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.
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.
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.
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.