There are many different theories on best practices for grip and stance when shooting an AR rifle. Today, we’ll review how competitive shooters approach the topic.

Competitive shooters – such as myself – look to maximize stability and mobility. In sports such as 3-gun, we need to move quickly from target to target with the ability to shoot on the move or with static transitions. Reducing firearm manipulations to make it as simple and effective as possible increases both speed and accuracy. The foundation starts with a good grip and stance.

firing and ar-15
You essentially want to create a V shape with your arms, body and shoulders. (Photo: Ben Philippi/

Let’s preface this by recognizing that grip and stance are very personal. What works best for one person might be different for another. This can come down to something as simple as someone’s build. As a shooter, you need to find what provides you with the most consistency and accuracy while keeping in mind the application. A hunter or operator might need to adjust their approach when considering the need for more cover, stability or mobility. Here we will review competition techniques focused on speed and mobility.

shooting an ar15
Extending your support arm out offers increased stability. (Photo: Ben Philippi/


Trigger finger! The most important thing to keep in mind is safety. When establishing grip, always keep the finger off of the trigger unless you are actively engaging a target. Having a finger inside the trigger guard is grounds for disqualification in competition. 

What should you do with that support arm?

The support arm should be extended out as far as possible down the handguard. Do not lock the arm. This will pinch muscles and make it harder to move quickly. Bend the elbow just enough so you can pull the rifle in if needed. Think of it like any other sport. If you are standing ready to catch a ball, the knees are not locked. An athlete will keep them slightly bent so they can easily spring in one direction or another.

Another common tendency is to choke up on the magazine well. This will both limit movement and change the balance of the firearm in your hands. It takes more strength to hold up a rifle with the support hand closer to the body, which creates more fatigue. Instead, you can create a triangle that provides more support when extending your arm. Indexing your hand will also help with the movement of the rifle.

Simply point the thumb on your support hand or your index finger down the handguard and in line with the barrel. This will make transitions easier. Mobility can be reduced if your hand is clamped under or over the handguard too much. This will result in over twisting the wrist. Imagine being a batter in baseball with your weak hand wrapped too far around the handle. Your swing would be limited.

Unlocking your support hand elbow can reduce fatigue. (Photo: Ben Philippi/


Let’s discuss shouldering. There is a tendency for people to shoulder a rifle too far down on their shoulder. This causes them to bend their neck to see down the sights. Stand normally and keep your head up. Then bring the rifle to your shoulder so that when you press your cheek down on the stock it goes straight down.

If you have to tilt your head substantially, chances are you did not mount it correctly. Women are notorious for tilting their heads because we have smaller shoulders and longer necks. Many rifles offer adjustable buttstocks with moving end plates and raised cheek combs to address this problem.

shouldering ar15
Bring the rifle up to your eyes and face your target straight on. (Photo: Ben Philippi/


Face the target straight on. Your movement becomes less fluid when your body is set to one side like in the Weaver stance. If you are a righty and need to move left, a full rotation of the hips will be required. Newer shooters often start running backwards to keep their eyes on the target in a lateral transition. This is not ideal for stability or speed. Facing the target makes moving to either side easier.

Lean into it. An AR-15 does not have a lot of recoil. But if you lean too far back it will push you out of your stance. Think back to the ball-catching analogy. You lean forward in basketball to be more stable and get into position.

Give these techniques a try! It might help out. Evaluate your positioning and movement to find what works best.


revolver barrel loading graphic