Art, I started to just add this to one of your very informative threads concerning the off hand position but decided to set it as a separate post, since it is a little long.
I was never a great (or even pretty good) off hand shooter. Thankfully, back when I actively shot HP, I shot seated and prone well enough that if I could somehow hold a score for a 10 shot standing string that started with a nine (9), I could generally pull through with a relatively good score(master class or sometimes better). But, if I let too many out into the white, it was gonna be a long day.
I did not practice off-hand as much as the other positions, and that was a mistake. I was young, working a long hour job and raising a family, thus money and time were short.
What I do know is that with the standing position, everyone is a little different. An individual shooter should develop the position and shooting style that helps him/her shoot the best possible score. Typically this is not done by copying everything any one particular shooter does; but rather watch many and pick up little bits and pieces from each that may work for you and adopt it. So to speak, if it feels good and works for you, do it that way.
I held the M14 in front of the magazine and placed the stock in the pocket of my shoulder rather than on the collar bone as you will read about below. But I wasn't real good at it either.
What I have done below is reproduced the text from a presentation made by D.I. Boyd at the 1985 NRA HP Clinic at Camp Perry. I have added a few pictures scanned from the manuscript.
If you are interested, PM me with an email address and I will send you a pdf file containing the text as scanned from the manuscript and the pictures of D.I. Boyd in position.
The below is provided for your information only:
The following was taken from the speech by D. I. Boyd: 1985 NRA National Championships Training Clinics Manual Series.
The Standing Position
D. I. Boyd
There are no big secrets to shooting standing. The first clinic that I ever attended was in 1961. It was given by Michael Pietroforte, the defending Marine Corps Champion. In 1958, he won the individual National Trophy with a perfect score of 250 on the old A and B target.
His standing lecture basically told you to position yourself on the firing line so that you are comfortable, put the rifle in your shoulder, get a good grip on it, bring the front sight up to the six o’clock on the bullseye, hold it still and squeeze the trigger. He then turned and sat down. That was the entire standing lecture. The clinic lasted all for 45 seconds.
Honestly standing is about as simple as that. Personally I have always felt that standing was the easiest position to shoot because there are less problems involved with pressures on the rifle. You don't have to worry about sling tension and all of those other things. You get to hold the rifle with two hands as tightly or loosely as you want. I have always attributed my success at standing to the thousands of rounds that I have shot down range every year. As a smallbore international shooter, I would shoot 60 rounds or more each day, five days a week in the standing position.
In learning how to shoot the service rifle, I would dry fire dozens of rounds each day. The key to shooting standing is simply hard work. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. You must stand there and hold the rifle for as many hours or minutes a day as you can afford. It’s not going to come to you overnight. You've got to work hard at it.
Holding exercises allow you to observe the oscillation or movement of the muzzle so that you can determine what you must do to eliminate the movement. You have to understand what is happening before you can mentally prepare to get that movement to stop. You're talking about a lot of time, but you can work at home by putting a spot on the wall and practice holding the rifle so that it doesn't move off the spot.
When I shot with a heavy coat, I developed my position to the point that I could breathe while holding the rifle at six o'clock on the bullseye, and the front sight would never move out of the black. In the last few years, I went back to a center hold because I seemed to be able to see it a little better. I personally do not believe that it makes a great deal of difference whether you hold in the center or at six o'clock with a service rifle. It's a point of personal preference. I have spoken to many of the best standing shooters on the subject, and there seems to be about a 50/50 split between those who hold at six o'clock and those who hold center.
