View Full Version : Muzzle up? Or down?

Capt. Charlie
February 21, 2008, 12:28 PM
We've all heard the debate. When unholstered and not pointing at a target, should the muzzle be pointed up or down? The "proper" way has done a 180 over the years, so which is it?

Here (http://www.policeone.com/training/articles/1663020/) is a highly detailed article that sheds some interesting light on the subject. Granted, it's aimed mainly at law enforcement, but hopefully, y'all will find this useful.

I didn't cut and paste anything because the article contains a few hyperlinks to videos, etc.

Enjoy... and learn ;).

February 21, 2008, 12:36 PM
Down in my opinion is safer.. unless on a balcony or in an apartment complex.. then all directions are questionable.

February 21, 2008, 12:40 PM
Muzzle down is how I was taught by my father...."What goes up eventually comes down....and it's going to hit something, or someone".

February 21, 2008, 12:45 PM
Excellent article! Thanks for posting that.

I have always been of the depressed muzzle camp: I know where the bullet will go if my gun does decide to magically go off...either into the floor/dirt/etc...or my foot. Yes, there is a chance of richocet if the floor is concrete or something similar, but if my muzzle is raised, I truely will have no idea where the bullet will finally land if I am outside. See rule #4: "Be sure of where your bullet is likely to end up.". I am more sure when my muzzle is depressed than raised.

Also, I prefer a depressed muzzle simply because I can have my hands are down at my side and therfore I tend to look more "normal" and non-threatening at first glance, than if I were to have my handgun muzzle raised and pointing up.

February 21, 2008, 01:00 PM
I will relate what I used to teach (to members of the armed forces). The weapon is to be holstered or pointed down range - simple. Down range meaning either arms fully extended or weapon in the chest, enabling you to fire from that position while you are 'punching out' into a "proper" firing position. The weapon should never be pointed up or down, as that is adding a step in deployment of the weapon. This holds true for reloading (semiautomatics) as well (the bad guy may not know you are empty [if you are effective, you still have a round in the chamber and can fire] if you are still pointing down range).

If you do not intend on shooting, keep it holstered or reholster. If you intent to shoot keep the weapon pointed in the direction you need to deploy it.

The only time pointing up or down is acceptable is when filming "Miami Vice."

February 21, 2008, 01:14 PM
Doesnt work very well when my holster is a deep concealment holster buried deep under clothing...

February 21, 2008, 05:43 PM
Doesnt work very well when my holster is a deep concealment holster buried deep under clothing...
Or when I'm up to my neck in swamp water.

February 21, 2008, 06:43 PM
Pointed down. pointed up the gun requires more movement of joints to extend into firing position, and is therefore slower, but more importantly because when pointed up that means I have something interfering with my field of vision. even holding it off to the side, it's gonna be in the way. unless I hold it below my line of sight, and still pointing up, which seems like i'd pointing it at myself.

The third eye punch out thing doesn't fly with me. I'd like to be ready to shoot, as in out of the holster, but not pointing at anything, since I think you should only point the gun at something you are willing to or are ready to shoot. If I haven't commited to killing it, or at least being okay with killing it, then I want my muzzle pointed down.

For instance, guy makes a threat and shows a knife. I point at him, cause I feel my life is in danger. But I don't shoot yet, because it hasn't gone that far, but I'm willing to, knowing I'd be justified because I'm in fear for my life right now. But if the attacker demurs, puts away his knife, then I don't want to point my gun at him anymore, becaue I'm not willing to kill him if he is not posing a direct threat. However, I wouldn't holster until I was completely sure the situation was over. As in I am gone, or he is.

low ready is best, in some very rare circumstances I could see how that Sul compressed ready thing would be useful.

In teamwork that third eye pointing out from your chest stuff is bad news. You'd be covering everything you looked at. real easy with that to point at a partner or team-mate. And you're always pointing with that at something, and whatever is beyond that something.

the trick is to know exactly what you're pointing at all the time, know with as much certainty as possible where your bullet is going to go if you're gun goes off at any given moment.

February 21, 2008, 07:16 PM
I've noticed it pointed down some and pointed up for some of the times I've actually had it out for whatever reason. Down for surrendering it for locking at a gun show, pointing it into the fire barrel for clearing, etc. Up to the rafters for pointing a new gun while at a show to see how it feels. I will also need to put finger on trigger at this point, rule #3 be damned. Also up when investigating noises on my property. Once shocked a kid that was visiting my next door neighbor's kid via his bedroom window. Down when investigating noises in basement, up when doing the same on the second story. It seems to be pretty much automatic to me.

February 22, 2008, 11:10 AM
Once upon a time I was shooting informally with a group of friends. One of the friend's father was with us and he chastised us for pointing our loaded weapons at the ground instead of holding them muzzle up. I politely pointed out that with the muzzle at the ground, there is less chance of an accident with a runaway bullet being fired from a downward muzzle as opposed to an upward muzzle.
He told me that he knew better because he had been around guns longer than I had.
I told him he had been lucky a long time, and I don't care to share the range with him any longer.

Doesn't add much to the topic, but just shows some strong opinions.

February 22, 2008, 12:21 PM
I was always taught muzzle down. Kind of in a "low-ready" postion.

chris in va
February 22, 2008, 01:55 PM
If you do not intend on shooting, keep it holstered or reholster

That may be for the military, but we're talking about civilians in everyday scenerios. Bump in the night, I'm not keeping my gun holstered, especially since I'll probably be in a robe.

