Position Analysis Summary

I began the month with the admission that not only had I not accomplished my previously set goal, I had gone approximately 6 months in which I didn’t even address it satisfactorily.  Not only that, but in the interim I had learned that it wasn’t a realistic goal.  To refresh your memory, the goal, set on November 1st 2013 read as follows:

-Develop the ability to hit an uncooperative moving target, no greater than 4” in diameter, inside of 200 yards at known or unknown distance, on demand, regardless of terrain, conditions, stress, tiredness, fatigue, or time constraints.

I explained the problems with the goal here, and also what my plans were to remedy the situation.  What I got myself into involved testing a total of ten different shooting positions using ten shot groups shot in three different conditions for each position: slow fire (approximately 30 seconds per shot), time stress (timed, starting with a completely unloaded rifle and magazines), and time stress exerted (same as time stress, but with a minute of jumping jacks and 20 pushups just prior to the timer activation).

Unlike many of the groups that I have posted on the blog, I really didn’t do any special dry fire practice in any of the positions tested.  The shots were fired from a “cold shooter” context.  This body of work essentially depicts my baseline for these positions.

Precision and Accuracy

I applied a statistical analysis to each shot group that would model a general quantifier for the precision of each shot group over what would theoretically be a larger population of shots than the samples of 10 that I used.  I think of it as trying to get at that mythical group that I could shoot if I could fire enough rounds wear the barrel out with the same lot of ammunition, the same sight setting, at the same target without having to worry about the barrel heating up, getting dirty, or me getting fatigued.  The group would have a certain size.  That group can’t be perfectly predicted, but the stats can tell me how large a circle 99% of my shots would fit into at a given distance with some degree of confidence.

My goal involved a 4” target.  I set up two charts for “effective distances”, in yards, with that target in mind.  One chart sets the probability at 86% and the other at 99%.  Here they are:

86- Total Test

Maximum Distance 99 Total Test

My actual performance in hitting the 4″ target is nowhere near my goal.  It was humbling to see the results on a stationary target.  It is much better to be informed than to be ignorant and to believe in capabilities that one does not actually possess.

Most shooters (including me prior to these tests) base their assessment of their own capabilities on shots they have made in the past.  What this has taught me is that one hit on a target does not equate to the capability to do it on demand.  One hit can be lucky or mis-representative of the shooter’s capabilities as a whole.  Shots near the center of a rifle system’s grouping potential will be more common than the outliers (some call them fliers), but the key is that you don’t get to pick the next shot in the group (Credit to Mr. Simpson)

Time Performance

I also kept track of time during both the portions of the testing in which time stress was a factor.  Prior to the tests I had impressions of what made a shooting position fast.  I thought that if I could get into a position quickly, it made the position fast.

Analyzing the times from these tests, I realized that there is a lot more to speed than just getting into position.  For the time of an acceptable shot, steadiness is a big factor.  The ability to manipulate the rifle within the position and return quickly to the target is important for a follow up shot, especially with a manually operated rifle.  Some positions require that more care be taken to find the natural point of aim.  That slows down a position’s  first shot.  Some positions are inordinately affected by exertion, and are slowed down by that.  My recorded times, and my impressions from the shooting, allowed me to get an idea of how each position performs in reference to the above circumstances.

What I was not able to get an idea of in this test is the ability to assume a position and fire a shot from a “standard position of readiness”.  I would like to test the positions again for this with my gear as I would actually carry it instead of what I did in this test, which was from an artificial state of unreadiness meant to induce stress for the time to accomplish a series of complex fine motor skills (removing ammo from packaging and loading the magazines and rifle).

The three processes I recorded for time were 1.) the time from the timer beep to the first shot, 2.) the split times for shots that weren’t preceded by loading the rifle, and 3.) the total time from the beep to the last shot.

Here are the rankings and times, in seconds, for those:

Time Chart- to first shot

The time to get the first shot was obviously influenced by how simple it was to assume the shooting position.  Less obviously, but perhaps more significantly, it was also heavily influenced by how picky the position was in terms of finding the natural point of aim.  That’s why you see the four unsupported positions that I used the loop sling as a shooting aid in last place.

The primary reason you don’t see bipod prone on the list is that it was the first position I shot with and, instead of loading both magazines prior to the first shot, I loaded one, shot one, loaded the second and shot it.  Essentially the testing protocol was not the same, and it’s therefore not a valid comparator.  The other reason is that it had an advantage that the others did not- the rifle was already pointed in at the target.  Looking at the times it would have easily been first.

Average Split Times

Split times equate to the speed of follow up shots, which in this case were fired at the same location as the first shot.  My longstanding belief had been that split times with a bolt action were largely a function of how quickly the bolt could be operated.  I had what you might call an obsession with bolt work until the summer of 2013 until I got to where I figured I was decent enough at it.  Although access to work the bolt is a factor in split times, it turns out that split times are determined more by the ability to quickly obtain an acceptable sight picture immediately after firing a shot.  Some positions suffered under exertion in this measure because the sight picture was too erratic.  Some positions suffered because it wasn’t as easy to operate the bolt.

When you see an unsupported position performing well, it’s because I was locked into position via sling tension, which brings the rifle back to the target and provides a nice resistance to the force of the bolt work.  Most of those position also offer good access to the bolt.  When you see an unsupported position doing poorly, it was either too picky about the natural point of aim or was more affected by exertion than the others.

When you see a supported position doing well, it’s because the support allowed me to easily get on target without fuss, and there was adequate support to work the bolt.  Where you see them doing poorly it’s because there was less support in the rifle to resist the bolt work, or in the case of supported standing with vertical support, the position was not very steady.

Total minus starts and splits

Total Times

I think that the total is a good idea of the overall time performance of the position, with the exception of that I lack the times of that first shot from an actual realistic position of readiness.  Think of this as a general “ease of use” rating.

The Broad Takeaways (Advice to myself)

1.

First of all, the following should become a maxim: If you can get support, use it!

Open leg sitting was 51% as precise as supported sitting.  Cross ankle sitting was 50% as precise as supported sitting.  Unsupported kneeling was 43% as precise as supported reverse kneeling.  Unsupported standing was 40% as precise as my worst supported standing, and only 13% as precise as my best supported standing position!!!