When you shoot standing in reasonably calm weather, you want to stand erect so that your weight is equally distributed on both feet. Spread your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Put the rifle into your shoulder and get a good firm grip on the pistol grip with your right hand. There are two styles of shooting a service rifle in the standing position. You can use the high elbow position or the low elbow position. While I shot international with a relaxed low elbow position, I shot the service rifle with the high elbow position. I supported about 75 percent of the weight of the rifle with the right hand. (Ed. note: Although Mr. Boyd is left handed; all explanations here are geared to the right handed shooter.) I gripped the rifle so that the web of my hand was not touching the receiver but relatively close to it. If you get too high on the pistol grip, then you are pulling the trigger up which causes the trigger weight to get too heavy. You want to try to pull the trigger as straight to the rear as possible. Where the horseshoe is on the stock, that's about there the web of my hand was. Then when I put it into my shoulder, I was supporting about 75 percent of the weight of the rifle with my trigger hand and arm.
When I first learned to shoot M1 back in the early 60's, we used to do drills that required us to shoot shots while just using the trigger hand an arm to support the rifle. Although I can't do it anymore, I was able to stand up there and hold the rifle like that and shoot 5's. (note: old style target). It was kind of fun and games type of thing which we, of course, didn't do in matches, but it helped build up the forearm and biceps so that I could hold what was then a nine and a half pound rifle. Your forward hand, your left hand, would just guide the rifle. The forward hand was not pushing the rifle up or grabbing hold, it was simply resting against the sides of the rifle, barely supporting it. If you were to take your hand away, the rifle would stay up there for a while and then slowly sag. It takes a lot of work and a lot of grip strength. Grip strength is very important because without it, a service rifle will get away from you in any position. I always held an M14 out in front of the magazine and would never recommend holding the magazine. While some very good shooters do hold the magazine, I have always felt that it just puts the rifle that much farther away from the support area so It tends to wiggle around on the hand.
The rifle goes high in the shoulder so that the toe of the rifle is the only portion of the butt in the shoulder. I always put the rifle in close and tight to my neck, but my neck never pressed against the stock. If you press your neck against the stock, you may find that you'll pick up a pulse from the artery that runs through your neck, and the movement is transmitted to the rifle. So try not to get it too close to the neck. Instead, put the rifle high on your shoulder. I always placed it on the collar bone, not out on the muscle of the shoulder. If you extend your arm and put your hand right on the tip of your shoulder against the muscle and move your hand and arm just a little bit, you'll feel a great deal of movement in that muscle. Now, take your hand and move it two or three inches inward on your collarbone and do the same exercise, and you won't feel any movement. That is why I always placed the rifle in tight on the collarbone on the shoulder pad on the jacket. My cheek and head went down tight on the stock to form one unit with the head and eye directly behind the rear sight and everything locked tightly into position. I was a part of the rifle; the rifle was a part of me. Anything that happened to me would happen to the rifle. The tight position was the result of that good firm grip with the right hand that pulls the rifle back into the shoulder.
The trigger hand is controlling the rifle. The rest of your body including your stomach is relaxed. You lean back to compensate for the weight of the rifle. If you were to shoot standing straight up without leaning back, your center of gravity would be in front of you, and you would fall forward. That backbend or lean will be different for each person. Someone who is short and stocky will not have to lean back as far as someone who is tall and slender. Your left elbow should be right underneath the rifle. I do not advocate shooting with the elbow off to the side. When the elbow is off to the side, you are using the muscles in your forward hand to support the rifle. These muscles are going to get tired, and you will tend to push the rifle up with that forward hand and start to get shots out at eleven o'clock.
Pull the rifle back into the shoulder with your trigger hand using a good firm grip. I liken it to a good firm handshake or maybe a little bit tighter. If you have ever shaken hands with a pistol shooter you will know what I am talking about.
When I was well practiced, I was able to shoot a standing shot with no movement at all. None. While I couldn't shoot an entire 20-shot string with no movement, I could shoot 15, 16, or 17 shots with no movement. I never consciously thought about squeezing the trigger. I dry fired so many rounds that trigger control was an automatic almost involuntary reflex built from eye/hand coordination. When the front sight stopped dead, the round was fired. There was no conscious effort whatsoever to pull the trigger. It simply went off. My eye knew before my brain told me that it was a perfect shot, and it went bang.
