Chest Ready Position

Chest ready position is achieved by simply bringing the gun back to your chest from a firing position. Photo: author

Chest ready position is achieved by simply bringing the gun back to your chest from a firing position. Photo: author

There are many ready positions to choose from in defensive firearms and even more opinions on why you should or should not use a certain ready position. I choose and teach my students to use a chest ready position, which is simple to achieve by starting in a shooting position and bringing the handgun straight back to your high center chest. The gun should be pointed at a slight downward angle and the pistol itself should be seen only in your lower peripheral vision. Many factors go into choosing this position, and the advantages it presents are far greater than those of most other positions.


Many armed citizens fail to consider the fatigue their arms will encounter in a ready position. The majority of civilian encounters occur very quickly and do not result in keeping someone held at gunpoint. But after an incident, you may need to do this for a fair amount of time. In most areas, police response time can be over 10 minutes and, although you have stopped the threat, you need to remain ready in the event the threat again presents itself. Remember that your adrenaline will have been pumping during the attack, and in this wait time, you can experience the “crash” that occurs after an adrenaline rush. This will make you feel much weaker and susceptible to fatigue.

A chest ready position allows you to relax your arms and shoulders much more than other positions such as the low ready. In the low ready position, you remain at extension and lower the gun below your line of sight. This results in the weight of the gun being forward of your center of gravity, and you must hold it up with the muscles of your arms and shoulders. Think of holding a five-pound weight in this position. After a short amount of time, your arms and shoulders would begin to feel fatigued. If you took that same five-pound weight and brought it in to your chest, you would be able to hold it for much longer before you felt fatigued. You can try this exercise yourself with just about any heavy object.

Many of the other ready positions have a similar issue. Even with a high ready position, where you hold the gun up near your shoulder, you use muscles that you don’t need to.

Classic low ready position causes you to need to hold the gun up with your arms. This can result in fatigue over a period of time. Photo: author

Classic low ready position causes you to need to hold the gun up with your arms. This can result in fatigue over a period of time. Photo: author


Bruce Lee once said, “I do not fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

This quote relates well to how and what we train in defensive pistol. Having one method that works well with all the other things we must do, such as loading, unloading, malfunction clearing, and presenting from the holster, makes sense. Training other methods and throwing them in as “just another tool in the tool box” makes you take time away from the technique that you are most likely to need or use.

The chest ready position gives us the opportunity to use a ready position that becomes a focal point of our defensive firearms training. In this position, we can complete all the other tasks we may need to do, such as loading, unloading, malfunction clearing, etc. Even further, we can get many more repetitions of the chest ready position by utilizing any time we complete these activities at the range. Positions that we must go away from to complete these tasks do not give the opportunity for extra reps. In a low ready or high ready position, we must move away from them in order to complete these tasks, causing us to lose this consistency and, ultimately, efficiency.

Defendable Position

One major concern of any ready position is how well we can defend ourselves in it. Other ready positions can leave us very vulnerable to being attacked or grabbed from behind. We demonstrate this in class using a few different ready positions in comparison to the chest ready position. From a low ready position, a person coming from behind can easily wrap his arms around you in a bear-hug style grab. It can be very difficult to escape from this and you must also now attempt to keep control of your handgun. The high ready position presents an even bigger problem, because someone approaching from behind can easily grab your gun. Even if you are able to prevent the gun being ripped from your hand, you are in a physical altercation over a gun. This is never a good spot to be in.

Students demonstrate difference in being able to defend against someone attacking from behind. In the low ready position, a “bear hug” is easily achieved, immobilizing your arms. Photos: author

Students demonstrate difference in being able to defend against someone attacking from behind. In the low ready position, a “bear hug” is easily achieved, immobilizing your arms. Photos: author

The chest ready position gives us much better control in these situations. First, simply by spreading our arms out, we can make ourselves wider and either break a hold or prevent someone from grabbing the gun. Another technique I have demonstrated is being able to turn toward your weak side and ending up in a position for a shot while in contact.

Attacks from the front can present a problem in low ready or high ready positions. The 21-foot rule is normally applied to shooting from the holster when confronted by someone with a knife or blunt weapon, but really demonstrates how quickly anyone can get to you. Imagine someone running toward you from inside this 21-foot area.

In a low ready position, you would need to raise the firearm to get an effective hit to center mass. As this person is running and then lunging toward you, they are blocking your extended arms from being able to move upward to get this shot. Your best chance becomes firing into the lower body and attempting to keep control of the gun. Again, even worse would be having the pistol in the high ready position and needing to make a downward motion similar to a clichéd knife strike. If the threat gets close enough, you have no shot and are again in a physical fight over your gun.

