Bag of Tricks — Use Your Gear to Stabilize Your Position

Once you begin training with shooting off the backpack or using it in tandem with a bipod, the sky’s the limit. It may mean the difference between making a shot or missing the trophy of a lifetime.

From the perspective of a soldier, there are not that many things that are actually always with you in the field. Boots, rifle, and rucksack are the obvious top three. If your boots are your ride, then your rucksack is most certainly your house. It holds your lifelines of food, water, and radios. It has all your scant comforts, like dry socks, and a sleeping bag if you are living large that day. But it can also help you make an otherwise unattainable shot.

For positional shooting this week, I chose a tried and true champion, the Camelbak BFM. How did I know it was tried and true? I carried its predecessor for two tours, and it was as hard as a coffin nail. Back before we had fancy multicam and the internet on our phones, I had the same model in tri-color desert. We went through some good times together. That backpack has been at various times filled with AK mags, Iraqi Dinars, breaching charges, and beer cans. During a massive firefight in Karbala, it was stuffed to the gills with SAW drums. I carried it a lot of miles, and except for a little sun fading, it still works like the day it was new. Every zipper is flawless, and every stitch is intact. That might not be sun fading after all. Probably more like character rubbing on.

The author has logged many miles shooting off and utilizing a CamelBak backpack.

Going Prone

Anyway, let’s move on to enhancing your shooting with a backpack. Most people don’t think about it, but there are many ways a bag can help your stability. Pretty much anywhere your body makes a gap in a shooting position, one of these stuffed bags can help. It can take the place of a sandbag for prone shooting. When getting into prone position, make certain that you’re building a position that is not only comfortable but also sustainable. Stress on your muscles or unnecessary bodily contortions will leave your muscles sore and not allow you to stay in position very long. Enter the backpack. You can utilize a pack to help stabilize your rifle and make it the right height to keep your target in the crosshairs. Bipods are nice, but on a lightweight rifle you have to carry over long distances — it may simply not be feasible.

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The author demonstrates using the backpack in tandem with a bipod to build a more stable seated position.

Moving to another position, it’s time to sit down. Wrapping your chest around a backpack in a seated position can make this stance almost as stable as prone. There are several different options to help build a stable position while seated. First, utilizing the bag as a rest under your leg in tandem with a bipod. As I demonstrate in the photo and video, my backpack helps stabilize my leg. Otherwise, I would be using my leg muscles to hold my arms in place. Just shoving it under your leg in an otherwise unstable spot can make the difference between hitting and missing a target.

Many shooters are more comfortable with lying prone, fewer find sitting and shooting as comfortable or sustainable, however, I’ve found that a backpack can help remedy those issues.
Using the backpack while seated by cradling it in your arms helps stabilize your arms and also the buttstock of your rifle. In the photo below, you can see that I’m using my legs as a platform to rest the backpack on. It’s worth noting that before heading to the field to test these positions, you’ll want to mess around with how you pack the backpack. Shoving loose clothing can help with padding and create more of a shooting “bag” type experience with the pack. If you’re heading for a hunt and planning on using the backpack as a rest, fill it with all the gear you’d expect and train in the positions you expect to use.

The author demonstrates building his shooting rest around his backpack.

The sky is the limit once you get comfortable using your backpack as a rest.

If you haven’t, you really owe it to yourself to conduct a few training sessions using one to enhance your stability. Whether your game is competition or hunting, it is a handy skill to learn. Like most skills, it takes a little practice to learn. But once you do, you will be able to create stable shooting platforms, quickly, in areas you otherwise could not.

For more information about CamelBak, click here.

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website,

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  • DaveGinOly September 25, 2017, 10:32 pm

    I used to like using the spaces between the exterior pouches on my medium ALICE pack to cradle my Steyr-Mannlicher PSG II sniper rifle when in the prone position. Very stable, always on-hand when in the field!

  • JoshO September 25, 2017, 11:52 am

    I like these articles by Clay. He seems to be the only one on this website with information of any use.

    • Guido September 25, 2017, 8:05 pm

      I’ll second that, Josh.

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