The reflexive control of the trigger came from shooting many, many bullets down range. On a calm day, I would begin to take up the slack in the trigger so that I would be holding about three pounds; then when everything was just right, I would just have that last pound and a half left to pull. Through practice, you develop a feel for the trigger that enables you to do this without having the gun go off prematurely.
Let’s talk about windy weather; for example, at Camp Perry during the Navy Cup every year. In windy weather, I used the same basic position but moved my hand mid-way between the magazine and front sling swivel, spread my feet a little wider and grabbed on tighter with the front hand. Remember I said earlier that I usually take up about 75 percent of the weight with my trigger hand and arm. When I shoot in the wind I take the forward hand and actually grab the stock and pull it back into my shoulder with two hands rather than one. Once again this insures that what happens to me also happens to the rifle. When the wind blows, we are swaying in unison; my body is not going one way and the rifle the other. If you can keep your head aligned behind the rear sight with everything lined up, you will see exactly what's going on when the wind blows your position. If you will pull the rifle into your shoulder a little tighter with the forward hand, you will find that you can begin to control the movement. On a gusty day, there's not a whole lot you can do. Then you have to rely on your confidence and your ability to pull (control) the trigger.
This may confuse a new shooter so I hesitate to mention it, but whenever I shot in windy conditions; I would make a sight correction prior to ever loading my first sighter. I knew that I could not stand there with the same deliberate trigger control that I had used in calm conditions. I knew that I had to pull the trigger faster. When the wind was blowing and that sight was anywhere in the black, I was going to bust it. I didn't waste any time on it. Since I am left handed, I would immediately without a hesitation come to the right to compensate for the faster pull. A right handed shooter would move the sights to the left because as you are pulling the trigger, you will move the rifle to the right because that's where your finger is. I determined that this worked after many years of practice and many years of keeping a very accurate data book. If you don't keep an accurate data book, you are wasting your time. You have to keep an accurate data book in order to follow the light changes, the wind changes, and the other things that come to bear on the rifle.
Q. Did you have a problem with Ml firing pins breaking?
A. No, I didn't have any problems, but if you dry fire a lot, you may run into the problem. I would suggest either removal or possibly using a dummy round with a rubber cushion so that the firing pin has some resistance. Some rifles never break a firing pin, and others will break three a year.
Q. Do you see any advantage in turning the forward hand around?
A. Do what feels right. I recommend that the elbow stay beneath the rifle for bone support. If you do not have good bone support, you will never build a good solid position. For me, with my bone structure, turning the hand around was uncomfortable. With my palm facing me and my fingers totally relaxed, I never had any problem. Some right handed shooters, depending on where they hold the rifle, may have a problem with the operating rod hitting their fingers.
Q. Why do you prefer the higher elbow position?
A. When you shoot with a lower elbow position, you must rely on the forward arm to support more of the rifle. There is nothing wrong with that, but I found that I was much more consistent when I kept my elbow high. When the elbow is down lower, you can't pull down as hard and vigorously into the shoulder so more of the weight of the rifle, probably about 60 percent, is supported by the forward arm. If you are not careful about getting the forward elbow tight against your side, you will tend to push the forward hand up and shoot more shots out the top. Although the position can be very steady, with a four and a half pound trigger, I was unable to grip the stock tightly enough with the low arm position to get the proper trigger control that I needed for my style of shooting.
Q. The only place that I can comfortably hold the rifle is on the magazine. Will this hurt my shooting?
A. Depending on the length of your arms, you might end up having to use the magazine. With the M14, some shooters find that the magazine gets in the way. My arms are the length that allows me to comfortably get in front of the magazine without having to destroy my position. The short armed person can support the rifle by using the magazine. Jack Writer, who had short arms, had trouble with the standard rifle but won a gold medal and set a world record.