Supported positions were also faster across the board for first shots than their unsupported counterparts with the notable exception of standing, which is probably best considered an ‘emergency’ position.  I will work on nailing down start times from a ready position in the near future.

Follow up shots on a target in the same location were faster with sling supported positions in general.  Another test for follow up shots on targets in different locations is also to follow.

2.

If support is not available, getting inside of 100 yards should be a priority.  If the shot is critical, try to get closer to 60 if the terrain will allow for a sitting position.  If an unsupported kneeling or standing position is necessary, try to get to 20-30 yards away.  If you haven’t considered that movement is perhaps more essential than shooting skill, I recommend that you stop and ponder it for 9 seconds before continuing.

3.

I’ve already said it, but these distances are for a stationary target that is highly visible and does not require any interpretation of where it actually is, like an animal vital zone might.  Moving targets would change the entire scenario, and real targets in applied riflery tend to move.  The good news is that they sometimes stop between their movements.  Real targets also tend to dictate the time interval available to make a shot, and in these tests I did not use a command break.

________________________________________________________________

Figuring all this out was actually pretty easy.  It probably took an extra 10-15 minutes per position following my range day to get the numbers after I created the spreadsheets to do the math for me.  Drawing the graphs and writing it up took more time than shooting it, but I make the choice to do that for some stupid reason.  What I got out of this was a lot more than what I put in, and I hope that responsible shooters will give it a try.  Enjoy (or not).

 

Position Analysis: Standing

This is the final position in this series of tests.  I saved the least stable for last.  I used to be particular about calling this position ‘offhand’ because of what Jeff Cooper wrote in the Art of the Rifle (the book not this blog).  He maintained that offhand is the practical position and standing is the target position.  I haven’t heard that anywhere else.  He might have been right, but it’s a tedious distinction to make if it’s just based on his opinion, so I call it ‘standing’ which is more common and more descriptive of what it actually is.

Again, no photos of me on the day I shot these targets.  For my original take on this position, from when I was intent on calling it “the offhand position” you can click here.  This is where I have to create that fork in the road, because I really don’t use that version of standing anymore.  In 2012 I switched to a different method of shooting standing that got me on target quicker but is marginally less structurally sound.  I later figured out that I shoot a bit more accurately with the ‘new’ method as well.

I have occasionally seen responses to my standing articles that are critical that the photo depictions of the positions show something that is not accurate enough, or not as accurate as it could be.  It is true that there are better ways to shoot a rifle more precisely in the standing position.  To see that just go to a smallbore, silhouette, high power, air rifle, or some similar type of competition.  Or better yet, to learn that actually compete in the discipline of your choice.  In every case you will see people who are able to deliver round after round with incredible consistency using techniques and equipment within the formats and rules of their respective forms of competition.  The object of the game determines the means.

My conclusion after giving the matter a great deal of thought is that the standing position does not exist primarily to be an accurate position.  Shoot some prone groups and shoot some standing groups and you’ll see what I mean.  My conclusion is that standing is meant to be a fast position when there is not the luxury of time to obtain a more stable position.  Starting in a normal standing position, time some prone shots and time some standing shots and you’ll see what I mean.  Having said that, I can’t rule out the possibility of obstructing terrain that requires the precision standing shot, although I think that chances of that shot are small.

When it comes down to it I believe the reason to shoot from standing is that there just isn’t time for anything else.  Standing is best considered an ‘emergency’ position.  The reason for imminence is, in rifle shooting, most often associated with close proximity.  Thankfully, close proximity typically means a relatively large target in terms of angular measurement.  That is basically why I do it the way I do it.

I am not in any way against competition.  I think it makes better shooters.  I don’t think it gets people killed.  I think that people that say things like that are coming up with reasons not to lose face as their mediocre skills would be revealed in front of a group of people.  What I do think is that the object of most standing courses of fire in competition is not a representation of what the standing position is meant for, and to use that format as a standard of performance measure for the standing position is misguided, unless the only goal for a particular shooter is to compete, which is fine as long as one understands the differences.

By no means am I advocating that it’s acceptable to be complacent with one’s level of precision in any position, standing included.  I believe in understanding one’s purpose before deciding on one’s form.  I believe in making informed decisions rather than justifying opinions.  I do not believe in shrugging off precision and accuracy for the sake of speed without some reasonable justification, as in maintaining the ability to hit a certain target.  Ideally one should figure out how to approach a problem balancing strengths and weaknesses of the proposed solution to suit the circumstances.  Then understand and try to minimize the weaknesses.

With all that in mind prepare for the irony of my testing protocols!!!  I couldn’t very well shoot groups for every other position, then go and put up a hit factor for standing on the same chart could I?  No.  Not really.  So I did what I had to do under the circumstances and shot my three, 10 round groups, one slow fire, one under time stress, and one under time stress coupled with physical exertion, at my standard ~4” target at 50 yards.  Hey, at least I did time all the positions too!  For my testing protocols, click here.

Slow:

Slow

Time Stress:

Time Stress

Time Stress Exerted:

Time Stress Exerted

I have used the point system a lot in standing from this distance, and I still like it.  My points in order of targets were 44, 31, and 41.  My standard minimum acceptable score for this position at this distance has been 50.  My best score, I think, was 60.  My best group was 4.5 MOA.

I realized something as I was shooting the last group pictured that may turn out to be important.  I did not miss the black for any of the groups until after the third shot, maybe the 4th shot.  It occurred to me that I am not measuring the same quality of shot for the first one as I am the 10th one.  The same thing actually happened to me three years ago shooting at clays from standing at 100 yards.  The statistics reflect an average quality of my shots as they degraded from the first to the last.  One change I would make if I were to test this position again would be to isolate each shot on a separate target before compiling the group with On Target.  After a few sessions I’d have data on each shot and could compile a group of first shots, a group of second shots, and so on.

With the realization that my methodology may have skewed the data for the standing position, at least it is skewed towards the worst case rather than giving me false confidence.  Here are the charts:

86- Total Test

Maximum Distance 99 Total Test

Times

The time from the start signal for the time stress and time stress exerted groups until my first shot, which is the time it took me, from a standing position about a foot away from my rifle, to load my magazines, load the rifle, and assume a firing position, was 47.32 and 44.63 seconds respectively, averaging 45.98 seconds.  The average of all positions, for comparison, was 57.33.  This was the fastest time to a first shot of any position I tested.  It’s an uncomplicated position to get into.

