Unsupported standing airgun shooting w/ Andy McLachlan

Standing shots are a standing joke for some shooters, but Andy McLachlan has some tips to make this tricky stance more manageable.

Age can take its toll on our physical ability to adopt the necessary stances, but practice can still help make it easier

Like most shooters, I consider the unsupported standing shot to be one of, if not the most difficult of all shots to deliver accurately, certainly on a regular basis anyway.

The shooter soon discovers that the gun, which might feel perfectly balanced when in the sitting or prone positions, now resembles a bag of coal that just will not allow itself to remain still as its considerable weight attempts to pull the shooter’s aim from where intended.

However, we can take advantage of all this weight when in the standing position to use as “ballast”. What I mean by this is that if the gun and scope combination is held in a particular way, the shooter can use the weight to damp down the unwanted movement for a short period.

Left too long, the bulk of the combination will start to influence the supporting muscles and cause them to tire and you to shake like a shaky thing. This is obviously not what we want if we are attempting to nail a stander in an HFT competition, or a rabbit in the field for that matter.

The gun needs to be supported by the use of additional aids such as the elbow for the leading hand. The elbow is tucked into the area just above the hip and will help to provide a relatively steady platform as the forend of the gun is supported by the forward hand.

We also need to consider that the shoulder touching the gun is also able to provide additional stability and aids the shooter to steady the gun platform. Field Target shooters use Terminator arm-like attachments that allow the whole of the multi-jointed butt support assembly to totally wrap around the shoulder for maximum stability, unlike Hunter Field Target competitors who are only allowed limited assistance with far less elaborate engineering work being employed.

So, presuming that we are now able to hold the gun relatively stable when in the standing position, what else can we do to improve our ability to actually hit the target? As somebody who has shot lots of different types of firearms over the years, I think it would be safe to say that the correct position for the shooter’s feet must be up there with the most crucial of considerations when attempting to get the best from an individual’s own abilities.

Andy demonstrates how to use his elbows and shoulder to provide maximum support while taking a dreaded unsupported stander

The problem with this statement is that not everybody feels comfortable or relaxed when in the classic “feet at 90 degrees to the target” stance. Most people do, but not everybody. Some prefer to point their leading foot at the target, which for me is very uncomfortable. 

I suppose the fact that my own physical dexterity now resembles that of an old and inflexible tree doesn’t help when attempting to try another stance. 

But especially for the beginner or those wishing to improve their abilities to drop targets from a standing position, it really is very important to try moving your feet about until you find the position that feels most stable to you when you have the additional weight of the gun up in the aim.

What you need to ensure is that your feet are relatively far apart, as this will improve stability, rather than being closer together and far less able to maintain a perfectly still stance for any length of time. 

As mentioned earlier, one of the main problems with the standing shot is that it becomes challenging for some when faced with supporting a 12lb target rifle with rock-like stability for any length of time. This eventually results in the “wobbles” when your whole body and mind reach the stage where you have lost both the concentration, oxygen within the brain and confidence to release an on-target shot release.

Very often this will result in the classic “drive by” shot as you try to time the trigger release to when the gun is pointing somewhere near the intended point of aim. Sometimes this pays off, but not frequently.

What the better shots do when faced with instability, which even they suffer from occasionally I might add, is lower the gun from the aiming position and go through the whole process of bringing the target onto aim from the beginning. This, along with taking a few deep breaths refuelling the oxygen reserves and helping to calm the shooter down will often result in a successful shot.

For those who are experienced in taking “serious” standing shots either in the competition or hunting field, like everything else, practice does indeed make perfect. Many experienced shots will spend hours practising the stander, although it has to be said that supporting a fully rigged-up target rifle combination for prolonged periods of time does take it out of you physically if you are an old dog like me.

A far better method of practice would be to set up an informal target shoot and take every shot from the standing position. 

This is something that was done on a regular basis up at the Rivington outdoor range area at Turton during the summer months of evening practice, and was occasionally alternated with the equally difficult kneeling shots.

It amuses me greatly when I think back to my shooting and fishing mentors from times long ago. I used to wonder at their age-induced inability to move and bend their bodies with the flexibility of a cobra as I was able to do at the time.

How things change as we get older! Flexibility to move as we would wish are now only distant memories for many of us as we reach the end of our individual paths. This includes the ability to move individual limbs to exactly where we would like them to be without the worry of either not being able to manage it in the first place, or not being able to maintain odd positions for as long as we would wish.

Top HFT competitor Elliot Compton displays a stable kneeling stance – some shooters dislike this stance even more than standers

Shooting from the kneeling position is for me inherently uncomfortable, and is even less popular than unsupported standing shots. I spent many years attempting to find a stance that suited me and was forever being criticised by my son James for not taking it seriously. 

It’s not that I wasn’t taking it seriously, just that I was experimenting to find what suited me best. I eventually discovered a stance that suited me, but even this was not perfect according to James, who insisted I modify both my wrist and arm position when resting upon my leg.

For those amongst us who spend most of their time shooting from the well-supported positions of prone or from the bench, stance is not something that we need to consider too carefully. If, however, we participate in events that require us to fully support the weight of the gun in certain required positions, then this is something that should be practised at every opportunity. 

Even with the absolute best champion shots, the difference between a win and second place can come down to how well the individual has scored on the mandatory “positional” shots.

Once again, the only way to master these challenging shots is lots and lots of practice. Then spend time practising some more.

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