Ready, Ready, Ready, Set, Go!

After having the opportunity in my extensive training to be instructed by not only some of the best minds and experiences, but also some of the most different styles around, I have found that each individual instructor seems to pick a specific shooting stance that they swear is the only way you should hold a gun. What the NRA does a great job of in their shooting courses, is they allow you to choose the best stance for your body’s makeup. The modification possibilities are limited however because unfortunately you can’t have the best of all worlds. Sometimes comfort has to be sacrificed a little for the sake of natural point of aim, or sometimes consistency has to be sacrificed for balance and support. Sometimes what people think is the best way to stand holding a gun just plain isn’t. But what is most surprising is that for every choice shooting stance instructors cram down their students’ throats, there is always an equally favored ready position that seems to be crammed down throats as well. Before discussing which ready position is best, let’s cover the four main types of ready positions taught.

Low Ready Position

Low Ready Position

The first ready position was developed at the same time (and by the same guy) as the Modern Technique was. The late Colonel Jeff Cooper, founder and director of American Pistol Institute, in the 70’s developed the Modern Technique which incorporated the Weaver Grip and Stance, based on the then, and arguably still, most advanced and efficient way of shooting a handgun. Named after its creator, Jack Weaver, the Weaver Grip and Stance was light years above how everyone else held a handgun at the time, and its effectiveness was overwhelmingly proven in Jack’s unbeatable shooting record in Police competitions held every year. Jeff Cooper codified the Weaver Grip and Stance while perfecting the Modern Technique, a task he had started in the 50’s, and in doing so developed a way to safely assess threats by simply lowering the firearm down to a 45 degree angle, while still maintaining proper grip and form in the shooter’s arms and hands. It quickly (for obvious reasons) became known as the “Low Ready Position” and was taught as part of the Modern Technique. At the Low Ready Position, the shooter takes their finger off of the trigger and scans left and right, rotating at the hips, keeping the firearm in alignment with the eyes.

Third-Eye Ready Position

Third-Eye Ready Position

The second ready position developed in the 80’s was by Dave Spaulding, famous armed conflict researcher and column writer for Guns and Ammo magazine, and is called the “Third-Eye Ready Position.” Here, Dave found that police officers, who were being taught the Modern Technique, were letting their arms fall down from the standard 45 degrees to almost straight downwards whenever it was required to hold their firearms for extended periods of time in the Low Ready Position. This was due to the increase in perceived weight of the handgun that normally happens from the firearm being held out away from the body for any length of time. The side-effect of them lowering so far down was that when they were required to quickly acquire a shooting position again, there would be excessive over/under travel, and the police officers were having a difficult time establishing a sight picture quickly. Dave suggested that the shooter should bring their elbows in towards their abdomen from the Low Ready Position and rest them there to support most of the weight of the firearm, while still keeping your finger off the trigger and the muzzle pointed slightly downwards. This maintained the Low Ready Position’s natural advantages of helping to point the gun in a safe direction and prevents accidental discharges. Students Third-Eye Ready Position quickly realized that they could acquire a shooting position just as quickly as from the Low Ready Position, but didn’t have to fight as much to stop the gun at the moment the sights came into view as they did when deviating from the 45 degree angle of the Low Ready Position.

High Compressed Ready Position

High Compressed Ready Position

Later in the early 90’s, as shooting schools began to favor the Isosceles Stance for law enforcement, a more natural ready position for that stance developed. It is known as the “High Compressed Ready Position.” The Isosceles Stance became favored among law enforcement because it naturally places the police officer in a more forward facing orientation with the target, which allows a greater portion of the useful area of their Kevlar vests to be exposed to the threat. The Weaver Stance typically places a person slightly edge on and even though it presents the shooter as a smaller target to their adversaries, it has the same effect on their Kevlar vests. Rob Pincus, one of the biggest promoters of this ready position, emphasizes the High Compressed Ready Position’s strong point of consistency. The High Compressed Ready Position is where the shooter has the firearm pulled in close to their chest with their elbows at either side of their rib cage and the muzzle of the firearm pointed directly at the target (or wherever the shooter is facing) with the barrel being, or close to being, parallel High Compressed Ready Position with the ground. Fingers are still taken off the trigger. From here it is very easy to acquire an Isosceles Stance quickly as well as simultaneously transition from point shooting to sight shooting very quickly, with minimal amounts of over/ under travel.

Close Retention Ready Position

Close Retention Ready Position

The last ready position is known as the “Close Retention Ready Position,” and was developed around the same time as the High Compressed Ready Position by Gunsite Training Academy during their development of their “Improved Holster Presentation Procedure.” Gunsite Training Academy, the same school Jeff Cooper developed the Modern Technique at, designed a way to present a handgun from a holster in what has been internationally accepted as the most effective and efficient way to draw a firearm ever conceived. The Close Retention Ready Position was discovered simply from the re-holstering process of the presentation. During re- holster, students are taught to simply repeat the presentation steps backwards. The first step would be to bring in the firearm close to the shooter’s strong side armpit while still maintaining a secured two-handed grip, keeping the muzzle pointed at the target (or whichever way the shooter is facing) and with the barrel being, or close to being, parallel with the ground. Fingers are still taken off the trigger. If the decision was made during re-holstering that a threat had to be reengaged, they would simply perform the “extend” step again from the Close Retention Ready Position. If the decision was made to instinctively shoot, the firearm was already in a great position for point shooting.