The average split time for this position, excluding reloads, was 5.79 seconds (low 2.87 , high 10.27).  The average time of all the positions was 6.53.  This was the fifth fastest average split time of any position tested, although this is probably the easiest position from which to cycle a bolt.  On most occasions I after I cycled the bolt and relaxed I could see my brass just as it landed.

The total time of the timed portion in which the timer functioned properly was 101.31.  The average time of all the positions tested was 134.48 seconds.  This was the second fastest position overall, the fastest being bipod prone.  If I had begun each test from a standard ready position the results would have likely been different.

As with all the other unsupported positions, I was surprised and disappointed with what turned out to be the ranges at which I have the probability of hitting the 4” target.  Looking at the graph after the fact, the progression of distances among the different positions makes sense.  It’s just that I would like to think that I am more capable of that.  The only way for that to happen now is to actually be more capable than that.  I see making some progress, but not as much as I would like.

The standing position is what it purports to be.  It’s a fast position and the least precise of all shooting positions, best reserved for use in emergencies when there’s no time for anything else.  Sometimes it’s all you can get, so it’s important to know what it is, and is not, suitable for.

Position Analysis: Kneeling

Kneeling has been the position I love to hate.  Jeff Cooper didn’t think too highly of it so I didn’t either.  After I began to actually think for myself, it was never a priority to rethink kneeling, so I have tended to be dismissive of it.  Trouble is, I have always found that it’s just sort of natural to drop into kneeling when I need approximately the speed of standing and a bit more steadiness.  Let’s take a look and see what we actually have here.

I did not have a photographer for this shooting position.  Lucky for you that August of 2011 was the month that I dedicated this blog to kneeling and went way in depth in two parts.  I still shoot it pretty much the same way.  My elbow might be a little lower now.  I used the low kneeling position for this test.

This was the fifth position I tested over the course of two days.  I had a flinch by the time I did kneeling, so my groups were horrendous.  This was the last time I shot before moving from this paradise of a range at my own home/hell on earth.

IMG_6903

To see my testing protocols click here.  Without further ado:

Slow Fire:

IMG_6910

Boys, we got us a problem.  This isn’t something my ar15.com group app will save me from.  I only have 9 holes on my target.  Usually when that happens I can find one hole that is elongated.  In this case I can say definitively that there are only 9 holes.  The other possibility I looked for was that I only fired 9 shots.  Well, even though my iPhone shot timer app was not reliable, it was only unreliable in the course of this test in one way- it would stop recording early on occasion.  This time I had times for 10 shots, and none of them looked out of the norm for split times.  The only explanation left is that I missed the target backer.  I think I can see the shot in the wood above the backer, but I can’t say for sure that it came from that particular missed shot, so it’s a mystery, and my slow fire distance in the charts to follow is actually garbage.

Time Stress:

Time Stress

While my group still sucked, at least I can account for all 10 shots.  I realized during this target that I was flinching and that I had to overemphasize my follow through by really pinning the trigger to the rear.

Time Stress Exerted:

Time Stress Exerted

I guess what I needed to tighten my group up was to do a bunch of jumping jacks and pushups.  Actually, I had all 10 shots to pin that trigger to the rear, so that’s probably what you’re seeing.  It’s still pretty horrible though.  Wait until you see my standing groups!

My groups translated to the following distances for my static, highly visible 4” target.  I gave you a reminder that the bar for my slow fire group is invalid:

86- to unsupported kneeling

Maximum Distance 99 To Unsupported Kneeling

I’m going to skip the part where I would otherwise have gone on and on about how the time stress and time stress exerted groups compared to the slow fire.  If I can get all 10 shots on paper next time I’ll make up for it.  There will be a next time, because I just can’t settle for how I shot this time.

Speed:

The time from the start signal for the time stress and time stress exerted groups until my first shot, which is the time it took me, from a standing position about a foot away from my rifle, to load my magazines, load the rifle, and assume a firing position, was 62.97 and 63.06 seconds respectively, averaging 63.02 seconds.  The average of all positions, for comparison, was 57.33.  At least I was consistent.  What you’re seeing with the sling supported positions, more likely than slinging up taking the extra time, is finding the natural point of aim every time.  This was the 7th fastest of 10 positions timed in this manner.

The average split time for this position, excluding reloads, was 4.86 seconds (low 3.3 , high 12.97).  The average time of all the positions was 6.53.  Even with taking my time on a few shots to get the best sight picture I could hope to ruin by mashing the trigger, this was still the fastest position in terms of splits of all those that I tested.

The total times of each timed portion of the test were 149.70 and 127.86, averaging 138.78.  The average time of all the positions tested was 134.48 seconds.  There’s an explanation for that.  I have to single feed rounds, unless I’d rather remove the mag and top it off.  I do know that my first single fed round for the Time Stress portion got stuck in my pocket and that the time for that split was inordinately high.  Something very similar happened in the Time Stress Exerted phase.  This position probably should have been 4th or 5th fastest overall.

This position was the biggest glitch of my entire test.  Having a crappy flinch day and losing that one round were not great, but that was about as bad as it got.  That is, except for my standing groups.  That will be next.  Same bat time.  Same bat channel.

 

 

 

Position Analysis: Squatting

This used to be one of my favorite positions.  In theory it’s awesome.  It’s quicker than kneeling, but more accurate.  I used to think it was more precise than the sitting positions.  I have actually had some success with it making hits that I had no business making.  I have had time to become aware of some of the limitations of this position.

Once again I had no photographer on location with me as I shot this position.  As with the last two positions I covered, my 2011 article will have to suffice for an illustration and description of this position.  I should note that I quit using cute names for shooting positions in favor of names that are descriptive of what the position really is.

I shot this position from exactly 100 yards.  I don’t have the exact weather conditions on hand.  I used no elevation or windage adjustments.  To see my testing protocols click here.

