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6 Pistol Ready Positions You’d Better Know

Six basic pistol ready positions for self defense and at the range.

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Facebook/Sentinel Concepts

Knowing what to do with your gun in between drawing, engaging an attacker and moving to safety doesn’t necessarily look like what you see on primetime TV. The truth is, many people have never trained off of the square range or in a 360-degree environment where others are moving around you. Do you know how to safely position your muzzle if your children are with you or if your attacker is only a few feet away?

Ready positions are methods of holding the gun to maintain safe muzzle awareness before and after engaging a square range target or a deadly force attack. Square range etiquette and real world problem solving drive the two schools of thought on pistol ready positions. For the most part, deadly force encounters don’t happen at the artificial training environment of the shooting range.

There are dozens of ready positions that go by dozens of different names. Having an understanding of a few of the basic positions provides a foundation of safe gun handling options for real world problem solving.

The responsible concealed carry holder knows that continued practice is the only way to maintain their marksmanship and gun handling skills. Practice takes place within the structure of the square range but the licensed concealed carrier lives in the unstructured real world. The conversation about ready positions gets heated when these two worlds try to reconcile. Soldier, police officer or civilian, all must possess the situational awareness to apply the safest ready position based on what is unfolding around them.

There is no one ready position to rule them all. Having a good and practiced understanding of the options can only increase your ability to keep yourself and your loved ones safe on and off the range.

View the slideshow to see the six pistol ready positions.

1. Position Sul

Sul (Portuguese for south) is achieved by placing your support hand flat and horizontal against your torso at bellybutton level while the strong hand with a firing grip (straight trigger finger of course) rests over the support hand. The muzzle of the gun is parallel with your spine and the gun is canted at a 15-degree angle away from your body. Thumbs pyramid together and the middle finger knuckle of your gun hand makes contact with the pointer finger knuckle of your support hand.

This position is designed for fast and efficient pistol presentation from a neutral position against the body. Should you need to get the gun in the fight both hands move together as support hand is primed to fold around the gun to establish a solid grip at presentation.

Position Sul was developed by Max Joseph and Allan Bronson in 1997 while working with South American Police. They soon realized their South American counterparts had less than desirable muzzle awareness and needed a ready position that kept team members safe. The position was designed with three applications in mind: moving around teammates, a quick position to move the gun to should a friendly cross into your line of fire, and a safe position to maintain control of a group with out unnecessarily pointing the gun at them. This position, when done properly, translates nicely on the square range and in the real world.

2. Traditional Low Ready

From a full pistol extension position simply drop the muzzle down to a 45-degree angle. Grip, stance and elbows remain the same but the muzzle is pointed at the ground in front of the target rather than directly at it.

This position allows the shooter to keep their eyes on the threat and raise the gun quickly back on target to engage. Low Ready may allow the opportunity to verbally challenge or deescalate an attack if distance is in your favor. Traditional Low Ready is a widely accepted position for range training as well as competitive shooting events and is often used by LEO and MIL.

Low ready works well for square range line work but poses a few problems when working in close proximity to other people. In a 360-degree environment where you and others may be moving, the risk flagging others’ legs is high. Off of the square range, maintaining an awareness of who is around you is key.

Modified Low Ready

Similar to Traditional Low Ready, the modified version only lowers the pistol to waist level of the target, just below your line of sight. This small change allows a shorter distance of travel to bring the pistol back into your line of sight and engage.

Similar to Traditional Low Ready, the modified version is an effective position to hold on a threat. Should time and distance be in your favor both low ready positions may facilitate an opportunity to control the attacker in an attempt to gain compliance and not have to fire. What is critical with both of these positions is that you maintain control of your trigger finger and keep it off the trigger unless the situation requires a conscious decision to fire. At the square range, both positions keep the gun in a safe direction pointed down range and are considered acceptable ready positions.

Any position that requires full extension brings up concerns about gun retention. It is much easier for a bad guy to pin your arms to you or use your fully extended arms as leverage to take the gun away. The father the gun is from your body, the easier it is to take it away. In the real world, Traditional and Low Ready may result in pointing the gun in a position that is not necessarily considered safe. Others may cross in front of you or bump into you and your muzzle may cross over people or things that should not be. Again, awareness of your surroundings and the people in them are critical for their safety and for yours.

4. High Ready

The gun is about eight inches in front of your nose, both hands maintain a firing grip, elbows down at a relaxed angle, and the muzzle is positioned at a 70-degree cant.

This position keeps the gun close to your body and doesn’t cover the target with the muzzle of the gun. For areas where space is limited and other people may be moving around you this position keeps gun in play without muzzling bystanders or family members.

While a practical option for the real world high ready is most likely frowned upon at your local range. Muzzle up is not considered a safe direction at many ranges regardless of real world considerations. Know your range’s rules and regulations to ensure your practice techniques are in compliance.

5. Compressed Ready

The gun is centerline with the chest, muzzle pointed directly towards the threat, both hands on the gun in a firing grip held close to the body.

For those familiar with draw stroke counts, Compressed Ready is simply holding at position three.  From Compressed Ready, you can engage at up-close-and-personal distances as well as maintain gun retention. From Compressed Ready you have the option to collapse the gun into position Sul should someone cross into your sector of fire, or present the gun from a close retention position should you need to engage.

Compressed Ready is a way to keep the gun in close while still pointed towards the threat. However, like Low Ready, the gun is still pointed in front of you and your situational awareness needs to be spot on. This position works well for transitions between firing, visually scanning, checking behind you and determining if re-holstering or reengaging is your next step.

6. Temple Index

Your firing hand alone grips the gun, muzzle up. The gun is brought along the same side of your head, and the base of the mag well faces forward while your pinky finger knuckle is indexed against your temple and your ring and middle fingers rest against your ear.

Temple Index has been criticized by those who haven’t received a proper lesson on technique and application. Temple Index allows you a modified one-handed high ready position. It also allows you the use of your non-firing hand. If you are a parent you may need that hand to control children in a hectic situation, move people to safety or dial 911 if you are alone. Should you need to draw your gun from a seated position, such as your car or an office desk, Temple Index allows a straight line from holster to temple without covering your thighs or others around you.

Pinning the gun to your head ensures muzzle control and maximum retention especially when moving. Clearly this position is not range friendly. However, in the real world, this position works exceptionally well and has been used by law enforcement and military for decades.

Liked that slideshow? Check out this one.

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6 Pistol Ready Positions You’d Better Know