Low Ready, Set, GO!

A typical trip to the range starts with bagging or casing up your guns, going to the firing line and then safely getting them ready to shoot. You set up your target, make your shots, and then safely pack up everything and head back up. What I didn’t mention in that narrative, though, was what you should do when you are holding your gun but you’re not engaged in the process of shooting your target. This is where the ready positions, such as low ready, become very important. 

I often shoot at the public ranges near me, and the poor levels of firearms safety I see from my fellow gun owners is quite frankly appalling. Practically all of the safety violations I see happen at one of two points during a trip to the range. They happen either as people case and uncase their guns as they get ready to shoot, or waved the muzzle of their guns around as they paused in-between shots. We’ve talked about how to bring your gun to the range, now let’s talk about the safe use of the ready position, starting with low ready.  

A Good Ready Position Starts With Good Gun Safety 

First, a refresher on what safe gun handling looks like. 

  • All guns are always considered to be loaded
  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction 
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on-target
  • Always be aware of what is around, to the sides and behind your target

These rules are in effect anytime you are around guns. This includes when you are in the process of shooting something but are not actively pointing your gun at the target. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve watched somebody shoot their target, pause, and then turn to talk to a friend with their gun in-hand, violating the second rule and putting innocent lives at risk. 

Learning what low ready is and how it should be used helps keep you and everyone around you a little bit safer. At its heart, holding your gun in a ready position means you are ready to shoot, but haven’t made the decision to shoot. It’s faster to get your gun on-target from a ready position than it is from a holster or from a sling. Ready positions are also useful on the range because they allow us to evaluate our shooting prowess (or lack thereof) without setting down your gun or putting it back in the holster. Lastly, ready positions are ideally suited for moving with your gun while on a hunt, in a self-defense situation or any time where a fast reaction with your gun is essential for success. 

Low Ready Variations 

low ready pistol

Pointing your pistol at a spot halfway between you and the target is a common low ready position

Now that we’ve talked about ready positions, let’s talk about low ready in particular. In its simplest form, low ready means your gun is in your hands, your finger is off the trigger, and the muzzle of your gun is pointing below the target. The four rules of gun safety are still in effect here. Your gun is loaded. You are pointing it in a safe direction. Your sights are not on target and you’ve not made a decision to shoot, so your finger is off the trigger. Lastly, you’re looking at the target, but you’re aware of what’s going on and who might be around you. 

There are many different definitions of low ready. One of the most-popular definitions is pointing your gun at a spot on the ground that’s halfway between yourself and the target. Your vision should be on the target, not on your gun. Variations of low ready position are quite common in competition, especially in practical rifle or 22 pistol matches where slings or holsters are not in common use. 

Another low ready position I’ve seen in training is pointing your gun slightly in front of where the feet of your target might be. This variant comes from the tactical training and law enforcement world, where keeping your eyes on a potentially lethal threat is very important. Holding your gun off-target but within your peripheral view helps you get your gun back on-target faster should the person in front of you decide to become a lethal threat. The disadvantage of this low ready position is that the muzzle of your gun is closer to an unsafe direction (an innocent human being) than it is if it’s pointing between you and that person. Is a few more fractions of a second worth this potentially catastrophic downside? That’s for you to decide. For me, I’ve tested both positions with a shot timer, and I couldn’t measure an appreciable difference between the two. 

Staying Safe Is Priority #1

One “low ready” position that I’ve seen in use is pointing your gun straight down towards your feet. Holding a gun this way can be useful if you’re using a shotgun or a rifle in a close-quarters situation, but I don’t recommend it if you’re armed with a pistol. This position can violate gun safety Rule Two (“Always Keep Your Gun Pointed In A Safe Direction”) which can lead to you putting a round in your foot. Avoiding a painful trip to the hospital and earning the nickname “Hopalong” are good goals in life, so always keep  your gun pointed in a safe direction, okay 

Disadvantages Of Low Ready 

low ready position rifle

Low ready also works with long guns

Low ready is not for every situation where your gun is in your hand but you’re not shooting. For instance, if you’re a part of an armed response team and are in close quarters with other team members. In this case, holding your gun at low ready means you may be pointing it at the hips or legs of the person in front of you, which is a bad thing. A high ready position (which we’ll talk about in a later article) would probably be a better idea. 

In addition to this, holding your gun at low ready means that your gun is out in the open. In this position, it’s easy for others to see you have a gun. This is a good thing if you’re taking a training class, because the instructor can see that you’re acting in a safe manner. However, it also means your gun is in a position where others can reach in and grab your gun away from you. If you’re in a fight for your life and there’s a chance someone can grab your gun, pull your gun back into a retention position instead, and maintain the peace while keeping your piece. 

At the range, low ready is in such common use that we quite often don’t think about what we’re doing, we just perform it naturally. This is fine, as long as what you’re doing is within the bounds of the commonly-used gun safety rules. When we forget those rules and point our guns at things that don’t need holes poked in them is when accidents and tragedies happen. Make sure you stay safe at the range and out in the field, and keep your gun pointed where it should be at all times.