General, Shooting Analysis

Reviewing the Sitting Positions

The sitting position is considered moderate to high stability, depending on your body mechanics. It gets you lower than squatting or kneeling, and provides support for both elbows while providing multiple solid points of contact with the ground. It promotes excellent bone-on-bone support, and is very wind stable. The downside is that it is relatively slow to obtain, perhaps even slower than prone, since it is not just a matter of dropping down into the position.

For most practical shooters, in the majority of shooting situations, the sitting position is about the best you’re going to be able to do. I say this because the truth is that your field of view from the prone in any unprepared shooting position will probably have some form of obstruction blocking it. Grass, debris, terrain features, or any number of things can and will block your shot in these circumstances. Sitting will raise your line of sight above most of these low obstacles while still keeping you fairly low profile and providing a relatively stable position.

There are three primary variations on the sitting position: open leg, crossed ankle, and crossed leg. You will probably find that you perform better with one variation over the others; but you will also find that each has its usefulness in certain situations. For instance, I shoot best with the crossed ankle position when the target doesn’t have much elevation change from my location. If the target is significantly above my line of sight, however, I will most likely switch to open leg.

The Open Leg Position

The open leg sitting position is characterized by spreading the legs wide and placing them out front. Of the sitting positions, this one is the quickest to get into, but I find it to be less stable than I would prefer. In the beginning, I did not particularly care for the open leg position at all. With practice, though, I realized it does offer the most practical adjustment for elevation changes and it can be made stable enough. The other sitting positions are geared towards targets that are fairly level to the shooter location. Let’s look at the information provided in TC 3-22.9 for the position. To adopt the Open Leg position, the shooter will:

  • Face the target at a 10 to 30 degree angle.
  • Place the feet approximately shoulder width apart.
  • Place the non firing hand under the hand guard.
  • Bend at the knees while breaking the fall with the firing hand. Push backward with the feet to extend the legs and place the buttocks on ground
  • Place the both the firing and non firing elbow inside the knees.
  • Grasp the rifle butt with the firing hand and place into the firing shoulder pocket.
  • Grasp the pistol grip with the firing hand.
  • Lower the firing elbow to the inside of the firing knee.
  • Place the cheek firmly against the stock to obtain a firm stock weld.
  • Move non firing hand to a location under the hand guard that provides maximum bone support and stability for the weapon.

Open Leg.png

I’ve learned some other tricks regarding this position. For instance, try and point the toes forward as much as possible and dig the heels into the ground. At first, I did not open my legs wide enough to provide stability. The TC calls for shoulder width, but i find that I require much more width in order to provide the needed steadiness. If you are wearing normal clothes, then you may find that the stitching in the crotch of your pants will limit how far you can spread your legs. I find this position much easier to use when I’m wearing hiking pants or my military combat uniform pants; gusseted crotches exist for a reason.

The shooter should keep the elbows inside the knees. Remember to use the meaty portion of the tricep muscle just above the elbow DSC_0422for bracing. Also, try to lean forward as much as possible. Failure to lean into the position creates instability, as both the wind and recoil of the rifle will cause the shooter to sway. In the picture of me using this position, I am not leaning forward particularly far- that’s something that I’ve had to rectify.

For whatever reason, I have observed that women tend to do better with this position- perhaps due to different hip bone geometry.

Using this position, I have been able to get consistent hits on chest-sized steel targets up to 400 yards away and significantly higher than my line of sight. Open leg is best used for those times where you have a bit more time to adopt a shooting position than would be appropriate for kneeling or squatting, but the circumstances don’t allow for prone or one of the other sitting positions. Also, open leg will probably be the easiest position to use if you are wearing a lot of gear that interferes with leg or hip mobility.

Crossed Ankle Position

The Crossed Ankle Position is my bread and butter of the sitting variations. Both legs are laid out in front of the shooter, with the front ankle placed on top of the rear ankle. This last bit is important, as it raises the front knee a bit and provides a better platform for the support elbow. The crossed ankle position puts more of your body weight lower to the ground and better helps compensate for recoil and wind.