From the chest ready position, we have more options. We may still end up in contact with the attacker, but we have much better control and the ability to get a center-mass hit to stop the threat. We can even use our support hand to block while placing the pistol in a retention-style position to get this in-contact hit.

Presenting from Ready

Presenting the firearm from the ready position should be as efficient as possible and offer us the best chance of quickly stopping the threat. We also want to ensure we are not harming innocent bystanders. The low ready position must be presented by swinging our already fully extended arms up toward our intended target. This generates inertia — the tendency for an object to resist a change in its path of motion. Simply stated, the gun moving up will continue to move up until it is stopped by our arms.

Students who have attempted this in class tend to miss their shot high out of the accurate area or even the entire silhouette. This is because your arms are moving up quickly and, when you decide to stop, they keep going for a short period of time. The first shot misses, and subsequent shots are made after your brain has had time to tell your arms to correct their position. Using the high ready position can result in the exact opposite, with the first miss being low. To prevent this, I have seen students move very slowly from ready position to give themselves time to stop their hands. This is not efficient.

From the chest ready position, we can quickly punch the gun forward and get our hits efficiently. This is not to say you can move super-fast, as the same principle with inertia applies. If you move too quickly, the gun will jump at the very end of your presentation, causing you to lose accuracy on your first shot. This extension of your arms should be done quickly but smoothly. Still even with this to consider, students get much better results utilizing this presentation. Further to its credit, students are also able to correct this more easily after it has been explained.


Choosing what ready position to utilize for your defensive firearms training tends to be overlooked by many students as well as instructors. People often go by things they see on TV or in movies, which do not represent the reality of defensive shooting. The chest ready position meets all the criteria we need out of a ready position. It is not something that fits one scenario but rather fits the vast majority of our likely worst-case scenarios. Stay consistent in your training and utilize this position every time you use a pistol.

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29 Responses to “Chest Ready Position”

  1. Paul

    I was taught the Chest Ready position in my basic CCW class with Dave Franceway and it was also reiterated at class I took at the Tactical Defense Institute, so this is not new to me, though reading this gave me more reasons that make it preferable to other ready positions, and also other things to consider in its use. Such as, in the Chest ready position, if attacked again, a person could shoot with pistol still in that position if necessary. Its not much different than the another ’emergency shot’ which is part of the Ohio Peace Officers qualification, I learned at TDI. In that scenario, the attacker is just a couple feet from you, you draw your pistol and press the side of your hand and pistol against the lateral side of your chest, (this is just above the holster midway between armpit and waist), the pistol is slightly tilted away from you torso and you fire 2 rounds. In this case the target is arms distance from you. Qualification is the 2 rounds center mass in the chest. Good article, which is why subscribe to your newsletter.


    Good advice from all and good discussion. Next time though, please refrain from using abbreviations and technical terms without explaination as not everyone are familiar with them, especially the less experienced shooters like me. Thanks, Guys.

  3. Ken

    like to use chest ready, crime show show arms extended bad idea if you get to corner and someone grabs the gun or your extended arms

  4. Lester Liebschutz

    Further comment, I remember at police academy, I shot a 12 gauge from the hip, held under my arm. The sight pattern was the barrel in my periferal vision. Three shot at 50 feet, the center mass was no longer. I line pistols by visual of the barrel and sights and at 7 yards this works well with center mass hits.

  5. Lester Liebschutz

    Thanks, I like this. Being older(past 80) I realize my reactions are slower. I have seen a presentation of shooting from the chest in close combat. his works well from “the chest ready position”,

  6. Curt

    Be very careful about using chest ready. Even though I prefer it, we have to remember that we must consider what witnesses may see in the differences in chest ready and low ready.
    If they say you were pointing your weapon at the subject with chest ready, many state laws may allow prosecutors to charge you for aggravated assault even though you were in the defense, whereas low ready (pointing at ground at 45 degrees) would be more defensible in court.
    LEO’s however would be well advised to use chest ready at all times, especially because of the ambush attacks being committed against our friends in blue!

  7. Ted Mielke

    I teach the high ready position as part of the NRA Personal Protection curriculum. The best way to teach this position is to have the student clap their hands and see where they come together. This is the work area where all firearm manipulations (firearm ready position, scanning, reload, malfunction clearing, etc.) take place.

  8. Gary

    I think this is unsafe and unnecessary. Low ready works just fine if you rest your arms on your torso. In the ‘bear hug’ photos, I see no difference in the portion of the arms being ‘hugged’, which means there’s as much freedom of movement with the low ready as with the less safe ‘chest ready’ position.
    This is an “innovation” we don’t need.

