Official Montana Hunting Safety Course Link to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

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The following course material is for reference only. Please go to the new course to complete your Montana certification.

Rifle Shooting Skills

Rifle marksmanship depends on your mastery of several fundamental techniques. They are: shooting position, aiming, trigger control, breath control, and follow through. We will begin with your shooting position.

Shooting Positions

Many shooters will sight in their firearms by using the bench shooting position—shooting sitting from a bench or table. This is a great shooting position to use when learning how to shoot a rifle. Trigger control, sight alignment, and sight picture should be mastered in the bench position before you proceed to the four common shooting positions: prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing.


The prone position is the steadiest shooting position and the one from which the fundamentals of rifle shooting are best learned. It is a good position for firing accurate shots. The prone position is usually not suitable when hunting in tall grass or dense brush that can obscure the line of sight to the target and may deflect the path of the bullet.

Prone shooting position


  • If you are right-handed, lie on your stomach with your body slightly to the left of the line of aim. If you are left-handed, reverse this position.
  • Keep your back straight and legs in a relaxed position.
  • Both elbows should be bent and your shoulders curved slightly forward to form a solid upper body position. The upper-body and arms support the rifle weight.


The sitting position is the next steadiest shooting position, and is more suitable when in tall grass or brush.

Sitting shooting position


  • Sit solidly on the ground. The legs may be crossed or open. If you are right-handed, the body should be positioned about 30° to the right of the line of aim.
  • Place the left elbow near but not on the bony part of the left knee.
  • As in the prone position, tuck the elbow as far under the rifle as possible.
  • Place the right elbow on or near the right knee. You have now formed two triangles, which make a firm support for the rifle. Reverse the procedure if you are a left-handed shooter.
  • Hold the rifle firmly but do not grip it too tightly. Bracing your body—not your shoulder!—against something stable such as a tree or rock will help steady your aim for a more accurate shot.


Because the shooting arm is free, this position leaves the shooting arm and elbow unsupported and as a result the position is not as steady as either the prone or sitting positions. But with practice, the shooter can maintain control and shoot accurately.

Kneeling shooting position


  • Turn so you are approximately at a 45° angle to the target.
  • If you are right-handed, lower your body so the right knee touches the ground and place your left foot forward to steady you.
  • Sit comfortably on the heel or the side of the right foot.
  • Place the left elbow near, but not on, the bony part of the left knee, as far under the rifle as you can.
  • If you are a left-handed shooter, kneel on the left knee with the right foot forward and the right elbow on the bent knee.


The standing position is the least stable shooting position. It is also the most difficult position from which to fire an accurate shot. It requires excellent control. If there is too much waver, do not shoot. To help steady your shot, rest or support the rifle on a stable object such as a tree or large rock, or use a carrying strap such as a sling.

Standing shooting position


  • If you are right-handed, turn your body approximately 90° to the right of the target.
  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Support the rifle with your left arm. Hold the left arm against your body for extra support.
  • Hold the rifle firmly against your shoulder with the right hand. Do not grip the rifle too tightly.
  • Reverse the procedure if you are a left-handed shooter.
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Official hunting safety course for Montana hunters last modified: November 16, 2011
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