Bolt Manipulation in Sling Supported Positions

If you haven’t read my previous article about bolt work, I recommend that you do so.  The difference between the technique I described there and the one I will outline here is how easily you can reach the bolt knob.  In my case I can reach the bolt knob easily in some positions, such as offhand, kneeling, and prone with the bipod.  In other positions, especially when using a loop sling, I can’t get my hand forward far enough without breaking my natural point of aim to cycle the bolt using the aforementioned bolt technique.

If your rifle is perfectly set up, you may not need to read this.  In my case, my length of pull is a little on the long side, so in certain positions I have trouble reaching the knob (the bolt knob of the rifle).  I should clarify- I could reach it, but I’d have to move my elbow, causing my NPA to be compromised.  I don’t want that to happen. Here’s the fix:

The technique begins just like the other technique; the index finger catches the bolt from below, raises it, and pulls it to the rear.  This is the point where the technique changes.  The thumb is not able to grasp the knob without breaking NPA.  Instead, rotate your hand around the knob and push the bolt closed with your index and middle fingers.

8-25-11 031


The bolt knob is a handy place to index your trigger finger while assessing whether another shot is needed.  Remember Rule #3.

This technique takes just under a second for me, about twice as long as my other technique.  Although this technique is slower, it only seems to be needed in positions you might take when you have more time (distance = time).

Videos for my fellow public educated folk:

There are a couple of nice things about this technique.  One is that it’s very similar to my other technique.  There’s really no “training scars” or ingrained habits to break when switching back and forth.  The thumb either can reach and you use the primary technique, or it can’t, and you use the alternate technique.  The other nice thing about the alternate technique described here is that it’s more of a gross motor technique.  Fine motor skills, like grasping, tend to break down under stress.

Something I’ve noticed is that when I’m dry firing, I tend to be conservative with my reach.  I’ll assume that I have to resort to this technique, then in live fire I end up using the faster technique just because I’m a little more aggressive.  It’s not something I think about; probably the last thing you want to have to think about when shooting is your bolt technique.  Better to work it out in dry fire.

Another option is to keep your firing side elbow planted, and lean towards your firing side with your upper body.  This will increase your reach to the bolt (or your charging handle if you shoot a semi), allowing you to use the normal technique.  Relax again and as long as no part of your body moved, shifted, or slid, you should be back on NPA.  I did it this way for a long time.  Townsend Whelen, great rifleman, was a proponent of this technique.  At this point in my shooting life, if I cant reach I would use the alternate technique described in the photos and videos.

2 thoughts on “Bolt Manipulation in Sling Supported Positions

  1. This is truly one of the major contributions to this subject that is rarely discussed and understood. Most of this information may have been “known” and available but I commend Rifleslinger for discussing the techniques, alternatives and his variations. It helped me to understand the problem of slung bolt manipulation and overcome the problems I was having–I thought it was more a matter of LOP; it is, but his suggested technique overcame my inability to smoothly and without affecting NPA manipulate the bolt in prone. Cooper’s contribution to the subject was largely the emphasis on maintaining cheek weld during bolt manipulation. He only briefly touch on actual bolt manipulation technique.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *