before the bullet impacts. In theory this allows a faster follow up shot, with less time for the wind to change. We tried this at the T3 matches, where the long ball stage usually had an array from 1000 to 1300 yards. I couldn't do it very well, but offgrid and Alpine had better success. I still try to be motionless after the shot, try to watch for trace in the last few tenths of a second of bullet flight, and then spot the impact. Then cycle the bolt, make any necessary hold adjustments, then break the shot.
 
Posts: 6021 | Location: Colorado | Registered: January 26, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The following link is from the 2015 Snipers Hide Cup. Marcus Blanchard is shooting the mover stage. It's a 10" wide target at 540 yards, moving left and right along a track at 3 mph. The track is maybe 40 feet (-ish) side-to-side. Shooters are not allowed to engage the target for the first and last 5-ish feet of the track, otherwise the bullet splash tears up the controlling mechanisms.

Marcus makes 25 hits and no misses in the time allowed for this stage. IIRC he breaks 4 and 5 shots per pass. We did this same stage in the monthly T3 matches, but we were allowed a maximum of 10 shots in 4 passes (i.e. each left-to-right sequence and right-to-left sequence counted as a pass). I generally shot only 3 rounds per pass, but tried a few passes with 4 rounds -- I struggled with the 4s.

Marcus shows an incredible ability to get shots off quickly without disturbing the rifle. But sometimes he's shooting so quickly that he has virtually no ability to spot his own impacts. But by having his technique down, having his target leads down, and not having to worry about variable winds during this stage, he just lets the rounds fly. It's well beyond what most of us mortals can do, but it is an inspiration.

kicking butt on a mover stage

Note that even changing magazines seems pretty nonchalant.

This is at the ragged edge of proper follow through, but it does show that we don't have to pin the trigger back for 20 seconds after each shot.
 
Posts: 6021 | Location: Colorado | Registered: January 26, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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That was a great video, fritz, thanks for the link. As I was watching, I noticed how Mr. Blanchard appeared to be a statue on the ground, with only his right forearm moving. This guy has pulled a trigger a few times, and he doesn't have to think about anything but aiming; the rest is on automatic.

It brought to mind a Scandinavian rifle competition called Stangskyting. 25 seconds to hit a target at between 200 to 300 meters with a target rifle. Notice how little they move and they do their follow through.

https://youtu.be/jsYpMzuArbc

https://youtu.be/eBKjOQA5O18

https://youtu.be/SfY899uNOk0
 
Posts: 2953 | Location: Texas | Registered: June 20, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by sigfreund:
In watching several videos of military sniper competitions, I saw that most shooters did not wrap their thumbs around the grips of the rifles, but rather leave them on the side of their shooting hands (usually right). I’ve seen that described as “same-side-thumb-grip.” What are your thoughts about that technique? Do you use it yourself? Advantages/disadvantages?

Second, last summer a military group used my agency’s range for several days of training. The designated marksmen in the group were using rifles chambered for 7.62×51mm, and only fired them in semiautomatic mode. I noticed that the shooters reached forward and grasped a leg of the bipod and pulled back with their support hand, something I’d never seen before. Most of the shooting they did was rapid covering fire rather than highly accurate shots. After pondering the question it seemed to me that it was perhaps a way of controlling recoil for faster follow-up shots. Is anyone familiar with that technique? Thoughts?


As to your first question; "Floating the thumb" on the side of the stock vs the "wrap" is personal preference. The purpose is to reduce input from the thumb when pressing the trigger. Those who use the "wrap" method, usually have very little pressure on the thumb itself and use the web of the hand between the thumb and pointer finger to provide the support of the hand while pressing the trigger "straight" to the rear. Optimum word here is "straight" as any pressure that is not straight to the rear will/can result in movement of the rifle while the bullet is still traveling down the barrel. Many use the "floating" thumb as this isolates the trigger finger and removes unwanted pressure from the thumb resulting in an easier way to press the trigger straight to the rear.

As for pulling/pulling on the bipod, every aspect about shooting with precision/accuracy is about consistency. I deal with new shooters on a regular basis and a couple of the most asked questions is about loading the bipod or pulling the rifle into the shoulder. As you read different opinions about which method is best, just remember that it's all about recoil management. If you zero your rifle at 100 yards and you use 5 lbs of load on the bipod but then shoot and use 10 lbs of load on the bipod, your POI will shoot low as you've taken some of the recoil out of the equation as the bullet is traveling down the barrel (follow through). Likewise, if you pull the rifle into your shoulder, you must do it with the same amount of pressure every single time you press the trigger or you will change your POI.

With all of this said, finding out what works for you and allows you to be consistent with your fundamentals (natural point of aim, trigger press, recoil management, follow through) is your end goal.


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Posts: 555 | Location: CA | Registered: February 01, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I spoke with Tom Manners from Manners Stocks when I ordered a few stocks from them a some months back. They are now incorporating a thumb shelf on their stocks for those who shoot that way. He said it was more for putting downward pressure on the rifle for those who like to free recoil the rifle. I, like others, thought it was for putting less input into the rifle.
 
Posts: 1796 | Location: Ohio | Registered: October 17, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by swage:
I spoke with Tom Manners from Manners Stocks when I ordered a few stocks from them a some months back. They are now incorporating a thumb shelf on their stocks for those who shoot that way. He said it was more for putting downward pressure on the rifle for those who like to free recoil the rifle. I, like others, thought it was for putting less input into the rifle.


This is a perfect example of what my last statement expressed; finding out what works for YOU and allows YOU to be consistent with YOUR fundamentals is YOUR end goal.

I primarily shoot Manners stocks and float my thumb and have found the "thumb shelf" you mention to be of no benefit TO ME but the fact that they changed the underside of the forend to being flat from the magwell to the end of the stock, on the more traditional T2A stock, is a benefit if using an ARCA type rail. This said, my thumb does not apply any pressure what-so-ever on the stock; with or without the "shelf".

Again, every shooter needs to find out what works for them while still applying solid fundamentals for every shot.


____________________________________________________________
Money may not buy happiness...but it will certainly buy a better brand of misery

A man should acknowledge his losses just as gracefully as he celebrates his victories

Remember, in politics it's not who you know...it's what you know about who you know
 
Posts: 555 | Location: CA | Registered: February 01, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Freethinker
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More good comments; thanks, everyone.

One of the things I struggle with is lack of flexibility in this ancient body. I practice getting into the prone, but probably not as much as might help more. In any case I find it difficult to achieve good, consistent positioning and pressure on the gun. I keep working on it, but it is not comfortable.




“I can’t give you brains, but I can give you a diploma.”
— The Wizard of Oz
 
Posts: 39825 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
fugitive from reality
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To the thumb placement thing I can add that high power bolt gunners have been doing it that way for years. Some of them have a small button the size of an AR15 mag release screwed into the stock or pistol grip to use as a thumb rest. There are also pistol grips that have a flair on them that acts like a shelf. There are multiple reasons for this. One is it reduces the time needed to work the action and get back on target. And as others have said is there is less of a chance in disturbing your hold using this technique.


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