The unsupported kneeler

Andy McLachlan offers some advice to target shooters struggling with one awkward position encountered in a contest

Dave Ramshead adopts the unsupported kneeling position, resting his leading arm on the top of his thigh

We recently looked at the trickiest of all the shots likely to be taken in an outdoor airgun competition – the unsupported stander. 

Hopefully, at least some of you will have taken my advice to heart, and you have been practising this particular shot as frequently as you should be if you wish to become proficient with it.

And talking of practice, my friend Dave Taylor, who these days will mostly be found shooting an FT (Field Target) course somewhere or other around the country on many weekends, has told me how he has been losing some key points by failing to drop his standing shots over the past month or so.

This is very unlike Dave, because when he regularly shot to a very high standard in HFT until this year, he was a shooter that very rarely missed an unsupported stander.

Over a brew, we discussed if minor alterations to his mega-adjustable FT stock might alleviate the problem and bring him back some of the missing points. For those who are more used to wielding an HFT gun, the first thing that you would notice when hefting an FT gun is just how heavy the whole thing is.

This is due to large and sometimes heavy FT-specific optics with their 50-60mm lenses, the physical size of the stock components and the overall design allowing the individual shooter to tailor the individual gun fit to suit them perfectly.

If you try to use somebody else’s FT rig, it is highly unlikely that you be able to make out the sight picture in the scope due to the infinite number of ways we all prefer to set up the stock to suit our own body shape and position our heads.

I watched Dave shoot some standers with his Anschutz FT rig at my Rivington club’s indoor range. He had decided to bring the hamster slightly further back on the rails to allow additional support for his leading hand while further improving the lock of his elbow above his hip into his body.

FT champion Mark Basset adopts a seated position, illustrating how he supports his gun

We are only talking about 20 or so millimetres here, but just this slight modification has seen Dave once again become confident with his standers. I should also mention that although a full-blown FT rig is heavy, this does assist with reducing the inherent movement we all experience when attempting to stop the crosshairs having a mind of their own.

The fact that the gun should be perfectly balanced and both firm in the shoulder and on the supporting hand will help to reduce any pulled shots which can occur in this position.

Let us now get back to the unsupported kneeling shot. For those of us who have physically seen better days due to the encroachment of age or disability, positioning oneself to get into a competition-legal and steady kneeling position without support is a challenge in itself, never mind holding a gun steady enough to drop a target successfully.

My son James has berated me for years regarding my seeming inability to fully drop the gun onto my leading leg, allowing me additional support. I will tell you what I always tell him, my less than panther-like body is now unable to contort itself as it once was! I do try though. 

If you look at the image of James shooting his springer from the unsupported standing position, you will notice that he has his leading arm fully supported on his leg, with the gun lightly gripped by his gloved hand.

The other knee is nearly at right angles to increase stability. He also has his bean bag supporting his leg above the ankle, as this also adds stability as well as providing additional comfort. The foot is in a supportive position, which means that it is tucked, unfortunately for it, under his buttocks.

This image represents what could be described as an ideal, and stable, shooting platform. All that remains then is to correctly time the trigger release to when the crosshairs are in the right place.

Like me, though, you might not be able to fully replicate this particular stance. Personally, I do occasionally manage to get somewhere near it, but I am physically unable to position my body as low down as James is able to do. Therefore, the gun is not as close to my leading knee and not quite as stable as I would wish.

My own stance is more faithfully represented by the image of Daz Taylor, once again using a springer. You will notice that Darren’s supporting hand is not fully flat to his leading leg, but angled upwards. This means that he is able to adopt a much more upright head position.

Dave Taylor uses both legs as a rest to help make the position more stable – the objective is the same with a kneeling shot

The supporting leg once again has the bean bag in position, with the foot more or less vertical. To me, this looks far more comfortable. It might not be quite as steady due to being further away from the supporting leg, but if a comfortable position can be found, the shooter is much more likely to adopt the concentration required to successfully drop a target, rather than considering which type of pain-killing medication might best suit after overstretching your muscles and joints.

If your own body retains the ability to contort itself into what might be uncomfortable positions for many, this may allow you to adopt the more ‘cramped’ style adopted by James and many others for the kneeling shot. If you are like me (old and decrepit) you may find that the head-up position displayed by Darren is much more comfortable.

To be honest, if you manage to get yourself into a position whereby you are relatively steady, your leading foot is touching the shooting peg (as required under UKAHFT rules) and your gun is properly supported and as steady as you can make it, hopefully you will be much better placed to release an accurate shot. Remember, it is only a shooting competition, not a yoga class.

As a comparison, in FT, for the sitting shots (most shots are taken from this position) the shooter can position their usually oversized bean bag and get themselves into a nice comfy position.

Shuffling bottoms abound as each shooter moves their rear end into a comfortable seated position on the bean bag. As can be seen from the attached images of Mark ‘Bertie’ Basset and Dave Taylor, the guns are then supported upon each leg and by the supporting shoulder.

If you look at Mark, you will notice that the gun’s hamster is resting upon his leading knee, with the rear of the gun being held in position by a tight-fitting butt pad and the rigidity of the firing finger’s arm also helping to stabilise the gun.

Daz Taylor adopts a kneeling position that might not be the most stable, but is much more comfortable – which can lead to a better shot

As with any positional shot, making the most of the challenge means it is crucial to adopt your own personal position that is both legal under any governing rules of the competition, but also allows you to get as stable as you can before releasing the shot.

As with all shooting considerations, the best way to master it is to practise as often as you can until you feel comfortable and are able to get into position with minimal physical exertion.

This will obviously aid your own ability to concentrate, which will eventually result in you knocking down those targets on a regular basis. Who needs yoga?! 

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