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.



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


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.

5 thoughts on “Position Analysis: Standing

  1. Ah, the great nemesis of shooting from standing. I had some lengthy correspondence with a friend this week who was concerned about missing his deer at relatively short distance. He thought maybe his rifle had been knocked off zero by a bit of a motorcycle ride. I assured him that it was doubtful that the gear was the problem, and that shooting offhand is quite unstable. From what I have seen and done over the last few years is that if one is seeking to duplicate the experience of shooting in the field (time constraints, exertion, etc.) that it is the extraordinary shooter who can hit anywhere near 4MOA from standing. The results I have seen correspond pretty much with your testing data (at best). The friend took the advice to get to a more stable position and got his deer two days later. Bottom line: shooting from standing is last choice, but it doesn’t keep me from drilling to improve at it. I just don’t have unrealistic expectations.

    • 4 MOA from standing without a shooting jacket, other specialized gear, and a whole lot of time is a tough proposition in the field or on the range. I have a photo of one of Mark Davis’ standing groups from the last Appleseed, five rounds into 3.6 MOA, all inside the “V” ring of a 25 meter simulated 100 yard target. My best 10 round group from the same shoot was about 6.6 MOA, but was good enough to clean stage 1. My average standing group was 9.8 MOA and my average standing score was 49.

      At this point I would be happy to shoot with an average group extreme spread of 6 MOA and a mean radius of 2 MOA, with less than a minute deviation of group center from the point of aim/target center.

  2. interesting, I shoot standing up with hope of a vertical brace or horizontal, my body can’t achieve the other positions. the post of the bench cover at the range or a tree in the field. considering some shooting sticks, not sure why I comment I am not in most of you’ll league, still using iron sights which are hard to see at my age and marlin 30-30. I have 1 scoped 25-06 which I can hit at 200 yd(short range and shot these days) if I can get comfortable at the bench, haven’t tried it standing. enjoy the input of good shooters!

    • j.c, my Winchester 94 .30-30 sports a very large square front post sight and a Lyman peep rear with the disc removed to make it a ‘ghost ring’. Still irons but much easier to see and use than factory sights, even with my old eyes.

      • j.c. – If your eyes have some mileage on them, I was going to suggest that you try a fiber optic front sight on the Marlin. I put one on mine, and while it subtends about 8 MOA, it has still been helpful. I opted for a Wild West rear aperture sight to use with it. Works for me.

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