Many of us shoot 3-position events, whether in Appleseed or in CMP Rimfire Sporter. Here are some insights that will help you refine your sitting position. I think these will both make you more comfortable and raise your scores. If have haven’t read it already, do look through the Prone article (here), as some of the points below are based on the same principles.
Body angle to line of sight: You want to put your body at an angle such that when the rifle butt is in your shoulder pocket the stock is right next to your neck, under your cheek, so you can drop your head naturally onto the comb with good sight alignment. This is usually a bit more than the angle used in prone. If you have to lean your head sideways to reach the stock, you don’t have enough angle and your shoulder pocket is too far from your neck, as seen from the target. Also, if your support elbow is not under the rifle, you probably have too little angle.
Lean from the hips, not the waist: This is the single biggest-impact, most important point in this article. It is also the one that most beginning Appleseed shooters get wrong. When you lean at the waist, your entire upper body is too high off the ground; the spine doesn’t have as much range of motion as the hips; and you are crushing your diaphragm against your abdominal organs.
All kinds of bad things happen when you curl your back, leaning at the waist to try and put your elbows on your knees: you can’t reach the knee with your trigger elbow; your neck is craned back to make the head upright enough to see through your sights; you may even be looking through the top of your glasses rather than the center; your breathing is constricted; your center of gravity is too far back so you feel unbalanced and can’t relax (in fact, you are unbalanced). Also, the recoil of a centerfire rifle will push you out of position, which could even be dangerous if you lose control of the muzzle.
All kinds of good things happen when you lean from the hips: the shoulders are lower because the lean is hinged from the hips so the entire spine is lower; your neck and head are in natural position because the entire spine is angled, not just the top half; breathing is easy because the diaphragm is not squeezed; your center of gravity is closer to your knees so that gravity makes you stable. Recoil doesn’t topple you; it pushes you into the ground like a tent peg.
To illustrate this, hold your forearm and hand straight up. Your wrist acts as the hips, and your first knuckles are the waist. Keeping your hand vertical, curl your fingers toward the palm. See how the fingertips are almost horizontal, but they are still much higher than your wrist? Now straighten your fingers and keeping your hand straight, bend at the wrist. Notice how little angle is required to lower your fingertips to the same point relative to your wrist.
How do you make sure to lean from the hips? Simple: when you first sit down, put your trigger hand on the ground and stick your butt out. Your upper body will naturally lean from the hips. Try to keep your back straight as you bend; then very little waist bend will be needed to plant your elbows solidly on the fronts of your knees. Your back will be slightly rounded, but you won’t look like Quasimodo. Depending on your build, it may also help to loosen your belt a notch (or two).
Knee height and leg support: You can’t hold your knees up using the adductor muscles. Even before you feel the strain your legs will tremble. The legs have to rest naturally. What if you are very flexible and your knees just flop to the ground? Answer: Use your boots as support for your legs, resting your outer shins on them. To get the right knee height, adjust how close your boots are to your ankles. The boots act as fulcrums for the levers of your shins. The constant is that your feet are on the ground. If your feet are too far apart, the fulcrum is close to your knee and you can’t get much height. If the boot is closer to your ankle, the leg angle is higher and so are the knees.
If you are using the open-leg position, be sure to extend your feet, ideally with the soles of your boots flat on the ground. Trying to hold your toes up with the shin muscles will set everything to trembling.
“Natural point of magazine”: Where to put your magazines? We see shooters lose time fumbling for their mags in stages 2 and 3 of the AQT. During prep, drop your trigger hand naturally to the ground. Wherever it lands is where you want to put the mags. This is the “natural point of magazine” (term coined by Viriginia Appleseed Instructor Misawa). Orient the mags so that your hand grasps them just the way you want to hold them when you drop it. Figure out what works best for you, then do it consistently every time you shoot. The less minutia you have to think about, the easier it is to maintain your Rifleman’s Bubble and focus only on the target and front sight.
Relax: Just as in prone, if your position is right, you can relax your body and gravity will help you stay in position. If the position is uncomfortable, there is probably something wrong.
Be in shape: It’s a harsh fact, but the more there is of you between your spine and your navel, the harder it will be to assume a good sitting position. Sitting also requires good joint flexibility and stretched lower back, hip adductor muscles and hamstrings. If you really want to be good at this position, you will need to practice it regularly and exercise the muscles on which it relies. The crossed-ankle and open-leg positions can accommodate physical limitations, but they are less stable and therefore less accurate than the classic sitting position.