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Make It Work: Teaching Improvised Positions

Prior to a student shooting from any position other than standing very still, that student should be proficient with the safety and handling of a firearm — particularly the one he or she is most likely to use. Marksmanship, specifically meaning the ability to hit a target on demand at any reasonable distance within the context of the training, should be locked in with the stance the student is most comfortable using. All in all, you, the instructor, and he or she, the student, should be feeling pretty good about the student’s progression. At that point, it’s time to expand his or her capabilities to a higher level.

The Basics

Shooting from an improvised position means having to engage a target in an impromptu manner, not having the space, condition or ability to get into the shooting platform that’s been the student’s go-to thus far. Time constraints may also force a student to engage a target before assuming a familiar and comfortable stance. Bearing that in mind, let’s focus on the fact that the main advantage we’re hoping an improvised position will afford is better stabilization of the gun on the target and, when possible, a smaller target at which an attacker can shoot. Regardless of position though, the same principles of stabilizing the muzzle on the target and pressing the trigger to discharge without affecting the stability of the muzzle any more than necessary apply regardless of the position from which the student is firing.

One of the more useful positions is to place the dominant foot forward to bear the bulk of the shooter’s weight, enabling him or her to control the lateral and forward movement while in position relative to a piece of cover.

The question of why improvised positions are important and the specifics of how each may be used should be discussed in the classroom, meaning prior to moving to the range. After geared up and on the firing line, the students should practice each position dry, followed by live-fire exercises to help each student figure out which position he or she can most easily and practically employ. I prefer to present and then demonstrate improvised positions in three different segments when introducing the concepts to students.

Upright Positions

It’s easiest to start with upright positions, which will all be variations of standing. These positions provide the greatest degree of mobility for most shooters and are the easiest to move into and out of. One of the more useful positions is to place the dominant foot forward to bear the bulk of the shooter’s weight, enabling him or her to control the lateral and forward movement while in position relative to a piece of cover. The major benefit of this stance is ease of mobility, and, as with the conventional shooting stance, the idea with the improvised standing position is to be as balanced as possible while still maintaining a satisfactory level of accuracy.

When you’re teaching intermediate positions, bear in mind that range of motion, size, weight or other physical limitations will prevent some students from safely and comfortably getting into or out of certain positions.

Intermediate Positions

Intermediate improvised positions, such as squatting, kneeling or sitting, can help with muzzle stability for delivering precise shots and may be necessary when using cover that’s too short to be of use while standing. Mobility is limited when compared to standing though, and none of the requirements for quality shooting change. The shooter still has to maintain balance and stabilize the muzzle on the target even though he or she is no longer standing comfortably.

When you’re teaching intermediate positions, bear in mind that range of motion, size, weight or other physical limitations will prevent some students from safely and comfortably getting into or out of certain positions. As such, it is important to have sufficient options in your repertoire of improvised positions to guide even the students with limited ability into and out of an intermediate position.

The braced kneeling position keeps one knee upright to stabilize the support-side elbow while the remaining knee contacts the ground. While providing maximum muzzle stability, this position slows mobility for all but the most athletic individuals.

Since not everyone is capable of squatting, the next best thing is what many call “speed-kneeling.”

For most people, the braced sitting position is the most stable but also the slowest to get into and out of. It requires a vertical surface to rest the back against while feet are flat on the ground to raise the knees, which will provide a comfortable rest for the arms. This position is highly recommended when precision is the priority.

Squatting, often called “rice paddy prone” by military personnel of my generation, provides the best mobility and parallels the braced kneeling position in muzzle stability, but that’s assuming the shooter can get into it and out of it without difficulty. It’s a simple matter of bending the knees until the back of the thighs rest against the back of the calves while keeping both feet as close to flat on the ground as possible. Additional muzzle and body stability is gained by resting the triceps on the knees while extending the gun toward the target. From the perspective of mobility, all the shooter has to do is stand up and go.

Since not everyone is capable of squatting, the next best thing is what many call “speed-kneeling.” This is nothing more than putting both knees on the ground from the standing position and then standing up when it’s time to move. Stability of the gun is comparable to standing because little changes above the waistline in this position.

Ground Positions

The prone (belly-down) and supine (belly-up) positions provide a high level of stability for the gun, but mobility is limited when compared to standing or intermediate positions. Prone is best for maximum precision, and both are beneficial when cover availability is limited. As with intermediate positions, multiple methods need to be demonstrated in order to give the students viable options with which to work.

Flexibility Is Key, in More Ways Than One

At the initial level of teaching improvised positions, it is important to provide students with guidance as opposed to mandates. With a degree of wiggle-room, students will find a position in each of the categories that they can employ immediately and work on improving as they train.

Encourage your students to prioritize and practice those options in the order you and they agree would be the most useful and practical. Upon completion of your class, each student should be able to perform at least one improvised position in each of the three categories and know why they are useful. After that, like so many other angles of firearms training, it’s on them.

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