It isn’t a secret that prone should be your go-to shooting position if you want to make precision shots. Because most of your body is in contact with terra firma, the prone position provides more stability than any other shooting position.
However, prone shooting only works reliably on the flat surface of a target range. If you venture out into the real world, smooth, level surfaces are few and far between. Adding a supportive device like a shooting tripod will increase the stability of your shooting platform no matter what sort of terrain you encounter.
Why You Need a Shooting Tripod
Any time human muscles are used to support a firearm, there is going to be some unintended natural movement of the weapon. Often referred to as “wobble”, these often minuscule movements can have serious negative effects on downrange accuracy. Every shooter will deal with some amount of wobble, although weak upper body strength can make the situation much worse. However, even big, burly shooters will deal with excessive wobble when they are fatigued or stressed.
Rifle shooters have used supportive structures to reduce wobble since firearms were invented. In the past, shooters had to rely on creative problem solving, often resorting to rocks, trees, fence posts, walls, or whatever marginally stable platform was available.
Honestly, it took the shooting industry far too long to come up with a reliable tool for shooting stability, but they finally came through with shooting sticks and tripods.
A shooting tripod may be the most stable and versatile shooting support available to the modern marksman. It can be used to support the front or rear of the rifle (or both at the same time). By supporting much of the rifle’s weight, a quality tripod can significantly reduce the amount of wobble you experience when aiming your long gun.
Can I Use Any Old Tripod?
Before the shooting industry developed tripods specifically for shooting, many long-range shooters attempted to improvise by modifying photography tripods. While you have to tip your hat to their ingenuity, a camera tripod isn’t exactly ideal for rifle shooting.
First, cameras don’t exactly produce a bunch of recoil. Attach a rifle chambered for .300 Win Mag to a camera tripod, and bad things are bound to happen. These bad things could involve broken, flying pieces. Although standard photography tripods are affordable and readily available, they are definitely not the best tool for accurate (and safe) shooting.
Tripods designed for rifle shooting can hold a heavy rifle in position for extended periods and are strong enough to endure punishing recoil. The best versions allow the shooter to quickly and easily sweep or tilt their firearm to engage moving targets.
Tripod Tips and Tricks
Shooting from a tripod can take some getting used. However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to make solid shots from just about anywhere. Here are a few tips from seasoned tripod shooters. These handy tricks of the trade will help you get the most out of this versatile piece of shooting equipment.
The best way to position the legs of your shooting tripod is with one leg forward and two legs to the rear. With the legs of the tripod positioned in this configuration, you get maximum stability during recoil. In most cases, the rifle should settle back on target automatically between shots.
Finding the Proper Height
Set the height of your tripod so the top of the support is even with the middle of your sternum. This will require you to lean slightly into the rifle, resulting in better recoil control. Be careful not to bend your knees to position your shoulder against the stock of your rifle. Instead, lean into the weapon by hinging at the waist.
Square Your Shoulders
When you shoulder a rifle supported by a tripod, keep your shoulders square and perpendicular to the weapon. This position will help you manage recoil and keep the rifle stable during the shot.
When shooting with a tripod, you don’t need to support the weight of your rifle with your non-shooting hand. You also don’t want to place it under the buttstock (like you would if you were shooting from prone), because it will create a ton of balance issues.
Life can be so awkward when you don’t know what to do with your hands.
So what do you do with your support hand when you’re using a tripod? Go ahead and grab one of the rear support legs. Just be sure to keep your shoulders perpendicular to the rifle when you reach out for that leg. You can go ahead and lock the elbow for extra support.
Different Shooting Positions
There is a common tripod misconception that they can only be used from a standing position. Nothing could be farther from the truth. By adjusting the height of the legs, a tripod can accommodate a shooter who is kneeling, taking a single knee, perched in a seat, or sitting cross-legged on the ground.
Don’t Neglect the Fundamentals
Proper shooting technique is crucial to accuracy. This is true whether you’re using a tripod for support or you choose to go without. Even with a tripod, you will need to focus on the fundamentals of proper breathing, trigger control, and follow through for successful shooting.
With a ton of different shooting tripods on the market, modern shooters no longer need to resort to makeshift shooting supports in the field. Shooters can choose from collapsible lightweight tripods perfect for hunting remote areas, or opt for a more robust option that offers plenty of stability. When you're choosing a shooting tripod, you’ll need to weigh your personal needs, including price, weight, height capability, and attachment options.
No matter what model you decide to use, be sure to spend plenty of time practicing with both your rifle and your tripod. You don’t want to be fumbling with your equipment when a monster buck presents the perfect broadside shot. Go ahead and work out all the kinks on the range, so you’ll be ready for those crucial shots.