  9. Scott Strait

    Your “ready position” will be dictated completely by your environment and the threats contained therein. If you are in your home and are clearing your stairwell, your ready position may be up or down, depending on your stairwell’s direction. If you are clearing your hallway, you may be in a one-hand retention position while your other hand holds a flashlight or turns a door knob. It’s fine to have a favorite but it’s more important to teach your students all of the ready positions so they will be prepared for any situation. Just my opinion and I enjoyed your article!

  10. Dan Wild

    In my opinion, wlorst case senario … I used my firearm in public for self-defense etc. I think I would not stay in a position with a drawn weapon holding someone at bay expecting law enforcement to arrive at any moment. Good way to be shot down by law enforcement, or by some other armed citizen mistaking me as the perp. I think that if there is a critical need to use deadly force then it would be common sense to wrap up the situation as quickly as possible and complete the action so thete is no more threat nor danger. Therefore put the firearm away and leave, or secure the atea.

  11. Gary

    Jarrod: In years as deputy, security contractor/instructor and now with federal agency, I have used and discarded a number of hold positions. I like the high ready, as a slightly lowered muzzle version of what legendary Jim Cirillo espoused. Good article.

  12. Rick Poe

    Good Article

    I am on board with this technique and instruct it myself.
    As a CQB guy, this is by far the optimum ready position in close quarters.

    I teach this position as well as 4 others to all my students-beginners-advance.
    FYI- one can flow smoothly from the Diamond-Contact ready position flowing through the Compressed.

    I will share with you a technique called the elevator I learned from Brian Hartman with PFC ( highly experienced/gifted shooter and instructor).
    The elevator allows a smooth transition from compressed to contact ready while quickly obtaining your front sight.

    Thank you for the TTPs. Always enjoy.

  13. Rick Poe

    Good article for discussion.
    I to am on board with this technique.
    As a CQB guy in small confines, this is the optimum ready position to be in.
    I might add this position flows well from the diamond ready position.
    I teach all my students 4 basic ready positions and this is one of them.
    From here one can move smoothly into the high contact ready position via the technique “the elevator”, I received from Brian Hartman with PFC. (FYI- he is by far one of the best instructors/shooters I have been blessed to be trained by).

    I like this forum and an opportunity to share TTPS.

    Thank you
    SSAB, Rick

  14. TAC

    I prefer position sul, and I think the HCR is a modification of that. Both I believe are preferred to an arm-straight, low ready position. I think you bring up an important point that MANY don’t think about and I know I teach; What IF the bad guy simply gives up? Now you’ve got a whole, new situation on your hands. Calling the police, personal security, bad guy containment, etc. Many people that carry a hammer think everything is a nail, but that’s not always the case and not every confrontation will end in gunfire, hopefully!! Good article. Thank you.

  15. Jarrod Needs

    I would most certainly start them from the HCR. I actually do so with all my students. I then have them extend the gun out into a shooting position. We then go through touching the trigger and pressing the trigger and getting hits into a defensively accurate area (usually an 8 inch circle or 8.5×11 size area). The main difference i see is we are actually doing this without sights and getting body position and grip down. Once we have the body position and are able to get consistent hits without sights we can move to using sights to increase the level of precision as needed.

    Not only is this how a real gun fight works (sights are rarely used) but it allows the students to be very successful. The “basics” of defensive shooting are not sight picture and alignment. The “basics” instead are the position and grip. Honestly what you here me saying to most new shooters is to stop thinking about it so much and do it.

    As far as teaching someone the low ready position instead…

    I teach almost exclusively defensive pistol now. I would feel i was doing my students a huge disservice if i taught them something knowing that there is a better and more efficient way.

  16. jim

    more…so do you suggest that I take a 30 year old single mom and her 55 year old mother to the range on Saturday morning and start them off by safely picking up a handgun from the table on the firing line and moving it initially to a HCR position before making their first shots? I am not trying to trick you…I am interested in how you would teach a complete novice to acquire a sight picture……

  17. jim

    Michael, are you and Rob then advocating a high compressed ready position for someone who has never shot before as a way to learn to acquire a sight picture..I don’t think so…I am not challenging that it works best for you and Rob and myself…but what about the novice…when do you ask them to increase the angle from the gun held slightly pointed down to the line of sight? When does that transition take place…I think raising the gun to the line of sight from low ready then transitioning to the front sight makes the best sense …one smooth motion to one fixed target gets new shooters off on the right foot..I think getting a sight picture from a HCR position is best for you and for me in real question about it..but do you think its an efficient way for a beginner to learn the basics? I don’t think so…send me a description or a video of how the gun transitions from the HCR to the target…I will be interested to see your science on that…respectfully,

  18. John

    In low ready position you must raise your arms to fire your weapon. In chest ready you move your hands slightly and you are ready to fire. Extending your arms would be ideal, but you can fire a weapon from close to your chest.