The reason that I don't advocate supporting the rifle with the magazine is that I have always thought that it was harder to control the movement of the rifle when you have the magazine sitting in your hand because there is less surface width. The hand seems to fit the stock configuration better.
Q. Is it all right to cant the rifle?
A. I always have felt that canting a service rifle creates problems. I think that you can bring your head over to the stock without canting. In smallbore, we cant the rifle, but with a service rifle, try to keep it straight up because it's easier to keep everything aligned that way, and it's easier to keep track of your dope changes which is an extremely critical factor when you are shooting highpower since you can't go back to the sighter after a sight change.
Q. Do you hold center bull or center target?
A. I always held center bull in the standing position. I used a stock weld rather than a spot weld to get and retain my eye relief. My cheek would rest on a spot on the stock which gave me the proper alignment and eye relief for every shot. My head was quite a distance away from the rear sight so that I saw very little if any barrel when I looked through the rear sight. I don't think that I ever saw the wings on the front sight, only the front sight post.
Q. How do you keep your trigger finger clear of the stock?
A. The first joint in my finger, the one closest to my hand is tight against the stock, but the area from the knuckle of the hand to the tip of my finger is totally clear of the stock. My finger was in a natural and normal position. If I were to try to rotate my hand, I got into trouble because I was unable to grip the stock tightly enough. Although the upper part of my finger was touching the stock, I had no problem with "dragging wood" since the tip of my finger which did the moving was clear as was the first and second joint.
Q. Did you do all of your dry firing with your jacket on?
A. I always attempted to do firing exactly as I would shoot in a match with everything but ammunition. I used a jacket, scope, glove, hat, eyeglasses, eyeshades, stool, data book and blackened my sights. After I would dry fire a shot, I would bench the rifle, lean back and look in the scope.
Q. When did you switch from your calm weather sight adjustment to your windy weather adjustment?
A. I switched during the three minute preparation period. I would stand up there and see what it looked like and determine what I was going to do. There is no sense standing up there half-stepping and second-guessing yourself. If there were lulls and gusts, I would try to shoot in the calm conditions. I would have the rifle up and hold it there looking over the stock until the lulls in the wind came and then shoot the shots.
Q. Do you have any advice about shooting in wet weather?
A. Wet weather is nothing more than a psychological nuisance. In wet weather, stay as dry as you can and keep your equipment as dry as possible. Make sure you are on the line for your three minute prep time, but if it's raining, don't bother taking your rifle out of the bag. Have everything ready to go, wait until the last moment to take your rifle out and try to keep it dry. Don't worry about yourself. You will, in fact, dry out. The rifle has a lot more closely fitted parts than you do, and it's a little more difficult to dry out. Most matches are lost right inside your head because you are beaten before you begin. If you will make up your mind before you go that the rain or hot weather will not bother you then you have a chance, but if you give up out there, you are defeated.
Q. Do you aim with both eyes opened?
A. Yes, I do, although I use side blinders on both eyes to block out the peripheral vision.
Q. Do you look at the front sight post?
A. Absolutely, the concentration is, in fact, on the front sight post and nowhere else. You must determine where the target is but then concentrate the effort on looking at the front sight. About the Author:
If I am not mistaken, D. I. Boyd was the first person to win the overall NRA Highpower Championship with a service rifle (M14). He was a very accomplished shooter in both US and International competition.
The Marine Gunner D.I. Boyd trophy was donated by the Dayton Rifle and Revolver Club and refurbished by the U.S. Marine Corps Distinguished Shooters Association, in memory of Marine Gunner D.I. Boyd. The trophy is a white metal sculpture of an Army man, mounted on a wooden base. D.I. Boyd was twice National Service Rifle Champion, one of which was high overall champion.
The D.I. Boyd Trophy is awarded to the high aggregate of each competitors score in all the 200 yard standing and 600 yard prone events, in the National High Power Rifle Championships.