Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM) Series- Prone

It’s Prone time! It’s as easy as laying down, more or less anyways.


The Prone position is the most basic and has the most potential for accurate shooting. You have the supported and unsupported positions and the basic flat legs Straight Back (Military Prone)*, the Olympic Prone (DCM-Off Set Prone, HighPower Prone)* and a modified Olympic Prone*. First we will cover the Supported vs. Unsupported.

*You’ll find that many positions in shooting can have many different names depending on where you learned, who you learned from, what you’ve read etc. etc. etc. Don’t worry about it, just enjoy shooting. Leave that argument to the internet.

Supported– This is basically that the front of your rifle is resting nicely on a solid yet soft object, ie. Your ruck, forearm, hat, sandbag etc. This will help steady the rifle and absorb recoil, just like a hard rifle stock against your muscle.



When shooting from a Supported position you can aid the stability of the position by taking your support hand and using it to help hold the stock firmly into your shoulder. On many AR15’s the stock sling mount makes for a great place to hook the web of your hand on.


Unsupported– Everything else, using your hand or your sling or any combination thereof.

Obviously these two methods apply to all shooting position.

Straight Prone (Military)– This is my preferred method. Laying flat on the ground, STRAIGHT BEHIND (or as straight as you can, a slight angle may be present, don’t sweat it) your rifle creating a parallel set of lines with your rifle and your spine. With your shoulders and spine creating a “T”.


Hips follow inline and you legs kick out even creating a triangle, toes pointing out so the feet are flat on the ground. That’s it. This position will allow for the most solid foundation to absorb recoil. This is especially true if shooting larger caliber rounds. As well, this position lends itself to scoped rifles in the supported position and with a bipod to help you “Spot” your own impacts to aid in adjusting your DOPE. With that being said, do not cant your body to the rifle.



Elbows- What can be tricky here is elbow placement. The more kicked out or in your support arm elbow is the more muscle you will be using.

Too far out

Too far in

The goal is to have the support arm and wrist create a straight line when looking at it from above.





Too much wrist



Too little wrist



The more directly underneath your body your elbows are the taller you will be.




With a bipod



Inversely, the further forward your support arm and further out your action/strong arm elbow are the closer to the ground you will be.




Olympic Prone (DCM Off-Set)– I personally do not like this position. But here it is, you lay flat on the ground behind your rifle just as before. If you are right handed you bring your right leg up and out to the side. Your foot should be around the level of your knee creating a triangle. This position may help your ability to breath but if you are not tracking your sight straight up and down, you need to adjust until you are.

In this position you may be need to cant your body about 10-20 degrees (Off-Set). Your left leg, the extended leg will have the foot pointing inwards, which is the opposite of the Straight Prone position. Your shoulders and extended leg will create a “T”.





Elbows– Same as above

Modified Olympic Prone (DCM Off-Set)– Set up the same ways as above but instead of the foot resting against the leg it is crossed over the back. It will still relieve any breathing issues you maybe struggling with in the Straight Prone but won’t raise you off the ground as much as the Olympic Prone



More on the different prone positions can be found here from the AMU.

Now get out and practice!

9 thoughts on “Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM) Series- Prone

  1. One question:
    It seems like keeping the elbow vertically/directly below the rifle should make more sense. That way no side-to-side/elbow rotation is needed to support the rifle’s weight, (only the front-to-back dimension, common to both methods, that helps determine elevation).

    How did you arrive at the idea that the elbow moderately to the side is superior, and what issue with the vertical orientation does it correct?

    1. I arrived at that by spending years shooting from the prone and studying the position. If you can get your elbow directly underneath the rifle and be comfortable, stable and have reduced muscle fatigue. Have at it. I don’t think it’s likely. When you place your elbow too far under the rifle you are losing stability and increasing your tendency to roll. With your elbows placed correctly they form “triangles” (for lack of a better word) if you will that form a very solid, very stable base from which to shoot from.

      Additionally, with an AR15 it is merely impossible unless you are using 5 round magazines as anything that is not nearly flush to the magazine well will block you from attaining a position with your elbow directly underneath the rifle. You will never reduce all muscle input but the goal is to reduce it has much as possible and displace what you can to larger muscle groups while being comfortable and even using what muscle input you have to tighten the position with reward pressure.

      1. When I shoot prone I imagine my elbows like a bipod for the rifle. When I put my support elbow directly under the rifle it feels like the rifle wobbles left and right too easily almost like the rifle is on a front monopod.

        Really good article, but what about prone where your body is not in line with the rifle? I’ve seen lots of literature on having your body at an angle like in this book. They say no more than a 45 degree angle. I agree that with larger calibers the straight alignment is better but when shooting 223 which has such little recoil it doesnt seem necessary;view=2up;seq=36;skin=mobile

  2. Why does having the legs straight behind you in the “military prone” help? And why in the “Olympic prone” do you have to use the firing side leg as the one that you move up?

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