Shooting Positions


As I have said, worrying about whether or not you are in a textbook shooting position is usually a mistake.  If you are in a perfect position, you probably aren’t using cover correctly.  However, there are several basic position that are worthwhile to practice.  

This page is in five parts.

I. Ready Positions
II. Standing Positions
III. Low Positions
IV. Using Cover
V. Pistol Positions

I. Ready Positions
It is not prudent to walk around in a shooting position all the time.  There are three main “ready” positions.  Each will allow you to take at least one hand off the weapon to perform other tasks.  

Low Ready: This is the fastest and most commonly seen ready position, especially in CQB and competitive situations.  Ideally the weapon should be just low enough for you to see over the sights.  It is more difficult to use your support hand for other tasks while in the low ready vs other ready positions.


High Ready: This position is not as fast as the low ready, but it can prevent you from "muzzling" you team mates and also allows you to better utilize your support hand for other tasks.


Patrol Ready: Also known as patrol carry, this is a more natural position.  Your not going to be walking around in the low ready all the time.  With a proper tactical sling it allows you to use both hands for other tasks.


II. Standing Positions


These are positions you are more likely to use quickly while on the move. Or caught without cover (you should fire and immediately begin moving to cover.)  However, they are also useful when an opening in cover is high, such as a window or doorway.


Traditional Offhand Position:  The body is canted to the target, also note the locations of the firing arm, cocked high; the support arm, completely under the gun and the feet, at almost a 90 degree angle.  The offhand position is nice for unsupported accuracy at medium ranges but is slow to get into and out of.  This position does not allow a wide swing and it is also difficult to move while in this position.  It is also not good for rapid fire, as you are not able to absorb recoil very well.  The firing arm is also very exposed when shooting around cover and will get banged on obstacles.


Modified Offhand Position: In this position you should be bent slightly forward at the hips and the elbows are dropped comfortably this helps to absorb recoil during rapid fire.  The feet are at a more natural position for movement.  The body is still canted to the target, offering less of a target yourself.  The dropping of the elbows prevents them protruding past cover and hitting obstacles.  This position is easy to move in and out of, and can be swung 180 degrees.


Universal Fighting Position:  The feet are both pointed squarely at the target and the elbows are drawn in.  This is a very popular position today, especially in shooting schools and among SWAT team members.  It presents your chest to the target, which is a good idea if you are wearing rifle plates.   This position usually requires using a vertical fore-grip or the magazine well as shown and shortening the stock. I would suggest that a beginning shooter pick between the universal fighting and modified offhand.  Try both out and practice in whichever one seems more comfortable.

III. Low Positions
These are positions you are more likely to use when getting down behind cover.  It is a good idea to practice in them (and others) so that when you are doing this it’s not a new thing. Recognize that they may have to be modified to properly use cover.


Rice Paddy Prone (AKA squatting): The feet are completely flat to the ground and you are bent forward.  It is important that your elbows and knees do not meet (this is unstable) remember- bone to meat.  This position is more stable than any standing position and is usually quicker to get in and out of than any of the traditional non-standing positions (if your knees can handle it.)


Kneeling: This is for similar applications to the Rice Paddy Prone.  It is fairly quick to get in and out of and will lower your presentation behind cover.  Remember that the arms should be rested meat to elbow/knee.  I would suggest that a beginning shooter pick between the kneeling and the Rice Paddy Prone.


Sitting: As with kneeling and the rice paddy prone, it is important that you don’t have bone-to-bone contact in supporting the arms.  The sitting position is harder to get in and out of than the prone and it is not as stable.  It also varies from shooter to shooter, with some people preferring the “Indian sitting” as shown. This is only useful if you have certain types of cover.  I do not find practicing the sitting position that useful.  When used in practical situations the positioning of the legs is always different.


Prone: The prone position is the single most stable unsupported position, and is the most stable position of all with support.  Also, all else being equal, it offers the lowest target area of any position.  The major problem is the difficulty of getting in and out of (especially out because you can fall into it.) This is a special concern in the open because the lag time of getting up presents a juicy target.  This can be overcome by learning to “roll out” of the prone.


Low Prone AKA Side Prone: The Low prone is a highly variable positions.  But should be practiced on both the left and right sides.  It is very useful for shooting under cover, such as a car body.

IV. Using Support

This is a difficult choice to make.  Resting your rifle on something generally means that you are not using cover correctly, and you should make every effort to always use cover.  But if you need a rest to make a shot use it.  Remember to keep you silhouette as low as possible.  If you have a position where you can use support and still be covered well then that’s great.  Remember though, using support makes it hard to transition between targets quickly.  I find that it is not necessary to use support very much in practice.  When you do, maybe at the end of a range session, don’t use traditional support.  I mean, don’t use a shooters rest or similar items.  Try using an upright pole, the back of a chair or something else more like what might be available in the real world.

V. Pistol Positions
I don’t find practicing shooting pistols from a lot of different positions very useful.  For me it’s all about the waist up as long as you have some balance.  That being said, there are several commonly used pistol standing shooting positions.  I would suggest that you give the three that I mention a try to see which one works best for you.


Isosceles: Your feet are together and pointed at the target, body square (parallel) to the target, both arms fully extended, and with firing hand pushing forward and support hand pulling back slightly (this helps absorb recoil.)   The body might be more-or-less bent forward at the hips.  Similar to the UFP above this is a very good position if you are wearing body armor.


Weaver: The feet should be spread, shoulder width and at about 45 degree angle.  Both arms fully bent, body canted with respect to target.  Firing hand pushing forward and support hand pulling back slightly to absorb recoil.


Modified Weaver:  With your feet spread shoulder width at a somewhat less than 45 degree angle.  Firing arm should be mostly straight and support arm bent.  

Part 1 of our YouTube vid on shooting positions

Part 2 of our YouTube vid on shooting positions