I thought it was time to go back and review my notes on kneeling, which has traditionally been my weakest position. Kneeling is considered a moderately stable position, being better than standing but not as stable as prone. In kneeling, only one elbow will be supported, so you must focus on keeping the unsupported elbow stable. The position is quick to drop in to and out of, and leaves the shooter options as far as quickly returning to a walk or run from the position. Squatting provides a slightly better level of stability due to supporting both elbows, but may be a bit harder to get in and out of depending on what you are carrying. I struggle a bit with wind in this position, but that may be due to my own body mechanics more than the position itself.
This is TC 3-22.9’s diagram depicting the position.
Of note, ensure that when placing your support arm, you put the pointy portion of our elbow just forward of your knee so that the knee is making contact with the meaty portion of your tricep just behind the elbow. That offers much more stability since you don’t have two hard round bones trying to balance on one another.
Not depicted in this picture is what to do with the firing side foot. There are two basic variations: high kneel and low kneel. A high kneel means digging the toes of the foot into the ground and sitting the firing side butt cheek onto the back of the heel. You have the option of either digging the top of the foot down (thinking curling toes down) or flexing the toes up to use the bottom of the boot. Which method you choose will probably be related to your flexibility and the strength of your footwear. When I’m wearing my boots, I tend to go with the former, as it uses the stiffness of the sole and shank of the boot to support weight. If wearing running shoes or other light footwear, I’ll probably flex toes up. The high kneeling position’s comfort and stability level can be further increased by placing something under the ankle to provide a bit of support. In my case, a shooter’s rear bag works perfectly.
Another variation is the low kneeling, where the shooter will lay the foot flat on the ground. The shooter has the option to straighten the foot and place it flat on the ground, thereby sitting on the bottom of the heel, or turning the foot sideways and sitting on the inside arch. This position works better for those who have ankle mobility issues, or perhaps need a bit more elevation in the natural point of aim. You should experiment with all variations of high and low in order to determine what suits your body mechanics best.
Something to be mindful of with regards to kneeling is the angle of the support side knee bend. Ideally, you want the support side knee to be bent at roughly 90 degrees, with the shin bones nearly perpendicular to the ground. With the length of my legs and arms, I find that I tend to “crowd” the position and bring my support side foot much closer to my body. This makes me more unstable.
Developing a good kneeling position is all about practice. Practice not only the position itself, but quickly dropping into it from standing, while walking, or even running. The primary benefit of kneeling is its speed of providing some stability while retaining mobility. If you have time to get even lower to prone, then you should do that. But terrain and time don’t always allow, so you must practice for those moments as well.
A variation on kneeling that takes advantage of objects is supported, or “reverse,” kneeling. In this position, you will set the rifle on the object and switch which knee you are using to support the position. By doing this, you create more points of contact to support the rifle and control recoil.
I’ve had great success shooting off of concrete benches and making quick hits at 400-500 yards with this position and a 4x scope. Realize, however, that the position may be improvised and you never know what kind of object you may have. I have seen some shooters have to drop the firing side elbow off to the side and rest the stock of the rifle directly onto the knee along with a very low and very forward lean in order to deal with a low object. Again, practice as much as you can.