Urban Prone

Since I’ve basically covered all of the “orthodox” rifle shooting positions, I’m taking the opportunity to cover some that are unorthodox, but still part of the established body of shooting knowledge.  Yes, the “urban prone” position is both orthodox and unorthodox, and is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  Read on if you think you can stand much more of this…


The urban prone position is not really prone at all.  It could be more accurately described as a “fetal” shooting position.  The urban part of it is really not descriptive of any aspect of the position either.  So why is it called urban prone?  It sounds cooler than “The Fetal Shooting Position”.  Shooting trainers tend to rate high on the “machismo scale” and prefer CDI factor to accurate descriptors.  This begs the question, “do chicks really dig it, or is it strictly for the ‘bromance’?”  Probably one person got my humor there- gotta do whatever I can to keep the readership at a steady drip.


What is urban prone?  It involves lying on your side, in basically a fetal position as I mentioned before.  The feet are typically in the general direction of the target, although you must take care not to shoot them.  The rifle is likewise canted 90° from its normal, upright position.


Note that I had to pose shooting left handed, because December is weak sided rifle shooting month.

Why urban prone?  There are basically two reasons you might need this: 


1.)   To shoot under something relatively low, like a car. 

2.)  To make use of shallow cover by minimizing the vertical exposure of your 
 head, which would normally be exaggerated because of the mechanical  
 offset of the rifle’s sighting system combined with the substantial amount of 
 head above the eyes, and allowing you to return fire on your threat.

Why would you want to shoot under a car?  Basically only reason would be if someone was shooting at you from the other side of the car.  I’m getting pretty good at showing you how stupid your question was.  Wait a minute, I guess I was the one who asked the question.  Who’s stupid now?  Don’t answer that.  Please.


Seriously though, shooting under a car is probably a better way to utilize an average vehicle as cover than shooting over it.  The only parts of the car that tend to work as cover are the engine, axles, and to a lesser degree, wheels and tires.  Sheet metal and plastic, well, not so much.  Staying on your feet and shooting over the engine block will be faster, and may allow you to fire more accurately, but you take the increased risk of getting shot in the head, which 4 out of 5 doctors do not recommend.  In the end, you may have to make a decision on how to utilize your terrain in real time based on the many details of the situation as they unfold.  There’s no one right answer.  What saves your life on Sunday may get you killed on Monday (what are you doing getting into gunfights on consecutive days anyway?).

In retrospect I probably should have asked for permission from the occupants of the vehicle before staging this picture, but I really don’t see why this was cause for such alarm.  Do you?  I thought that they saw me and figured they must have been OK with it.  I think it was the unexpected loud noise that upset them.

Before I get into details about shooting from the Urban Prone position, a word on my method.  Sometime in the past, a really smart and innovative shooter came up with a new position to solve a particular problem or set of problems.  He then named it Urban Prone due to the extremely high DDI factor (“Dudes Dig It”- let’s face it, chicks really don’t seem to dig it) of the name.  Someone learned it from this shooter and taught it to a new shooter.  This happened multiple times until someone taught it to me.  There was probably some “signal loss” down the chain from the original shooter to me.  When I decided to try to write an article about it, I had to do my best to make sure I had it right, so of course I did years’ worth of painstaking research (okay, days’ worth of mediocre research).  I had to adapt the technique from the realm of the carbine (where it makes the most sense) to the realm of the bolt gun (where it borders on insane and is a real stretch- but hey, it’s about doing with what I got). 


Urban Prone seems to be an inherently defensive position.  If you weren’t on the reactive end, you’d have picked a better location and position right?  It’s making the best of a really bad situation.


Here are some disadvantages of the Urban Prone position that aren’t that big of a deal in the context for which the position is designed:

            -It’s not a very precise position (but probably good ‘nuff for fairly close in, say
            < 100 yards.

            -There will be a point of aim/point of impact shift from any of the upright positions.
             This is because your sights are adjusted to compensate for a slight bit of drop
             out to your zero distance.  That amount of adjustment has just been turned
             sideways where it’s going to cause the bullet to go…

When firing a rifle while laying on your side, you can use the upper or lower shoulder.  If you’re shooting under something, you’ll want to use the lower shoulder.  Things to consider while using the lower shoulder:


            -Do you have a reciprocating bolt handle?  If so, does your position place it at
             risk of rubbing on the ground, inducing a malfunction, or damaging your rifle?


            -Having the side of the rifle (especially the right side on most rifles) can cause the
             spent casing to bounce back into the action and induce a malfunction.


            -Your grip may need to change because your firing elbow is forced in.  I found
             that using the middle finger to actuate the trigger worked best for me with my
             rifle.  This is not what I would normally use, but since we’re in urban prone, this
             is probably “plan b” or even “plan f”.   

            -A scope may make the rifle difficult to balance in this position because the rifle
             is more top heavy.  This is one of the reasons I used my middle finger to press
             the trigger- my index finger kept the rifle from rolling.

Depending on whether you end up shooting right or left handed, and whether you use the top or bottom shoulder, you may find that using the forward hand to run your bolt works best.

If you’re shooting over shallow cover, you’ll most likely want to use the upper shoulder.  In this scenario you may or may not want to use the cover as support because it could raise your position.  In the pictures below there was no way for me to get lower than my hips anyway.

A normal supported prone position exposes a lot more of the head.

For making use of very shallow cover (like a curb), there is a position that will give you a lower profile than laying on your side.  The hips and shoulders (I have very broad “birthing” hips) set the limits on your profile when you’re on your side.  The only thing lower that still allows for the 90° rotation of the rifle (keeping your skull out of play) is laying on your back.  This is a lot like the basic offhand position, except that you were frozen like a statue and fell on your back.  Note that the rifle butt will probably slip past your shoulder upon recoil if you are really laying flat.  Consider grasping the front sling attachment and locking the elbow to keep the scope at bay.

What is a supine position doing in an article titled “Urban Prone”?  The same thing as a fetal shooting position I guess.  It looks like I could have flattened out my support hand and got lower.  I’m not sure if it would have worked or not, just something to think about.

This doesn’t leave much exposed.

Now that we’ve rotated 90° but gravity did not (how inconsiderate!), what used to be elevation just became windage and vice versa.  How much will your point of impact change from your point of aim when the rifle is canted 90°?  Your normal elevation zero takes into account the bullet drop and the height of your sighting system.  Let’s say, for instance, a 2.5” drop at 100 yards and a 1.5” sight height over the bore.  We can expect that at 100 yards the bullet will strike 4” in the direction of the side we’re laying on.


Because our normal windage zero does not take gravity into account, your round will strike low from your sight’s point of aim- how far will depend on your range.  The best way to get a feel for this is to shoot in this position and see what the results look like on paper.  At the distances that this position will be likely utilized, it probably won’t matter much.

One thought on “Urban Prone

  1. air force pararescue also train in this shooting position with handgun’s, because it is better to take fire in the lower body to prevent organ damage

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *