How to Shoot a Rifle Off-Hand

Stand up and shoot off hand.

Stand up and shoot off hand.

Stand up and shoot off hand. Illustration by Pete SucheskiIllustration by: Pete Sucheski

The standing shot was once the measure of true marksmanship. Phoebe Ann Moses, as Annie Oakley, shattered golf balls tossed into the air by aiming using a mirror. She pinged pennies from the air and sent 25 shots into one ragged hole in a playing card at the rate of one per second. Off-hand, Ad Topperwein hit 987 thrown 2 ¼-inch disks with 1,000 .22 bullets.

Okay, so you're a genetic furlong and a few hundred thousand rounds from such wizardry. But the standing shot is worth cultivating. First, however, you must accept that off-hand shooting is manifestly unsteady. Your center of gravity is high; you've got just two points of contact with Mother Earth.

These seven pointers will get your rounds on target.

1. Solid Base

Your feet are your foundation. Place them shoulder-width apart, at an angle that brings the rifle naturally on target. A line across my toes forms a 15- to 20-degree angle to the sight line.

2. Weight Forward

Stand up straight but relaxed, weight evenly distributed. I put a bit more pressure on the balls of my feet than my heels. Keep your neck straight or leaning slightly forward.

3. In the Pocket

Pull the rifle firmly into your shoulder with your right hand if you're a righty. Keep that elbow horizontal, to form a shoulder pocket. Your finger's first joint should fall naturally on the trigger.

4. Head Up

Bring the stock comb to your cheek, not your cheek to the comb. Your eyes see best looking straight forward; don't tilt or dip your head. It's okay if only the stock's toe meets your shoulder.

5. Support Arm

Grasp the rifle with your left hand relaxed around the forend. My elbow forms an angle of 90 to 100 degrees, 3 to 4 inches to the left of vertical, below the rifle.

6. No Sling

The shooting sling is useful in low positions. But off-hand, there's nothing to anchor your left arm. Wrapping a strap "hasty"-style can deaden tremors but adds no support.

7. Find Your Form

Lifting the elbow creates a pocket in the shoulder for the rifle butt. Bring the gun up to your cheek. Don't bend your head forward to meet the stock. Keep your knees slightly flexed for a relaxed, not rigid, posture. In a proper athletic stance, the feet are relaxed as well. Don't grip the ground with your toes.