Slow Fire:

Slow 2

Time Stress:

Time Stress 2

Time Stress Exerted

Time Stress Exerted

My groups translated to the following distances for my static, highly visible 4” target:

86- to Squatting

Maximum Distance 99 To Squatting

If you bothered clicking on the link for my 2011 article on this position, you may have noticed that I shot a little better back then.  This was one of the few positions in which that was the case.  I will say that back then I put in a lot of practice in every position I posted a group on, and all of these were shot coming in cold.

The position did a fair job of holding up under stressors.  The Time Stress group was 96.85% as precise as the slow fire position, while the average of all positions was 87.76%.  I would have expected the Time Stress Exerted Group to have been worse because of the way the thighs and torso are in contact.  The Time Stress Exerted Group, shot after doing 80 jumping jacks and 20 pushups, was 72.09% as precise as the slow fire group, while the average of all positions was 73.74% as precise.

The time from the start signal for the time stress and time stress exerted groups until my first shot, which is the time it took me, from a standing position about a foot away from my rifle, to load my magazines, load the rifle, and assume a firing position, was 57.77 and 91.86 seconds respectively, averaging 74.82 seconds.  Obviously something went wrong the second time around, and I don’t know what.  My vague recollection is that I had trouble finding my natural point of aim.  The average of all positions, for comparison, was 57.33.  This position, taken at its average, was the slowest of all positions to fire the first shot.

The average split time for this position, excluding reloads, was 7.95 seconds (low 5.13 , high 12.62).  The average time of all the positions was 6.53.  Bolt manipulation was not the issue causing the longer split times.  Chalk it up to the position being a little wobbly and me wanting to see a better shot than I was seeing.  This was the second slowest of all the positions in terms of the average split time.

The total times of each timed portion of the test were 164.38 and 173.13, averaging 168.76.  The average time of all the positions tested was 134.48 seconds.  You can probably guess what happens when you combine the slowest of all average first shot with the second slowest split times.  This was the slowest of all positions for the total courses of fire.

So what seems at first glance to be a very fast position to get into and fire a shot, actually turns out to be a very fast position to get into, but sort of a fussy one in terms of firing a shot.  We have a position that’s just a little bit taller than sitting, and less precise, which is to be expected.  It is not a position to spend more than a moment in, unless ruining your knees is fine with you.  It has its uses, but it is not a position to use as a first choice, or as a substitute for sitting.

 

Position Analysis: Cross Ankle Sitting

This breaks with the order that I actually shot the positions in, but is the most logical position in sequence to follow open leg sitting.  I had actually shot kneeling and standing prior to cross ankle sitting, because as I said previously, I didn’t know how much I’d have time to shoot so I skipped ahead to kneeling and standing prior to doubling back to cover this position and squatting.

Cross ankle sitting is my go-to sitting position for static targets on level, uniform terrain.  I’ve shot stage 2 of the Appleseed AQT literally millions of times in this position (that was a lie).  It locks me into my natural point of aim more effectively than any other sitting position I have tried.  As with the open leg sitting position, my professional photographer was absent for this shooting session, so you’ll have to refer to my 2011 article here.

I shot the groups to test this position at a different location from most of the rest, as I no longer reside or have access to the property I used to live at.  I shot at the location I did my shooting at for the first year of the blog and where the videos for the Whelen Challenge, Rifle Ten, Rifle Bounce (Jug Bounce), my snapshot update video, and my close range moving target video were shot.

This shooting session felt as if the entire thing was under time stress, because I had about an hour to do what had taken me over three hours the week prior.  I didn’t have a key to the facility and I had about an hour before I got locked in, vehicle and all.  I shot this position, along with squatting and another sitting position, three groups each, for a total of 90 rounds, in less than an hour, brass picked up and all.  They were closing the gate as I drove out, which gave me a good opportunity to flip off the guy closing it (it’s important to foster a reputation as an upstanding member of the community).

I shot from exactly 100 yards.  I didn’t note the weather, at least in a place I can find it, but the internet tells me that the high of the day was 72 degrees.  Since it was at 100 yards, does it really matter?  I tell you no!!!  I had no elevation or windage corrections from zero.

To view my testing protocol, click here.

I apologize for the poor lighting in the following photos.  I didn’t have time to photo them at the range, so I brought the entire target backer home.  It was not well lit by the time I arrived home with time for photographs.

Slow fire:

Slow

Time Stress:

Time Stress

Time Stress Exerted:

TSE app

Oh WHOOPS!!! I left my ar15.com shot group app on.  I’ll turn that off so you can see the group as I really shot it.

Time Stress Exerted, take 2:

Time Stress Exerted
                   Everything seemed to be going as planned until that last shot…

 

Those groups translated to hit probabilities on my stationary, easy to see 4” target within the following distances:

86- to Cross Ankle Sitting

Maximum Distance 99 To Cross Ankle Sitting

There are times when I’m in ‘shape’ for shooting this position, and then there’s the majority of the time.  I haven’t been in top condition for this position for a while and was not at the time of this test.  Note in the results that under exertion this position tanked in comparison to open leg sitting.  Most of it was due to one bad shot, but I can’t say it didn’t happen.  What I do think would be valid to say is that the quality of the shot was different than the others, and that the predictive nature of the statistics is not up to measuring the variability of human qualities in these positions that are so dependent on the human over the rifle.

I’ve actually shot from this position under exertion many times (significantly more exertion than in this test) and have found that it is extremely difficult unless I’m super dialed in.  In this case I took a lot of extra time to get my hits (see times below), but that isn’t always an alternative.  I think the problem comes from the compression that this position puts on the torso.  The position moves a lot when the heart rate is up and the breath is gasping.  Now I know that there’s a better alternative.

As with open leg sitting, I compared this position to supported sitting by averaging the three groups from each position.  It was 50.48 as precise as supported sitting on average.  That’s within about four hundredths of a percentage point of the open leg sitting average.

The time from the start signal for the time stress and time stress exerted groups until my first shot, which is the time it took me, from a standing position about a foot away from my rifle, to load my magazines, load the rifle, and assume a firing position, was 73.42 and 62.42 seconds respectively, averaging 67.92.  The average of all positions, for comparison, was 57.33.  Establishing natural point of aim for sling supported positions is more demanding.  This position ranked third from the bottom of the list in speed of the first shot fired.

