When it comes to employing the rifle as a fighting implement, understanding prone positions is crucial for your success. Bullets go both ways and our first priority is to not get shot. Getting small and low to the ground is the easiest way to make the bad guy work hard for his hits. Simultaneously, rifles are incredibly precise instruments, but if you can’t steady the rifle to aim properly, then the inherent precision of the tool is useless. Hence, getting down on the ground allows us to get hits on smaller and farther targets.
Let’s break down the 2 prone positions, and when to use one vs the other.
The Perfect Prone
From standing, tuck the stock of your rifle under your armpit, keeping the weapon pointing towards the target. Drop down to 2 knees with the palm of your support hand on the earth and your head up. This is the Three Legged Crawl position.
Now, sprawl your legs out behind you so that you are on your belly, with your legs straight and relaxed, feet turned outwards and flat to the earth, hips open, with your weight distributed between your chest and elbows. The barrel is aligned down your spine and to your weapon side foot. Your support side leg can be off to the side a little if that is more comfortable for you. This is the perfect prone.
By far, the perfect prone position is the most stable and therefore allows you the most accuracy when you need it. Hence, it is the sniper’s favorite position, and what you should use anytime you have the luxury of supporting the front of your rifle on a bipod or backpack or other object. This should should be your go-to position when you are zeroing your rifle, and when you find yourself proactively picking a place to lay down to wait for an extended period of time.
Drawbacks of Perfect Prone
The drawbacks of the perfect prone are that it does not accommodate those with big bellies, and those who have lots of gear on their chest, and it is very slow to jump up if you need to move. Furthermore, since your abdomen is in direct contact with the earth, when you breath, your body will rise and fall behind the rifle. Hence, the perfect prone position is best used when you are calm and your breath rate is low.
Finally, if you ever find yourself wearing a helmet, you will realize that in the perfect prone, all you can see is the inside of the helmet. Head mounted night vision? Forget about it. If you are breathing heavily, wearing armor and magazines on your chest, and suspect you will need to get up to sprint, opt for the Rifleman’s Prone instead.
The Rifleman’s Prone
Also known as the leg up prone, the rifleman’s prone position involves rolling up onto your support side, by bringing your weapon-side knee and foot up as high as it will go. Thus now you are propped up between your weapon-side knee, support-side thigh, support-side chest near the armpit, and your weapon-side elbow. The feet are laid flat to the earth, but unlike the previous position, in the rifleman’s prone, both feet face the same direction, and the legs are flexed, ready to spring up and sprint if necessary.
Have a buddy check your form to make sure your spine is straight, which usually means positioning yourself at an angle to the rifle, perhaps 20 degrees off the support side. The barrel should align with your shoulder and the boot of your flexed strong side leg.
The rifleman’s prone mitigates the weaknesses of the perfect prone: You can breathe deeper and more vigorously without effecting your aim, you can get up and down into the position much more quickly, you can wear full kit around your chest, and also see under the rim of your helmet or through night vision goggles.
Drawbacks of Rifleman’s Prone
The drawback is that it is quite a bit more awkward, and if you aren’t familiar with the position, it will cause some cramps in very foreign parts of your back and torso, but spend time to familiarize yourself to it, and the merits are significant. Also, you will find this position to be slightly less stable than having your entire chest on the earth, and that you present a higher profile to incoming fire.
Which ever positions you choose, getting up will be similar. Keep your head up, tuck the stock under your arm, brace against the earth with your support side palm, and push yourself up to a three legged crawl position. From here you can bring the support hand up to the weapon and gain situational awareness, then rise to a kneeling, crouching, and standing position.
There you have it, the two prone positions for fighting with a rifle, and the strengths and weaknesses of each. Learn both, understand when to use which technique, and this knowledge will serve you well out in the field.