Here is TC 3-22.9’s description of the position:

  • Face the target at a 10 to 30 degree angle.
  • Place the nonfiring hand under the hand guard.
  • Bend at knees and break fall with the firing hand.
  • Push backward with feet to extend legs and place the buttocks to ground.
  • Cross the non firing ankle over the firing ankle.
  • Bend forward at the waist.
  • Place the non firing elbow on the non firing leg below knee.
  • Grasp the rifle butt with the firing hand and place into the firing shoulder pocket.
  • Grasp the pistol grip with the firing hand.
  • Lower the firing elbow to the inside of the firing knee.
  • Place the cheek firmly against the stock to obtain a firm stock weld.
  • Move the non firing hand to a location under the hand guard that provides the maximum bone support and stability for the weapon.

Crossed Ankle.png

Looking at my notes from shooting sessions, make sure the flat of the support elbow is under the rifle as much as possible. One trick I’ve found is to take advantage of the little ‘hollow’ formed between the knee cap and top of the tibia bone (AKA, your shin), the elbow nestles nicely into this little hollow and provides a nice lockup. The shooting side elbow is rested against the inside of the shooting side leg. A good forward lean completes the position.

Like other sitting positions, the NPOA is adjusted by pivoting the buttocks on the ground for windage. I have found that adjusting the position of my feet closer or further helps roughly adjust elevation, though not nearly as much as can be done with open leg sitting. My general goal is to not move my support hand at all- but, in a pinch, you can move it forward and aft on the handguard to provide some elevation adjustment as well.

DSC_0425When I first started experimenting with this position, I thought it was absolutely necessary to have the feet all the way out. Since then, I have found it a little better to play with their positioning until a comfortable balance is found. By bringing my feet just a little bit closer, I have attained a much better and more stable position for me. I think my relatively good performance from this position, as opposed to the other sitting variations, is due to the weight of my legs out front providing counterbalance to any wind or recoil effects.

To date, I have fired my best unsupported group ever from this position. I find it nearly as stable as prone, especially with a sling. This position is fairly “crowded,” though, and may be difficult if you are wearing full battle rattle.

Crossed Leg Position

The crossed leg position is probably what most people think of when asked about shooting from a sitting position. Intuitively, it makes the most sense since nearly everyone is familiar with sitting “indian style.” From that point, most people think placing their elbows on the knees is a natural extension. You might think that this position would be the most stable, but I actually find it the least stable (for me, anyway). I’ll cover those reasons in my notes. Here is what the TC says:

  • Place the non firing hand under the hand guard.
  • Cross the non firing leg over the firing leg.
  • Bend at the knees and break the fall with the firing hand.
  • Place the buttocks to the ground close to the crossed legs.
  • Bend forward at the waist.
  • Place the non firing elbow on the non firing leg at the bend of the knee.
  • Establish solid butt stock position in the firing shoulder pocket.
  • Grasp the pistol grip with the firing hand.
  • Lower the firing elbow to the inside of the firing knee.
  • Place the cheek firmly against the stock to obtain a firm stock weld.
  • Place the non firing hand under the hand guard to provide support.

Crossed Leg.png

Looking at my shooting notes, I have never really been good at this position. The fully crossed legs cause me to be more uncomfortable and the reduced weight in front of me induces more instability. The combination of my long torso and arms mean that I have to lean uncomfortably forward to shoot at targets in front of me, otherwise I end up aiming too low. Lastly, this is the most “crowded” position and you will probably see quite a bit of pulse jump in your sights due to the numerous constricted blood vessels.


Despite all of that, I see the utility of this position for certain situations- particularly if there is little room in front of the shooter for the legs, or if there is an object to support the rifle on. In the latter case, we go from an unsupported to a supported position and that changes the dynamics of the shot all together.

Sitting is absolutely my most commonly practiced position. I do it more than prone because, as I said, prone is the least likely to be used in most practical shooting situations. I don’t practice kneeling and squatting as much as sitting since I’m not in combat or a regular 3-Gunner- I usually have more time to settle into a position and make a shot. With that said, it is another tool in the toolbox and you should practice all of the appropriate positions as well as some improvised variations. You never know when you will come across a situation that will require you to dig back into your experience for that little nugget of innovation to solve.



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