This should have been among the fastest of positions in terms of split times, but I had a few glitches with my natural point of aim wanting to drift.  I often can watch my NPA drift down and left when I’m looped up as my support side rotator cuff stretches, allowing my rifle to go farther left than my elbow.  My split time average for this position was 7.58 (low 3.3, high 11.34), versus the average of all positions which was 6.53.  What I’m used to more along the lines of when I shot this back in 2012:


Video credit to David Foucachon.  Thank you!

My total times to my last shots in the time portions of the test were 138.55 and 161.44, averaging 150.0 (149.995) seconds, versus the average of all times, which was 134.48.  The time stress exerted portion was really robbing me of acceptable sight pictures, so I took the time I needed to, but even without exertion the position was slower than average.  There is a trend in the numbers that may explain the reason for this that I’ll address next month.

I think what I learned about this position is that it works pretty darn well if I have time to set it up perfectly, or if I’m really dialed in with a lot of recent practice in it.  Under exertion, it loses out to open leg sitting.  Other than that, it’s kind of a wash, and I should look for support if I need to shoot better.

Position Analysis: Open Leg Sitting

After testing an array of supported positions, it was time to lose the support.  With the supported positions I started low to the ground and worked my way up to standing.  I decided to do basically the same thing with the unsupported positions.

I did not test unsupported prone.  I’m not saying I’ll never use it, but the only times I have used it were when I was required to use it, mostly at Appleseeds.  If/when I fire up the X15 again I’d like to give magazine monopod prone a go, but for the purposes of this test I stuck with positions that I’m more likely to use with the rifle I used for the tests.

A seated position seemed most fitting to start with, and I can hardly think of a more worthy variation of sitting to begin with than the open leg position.  I wasn’t certain how much time I would have and how many positions I would be able to test.  Open leg sitting is not my normal choice for target shooting, but it probably handles varying terrain better than any other sitting position, maybe any other position.  It’s also the most comfortable to remain in for extended periods of time.  Not knowing if I could test more than one variation of sitting, this was the one I chose to do first.

I don’t shoot from this position often, but I tend to use it more in the field at times when I don’t get to shoot much, if at all.  I’m probably not as sharp at is as I should be in this position, but I do alright.  I did no practice or preparation for this position prior to shooting the targets below.

I did not have a photographer handy when I shot from this position.  I feel that I did an adequate description and depiction of the position in my 2011 article, so if you need to know what I’m talking about I suggest you look there.

I shot this position from a location adjacent to the southwest corner of a large shop building.  My normal shooting location was near the center of the east side of the same building.  I placed a target stand at what would be the 100 yard line from my normal shooting position.  This turned out to be 115 yards from the location I shot this position from.

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I chose my shooting location for a few reasons.  It had shade and the day was hot.  There was a downward slope there, and this position is one of very few ways to shoot on a horizontal or near horizontal plane while on a downward slope.  Lastly, it was neither too close nor too far to a safe place to locate my target.

IMG_6894It’s hard to convey the downward slope, but hopefully this does.

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The rifle marks my shooting location.

This was the third and final position I tested on this day.  The temperature was approximately 80 degrees.  The density altitude was approximately 4500’.  There was very little wind that day, 1-2 mph, coming from my 6:00.  Both my elevation and windage were set to 0.0.  To see my testing protocols click here.

Slow fire:

Unsupported Open Leg Sitting 1 Slow

Time Stress:

Unsupported Open Leg Sitting 2 Time Stress

Time Stress Exerted:

Unsupported Open Leg Sitting 3 Time Stress Exerted

I took a photo of my ammo condition at the start of my time stress and time stress exerted phases:

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My notes from shooting indicate that my first shots were delayed in order to find my natural point of aim, and that I had “one bad trigger jerk” during my time stress exerted group.  The targets also seem to indicate some lateral instability in the position.

My groups translated to the following distances for my static, highly visible 4” target:

86- to Open Leg Sitting

Maximum Distance 99 To Open Leg Sitting

I was interested to compare the supported and unsupported sitting positions.  I averaged the precision of the 3 groups from each and compared that performance.  The unsupported groups were, on average, 50.5% as precise as the supported groups.  I’ll go into greater depth on this subject next month.  There’s a lot more to it.

Under time stress this position was 82.01% as precise as the slow fire group.  The average of all positions’ reaction to time stress was 87.86%.  Exertion did little to further upset the performance of this position, which makes sense because this position allows the shooter to relax.  The time stress exertion group was 80.27% as precise as the slow fire group.  The average effect of adding exertion in all positions was that they were 73.74% as precise as the slow fire group average.

I also did my best to keep track of times during these tests, and I think they are very revealing.  The time from the start signal for the time stress and time stress exerted groups until my first shot, which is the time it took me, from a standing position about a foot away from my rifle, to load my magazines, load the rifle, and assume a firing position, was 72.29 and 66.62 seconds respectively, averaging 69.46.  The average of all positions, for comparison, was 57.33.  I already mentioned that finding my natural point of aim seemed to take a while.  This was the second slowest time of all positions to get the first shot fired from.

The average split time for this position was 5.31 seconds.  The average time of all the positions was 6.53.  This was the second fastest position of all the positions in this test in terms of splits.  The sling support makes for a solid position to provide adequate resistance against the bolt work.  The position also provides ample reach to the bolt knob.  Sling supported positions also tend to lock the shooter into his natural point of aim, which hastens follow up shots to a stationary target.

The total times of each timed portion of the test were 144.33 and 132.97, averaging 138.65.  The average time of all the positions tested was 134.48 seconds.  That means that although my first shot was extremely slow, the faster than average split times and the ease of changing mags and single loading almost made up for it.

I will say that I was almost shocked at my 86% and 99% circle distances on a 4” target (and a target that lends itself to being shot, unlike a target one might encounter in the field).  My early contextual framework had been set to have me believe I’d be hitting targets out to 500 yards from this position.  Even if I doubled my target size (which would be a reasonable size animal vital zone) and settled for a probability of an 86% hit rate, 200 yards is stretching the limits a bit.  If one considers the possibility for things like 3D targets with vital zones that have to be interpreted from the outside, targets that move, the possibility of misestimating range or having a zero that’s not quite on, 200 yards is just too far.

