A Firing Party fires a ceremonial Three-Volley salute using modern or traditional rifles (military), shotguns, or pistols (law enforcement). It is not the 21-Gun Salute, that is fired by guns (canons) and only in the Army and Navy.
The Numbers: Anywhere from three to seven members firing with a commander. The smaller amount of members on the team does not mean that more shots are fired.
The Rifles: Traditional rifles are the M1 Garand and, used most often, the M14. The reason for these two rifles being used is the charging handle. The M1903 has a bolt and is awkward to operate smoothly when loading each round. Modern rifles are the M16 and variations of it. Pump action shotguns provide a similar action as the M1 and M14 when loading the rounds.
The Stance: Needs to be solid. Do not bend at the waist, bend your knees lean backwards, or put your weight on just one foot. You can see these mistakes in this picture.
“Fires” is the keyword in the first paragraph. The team fires the Salute, it does not “shoot”. Shooting requires taking aim to hit your target. The Firing party does not have a target, it is firing blanks for the Salute and not going to hit anything.
A firing party takes a side step, not a step forward, as seen in this picture of the Indiana State Police. While this is a non-standard stance here, you can see their use of shotguns for the team.
I understand the natural position of taking aim when having a rifle or shotgun in your hands and getting ready to fire the weapon. However, training must involve breaking this habit. It’s a ceremony and must be treated as such. There is a time to take aim and shoot and a time to fire. “Ready, Aim, FIRE!”
In the picture above, you can see how some of these Soldiers are dropping their head to take aim while using a more modern rifle to fire the volleys.
One of the pavilions at Jefferson Barracks only allows the riffle volley to be to set up in one direction (On one side). Does it matter if the rifle volley is set up at the head end or foot end of the casket? I am to understand that it does, with that said, Does it matter if the stars are facing the volley instead of the family in the seats in order to get the head end of the casket on the same side of the volley?
As long as the family can see the firing party and the stars are to the family’s left, firing party position doesn’t matter. It’s good to have the team off the foot but you have to work with the terrain and surrounding structures.