Supported Shooting Positions

Because there's no bench in the field!

January 29, 2021


22plinkster aiming Henry Big Boy rifle using a railing as support with Protect & Provide logo

Want accuracy? Cradle the rifle’s forestock in sandbags placed on a solid bench, carefully slide a smaller sandbag under the buttstock, and…wait…where would you find a range bench on a hunt? Benched firing is great for zeroing and load development but hardly practical in the field where accuracy matters most. What’s a marksman to do? Just stand and deliver like a proper minuteman? Firing from standing is an option, but few of us can be steady enough without a great deal of practice. Fortunately, we have supported positions that use the body itself for steadiness.

Man aiming a Henry X Model rifle from a prone position

When low brush isn’t an issue, the prone position is a great option. Photo by Oleg Volk

The best known supported positions are prone and kneeling. For hunting, “Marine” prone with the strong-side knee brought slightly closer to the body elevates the rib cage for easier breathing while aiming. Sitting, either open leg or cross-legged (which seems more comfortable for me), supports both elbows, keeping the rifle extremely steady. Kneeling, sitting, and prone positions are quite steady but have the same disadvantage: they put either just the knee or the entire body on the ground, getting cold, wet, or muddy, and risking abrasion from sharp rocks or thorns. All of these positions take some time to assume. Shooting mats help, assuming you have one on hand.

Side-by-side photo showing two types of sitting positions while aiming a rifle - one with open legs and the other with crossed legs

Two types of supported shooting stances while sitting – open and crossed legged. Photo by Oleg Volk

If your knees permit it, firing from a squat can be as steady. With both feet flat on the ground, this position also gives two extra points of elbow support while keeping only the boots’ soles on the ground. Moving out of this position is a matter of just standing up straight. The forward lean of the squat also helps with recoil absorption.

Low and steady poses like these reduce the shooter’s visibility, but they also cut down the ability to observe game over ground vegetation. Even if the eye can see through grass, the bullet is likely to get destabilized by impacting even a slight barrier. As a result, getting low is often not in the cards. Fortunately, trees, walls, and other vertical objects can be used for support. Depending on the size of the support and the rifle’s weight, you may use two methods. For lighter guns and thin trees, the palm of the hand is placed on the support, with the forend supported in the V between the fingers and the thumb. For heavier guns and thicker supports, lean against it with the entire forearm, keeping the palm oriented toward yourself and up.

Side-by-side image. Left side shows hand resting against tree. Right side show shooter leaning against tree.

Two different ways to use support to your advantage. Photo by Oleg Volk

If the tree presents a fork, place your hand in the opening and rest the forend on the palm. Direct contact of the forend with the hard tree trunk would likely cause a vertical deflection.

Woman aiming a Henry Big Boy rifle by supporting the rifle with a tree branch.

Use your environment to your advantage for a steady shot. Photo by Oleg Volk

A backpack or another soft support placed on a large rock or a wide stump provides support for the forend: sit behind it with both elbows supported on knees, or go prone with the support hand under the toe of the buttstock. That way, the support hand rests on our shoulder while the stock cradles in the V between the thumb and the fingers. Do not rest the barrel or the magazine tube on the bag.

Any standing position and any supported pose in which the weak hand is on the forend benefits from using a “hasty” sling. Put your support arm through the sling past the elbow, then move the hand outward to gather the excess material and tighten the sling. This serves two purposes, transferring some of the rifle weight to your support side shoulder to reduce shake and anchoring the muzzle somewhat on recoil, reducing the muzzle rise.

Bearded man aiming a New Original Henry rifle using a cross-armed support stance.

Cradling the rifle receiver with the support hand holding onto the strong-side forearm. Photo by Oleg Volk

Both the Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 and The New Original Henry lack conventional forends. You may still support these rifles with an open palm under the barrel (AR-7) or the magazine (New Original Henry). Another method is to cradle the rifle receiver with the support hand holding onto the strong-side forearm. Neither rifle has much recoil or muzzle rise, so this approach permits a steady aim in the absence of solid support. In the absence of strong wind, both can be supported around the receiver well, especially if the support arm rests on something steady.

Black and white photo of a man aiming a Henry U.S. Survival AR-7

The author, Oleg Volk, utilizing the magazine of an AR-7 as a point of stabilization due to the lack of a forend stock.

Give some of these positions a try next time you’re out with your Henry!

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  • Jim Hale
    February 1, 2021

    Interested in lever action 357 & 44 mag

    • Keith Cartwright
      April 8, 2021

      I purchased the Henry Big Boy case hardened receiver model in .357 Magnum a few years ago. I honestly have to say that it is one of the finest rifles that I have ever laid my hands on. The action is so smooth and the craftsmanship is excellent. The accuracy of this rifle is simply unbelievable. I topped it with a Burris Full Field II 3 x 9 because my eyes aren’t what they once were. I have only shot cast bullets in it because that’s my passion and as I said before, the accuracy is unbelievable. If I have any regret about having purchased this rifle it would be that it is so beautiful that I worry about scratching it. This rifle was a gift to myself after wanting a Henry Rifle of my own for many years, I’ll be passing it on to my grandson one day.

