Shooting Analysis

A Review of the Kneeling Position

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.

An example of low kneel foot position with the foot flat on the ground. A downside of the position I have taken in this photo is that the flatness of the foot and my seating position are relatively unstable. Recoil forces may cause me to rock backwards excessively compared to the high kneeling positions.

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.

Note the angle of the left knee, and how much closer the left foot is to the body. This is unstable, and contributes to my difficulty in the wind. Try and place that left foot further away from the body and keep the shin perpendicular to the ground.

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.

Supported Kneeling

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.

Supported kneeling.png

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.



4 thoughts on “A Review of the Kneeling Position”

  1. I have the same problem in the kneeling position. I always feel like it should be more stable but there are too many unstable points of contact. If in a controlled situation (range, Appleseed) I always use a support under the ankle. It make this position comfortable. I also find if you can lean forward enough to make more surface contact with you triceps and your shin it tends to become more solid. Not sure if that causes more problem but it works for me.

    1. “I also find if you can lean forward enough to make more surface contact with you triceps and your shin it tends to become more solid. Not sure if that causes more problem but it works for me.”

      That is what you want.

  2. The kneeling pos runs the gamut from almost a supported sitting position, to hasty position you drop into for fire and maneuver. Time is the key here. If you have it, you can dial the positon in, making it fairly stable. If not, then you kneel forward aggressively, get the best pos you can and make the shot. It will probably be the most used position for the vast majority of us out there in urban or semi-urban areas.

    Another key point is using any available support. When combined with any object in your environment, the kneeling becomes just about as stable as the prone, just in another plane. When using concrete, wood, etc. as a brace, you can shoot incredibly accurate, especially if you “clamp” onto the cover. With a good full-length, free-floated rail, this technique gives you a huge improvement in accuracy, as opposed to the old technique of standing off from cover.

    Yes the strong side elbow is in the air. I find that by using the other strong side to clamp firmly onto cover, my firing hand is just there to stroke the trigger, so other than a good stock weld into the shoulder pocket, that side is just there to move the trigger. Without disturbing the sights.


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