Going prone

     When Henry Montelongo found out he wasn't going to inherit his late father's fortune, he stormed out of the attorney's office. A few minutes later, his wife dialed 911 after Montelongo grabbed a handgun and drove off. Montelongo's wife told...

     To assume a good rollover prone position, officers begin with the hand on the firearm. If it is holstered, the draw begins. If the gun is unholstered, it should be directed toward the greatest threat.

     Officers continue the draw and ensure that the muzzle is always the furthest point away from the body, directed at the threat. First, the officer assumes a kneeling position. Officers may kneel one- or two-kneed. Using the non-firing hand for support, extend the body directly in front of the kneeling position. Completely extend the firing hand while simultaneously lowering the body with the non-firing hand. With the body completely on the ground, assume a two-handed grip.

     After the shooter makes contact with the ground, the non-firing knee is flexed. This causes the body to "rollover" onto only about a quarter of the body. From this leg position, some shooters prefer to put the shooting instep over the non-firing leg, creating a triangle with the legs.

     The rollover allows the shooter's cheek to rest snugly on the shooting-side bicep, a position that can be maintained for an extended period of time.

     Recovering from the rollover prone is a reversal of the process, punctuated by "checking the six" (scanning the rear for additional threats) at each change in viewing level. First, officers should scan forward, never breaking from cover prematurely. Second, scan the periphery, pushing off with the non-firing hand to the kneeling position. From kneeling, the officer scans first, and then pushes off the non-firing knee with the non-firing hand.

     As the officer rises from prone, the option to return to prone or increase mobility by rising should be available. Putting the sole of the non-firing knee on the ground first allows the shooter to naturally transition and finish in a bladed stance.

How to Practice

     Using the prone position requires fitness level and shooting ability. The best way to prepare for prone shooting is to do it the same way the military does: push-ups and upper body conditioning. All military training emphasizes a level of upper body fitness. Officers who go from prone to standing a few times in a row will recognize the utility of this emphasis. Officers also need practice recognizing the canting of the sight picture in the prone position, which may affect accuracy.

     Officers should use partner training to critique another's ability to engage targets while presenting a minimum target. The red-tipped airsoft handguns from Pyramyd Air used in the photographs are dimensionally identical to the real thing. They fit the same holsters and operate in a similar fashion. Using partners and airsoft guns, officers can use full facial protection and padding to drive home the concept of minimum exposure. The sting of the airsoft pellet is a sharp reminder, especially on an extremity that was thought to be covered.

     Officers need to practice with their duty firearms on targets at the limits of their engagement range. Going prone generally accompanies the assumption that the officer may have to make a longer, more accurate shot. The rollover prone position slightly changes the sight picture and usually cants the firearm a little.

     If the face is on the bicep and the body is canted, the gun can naturally cant a few degrees from vertical, causing the sight picture to differ from shooting positions.

     Officers must also dry fire the prone position often enough to avoid flexing the bicep while squeezing the trigger.

     The prone position has limited but essential duty in the law enforcement arsenal. Used correctly, it allows officers such as Diaz to find the balance between mobility and cover among other devices in the tactical toolbox.

     Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer who teaches administration of Justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, California. He may be reached at bertomen@yahoo.com.

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