Holding an M16 when not firing?

I came across another picture today of a soldier holding what looked like an M16 but not firing it. The butt of the gun is against his chest more or less, and sticks up almost past the top of his shoulder. Is this less fatiguing than having the stock/butt always against your shoulder? Is it easy to get the gun into firing position quickly? What other purpose does this position serve, and how is it taught?


There’s no way you’re going to walk around all day holding your weapon like you’re about to fire it. This is called the low-ready position and its fast and easy to transition to a firing posture.

As Bear says what you describe is called the “low ready.” The answer to your first two questions is yes, the purpose of holding the rifle in the low ready is to strike a balance between comfort and ability to rapidly acquire and fire on a target. That’s really all there is to it. It is taught by a drill sergeant standing in front of a bunch of privates and demonstrating; “This is the low ready, for the next rest of basic training you will always hold your rifle in this position unless you are firing it or sleeping.”

…or eating, or doing PT, or going to the head…

I’m not sure if this is the same position the OP is talking about, but a lot of times on TV I’ll see someone holding an M16 or M4 by the pistol grip, with the shoulder stock just floating in the air above the shoulder or next to the upper arm. It looks really weird and improper to me.

Also alot of soldiers will clip the sling to a carbiner on their vest to hold the weapon without having to carry it. If you have the carbiner high on the vest, and put your hand on the pistol grip while letting it hang you get the look thirdname is talking about with the stock above or even with the shoulder.

I loved my carbiner, I could let go of my weapon to work with both hands, and still have it ready to go quick. No need to sling it, prop it up against something, or lay it on the ground.


That’s a type of sling. It mounts the weapon across the front of the body. Basically, the sling attaches to the side of the weapon, as opposed to the butt stock and the barrel. We hold the pistol grip for one of two reasons: to control the weapon and be able to bring it up quickly or just because it’s a convenient place to rest the hand, similar to having it in your pocket.

I take pride in my custom sling design. I used a regular, issued sling and 550 cord. I made it so that the sling was adjustable in length just by sliding one cord over another. This was important because sometimes I’d have to have it long to fit over my body armor and sometimes I wanted it short when I was just walking around the FOB. With that setup, I could put the weapon under my arm, on my side. That way, I wasn’t either kicking it as I walked or having it dig into my back. Wonderful!

If the OP is talking about a position different than what I’m imagining, then it might be because the soldier is looking through his ACOG. You don’t have to have your head on the rifle if you’ve got one of those. It makes aiming so simple.

I, too, would like to see a picture of the pose that the o.p. describes, but be aware that most front-line infantry soldiers and tactical operators today use some form of attached sling like a one-point or three-point sling, in which the rear sling point (usually near the rear of the rifle stock) hangs from the chest. From this position, it is easy to let the rifle just dangle on the sling and control the muzzle direction with a hand on the pistol grip or forestock. This reduces user fatigue while keeping the weapon at ready. Holding the weapon at ready (up against the shoulder) would be very fatiguing, and also indicates to your mates that you have identified an immediate threat. Holding the weapon at low ready (butt on or near the shoulder, depending on butt length, with the non-firing hand on the forestock) is somewhat less fatiguing and threatening, and usually used in a tactical situation in which no immediate threats are identified. A “slung” rifle (dangling or hanging from the shoulder, depending on the type of sling) indicates no anticipation of a threat, and the weapon is accessible only after the few seconds (or more, again depending on sling system) of bringing the weapon to ready and aligning sights or optics.

I’m really not a big fan of tactical slings. I’ve used a three-point rig in some tactical training and found it unduly prone to getting tangled or snagged if you drop the weapon to do something else, and if you have to do any diagnostic more than just a tap-rack-bang drill due to a weapon malfunction the weapon has just become a very large paperweight dangling off of your body. Basically, it is good as long as you are firing or moving in a straight line, and a liability elsewise. I haven’t used the one-point sling but I tend to agree with Larry Vickers on their general utility, though I’d still prefer this to a three point design.

I found the two-point sling to be well-suited to most tasks, and about fifteen years ago I modified a standard sling to be similar to what Vickers calls his Tactical Combat Applications Sling (basically an adjustable two-point sling with an oversized tab at the forearm end) and found this to be, if not ideal, at least equally well suited to pretty much all tasks. I’ve used the Ching sling on a couple of rifles and while I found that it does work as advertised, I never felt comfortable with it or could get it quickly into place, but of course, it isn’t really a close-in tactical sling; it’s basically supposed to provide support for longer single fire shots and to stabilize a bolt-action rifle during rechambering.

At one point, the Uzi family of submachine guns had a chest-mounting system that allowed the user to somehow affix the subgun to a chest rig and then pull it back off. I’m not certain why others didn’t duplicate it–maybe it was prone to snagging, or there were safety problems, or whatever–but that would seem to fill the task of securing the weapon while the hands are otherwise occupied, albeit not well suited for a longer carbine or full-sized rifle. I’m surprised that the FN P90 and other bullpup configuration PDWs don’t offer something like this instead of slings.

The British Army tried issuing the L85/SA80 without slings entirely, but then you have a soldier who is carrying around 10+ lbs of steel all day and tends to set down the rifle whenever he can, which is problematic for all of the obvious reasons. Now they’re all issued with one of the better three-point sling designs, and from what I’ve heard common opinion is that this sling is the more reliable part of the rifle (which isn’t saying much).


Not a U.S. soldier or an M-16, but here’s a photo of what I think the OP is referring to.

That is more or less a low ready position. Note that the rifle (FN-FAL 50.63 or 50.64 “Paratrooper”) has a sling but it is not slung (bad, will tend to catch on any protrusion) and the soldier is holding it by the pistol grip (no finger on the trigger, very good) and the forearm grip. This is a very natural hold, pretty much the same way you would hold a chair or a box, and not at all uncomfortable.


It’s not a FAL. Probably a C9 variant of the FN Minimi light machine gun (U.S. M249 SAW).

Definitely a C9, 5.56mm, specifically the C9A1.

I stand corrected. I was wondering why an apparently front line Aussie (or Canadian? I can’t make out the insignia) soldier would be carrying a FAL.


Probably one of our Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. It’s a photo from the Globe and Mail, and though I can’t find it by searching the G & M site, it would seem to come from an article by Christie Blatchford.

He’s Canadian. Note the stylish mix of desert and forest pattern camouflage, reflecting the “prepared for anything” motto of our military.

The photo on the G & M site appears to be from 30 June (or possibly the 29th) 2006.

Yes, that’s the position I’m talking about.

It’s pic #34 on this page

I believe he has a strap, and usually hold the gun lower. I wonder if he just slightly raising it for the photo-shoot. Think the finger is on the safety so he could switch it to single shot or burst.

I don’t recall holding my rifle this way in basic. There was a similar stance, but the rifle is hanging slack on the strap and the barrel more or less extend to the front.

What the OP is describing is the most comfortable way to carry a rifle while still being “combat ready”. Your right hand and arm steady it, your left hand is free, and all of the weight is borne by the strap.