I still think that open leg sitting is one of the more useful unsupported practical shooting positions.  If you can get support take it, but you won’t always be able to find it.  That being the case, many of us are in need of re-defining our effective distances.

 

 

Position Analysis: Supported Standing, Part 2

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It’s nice to get a car hood to support your rifle when you can get it, but it’s not realistic that one will always be there.  Even a surface that would afford a similar type of support, like the top of a rise or a rock ledge, is rare.  The more common means of support in standing are trees and fence posts.  To test this variation of supported standing I used a t-post of which there were many to choose:

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There are many like it, but this one is mine.  The target board, a pallet, is visible ‘downrange’.

There are a few different ways to use vertical support.  I outlined some of them in my original article on the subject here.  To recap the general methods, a.) the support hand can grasp the support and the forend, b.) the support hand can grasp or plant firmly against the support and suspend the rifle by the sling, or c.) one leg of the bipod can be used by holding it against the support.

I have tried the sling suspension method, but it makes bolt manipulation difficult because the rifle has a strong tendency to roll away from the support when the tension from the firing hand is released.  I found that the bipod method is similar in that respect, so I chose the first method.  Two of the three options are pictured below, bipod and the simple hand interface.

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Regardless of position, it is advantageous to ‘load’ the position against the support, both to stabilize the position and for recoil control.  By grasping the sling firmly, I could lean forward at an angle and have most of my weight supported by my support hand.  A good deal of the rest of my weight was in my firing shoulder, straight into the rifle.  It would have been better to be completely squared off to the rifle for recoil management purposes, but my support arm would have needed to be longer, or the position of my support hand farther back on the rifle, which would make any movement I put into the rifle have a greater effect on the rounds point of impact (as a shorter sight radius seems to intensify wobble).

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I knew ahead of time that my ability to keep my group in the black, or even on paper would be significantly diminished as compared to any of the positions so far in this test, so I reduced the distance for this one.  I ended up at 141 yards.  My elevation correction was 0.1 mils.

This was the second position I fired on this particular day.  The weather was approximately 80 degrees and the density altitude approximately 4500’.

Here are my three groups.  For details on the testing protocols, click here:

Slow fire:

Supported Standing Vertical 1 Slow

Time Stress:

Supported Standing Vertical 2 Time Stress

Time Stress Exerted:

Supported Standing Vertical 3 Time Stress Exerted

Those groups translated to the ability to hit a highly visible, stationary 4” target under identical conditions at the following ranges:

Maximum Distance 86 Supported Standing Vertical

Maximum Distance 99 Supported Standing Vertical

There are a couple ways that the results struck me.  The first was that the precision is not what a person might call ‘good’.  The second was that the performance is what I might call ‘consistent’.  That is one thing I can love about this; I know what to expect.

My average split time between shots, excluding loading and reloading was 9.05 seconds (low 4.0, high 9.98) versus the average split in of all positions of 6.53.  The time to fire my first shot after loading my magazines was 57.26 and 51.13 seconds, versus the average of all positions which was 57.33.  The total times to my last shot were 162.14 and 157.03, versus the average total of all positions of 134.48.  This was the second slowest of all positions, and it was not because it’s a difficult position to get into or to bring to the target.

There are a couple defining attributes of this position.  There’s a lot of wobble.  It really felt like it took a long time to find an acceptable sight picture and break a shot which is the primary factor that made the slow positions slow.  Bolt work is also clumsy due to the lack of firm support on the front end to keep the rifle from rotating.  Both of these factors made follow up shots a little slower.  On the flipside, because the position is pretty uncomplicated to acquire, getting the first shot fired was actually slightly faster on average than the average of all positions.

I see the main disadvantage to a position like this being the unsteadiness.  In a situation in which the target is fleeting, the choice is likely going to be between settling for less than an acceptable sight picture or missing the opportunity for the shot.  Having said that, sometimes it’s necessary to stand due to terrain, and I can give you the following spoiler- support beats no support.  Think of this as having similar attributes as the standing position, but with support (meant to sound dumb and obvious- which I can pull off anytime, anywhere).

Position Analysis: Supported Standing, Part 1

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The progression of positions I tested started out from low to high, all supported in the beginning.  The next logical step in the progression after shooting from supported reverse kneeling was supported standing.  An issue with this position is that there are some variations of the position that depend on what’s available for support.  I decided to shoot it with two different types of support.  The first will be the subject of this article.  The second will be in the next article.  2 + 2 = 4, etc., etc…

The first type of support in standing that I used was horizontal, and it allowed me to rest my body against it.  My support was an automobile, specifically my sweet first gen Toyota 4Runner.  I have had excellent results with this type of support in the past, and my general results with this automobile have exceeded my expectations, although it can be a little slow to get up to speed and passing must be carefully planned.

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The pallet with the targets is covered with a large sheet of white paper and can be seen ‘downrange’.

There are a couple of issues to be aware of with the hood of the car.  First of all, muzzle blast will plant hot black junk on the hood.  Knowing that I was going to be doing this ahead of time, I put down some nice linen over the hood (only the best right?).  Secondly, if your steering wheel is on the left of the vehicle, shooting from the driver’s side will send the brass at the windshield.  In my case this meant that it came back down and wanted to burn me occasionally.  I ended up putting a tarp over the windshield as a protective measure for the car.  I don’t mind the scars because they look like ringworm and people want to stay away from me (I call this a conversation non-starter).

I couldn’t use a bipod due to the height of the target relative to the vehicle.  This would have been a perfect application for one of the front bags I used to sell, but I didn’t have one with me.  Sometimes it’s necessary to improvise.  I had a wool watch cap in my pack (nights are starting to get chilly) and a boonie in there too.  I would have rather have had the boonie on my head because the sun was bearing down, but I needed a front rest.  I folded the watch cap in two, put it inside the boonie, folded it over and put my fist on top of the ball I had made.  I was not aware of Mr. Winderweedle ready to gun me down with his .275 Rigby at that point yet, so I took my time preparing my impromptu rest.  During the excruciatingly slow “slow fire” portion of the test, the hats needed refreshing every few shots to keep them tall enough.  The butt of the rifle rested on the car hood.