      • Mark Macdonald
        April 9, 2021

        Keith, who was your granddad? Was he Adam, Hoss, or Little Joe?…………..Ha ha, Bet you’ve heard that one before.

      • Earl Brown
        April 10, 2021

        I am available for adoption! LOL. I am on the lookout for a Big Boy in .357. They sell out before I can get my hands on one.

    • Jose
      June 18, 2021

      I’m excited to buy a rifle from Miguel’s For a guest

  • Daniel Brennan
    February 13, 2021

    I’m looking at a 30-30 black gun . Send me info on it please

  • Don Peterson
    February 18, 2021

    I have owed a Henry rifle for over 20 years in fact I own 4 2 Golden Boys a silver boy and a black my son Dave Peterson has a photo in your Catalog and he has 3 Henrys too

  • Jason
    February 19, 2021

    Would like to see a lever action in 444 Marlin.

    • Bob s
      April 8, 2021

      I am with you Jason…a Henry lever in 444Marlin

  • Anthony Madden
    February 20, 2021

    I have a 45-70.

    • Ronald MacDonald
      April 9, 2021

      Like I’ve said, “150 years of being right is hard to beat”. I bet you’ll agree. Now, if we could convince Henry to make the single shot with a 30 or 32 inch octagon the world would be close to a perfect place !! RM

    February 28, 2021

    Look have one 30 30 Rife. Do you have payment plans

  • Keith Bowman
    March 7, 2021

    Looking for a 30-30 send info please, and on a 357 or 45

  • Howard Cornwall
    March 9, 2021

    I won’t to put a red dot site on my 45 long colt model ho12caw but can’t find a pic rail can you help

  • fredilson codilla
    March 16, 2021

    look very nice utilizing the magazine portion, can i ask where I supposed to order the magazine plastic batt

  • Jeffrey Davis
    March 18, 2021

    in your supported shooting positions article what is the kind of muzzelbreak and light is on the x series gun ? Thanks

    • Charlie Guida FS
      April 9, 2021

      I would also like to know the answer as well. I just got my Big Boy X in .357.

  • Tim Tucker
    March 22, 2021

    I own a henry golden boy. I always see you feature pictures of people that can walk shooting your rifles. I would like to see you feature people confined to a wheelchair shooting your rifles safely.

  • Raymond Winters
    March 22, 2021


  • Roberto
    April 8, 2021

    I just purchased an H010 series in .45-70 GOVT. Shot it for the first time this week and am truly impressed. Shoulder is bruised but that is expected with this round.

  • Osvaldo Guerra Rodríguez
    April 8, 2021


  • Larry Sexton
    April 8, 2021


  • Earle D. Wysong ll
    April 8, 2021

    Thanks for the information

  • Harvey Jansonius
    April 8, 2021

    I have taught Hunter Education in Kansas for a number of years and this would be very useful in the classroom, could you send me information as to how to copy it to reuseable form or send me something I could save to the desktop.

  • Larry Koehn
    April 8, 2021

    I really enjoy your hunting videos with Cody and crew and articles like this are clear and easy to understand. I am impressed with Henry and their products and if I was not kind of at the terminus of things I would be in the market for one but at 77 I have started giving my good guns to the two grandsons already. I do have a Henry kind of mind though as the one rifle that I kept back just incase I get the urge to go hunt is a Ruger #1 in 25/06. That is as close as I came to ever owning a lever action gun of any kind in any caliber.

    • Ronald MacDonald
      April 10, 2021

      Right there with you Larry. There comes a time in every man’s life when we become aware, without doubt, there are more Christmases behind us than there are ahead. Assigning your guns, to whom ever, is a great idea; especially the ones that are most important to you. Don’t be in a hurry. It’s never too late for that one Henry you really want. Ron

    April 8, 2021

    I am looking for a 30-30 side gate lever action. No dealers in my area have one or know when they will get one. Do you have any idea when they will become more readily available?

  • J Johns
    April 8, 2021

    looking for a 38 357 mag lever action

  • Morris Epstein
    April 8, 2021

    I am still looking for an all weather 45-70.
    Any idea when it will be available?

    • Patrick Mahoney, CWO,U.S.M.C. ret'd.
      April 8, 2021

      Good Suggestion.
      The shorter barrel (a la ‘Guide’ gun) would be a winner.Put me on the “buy”List.

  • Mark Mizer
    April 8, 2021

    As I get older I find it harder and harder to stay steady, even with a rest and bench. I keep practicing, however. I love to reload and shoot. I love making the steel ring at 200 yards.