  19. Michael

    As a Firearms Instructor credentialed by several agencies and organizations I subscribe to the “High Compressed Ready” position and teach it to all of my students. One “Ready” position is all that any of us needs to try to remember and employ in a crisis situation. This position is appropriate and safe for every situation I can envision. Deployment from this position is fast and provides good retention to the shooter. Your pistol remains pointed in the direction of your attacker. Nothing like having your gun pointed at the ground and trying to get out of a “Bear Hug” from behind! As stated, you can reload, clear malfunctions and perform a host of other functions from this position. It’s perfect in my humble opinion.

  20. Bwana

    I am not sure what you are calling the high ready position. From your picture of the chest ready position, this appears to be the high ready position I have been trained for and have been using for years. After firing, or not, the extended arms are brought straight back to the chest into the “high ready” position, ready to be extended for another shot if needed. Wish you had included a picture of what you are calling the “high ready” position.

  21. Mike

    The “Sul” position is better. Bringing in your gun to your chest, muzzle down at forty five degrees, with the non gun cupped in a relaxed position underneath the gun hand. The problem with the method described in this article, you might muzzle someone who should have not been. In “sul” you can employ it just as fast.

    • Jarrod Needs

      Sul is actually just a variation of the chest ready or compressed ready position. It’s intent is for tactical teams “stacking up” to be in a confined space safely. It is not what i would go to for my main ready position as it does loose some efficiency with needing to move the gun for loading, reloading, etc. It is however what i would say is the best option for a tactical team in that situation.

  22. Rod

    I agree with Greg. I am recently retired after 36 years in Law Enforcement and have seen a lot of changes in training. Some things work and some things don’t. The chest ready and the arm pit ready positions do work and protect the gun from grabs. From behind? train for it and keep your gun close to you.

  23. Bennett

    I teach SUL unless you are ready to actively engage a target. Also chicken wing your arms or they can be pinned to your sides in a grab from the rear. From SUL you can go to Compression (chest ready) and be very accurate at close range. I teach low ready but not the administrative one you demonstrate. I teach the low ready which is dropping the gun just low enough to see your target area while staying at full extension. You then look right, left and then SUL to check your 6.

  24. Brad

    I teach chest retention. Simpler. Less movement. More precise.

    Operating as a singleton (like most civilian self-defense scenarios would be), if you do not want to co-witness your muzzle with your torso, simply “Sul” the muzzle, i.e., cam your firing hand wrist down, point the muzzle at the ground (~ 1 foot in front of your feet), and touch your thumbs (optional, depending on anatomy, gear, and technique preference).

    It also reinforces where a grip is established, and allows for a mental and kinesthetic “threshold”, to be used as a marker or reference point for the entire act of presenting a weapon to a threat. “Draw, grip, present”, then “slack out, lock out, front sight, press”, repeat as required. When the threat is eliminated, scan target area, back to chest retention (from which position you can then “re-blue” your grip, if necessary), and re-assess the battlespace. As the article indicated, it is much more efficient to turret your torso to square up to follow-on threats from the chest retention position. Simpler. Less movement. More precise.

  25. Gordon

    I gave always been tought the low ready position and practiced it for a couple of decades or more. The chest ready position keeps the gun pointed in a potentially unsafe direction. If anybody grabs you from behind the low ready is one of the best positions to be in, it’s just a matter of getting your legs & feet out of the way & shooting the bad guy in the foot or knee or some where in the leg and keep turning until you face him. People that shoot high from the low ready position just need more practice.

    • Greg

      There is nothing wrong with the low ready. The ‘high compressed’, or ‘chest’, ready is just better for many reasons. Most of them stated above. I appreciate that Gordon was taught and has trained this particular way (low ready) for decades. But, that in itself does not mean the low ready is better. Gordon, I challenge you to actually learn it (chest ready) properly, and train it thoroughly, before holding court. Jarrod… I teach a slight variation of the ‘chest’ ready in which the gun is brought back more toward the shooting side armpit, verse center of chest. This is more in line with the path of travel from the holster to the threat and back to the holster. Yet, it maintains all of the advantages you mentioned above. Good write up and good pictures. Thank you!!