Handgun Ready Positions Guide

How to hold your gun when you're not firing.

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ne of the main reasons someone carries a firearm is for personal protection. Carrying on-body is one way to make sure it’s readily accessible in the event you would need it for self-defense. It’s also important to practice how to hold and position your firearm based on different situations. We must remember the rule of gun safety that states that we always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Basically, shooters should never point a gun at anything they don’t wish to destroy. In order to do this, we’re going to cover several ready positions that allow you to draw, move, assess, and engage your target. Even in a training class, muzzle direction is important and these positions should be utilized to protect those around you. Sul

sul handgun ready position
The Sul (South) position is designed for situations that require a neutral position, not yet establishing that there is a definite threat.Stacy Bright

The word “Sul” means ‘south’ in the Portuguese language. Sul is designed for situations that require a neutral position, not yet establishing that there is a definite threat. It is achieved by holding your support hand against your abdomen or chest, strong hand holding the gun in a firing grip with muzzle pointing down and to the side of your strong-side leg (away from body parts), and resting on top of the support hand with thumbs touching. Your trigger finger should be indexed along the side of gun, not on the trigger.

I was taught this position by a former law enforcement officer who often used this when situations required her to move through rooms while not muzzling team members, and search for the threat. From this position, if a threat appears, it’s easy to move your support hand around the shooting hand to acquire a solid two-handed grip. I see this position being effective if you’re in a situation that requires you to hold a bad guy until the police arrive. It allows you to be ready in case they try to move, yet not pointing the gun at them directly in the meantime.

Low Ready

low ready handgun position
Low ready is simply keeping the gun in front of you with your arms somewhat extended, but pointed lower than your target, using a two-handed grip.Stacy Bright

What happens when you hear that proverbial “bump in the night?” You retrieve your handgun from your nightstand and go looking for the source of the noise. It could be a threat, but it might not be. When moving through the house, muzzle awareness is vital. This is where the low ready position comes in.

Low ready is simply keeping the gun in front of you with your arms somewhat extended, but pointed lower than your target, using a two-handed grip. This allows for a clear line of vision, checking for any weapons in their hands, yet can quickly be raised to engage a threat should it appear. Always keep your finger off the trigger and along the side of the gun’s slide or frame. Getting trigger happy in a stressful situation could result in tragedy.

Compressed/Inside Low Ready

compressed inside handgun ready
With your elbows resting against either side of your body, the compressed ready position provides a stable and comfortable stance.Stacy Bright

In the Compressed Ready position, or sometimes known as Inside Low Ready, the pistol is held just like the Low Ready position except that the gun is pulled back close to your chest. With your elbows resting against either side of your body, this provides a stable and comfortable stance. This allows your muscles to relax and not be fatigued as quickly. It also allows the shooter to have good retention on the firearm and avoid being easily disarmed. I choose to slightly tip the muzzle of the gun down to avoid pointing the gun straight at a target, until it’s obvious that there is a threat.

If a threat does appear, a shooter can either shoot immediately, or push the gun out away from the body and then shoot. Depending on your surroundings, such as tight hallways, this position might be more useful than Low Ready as it allows the gun to stay closer to your body.

High Ready

high ready handgun position
This position tends to muzzle the target, but is useful if you're on a second floor and there are occupants on the floor below you.Stacy Bright

With both hands on the gun in a normal firing grip, it is held high and tight in the center of your chest, generally about 8 inches from your nose. Your elbows are down and forearms rest against your ribcage. The muzzle of the gun is parallel to the ground, or slightly raised, depending on the preference of the instructor teaching this method.

I generally don’t teach this position mainly because it muzzles your target, either at chest level or near the head area. There are benefits, however, such as being in an upstairs location and not pointing the gun at the floor and the occupant’s downstairs. Having the gun up near your face also makes reloading easy and fast, and is often the way students are taught to perform quick reloads. Make sure you check your range’s rules before practicing this technique, as some don’t allow firearms to be pointed upward.

Modified High Ready

modified high ready handgun position
This close-quarters position keeps the gun close to your body and therefore easier to retain.Stacy Bright

The Modified High Ready, or sometimes called “Close Retention” or “Shooting from the Armpit”, is a close-quarter battle (CQB) position. It is obtained by holding the gun with your strong hand, elbow is as high as possible with the heel of your shooting hand pressed against the side of your chest, close to the armpit. The muzzle of the gun should be parallel to the ground, or pointed slightly upwards. It’s also advisable to cant the gun slightly away from your body to keep the slide from getting caught on your clothing and causing a malfunction.

The benefits of this position are that the gun is close to your body and therefore easier to retain during close-quarter situations. Also, as soon as your gun clears the holster and is pointed at the target, multiple shots can be fired quickly. Be aware of the muzzle, paying close attention that no part of your body is in front of the gun, especially your off-hand. It should remain out of the way since this is primarily a one-handed position.

What's best?

As with anything, there are pros and cons to each of these handgun ready positions. Determine what your objective is. Will you mostly be practicing for a home-defense situation? Are you involved with law enforcement? Do you carry a gun for personal protection? Seek out the type of training that will best benefit you. Safety should be the number one goal of any instructor, so start there and then get out and start training.