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Standing Your Ground: Shooting Stance

Standing Your Ground: Shooting Stance
Left: This squared shooting stance presents no added benefit in coverage by body armor. Right: This bladed stance illustrates how much exposure you have when engaging a threat target.


It is the middle of the night in some God-forsaken country, and you can smell the stench of the local populace as you make entry into the enemy's lair.

As you cross the threshold into the first room, he is there, caught slightly off guard by the flash-bang device that has just detonated. You know what you must do. You quickly twist your body in such a way that your hard armor is square to the threat. Now you must wait to see if he will hit you in the plate. You have trained for years to be square to the target in order to present a better target for the threat€¦

Does this make sense? Absolutely not. Why would we train to be shot instead of train to move as quickly as possible, mount our carbine, bring sights on target, deactivate the rifle's safety and eliminate the threat?

Shooting Stance

As I have traveled around the country and various other parts of the world, I have been exposed to numerous interesting shooting techniques, from the cup-and-saucer pistol techniques of some European commandos to the full-auto, spray-and-pray room-clearance techniques encountered on the Dark Continent.

One technique that surprises me is the carbine and submachine gun squared shooting stance. Actually, the technique is not as surprising as the reasoning behind it. When its users are asked why they employ it, they never fail to reply, "I want to present square armor plates to the bad guy." You have got to be kidding. You are going into a situation that will call for you to eliminate another person and you are prepared to present square plates to the enemy? Are you hoping that their marksmanship skills are polished enough to shoot you in your plates? For the sake of arguing, let's dig into the differences between a shooting stance and a fighting stance with the AR.

I prefer to refer to skills as they apply to my mission. If that mission is shooting, use a shooting stance. If your mission is to fight, use a fighting stance. Ultimately, since our mission as tactical shooters is to deliver bullets to live tissue, not paper targets, I would classify this as fighting and not merely shooting.

Left: This squared shooting stance presents no added benefit in coverage by body armor. Right: This bladed stance illustrates how much exposure you have when engaging a threat target.

Fighting Stance

The squared stance would not be the preferred stance if you were to fight with just your fists. You would blade your body with the support-side foot closer to your opponent than the strong-side foot. You would also keep your weight forward on the balls of your feet to give you the power and mobility that are needed in a fist fight. You will more than likely also keep your hands offset to allow you to protect yourself as well as throw blows.

This stance is unbelievable for employment of the combat carbine as well. Using the bladed stance gives you additional power to drive the rifle from target to target, as well as the ability to conduct muzzle strikes if necessary. There isn't a need to shift weight to start movement forward. Simply lift the front weighted foot, and gravity will take over. You will move much more efficiently.


If the bladed stance is coupled with a support-hand-forward position, you will also have the strength to control recoil better than more aft hand-position techniques. Once again, we want the power to control the fight. This also applies to firearm retention. You will be more powerful with the hands apart than if they were close together on the carbine.

Left: Approaching a stairwell, this shooting stance doesn't have the power to fight or move. Right: In this aggressive shooting stance, the officer is ready to fight and move.

Aggressive and Offensive

When teaching these techniques, we add a few more specifics to enable the shooters to be aggressive, dynamic and offensive.

Weight on the balls of your feet. If you are standing flat-footed, the rifle's recoil will push you back on your heels. You would not want to be on your heels in a fist fight, so why would you with a rifle? Placing your weight on the balls of your feet will not make a big difference if you plan to fire two rounds and stop, but if you plan to shoot until the threat is eliminated, you might want to lean into it. You never know, it may take two, three or 10 rounds to eliminate the threat.

Knees slightly bent. It is best to always have a slight bend in your knees, especially the front knee. This bent knee will help you to control recoil, as well as increase the speed at which you can go from a static to a moving position. Bending the knees will prepare you to take an alternate position with less delay than a straight-legged shooting position.

Support hand slightly forward. Placing the support hand forward will enhance any shooting position that requires muzzle control during multiple shots, as well as increase speed when engaging multiple targets. With the front hand forward, you can drive the carbine much better than if you are holding the front of the magazine well. This technique will also put your hand where it is needed to engage your light system.

Elbow down. With the elbow down, you are presenting a smaller silhouette, especially when clearing around corners. Putting up the chicken wing will give the threat something to shoot at well before your muzzle finds its way around a corner. Keeping the elbow down in a cocked position will also prepare you for any needed elbow strikes in a "no room to shoot, no time to shoot" situation.

Use optimal stock length. Black nylon, Velcro and short stocks are all the trend these days. Actually, I believe Multi Cam is overtaking black at a pretty good pace, but Velcro is still hanging in there. Short stocks do seem Gucci as far as overall length of your battle rifle is concerned, but a short stock is not conducive to being fast, aggressive or accurate. As you pull the rifle closer to your face, you do hit a point of diminishing returns. When the rifle hits you in the face every time you fire, you are too close. You should feel that you have power at all times. Where would you put your hands during a fist fight? Try placing your hands in a similar position during your next training and see if you can't shoot

significantly better. Remember, not all shooting will take place while standing, so try the longer stock in the prone and kneeling positions as well.

Don't crane your neck. If you feel like you are having a hard time getting behind the sights of your AR without putting a lot of pressure on your neck, try sliding the buttstock a bit higher on your shoulder. This will allow you to have a more heads-up fighting stance, increase peripheral vision and allow quicker target-to-target movement.

Think offensive and be aggressive. Next time you start to train with your carbine, focus on a more aggressive shooting stance. Push the limits until that stance becomes a fighting stance. When you get ready to deploy that rifle system, get into an offensive mindset, which is a must if you plan to close with and destroy your enemy.

I have never looked back during an After Action Review and said, "I wish I would have been less aggressive and had a more defensive mindset." From the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, to Mosul, Iraq, these aggressive fighting techniques have helped us to weather the storm in the Global War on Terror.

This flat-footed shooting stance (left) is slower to launch from. Stay aggressive (right) and be prepared to move.

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