Working the Offhand Position

I’ve been avoiding shooting offhand. In the back of my mind, I didn’t really think I needed to work on it. The USPSA shooting style I did living in Montana taught me a lot about shooting while standing or moving, but I have to admit that it is an entirely different rule book and accuracy requirement than my stated goals. And, with the upcoming EIC match, I think I’m woefully unprepared to shoot from the offhand position. So, I’ve been spending quite a bit more time practicing it.

Thus far, I had adopted the modern squared-up stance with hunched shoulders and my support hand extended relatively far down the handguard. While this position is certainly great for controlling the muzzle and moving from target to target in a 1-5 drill, it is very unstable. Almost all the weight of the rifle is supported purely between the bicep and deltoid muscles. Stable marksman positions rely on steady bone-on-bone contact to take the muscles out of the game. Rifleslinger has a very good writeup on traditional offhand, but he still has the support elbow floating in mid air. I also found that I keep wanting to point my right elbow down “tactical style” rather than holding it up comfortably in the traditional stance. I also came across this video, which demonstrates the type of offhand I usually see in pictures of NRA high power matches.

This method seems particularly suited to the AR-15 platform, which works well for me since that’s what I’ll be competing with next month. In my practice sessions, it seems to be working well. But until I can get to the range to check, the results aren’t going to be provable.

3 thoughts on “Working the Offhand Position”

  1. In looking at your goals, a 4 MOA standard for offhand is difficult. I’ve been chasing that for a while. It happens sometimes, but not on demand, or regularly by any means. I don’t think it’s difficult for me because of the marksmanship involved as the mental factors and flinch.

    With a standing position, knowing it’s the least stable tool on in the box as far as positions go, the question to ask is, “why use it?” If it’s because it’s part of your course of fire and you have 10 minutes to take 10 shots at 200 yards with a special rifle, sling, sights, coat, and glove, then it’s an accuracy game, time is a non-issue, and you’re trying to beat the other guy’s score. If that’s the case then take the time to put the elbow down on the hip and snake your arm around the magwell. That’s what seems to work. In your case, 20 seconds is probably long enough to do that.

    Personally, since I’m not shooting for score, answering the offhand question goes something like this: “There is no time to assume a more stable position, or there is something obscuring my line of sight to the target such that no other position would be available.” The latter condition is a worst case scenario, where I’m trying to get that 4 MOA level of precision, and no suitable rest exists. Honestly, in a high stakes shot, I’m not ready for that.

    I think that the time exigency is a much more likely reason to be stuck with an unsupported standing position. To that end, a different position is required than the one that takes more time but yields better accuracy. The question is, “How much precision am I willing to give up?” It’s really not that clear cut, because in a field situation you’re just not going to get the level of accuracy or precision that you do on the range. It’s a game of compromises.

    If I were you I would reconsider testing your carbine position against the more marksmanship oriented offhand. What I have found is that, for me, the arc of movement produced with the support hand farther forward is more controllable. Think of it in the same way you think of sight radius. A short sight radius is less forgiving because of the reduced space between the sights. If you think of the rifle as a lever, and the support hand as a fulcrum, keeping it closer increases the rifle’s movement (output) for the same amount of hand movement (input).

    That is my thinking for my needs. I don’t know what type of situations your goals are meant to address, so I don’t take it upon myself to tell you what you need. I just wanted to explain why I leave my support elbow unsupported.

    I think you’re on the right track and doing good work here.

  2. A couple things you already know to keep in mind that will make the offhand practice more fun:

    1. It’s the easiest position to practice in dry fire (no position to get down into).
    2. Because of #1 above, you’ll get more dry trigger presses per practice session, which will equal better trigger control, which is necessary to shoot well in offhand.
    3. The work you do in offhand will benefit all the more stable positions. That doesn’t necessarily work the other way around.

    Just trying to provide some motivation.


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