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Friday, November 18, 2011

The "Floating" Support Hand

When we look at the deployment of a rifle, we need to understand that rifle work is not limited to CQB.  The rifle is a weapon that can be used from zero distance to the limit of its intended use, which for the assault rifle is approximately to 300 meters.  Training beyond 100 yards/meters is difficult for a number of reasons.  Most ranges are limited to 100 yards and few people ever get the opportunity to really stretch their rifle's legs farther than that.  As well, few people have the opportunity to shoot in the field on a regular basis.  Thus the focus is CQB, almost to the exclusion of other distance intervals.  I believe this is a mistake,as students thus trained only get a part of the full picture.

In this article we will be discussing a concept that we have taught for many years, and that is the "Floating Support Hand".  Specifically the idea is that the support hand (alternatively called the "reaction hand", the "left hand", or by cave dwellers - the "weak hand") should not be anchored into a given position, but rather float to wherever it needs to go to facilitate the shot.

That position may range from the forward hold popular in competion circles, to the magazine hold popular in the MP5 days.  It all depends on what the target is, how far away it is, what position you are shooting from, and what the angle is.

The Forward Hold


This is from an article that was written by S.I. Instructor Dale Hunter for our Staff - Only Section. 

"With modern assault rifles, gripping the magwell as a default position is selling yourself short in terms of maximum effect on target. Usually the magwell is close to the balance point of the rifle. Ignorant riflemen say this allows quicker handling of the rifle. Physics state otherwise. Try holding a children’s seesaw at the middle/balance point; not very stable. Try moving the front axle of your car to the middle and see how well it rides and steers. We drive with the front wheels as far out aspractical.

Taking the car analogy over to riflery, we should be gripping therifle as far out as practical based on the shooters arms and position the shot is being taken from. This enables better leverage and control over the mass in front of the balance point thus permitting much quicker shot to shot recovery,transitions of targets, and less disruption of the sights while engaging on the move. Gripping the magwell is the same as gripping a vertical fore grip like a joystick and gives the same result of gripping a pistol too low; the mass is sitting on top of the hand discouraging effective control and causing the body to be reactive to the rifle."


Dale is correct about the benefits of this hold, and it is workable both on the move as well as stationary for snap shots.  At a Kalashnikov Force on Force class last year, Dale put in a stellar performance using this full speed, on a dead run against a very capable stationary adversary.  The results were that Dale was untouched while his adversary was peppered.     

While that particular hold has become popular in recent years, it - like many things in the weapons and tactics realm, is not new at all.  Here is an image of Rhodesian soldiers and their FALs.


The Middle Hold

This is the "traditional hold" involving placement mid way between the magazine and the forward end of the handguards.  This is not a "reactive" position as much as one useful for supported positions, or when accuracy at distance is paramount.



The Magazine Hold dates back to the days of the MP5 and is best suited for short SMGs such as the PPS43 and Skorpion as shown below.











It is also useful in supported positions in order to mainatin the correct elevation while resting the elbows, such as in sitting position.


So do not get stuck to the handguard.  Doing so will retard your development as a rifleman.  Where do you run your support hand?  The correct answer is "It depends on what I am trying to do".

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Comments 7

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" So do not get stuck to the handguard." That sums up the essay in one perfect sentence.

Too many not nice things can happen to both the rifleman and his rifle by getting stuck on the handguard.

The Middle Hold or "Traditional hold" is probably the best place to start holding when you first deploy your rifle. You can easily adjust your support hand as the scenario develops and changes maybe required, i.e. exiting your vehicle and going to the CQB assault, shooting on the move untill you get to better cover and then engaging the brigands "at distance."

In short, you should practice using all postions with your goal being to hit the highwayman at any and all distances from any and all positions.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Outstanding progressive thinking and training. What we all expect and appreciate from Suarez International..

I plan to test this soon, very soon. I have been focused too much on CQB holds rather than full range adaptation of what I know to be better mechanics and balance.

In target shooting the support hand does not grip the rifle, the hand should be just a support position and the forearm not gripped! This is especially the case when using a loop sling and you are waiting for the perfect shot!

In combat, the forearm is gripped in order to maintain better control of the rifle and allow the rifleman quick response on secondary targets!

Your articles are awesome, love reading them, but sometimes information is left out or overlooked.


Master Sergeant
U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

Great article! Sometimes folks tend to see the latest techniques as "all or nothing" instead of thinking about what they are trying to accomplish.

Good article as always Gabe,

I'm guessing you'd have to be a little careful using the Forward Hold with an M14 with the gas port hole just ahead of the front band... fair bit of gas blows out the bottom.

wow, I guess new mind set and skills to look at. My only info on using the AK came from Gabe, so i have been using it as my gospel(like any one else had a clue) and now being told, it was wrong.So, as I allays do, I will learn, train and adapt as I see see fit.I have to honestly say,I do find that after using and trying things I learn from here.I come out with something that really works most times. Somethings I couldn't make work better. But CRG really had a big effect on me. Look forwards to more on that. Will put these ideas to proper use, maybe classes down the road. thanks for evolving along the way.

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The Suarez International Blog is a "warrior lifestyle" publication dedicated to the modern excellence-seeking martial enthusiast. Every article and video will feature the most up to date weapons, tactics, technology, and training methods available today. Not limited to merely "guns", we include articles on international adventure travel, extreme physical training, and living well in the modern world.