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The one idiosyncrasy of this position that stood out was that being so low on a flat position put my firing hand and arm in the same position as it would have been with an extreme elevated elbow (chicken wing).  This is not very comfortable with a vertical grip, such as that on my A5.  It altered my grip position, but it didn’t really seem to matter.

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This means of support allowed me to really rest my whole body against it.  The height of the hood is basically perfect for me, and I encourage you, when shopping for a car to make this the primary attribute you use to choose your vehicle, unless you’re one of those sissies who won’t like all the scratches and powder burns.  I used the front wheel to brace my legs on.  Yes it looks ridiculous, like maybe I like my car too much (I do like it a lot), but it works and I go with function over form at least 57% of the time.

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This was obviously a staged photo, as the dog is not wearing hearing protection.

My target was approximatley 214 yards away from the location I parked my 4Runner.  At 200 yards 0.5 mils of elevation had worked nicely for me.  Shooter on the ol’ iPhone was telling me that I needed to increase it to 0.6 at 214, which didn’t really sound right, but since a computer said it I should probably listen.  Maybe not.  I think I need to check some of the inputs to make sure my sight height isn’t wrong on it or something.

My slow fire group was pleasing:

Supported Standing Horizontal- 1 Slow

Adding time stress did degrade the quality of the group.  It was actually very similar to my prone group with time stress.  My notes indicated that it was harder to obtain a steady (non-shaking) hold, and that the rifle from this position has a slight tendency to shift unpredicably, although none of my shots were affected by this:

Supported Standing Horizontal- 2 Time Stress

Adding exertion to the mix really took a toll on my group.  I completed 83 jumping jacks in the one minute and it took me approximately 16 seconds to get my 20 pushups in.  I felt during this stage as though it was becoming easier to manipulate the ammo and magazines under the time stress and exertion.

Supported Standing Horizontal- 3 Time Stress Exerted

Those groups translated to distances on my 4” target as follows:

Maximum Distance 86 Supported Standing Horizontal

Maximum Distance 99 Supported Standing Horizontal

The big surprise to me was that I shot in this position better than prone in the first two phases of the test.  My time stress exerted group was 91.74% as precise as my slow fire group.  I think it’s understandable that adding exertion took a greater toll in this standing position than it did in prone, and the toll was significant.  The exerted group was 54.96% as precise as my slow fire group.  This was the biggest degradation of any of the positions I tested.

There is a little bit of a problem in the predicted distances, in that some of them are greater than the distance that the position was shot from.  I’m not really too concerned with anything in the 99% circle chart, but in the 86% chart, my 4″ slow fire circle was predicted as 340.58 yards.  This is so much farther than the actual distance tested that I would need to retest the position at that range.  It’s likely I would end up with a lower number in terms of the distance.  If I wanted to extrapolate the results to a larger target I’d need to go much farther out for testing.

My average split time between shots, excluding loading and reloading was 5.86 seconds (low 3.90, high 8.96) versus the average split in of all positions of 6.53.  The large deviation from low to high in this position was caused by having to occasionally ‘refresh’ my front support or reacquire my point of aim.  The time to fire my first shot after loading my magazines was 46.04 and 47.00, averaging 46.52 versus the average of all positions, which was 57.33.  This position had the second fastest first shot of all positions, approximately a half second slower than the fastest.  The total times from loading all magazines and single loading two rounds to my last shot were 121.15 and 107.09, average 114.12, versus the average total of all positions of 134.48.  This was the third fastest position of all positions, behind standing and bipod prone, first and second respectively.

The times indicate a very easy to use position in most respects, near the top in most measures, and above average in split times.  Combined with the precision and it’s a g-o-o-d position.

A drawback to this position is that the range of elevation is limited.  In this case I needed a couple hats to get me on target, although I think the Atlas bipod would have worked with the legs in the 45 degree position.

This position has a lot going for it.  This was the most precise for me of all that I tested in the slow fire phase and was as accurate as prone under time stress.  Exertion really impacted the precision, so that’s important for me to keep in mind.  Your results may vary.  Talk to a qualified auto mechanic before trying this test with your own vehicle, yada yada yada.

Position Analysis: Supported Reverse Kneeling

Getting up out of prone is a perilous endeavor.  Not many shooters make it into sitting or kneeling, but this is precisely where we find ourselves at this very moment:

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My understanding of the general idea of supported reverse kneeling is that support is good.  If you can find a place to rest your rifle you’ll be much better off.  Kneeling is a quick position to get into.  Because of that, and the height of the position off the ground it can be useful.

Why reverse the lower body position relative to standard kneeling?  Since the rifle is supported it’s no longer necessary to rest the support elbow on the knee.  One of the primary weaknesses of the standard kneeling position is that the firing side elbow floats.  Given those factors it makes a lot of sense to move the firing side knee up, plant the firing side arm or elbow on it, and move the support side knee down for balance, hence the name “reverse kneeling”.

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A stable support is preferred.  My support was marginal, in that I could get it to be stable via putting pressure on it.  It was not comfortable to shoot from due to the relatively sharp edges on the wood.  I have long been a believer in the theory that it’s not a good idea to place the hard surface of the rifle on a hard support surface.  I have not tested that theory, and I see a lot of people who just plop the rifle down, but I still like to put my fist in between.  I do this by grabbing the sling at the front swivel, as I would in the Hawkins position.  Placing the support as far forward as possible is preferred as it minimizes the effects of any movement the shooter might impart into the system (analogous to a long sight radius) .

Something that adds a bit of steadiness to this position is resting the toe of the rifle stock on the firing side knee if you can get the knee up there.  The McMillan A5 stock on my FN has a nice flat section there that makes this more comforatable:

Toe on knee 1

Be careful in how you place the stock on the knee.  When I first shot from this position in this manner, I ended up with some bruising on my knee because of the pistol grip protrusion on my Sako 75:

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I sat on my support side foot, as one would do in the low kneeling position.  Looking at pictures after the fact, this created a narrow lateral footprint.  I would like to try the position again with my support side foot out more.

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Down to the business.  I shot this position from 203 yards.  The temperature was approximately 75 degrees and the density altitude was approximately 4000′.  There was very little wind, 1-2 mph coming from 5:30 to 6:00.  My elevation correction was 0.5 mils and my windage was 0.0.

