Using Your Pack As A Shooting Aid

by Patrick Smith

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  Your pack is the best shooting aid you have. And make no mistake about it-a solid rest is the absolute best contributor to accurate shooting. Given half a chance, I'll always shoot off my pack, even at sub-100 yard distances. I can't begin to count the times I've thrown myself down into the snow, indented my rifle into just the right spot on my pack and proceeded to make meat!


But not just any sort of pack. An internal frame is clearly indicated-your shot will go astray if you brace off the unyielding frame tubing of an external. Some softness is needed, and a plump internal frame pack is just the ticket to nestle your shooting iron's forearm into. I routinely fill up my pack with gear, especially clothing but even a pillow when heading out of a hunting morning. A good shooting rest is that important, especially out here in the west where shots can be a mite on the far side. But eastern folk can and do get longish shots too, along lanes and across fields. My experience dictates that one should always be ready to produce an accurately aimed long shot if conditions force it. Nothing this side of a bench rest is as steady and as versatile a shooting rest as a properly plumped internal frame backpack. Use it for low kneeling, sitting and prone shots.

  I like to use the dimensions of the pack to match the shooting position I'm faced with. The pack should be upright for a low kneeling or sitting shot; if you can get prone, you have all sorts of profiles on the pack to give you the right elevation for your barrel for such contingencies as foreground obstructions, up or down angles, etc. Kifaru packs are thicker towards the bottom, thinner towards the top when placed on edge. Use this differential to produce exactly the right elevation you need when resting your piece's forend on the pack. Plop the pack with it's suspension side down to disclose an even thinner selection of shooting planes, such as for downwardly angled shots.

  As far as positioning the firearm-especially a rifle-on the pack, I've discovered the following technique to be superior to any other. First,punch a little trough, or divot, into the pack at the plane you want to shoot from…you can even quickly do this by simply pushing the rifle down on the pack to create this cradling effect for its' forend. ( I know how fast things need to happen in the field and, believe me, all this takes place a lot faster there than it takes me to tell you about it here.) Next, or at the same time, slide your rifle (or handgun) right up to the trigger guard in this little notch you've created in your pack.

  If you are a rifle shooter the next step may be new to you. Assume you are a right hand shooter (lefties reverse what follows). Your gun's forend is snug in the trench you've made for it in the best spot, thickness-wise, on the pack, and you've shoved the rifle clear up the the trigger guard on the pack. DON'T now put your left hand beneath the forend. Instead, while resting on your left elbow (as well as the right of course) arc your left hand back beneath the buttstock and CONTROL THE RIFLE'S ELEVATION WITH IT! The "cradle" you've created by resting the rifle's forend in a depression in the pack will take care of left/right alignment- scrunch your whole body around to get on target. Now you have the buttstock between your thumb and fingers of the left hand. Raise or lower your plane of fire by how much of the stock you are grasping between these hand digits. This is very similar to bechrest shooting wherein one squeezes a sandbag's "ears" to lower the plane of fire or releases the squeeze to raise it. Practice this, without the sandbag, and you'll soon discover how precisely you can control your fire.

  By now, many readers will have noticed that I'm advocating a totally "free recoil" method for long range shooting-and they are absolutely correct. Free recoil means the rifle is not restrained as to bullet trajectory, height-wise, by the act of gripping the forend. Why? Well, a) because accuracy is dramatically enhanced by using the elevational aid of determining that elevation through the left hand method covered above and b) "grip" pressure on the forend is almost impossible to keep consistent from shot to shot, thus being a poor determinant of accuracy on longer shots.

  Okay. What about site-in? I'm unequivocally going to recommend that you site-in for long range, that is, by the free recoil method described above. Do it from prone or a bench and don't touch that forend! Instead, let it "free recoil" when determining where it's 3 or 5 shots print on the target. Rest assured that gripping the forend for offhand and sitting shots without the aid of a rest will still be plenty accurate. After all, these are relatively close shots anyhow-at least they should be!

  The reason for running the rifle all the way to the trigger guard when resting it on the pack is because this is usually the balance point of the rifle. Intricate elevation adjustments are far more precise and controllable from this position than if the rifle is "back heavy" due to resting the forend further back. And, there is another very good reason: I've literally blown the "stuffing" out of my "rest" on occasion by positioning the muzzle too far back on said rest-and have a few examples of destroyed sleeping bags, pillows and backpacks to witness this phenomenon. (I'll confess that these disasters probably have something to do with a long history of shooting Remington model 600 rifles, which feature 18 barrels-I have a gaggle of these ahead-of-their-time rifles and have loved them since their inception in the 60's).

  So. Your pack is the finest field rest available to you. Use it! If you site-in accordingly and just flat plan on using it whenever you can or have to, you'll get better results in the field. I guarantee it.


Patrick Smith
President , Kifaru International