An explanation of the ‘positions’ development
Fig. 1 The military position – designed by the army, where the shooter had to be as low as possible to the ground – in order to not be shot! Target shooters developed this position a little simply by lifting the upper body onto the elbows, and employing a sling. In the early days, the two arm sling was also utilised in fullbore. Note the shaded area of the firing point contact area in the illustration. (explained later).
With the skills development of the world smallbore shooters, even on the pre 1956 Olympics target, this position ran out of puff when the scores started to reach 580 points for the prone. It should be noted that the world-level scores reached perfection by two Canadian shooters in Melbourne, 1956 when Gerry Quellette and Gil Boa dominated the prone. However, they had both developed into the Estonian position outlined in fig.3. It should also be noted that Gil Boa fired first, (599) then lent his rifle to his team mate Gerry Quellette who shot a 600.
Just after the 56 Games in Melbourne, the ISU (then) changed the target to the 12mm ten ring.
Fig.2 The Russian ‘flounder’ position – with which the Russian shooters developed quite high skills. The disadvantage was that you had to have the dedication to become the same as the Russian shooters, in order to be extremely well trained. Note the straight behind the rifle position and the large support area on the firing point. This in itself presented a severe neck problem and the eyesight was affected because of it. The development then of the Estonian position materialised because of the necessity to alleviate the sighting worries.
Fig.3 The Estonian position – with the Russian position running out of skills around the 590 points area in world scores for smallbore, the Estonian shooters developed this position, based on their studies of recoil of their 300m rifles.
The small bore rifles because of the much lighter recoil, enjoyed the benefits of the improvements, and, for the first time, many shooters started to develop their positions on this basis. Note the emphasis in laying on the side, which frees up the pressure on the diaphragm to allow correct breathing techniques.
Over some years it was also discovered that the left side line, parallel to the spine was a big advantage, as was the ‘heel out’ of the left leg (obviously a R/H shooter) which helped to lock the left side, as well as reducing the contact area of the position.
The spine, being parallel to the left side helped to alleviate muscle tension, and a further development in keeping the shoulders at right angle to the line of the spine resulted in the forward geometry that is still in use to this day. It became very obvious when developing this position, particularly of the position of the head, and neck, that further developments relative to rifle fit was the next step.
There was also a huge development in the position when the shooters discovered the benefit of the shooting clothing and the high evolution of the position of the single point sling.
The world scores reached 100% quite quickly with this position, so much so that in 1986 there were FIVE 600 point scores in the Suhl (DDR) World Shooting Championships. This meant that two shooters missed out on medals!
The now ISSF, decided to further reduce the scoring rings, which again resulted in the shooters chasing skills levels, together with the rifle manufacturers and ammunition companies. The evolution of the techniques moved onwards yet again! Because of television requirements, the ISSF also introduced the ‘finals’ system to sort out the placings over the events in the World Cups and Olympic Games.
It was due to this evolution that the modern American position developed and this was actually in use for some time by some of the American shooters during the highly successful era of the Estonian position. Two that readily comes to mind is the position of Lones Wigger Junior and Vic Auer, both highly successful shooters from the USA.
Fig. 4 The modern American variation – once more if the readers examine the diagram, the difference is the development of the right leg which is drawn up towards the right elbow in varying degrees. The shooters found that this position resulted in highly reduced recoil advantages. Once more, the 300m shooters developed this aspect in order to control the shape and direction of the recoil factors and exponents such as Wigger (USA), Harald Stenvaag (Norway – the first shooter to register 600 points in a world rifle championships in Moscow 1990), Malcolm Cooper (GBR) all employed their own variations of this position.
Once more, smallbore shooters gained the benefit of this research and developed a recoil pattern that to this day remains totally consistent, almost non existent to a casual observer. The author has found that the recoil, when viewed through a 25 power telescopic sight does not rise out of the ten ring, then resumes a central hold pattern.
The forward geometry of this position virtually remains the same as for the Estonian position, with the advantages gained from rifle fit factors that were now very obvious.
These days there is a plethora of various rifle-stock designs and some incredible developments in action and barrel technology. These have all developed by the never ending search for accuracy levels by the world level exponents of an incredibly complex sport.
At the moment, the world shooters are using positions based on both the Estonian and American variations with very high level results and it is advised that your positions (for the time being!) should be based on either of the two.
The difference in the development of the American variation, compared to the Estonian position, (of which either are successful) is the control of the recoil and thus the ability to learn to hold the ten-ring right through the complete techniques involved in releasing and nominating a successful, single shot….
The next development, which is already materialising, is the work involved in expanding the mental techniques and general fitness of the shooters. In the author’s opinion, the position developments of prone have reached incredibly high levels and I cannot see too many more developments available.
All that remains now is doing what you have to do!