For the first few positions I tested in slow fire, I felt for some reason that I had to remain motionless like a statue in position waiting for the 30 seconds to elapse till I could fire the next shot.  I figured out later that I could look at my watch and anticipate the beeper, which allowed me to stretch out, get up, rest my painful support hand, etc…  During the testing of this position, I hadn’t figured that out, and my support hand hurt.  I don’t know if that played a part or not, but here is my slow fire target:

1- Supported Reverse Kneeling Slow Group

During the time stress group, things felt pretty much as they did in slow fire, except faster:

2- Supported Reverse Kneeling Time Stress Group

It was when I added exertion to the time stress that I felt this position become significantly less steady.  I don’t know about the heart rate, but I do know that the increased respiration rate imparted a lot of movement into my sight picture.  I wonder now if this was exacerbated by my firing side leg being in contact with my torso.

3- Supported Reverse Kneeling Time Stress Exerted Group

There were only three times out of 27 targets that I sent shots off the target paper.  Two of them were in kneeling positions.  Fortunately in this case my target backer was a pallet and I put a large piece of paper behind my targets just in case.

My effective distances on my highly visible, motionless 4″ target in calm conditions were:

Maximum Distance 86 Reverse Kneeling

Maximum Distance 99 Reverse Kneeling

You can see from the charts that time stress did little to degrade the shot group.  The numbers tell me that the time stress group was 99.15% as precise as the slow fire group.  This was the really the first position in my testing that I felt markedly less precise after adding exertion.  As I said, the increased respiration rate really messed with my hold and that played out in the numbers.  The time stress exertion group was 61.86% as precise as the slow fire group.

As far as quickness goes, my average split time between shots for this position, excluding loading and reloading, was 7.76 seconds (low 7.13, high 9.29) versus 6.53 seconds for the average of all positions tested.  My first shot on target after loading my magazines for this position averaged 49.58 versus 57.33 seconds on average for all positions.  The total time of the only run in which my timer functioned correctly for this position was 126.23 seconds versus the average time of all positions, which was 134.48.

From those numbers I infer that the position was quick to acquire a target and quick in general, but that the lack of lateral stability on the rifle during cycling the bolt slowed that operation down significantly, relative to other positions.

I can’t say that I’m thrilled with the performance of this position in terms of precision.  Like regular kneeling, it is relatively quick to get a shot on target.  It’s not an easy thing to give up any of the precision that prone brings, but sometimes it’s necessary.  If my terrain demands a kneeling height position and offers the advantage of support, unfortunately this is about the best thing available, short of having a tripod on hand, which is generally unrealistic for most applications.  Having said that, it gets better…

Analysis of Supported Sitting

I don’t know if I’ve ever actually shot in live fire from this position.  I allowed myself a little bit of range experimentation to find what seemed to work the best with the support I could find.  I started out with a variation of open leg sitting, as it is one of the more practical variations of the unsupported variety of sitting.  Here are some photos of my experimentation in that position.

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I was using my support hand to pull the rifle back into my shoulder from the forward sling stud.  Looking at the photos, I think I would have been better off using my firing hand for that and planting my support elbow on my leg for better steadiness.

After some experimentation I ended up preferring a cross leg position with the support.  This afforded me the ability to plant both elbows.  Note that I was squared up with the rifle rather than bladed, and that I did not use a sling for support.  I find it unnecessary to use the sling for as a shooting aid when using actual support under the rifle.  Ideally the bipod would be loaded, but there’s not much give in a Harris bipod on a smooth wood surface.  A pack, bag, or other rest probably would have been about as good.

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The distance to target was 203 yards.  It was approximately 77 degrees and the density altitude was approximately 4000’.  Keeping in mind my previous elevation correction and point of impact, my correction this time was 0.5 mils.  There was almost no wind and my wind correction was 0.0.

Slow fire (approximately 30 seconds per shot):

Supported Seated Slow Group

Time Stress:

2- Supported Seated Time Stress Group

Time Stress Exerted (77 jumping jacks in one minute immediately followed by 20 pushups in 16 seconds).

3- Supported Seated Time Stress Exerted Group

In terms of distances to hit my 4” target, if I allow for what I would consider a reasonable margin of error in most circumstances, my distances are as follows:

Maximum Distance 86 supported sitting

If I reduce my acceptable margin of error, my effective distances are reduced accordingly:

Maximum Distance 99 supported sitting

I simply added the results for this position to the chart that I had for bipod prone.  I will continue to add them as I analyze new positions so you can compare the positions.

The Time Stress group deteriorated to 87.88% of the slow fire group’s precision in this position.  The Time Stress Exerted group was 75.13% as precise as the slow fire group.

The average split time excluding loading and reloading for the Time Stress Group was 8.30 seconds.  The average split of the Time Stress Exerted group was slightly faster at 8.04 seconds.  The overall average split time for this position was 8.17 seconds (fastest 5.60, slowest 13.16).  This is slower for the average split time of all the positions, which was 6.53.  I take that to mean that the lack of control at the forward end of the rifle cost me some leverage to operate the bolt more vigorously.  A slow split could also mean that obtaining an acceptable sight picture was more difficult than average, but that was not the case with this position.

Beginning with this position I took the time to load both mags prior to firing the first shot in the Time Stress and Time Stress Exertion strings of fire, and I think that it’s worth it to note the time of the first shot.  It’s a good indicator of how ‘fussy’ the position is in the acquisition of natural point of aim.  My first shots in those strings of fire respectively were 52.94 and 50.0, averaging 51.47 seconds.  The average first shot time for the nine positions tested was 57.33.  My total times to load the magazines, load the rifle and fire the ten shots were 130.7 and 127.4, with the times averaging 129.05.  The average total time for all positions was 134.48.

What the above seem to show is that this position, compared to other positions, lends itself to slower follow up shots, but allows for faster first shots on average with close to average ease of other gun handling, such as loading.

I thought the precision of this position was decent especially considering it’s a seated level position and I had not shot from this variety of the sitting position before.  If prone is not an option this position is good, but there are better.  You’ll just have to wait and see on that.