Position Analysis: Supported Reverse Kneeling

Getting up out of prone is a perilous endeavor.  Not many shooters make it into sitting or kneeling, but this is precisely where we find ourselves at this very moment:


My understanding of the general idea of supported reverse kneeling is that support is good.  If you can find a place to rest your rifle you’ll be much better off.  Kneeling is a quick position to get into.  Because of that, and the height of the position off the ground it can be useful.

Why reverse the lower body position relative to standard kneeling?  Since the rifle is supported it’s no longer necessary to rest the support elbow on the knee.  One of the primary weaknesses of the standard kneeling position is that the firing side elbow floats.  Given those factors it makes a lot of sense to move the firing side knee up, plant the firing side arm or elbow on it, and move the support side knee down for balance, hence the name “reverse kneeling”.

IMG_6752 altered

A stable support is preferred.  My support was marginal, in that I could get it to be stable via putting pressure on it.  It was not comfortable to shoot from due to the relatively sharp edges on the wood.  I have long been a believer in the theory that it’s not a good idea to place the hard surface of the rifle on a hard support surface.  I have not tested that theory, and I see a lot of people who just plop the rifle down, but I still like to put my fist in between.  I do this by grabbing the sling at the front swivel, as I would in the Hawkins position.  Placing the support as far forward as possible is preferred as it minimizes the effects of any movement the shooter might impart into the system (analogous to a long sight radius) .

Something that adds a bit of steadiness to this position is resting the toe of the rifle stock on the firing side knee if you can get the knee up there.  The McMillan A5 stock on my FN has a nice flat section there that makes this more comforatable:

Toe on knee 1

Be careful in how you place the stock on the knee.  When I first shot from this position in this manner, I ended up with some bruising on my knee because of the pistol grip protrusion on my Sako 75:


I sat on my support side foot, as one would do in the low kneeling position.  Looking at pictures after the fact, this created a narrow lateral footprint.  I would like to try the position again with my support side foot out more.


Down to the business.  I shot this position from 203 yards.  The temperature was approximately 75 degrees and the density altitude was approximately 4000′.  There was very little wind, 1-2 mph coming from 5:30 to 6:00.  My elevation correction was 0.5 mils and my windage was 0.0.

For the first few positions I tested in slow fire, I felt for some reason that I had to remain motionless like a statue in position waiting for the 30 seconds to elapse till I could fire the next shot.  I figured out later that I could look at my watch and anticipate the beeper, which allowed me to stretch out, get up, rest my painful support hand, etc…  During the testing of this position, I hadn’t figured that out, and my support hand hurt.  I don’t know if that played a part or not, but here is my slow fire target:

1- Supported Reverse Kneeling Slow Group

During the time stress group, things felt pretty much as they did in slow fire, except faster:

2- Supported Reverse Kneeling Time Stress Group

It was when I added exertion to the time stress that I felt this position become significantly less steady.  I don’t know about the heart rate, but I do know that the increased respiration rate imparted a lot of movement into my sight picture.  I wonder now if this was exacerbated by my firing side leg being in contact with my torso.

3- Supported Reverse Kneeling Time Stress Exerted Group

There were only three times out of 27 targets that I sent shots off the target paper.  Two of them were in kneeling positions.  Fortunately in this case my target backer was a pallet and I put a large piece of paper behind my targets just in case.

My effective distances on my highly visible, motionless 4″ target in calm conditions were:

Maximum Distance 86 Reverse Kneeling

Maximum Distance 99 Reverse Kneeling

You can see from the charts that time stress did little to degrade the shot group.  The numbers tell me that the time stress group was 99.15% as precise as the slow fire group.  This was the really the first position in my testing that I felt markedly less precise after adding exertion.  As I said, the increased respiration rate really messed with my hold and that played out in the numbers.  The time stress exertion group was 61.86% as precise as the slow fire group.

As far as quickness goes, my average split time between shots for this position, excluding loading and reloading, was 7.76 seconds (low 7.13, high 9.29) versus 6.53 seconds for the average of all positions tested.  My first shot on target after loading my magazines for this position averaged 49.58 versus 57.33 seconds on average for all positions.  The total time of the only run in which my timer functioned correctly for this position was 126.23 seconds versus the average time of all positions, which was 134.48.

From those numbers I infer that the position was quick to acquire a target and quick in general, but that the lack of lateral stability on the rifle during cycling the bolt slowed that operation down significantly, relative to other positions.

I can’t say that I’m thrilled with the performance of this position in terms of precision.  Like regular kneeling, it is relatively quick to get a shot on target.  It’s not an easy thing to give up any of the precision that prone brings, but sometimes it’s necessary.  If my terrain demands a kneeling height position and offers the advantage of support, unfortunately this is about the best thing available, short of having a tripod on hand, which is generally unrealistic for most applications.  Having said that, it gets better…

3 thoughts on “Position Analysis: Supported Reverse Kneeling

  1. Obviously something is introducing extreme lateral dispersion (I would almost call them fliers) in the way you tested this position. I’m wondering if it’s your choice to go with the “Hawkins” fist under the forend. I think my instinct would have been to use the web of my hand if I didn’t want to rest the stock on the support.

    Also what is your reasoning for when you use the bipod in your canon of positions?

    • Lateral instability is the bane of all kneeling positions. In standard kneeling the cause seems to be the floating firing side elbow. If that’s the case, it would seem as though adding support under the rifle and modifying the position to plant the elbow would ‘cure’ it. I think it did help to some degree, but obviously it wasn’t a cure.

      In the photos the footprint of the position is pretty clear. The left leg almost looks like an axis rather than a base. In the last positional photo (of my left side), compare where my left base of the support is at compared to where my center of gravity probably is.

      I’m not at the range at the moment, so I can’t actually test this, but I did try the following dry. From the reverse kneeling position, I moved my left leg and foot out farther (about a foot, give or take) to my left like a hurdler’s stretch. I wasn’t sitting on anything other than the ‘stretch’, but it seemed to negate the most obvious of the lateral instability.

      I think the fist up front is OK. I would use a bipod on a surface that would accommodate it, and where it wouldn’t compromise the rest of my position. Elevation is also a factor in that decision.

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