So which ready position is the best? Which ready position does the NRA teach? Well the answer to the second is found in the first. Each of the ready positions are situation dependant. Let me repeat that. Each of the ready positions are situation dependant. You need to know all four in order to be the most effective and efficient at handgun shooting, especially defensive handgun shooting. Once you know which ready position is best for a specific situation, you simply use that ready position when you’re in that situation. That is why the NRA teaches all four. In the NRA Basic Pistol Course, you will only learn the Low Ready and Third-Eye Ready Position. This is because these are the only ready positions necessary for basic pistol shooting. These two ready positions are the safest of the four, and do not negatively affect shooting ability for the low stress nature of basic pistol shooting, such as recreational target shooting, standard range practice, or hunting.

However in the NRA Personal Protection Inside the Home Course, you additionally will learn the High Compressed Ready and “High Ready” positions. The High Ready Position is essentially the Low Ready Position with a modification to how low you lower the gun. Instead of dropping it to a 45 degree angle, you lower it just enough to see right over the sights and you keep your finger on the trigger. It is used when assessing the condition of your threat, not the presence of a threat which is when you would use the Low Ready, Third-Eye ready, or High Compressed ready positions. The High Compressed ready Position offers you the ability to spin around or turn corners quickly while still acquiring a sight picture efficiently, and effectively; and requires the least amount of body movement when reloading. Running around a house in the Low Ready Position will not give you the stability you need to come to a complete stop and simultaneously raise your firearm upward to acquire a sight picture, under stress. The seconds it takes to stop the impending arc of movement could cost you your life.

In the NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home Course, you will additionally learn the Close Retention Ready Position since it is in this course you will develop holster presentation skills. You will also perfect the High Compressed Ready Position even more as you will find it is the best ready position to transition to from the Close Retention Ready Position when speed and tactically reloading. FYI for all you IDPA shooters out there; the “reload with retention” rule was established with the High Compressed Ready Position in mind.

While on the subject of reloading, please remember that it is imperative that you train yourself to reload with the overhand technique, even when “messing around” at the range. Slingshot’n the action closed or only using the slide lock as a release develops the very bad habit of bringing the gun offline and off target. The overhand technique maintains a good firing grip, allows you to reload your gun close in to your body (which comes in handy when you are hiding in a closet or under a bed) and is consistent with standard malfunction clearance procedures. Use of the slide lock to release the slide should only be used when speed loading and only with the firing hand thumb, or the middle finger of the non-shooting hand if a left-handed shooter. But keep in mind that some firearms do not have slide locks, or you might sustain a firing hand thumb injury, and not instinctively rack the slide with your belt or boot or a hard edge if you haven’t practiced racking the slide when reloading ever before. You should be training 1 out of 4 times with the slide lock method. Remember, a defensive encounter with a firearm is a violent encounter and your mind and body will not function in a predictable manner. You will not want to count on fine motor skills. That is all for now. Be safe out there.

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  • disneyr

    Great article! I agree that there is not one and only “perfect” shooting stance for all. I also think that training with imperfect shooting positions (single hand, off-hand) and running and then shooting (safely in a “bi-athelon style”) are valuable to help simulate the adrenaline dump and hyperventilation during a live encounter. Bottom line is that just shooting many many rounds in many different ways builds confidence, muscle memory and therefore speed and accuracy with a firearm. One will shoot about half as well in real life as in training on the range. Better get to shoot extremely well on the range then right?

  • Anonymous

    good stuff

  • Anonymous

    good stuff

  • Copterdoc

    Other than tactical retension tecniques, The ultimate shooting position for most shooters will be the one that the target demonstrates as the most accurate for that individual shooter. Start with the basics and adapt and/or combine the best tecniques from the basics that provid the best results when acquiring and placing shotts on the target. The ultimate goal other than a physical confrontation with contact is to place hotts on the target effectively and quickly. I have observed some interesting adaptations that seem to work well for individuals. Youmust take advantage of you specific body size shape and physical skills or limitations to maximize the ability to place shots on target effectively. I have worked with police officers who were drilled in a specific position as being the only acceptable position at the accademy that were having dificulty placing shotts on target. with some minor corrections and a little practive the speed and accuracy with which they could hit the target improved markedly. Effectiveness is far more important than “style”

  • Copterdoc

    Sorry for the typos in the previous post. I need to develop touchscreen typing skills …

  • David Welch

    Since most gunfights happen in the blink of an eye, I think it is a disservice to teach all this “third eye” and “compressed ready” stance crap! You see these guys on the line performing these silly looking moves and then animated head movements..really?

    “Survival in a gun fight is how quickly you can get rounds on your target..period.” Cooperism

    Instead of practicing all of this nonsense, maybe practice, draw, acquire your target, and get rounds on it and quit posing…you look silly.

    • Two words:  Adrenaline dump.

      A gun fight itself might happen in the blink of an eye but all of that “looking silly stuff” is what allows your safety and the safety of others in between drawing the gun and actually firing it which does not always happen in the blink of an eye.  Training it over and over is what allows you to demonstrate muzzle discipline, control while assessing the situation after your gun has been discharged during a high degree of stress.

      I have had to investigate a noise in my home several times and I was at low-ready and high-compressed ready for several minutes before I discovered the source of the noise.

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