  • Ronald MacDonald
    April 8, 2021

    Shooting position and comfort are important to an accurate shot, and a good clean kill.

    The right caliber is just as important. For me it’s 45-70 all the way. New is new, and once proven, is good! 150 years of being right is hard to beat,

    • Patrick Mahoney
      April 8, 2021

      45-70 all the way. Iron sights/ghost ring and proper ‘off-hand’ “seating” of stock butt. Firmly in shoulder spot. Shoots all day; no bruising. Wrong position in shoulder causes DISCOMFORT and punishing; punishment.
      FIND -The Spot- ‘inside’ the shoulder. Stick with it. Commendation to HENRY Gunsmiths. Stay faithful to Quality Control/Assurance. Morale and motivation ‘from the Top’ always wins the day.

  • Lincoln Link Wilson
    April 8, 2021

    Thank you for the consideration of sharing valuable information with your current and future customers. Information that is not disrespectful to the shooter or those who do not.

  • Steven R Box
    April 8, 2021

    Great useful information that’s invaluable…tx

  • Richard Cooper
    April 8, 2021

    Would like to purchase a Henery AXE 410 , could you please provide info for purchasing and payment plan

    • Larry Mackie
      April 8, 2021

      I have sent in input before about hopefully Henry will make available the side gate 35 Remington in the color case hardened 20 inch round barrel version. I have the Big Boy 44 Mag and the color case hardened 44 Mag which I harvested a nice buck with last year. I also purchased the Golden Boy 22 and the blued 22 lever rifle and now have a pump 22 ordered. Would really love to have a color case hardened 35 Remington with the side gate and 20 inch barrel. What a great hunting rifle it would make.

    • Richard Cooper
      April 10, 2021

      Correction “HENRY “ , the AXE is like a pistol and a shotgun I’ve always been intrigued with shooting from the hip. I know times are crazy but the AXE is what I call so mechanical and it LEVER action. I would appreciate any help you could provide.


    April 8, 2021

    Had to use a death grip BOG on bison due to having had shoulder surgery. 45/70 Henry Brass Big Boy did the job. Had to shoot left handed even though I am right handed and right eye dominant thats where the EOTECH worked well

  • Stephen Eric Weatherford
    April 8, 2021

    Keep it coming guys this was exemplary!

  • Peggy Duggan
    April 8, 2021

    Thanks, this article is very helpful. I am a fairly new hunter and knew about some of these positions, but not the squatting one, which I’ll have to practice.

  • Larry Bryant
    April 8, 2021

    I have two. A .22 octogen barrel, and a .45 Colt. Slick action very accurate. Love em.

    • Frank Bradley
      April 9, 2021

      I have 2. New Frontier and a 1925 Remington Pump. Both shoot S, L and Lr. Both excellent build and they shoot as well as they look

  • scott burns
    April 8, 2021

    save our guns

    • Joe W.
      April 8, 2021

      I hope the sports of hunting and shooting will be around forever. The gun laws will only hurt the honest sportsman. The bad guys don’t follow the laws anyway.

  • James Granzella
    April 8, 2021

    I am looking for A 22 Hornet,rifle with ontogeny bale .

    April 8, 2021

    I am a 65 year old female weighing about 110 lbs. In pretty good physical shape. Which rifle / shotgun would you suggest for me? For personal defense, and some small game hunting
    Amount of recoil is my concern.

    • John R-G
      April 11, 2021

      Hi Susan, I would strongly recommend any Henry lever action in .22LR but especially either a Golden Boy standard, Carbine or youth model depending on your stature. They are beautiful rifles to look at and very smooth to operate with minimum recoil and use inexpensive ammunition. You might consider replacing the sights with Skinner peep sights if your eye sight is not perfect. 22 rimfire is perfect for small game like rabbits and squirrels etc and just great fun at a shooting range.

  • Joe W.
    April 8, 2021

    I have been using the “tree method” for many years. It works great and it doesn’t take very much practice. A branch in a tree will also work as a shooting stick, but for me the tree method is more stable.

  • gary lamere
    April 8, 2021

    I’M Looking more for a 410 shot gun or servivel style.

  • Lawrence Coleman
    April 8, 2021

    Great information on other positions to take when firing your weapon.

  • Tim Love
    April 8, 2021

    I recently won a Deluxe silver engraved Big Boy in .45 LC….I have not had a chance to shoot it yet, but the stock seems too short. Is it intended to be held more on your arm than shoulder??

  • Dick Weinberg
    April 8, 2021

    Thanks for the reply but it didn’t answer when I get my Mares Leg? Are you guys trying to get back into full production. What you are doing is inadvertently raising the cost and prices of guns. In my opinion, it’s bad for business.

  • Jack Rouse
    April 9, 2021

    This kind of article is especially useful for novice shooters. Wish it were downloadable as a pdf file. Would like to send it to some friends. I’m a happy Henry owner.