On The Down-Low: Shoot from The Ground


Most people practice shooting in the same old standing stance, or from a bench rest, every time they visit the range. But real situations of stopping crime rarely include time to get that perfect stance and flawless, two-handed grip. What if you fall backwards onto your butt, or are knocked down? What if you’re armed at work, but looking over the top of your desk is basically an invitation to be victimized?

The time to develop skill in alternative positions is before you need them. Once you’ve made the textbook version of these odd stances your own, you’ll be safer and more effective in adapting them on the day trouble comes along.

This article looks at two on-ground (or in-bed for that matter) shooting positions to check out. As with any gun-related activity, safety rules apply!  1) Assume the gun is loaded, always. 2) Never allow the muzzle to cover anything you’re not willing to destroy. 3) Fingers OFF the trigger until the sights are on target and you’re ready to fire. 4) Be sure of the target, backstop, and anything or anyone in between.

Why shoot from a lying position?

Shooting from the ground strikes some as weird. Here are some reasons to get familiar with it:

Use of cover or concealment

The proverbial bad guy has a hard time hurting what he can’t see. In the case of hard cover, like a big log or car tire, you’re also protected against incoming fire for a time.


Our brains are wired to look for other humans as upright figures with that familiar head-and-shoulders shape. Especially in darkened conditions, recognition of you as either a potential victim or best, a countering force, is made substantially more difficult when you don’t cut the classic human profile.

Shooting Laying Down
Going prone makes you less visible to critters, both two- and four-legged.


In the event you must make a distance shot, whether to save another innocent person, or hunting game, or just target practice, the increased stability afforded by most lying positions is a boon to accuracy. Notice I said “most.” Of course, this factor can be limited by terrain features like rocks or vegetation.


Awakened in the night by unwanted guests? Knocked on your keester? Tripped and fell? As an unwitting mentor of mine, Rory Miller, says, the person who wins the fight that goes to the ground is the person whose friends show up first. Here’s hoping your little friend is on your body if any of these things ever happen to you.


Firing from prone, supine, or side-lying positions is a great way to change up a boring training day. The discovery that greater accuracy at distance can be achieved with correct prone technique is one that never fails to leave shooters feeling empowered. Done safely, ground-bound practice is great fun! I’m a believer that good defensive skills can be learned while laughing—making a game out of some of your range time can lift the burden of focusing on the shooting errors or body aches that sometimes ingrain themselves into our expectations.

Shooting Laying Down
Shooting from a side-lying position. Using one hand might be more comfortable for some.

Practice for an emergency—without creating a tragedy

Perhaps a future article will discuss the how-to’s of firing from three different ground-bound positions. In the meantime, if you practice firing from the ground, keep these rules in mind.

  • The gun should be out of the holster before you drop, and stay out until you’re standing normally again. It makes tactical sense to have the gun in ready position while dropping and again as you rise. After all, you’re mimicking responding to a threat from the ground. The world may look a lot different when you get up compared to when you’re lower. Committing to interacting with the holster only while standing greatly lowers the risk of unintended self-injury.
  • Stay keenly aware of what is, or could be, in front of your muzzle at all times. Shooting from supine position means your knees and feet are in front of the muzzle. It’s easy to look right through your own body part onto the target! Likewise, it’s not unheard of that shooters rise up from the ground with their head in the muzzle zone as they struggle to get up. Take your time and keep body parts out of the way.
Shooting Laying Down
Get good instruction if you can. Here, rollover prone is combined with use of concealment.
  • Remember, it’s okay to put the gun on the ground as you rise. If you can’t guarantee no fingers will be inside the trigger guard nor will any body part be in front of the muzzle. Get up safely; pick up the gun later! Those with aged or injured lower body joints will understand.

As always, gun safety is your responsibility. Know your limitations and use exercises like the ones described here with complete adherence to safety rules.

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