February 22, 2008, 09:44 PM
The muzzle up the author refers to is when the muzzle is covering a potential threat, not muzzle straight up to the sky.


The artical is a good one, and is relevant to anyone who might find themselves in the position of having a gun out with the expectation of deciding to point it at someone or not.

Boris Bush
February 22, 2008, 10:39 PM
Most teachers of combat arms will teach muzzle down. If someone trys to do a gun grab you can start pulling the trigger while pointing towards the gun grabber. You will hit them in the shins, knees, hip, groin, or belly. A similar gun grab with muzzle up will have you shooting into the air..............

February 22, 2008, 10:58 PM
I like down.

February 23, 2008, 01:34 AM
Of course, with the gun coming down obscuring the target, the target would have to come in to view eventually while the sights overtravelled the target. Just come back up and shoot, I guess.:D

Of course, when in a crowd of good guys with drawn guns, and people moving around, muzzles have to be in safe direction--down if possible, but up if not.

February 23, 2008, 02:55 AM
Military taught us pointed out. Quantico taught us pointed down. Nobody ever taught us pointed up.


Night Watch
February 23, 2008, 03:15 AM
With a pistol: Down, with your entire body orientated toward the target.

This way you'll have the advantage of going quickly into retention if you have to; and, you'll be able to bring the muzzle up the target's vertical body centerline faster and easier than if your pistol is pointing, mindlessly, up in the air. You'll, also, be able to, 'index' onto the target faster, too, if you start low and bring the muzzle straight up along the target's midline.

('Speed indexing' is a lot harder to do if all you've got for reference is ceiling or sky. Ain't nothing like a torso or pair of legs to bring you right in there - fast!) ;)

February 23, 2008, 04:48 AM
Always down...unless you're in a hollywood movie...then you put it up, right next to your head, with your finger on the trigger.

February 23, 2008, 06:07 AM
Always down...unless you're in a hollywood movie...then you put it up, right next to your head, with your finger on the trigger


I would say down for sure. For CQ type environments, whether your operating individually or as a part of a team, down is a better option. If an adversary jumps out from behind a corner and gets in your face its easier to shoot him if your coming up rather than trying to bring the gun down to him. If hes trying to steal your weapon, you'll have much better leverage bringing the gun up into him. As far as always keeping the muzzle pointed downrange, thats a nice idea but that only works on a square range. In real life, the threat area is typically 360 degrees around the shooter. This is why for some movements I favor position SUL (muzzle down), which enables the shooter to scan this entire area without sweeping the entire area as well. SUL also works well for moving around people. If Im moving through a tight area with my gun out, and I'm by myself, I use a low ready postion that resembles a very tightly compressed weaver. I hold the gun just below the chin line with the muzzle angled downward. Becuase the gun is so close into my body's center and near my face, I can very quickly bring the gun up into my focal plane and fire off a series of shots if need be.

February 23, 2008, 07:11 AM
I prefere pointed down. One main reason for this would be that if I was ever in a bad situation I could fire while raising my gun and kinda work from the knees up. So I would be able to take the bad guy out before he takes me out. Just quicker that way. Also down keeps my field of vision clear and the gun away from my head.

February 23, 2008, 07:31 AM
i carry muzzle down. pointing at a slight angle to my left. just clear of my foot. with the safety on. granted its my shotgun not a pistol. unless i am waterfowl or bird hunting. then maybe muzzle up when moving through a field . i don't rely on the safety so i make sure i don't have the muzzle pointing at something i don't intend on shooting. i usually hunted with my father so typically one of us would be leading and the other following. so i couldn't just have it up to my shoulder at the ready with the safety on or off. were hunting animals not enemy soldiers.:)

February 23, 2008, 04:21 PM
Definately down, besides, if you have an AD with the muzzle up it could make the bird crash if it hits a rotor or hydraulic line etc...

February 23, 2008, 04:35 PM
Low and ready is the term. Holding the muzzle to the sky is good for Hollywood movies but has no tactical advantages unless you are clearing a second level while going up a flight of stairs. "Grazing" fire which means firing two to four feet from ground level is easier to accomplish even though it will be at an angle if standing versus prone the muzzle down aimed in the direction of your threat still exist when in the low ready versus the hollywood to the sky method.

Sigma 40 Blaster
February 23, 2008, 06:43 PM
My input, having no training at all, is muzzle down. My line of reasoning is that the act of aligning sights and shooting will be similar/the same as drawing and firing.

I can see pointing up maybe if you have a group of people around you clearing/entering a building or room but for solo "bump in the night" investigations I'm at low ready.

February 24, 2008, 10:27 AM
Holding the muzzle to the sky is good for Hollywood movies but has no tactical advantages unless you are clearing a second level while going up a flight of stairs.

+1 on that. IIRC the whole "muzzle to the sky" concept was a Hollywood deal, so they could get a shot of the actor's face and the gun in a close-up. I think that was the origin of the sideways pistol grip as well, as that allowed a straight-on, unobstructed shot of the actor's face with the sideways pistol underneath. Life imitates art. Unbelievable. :confused:

Rifleman 173
March 19, 2008, 11:35 PM
Muzzle down. If you have the muzzle up and by chance you stumble, if the gun goes off it might hit the guy in front of you in the back or in the skull. If you have it pointed down then if it goes off, more than likely the guy will only get a leg wound and develop a limp. With either scenario, you probably will NOT be getting any Christmas cards from the guy you wounded.

Colt Delta Elite
March 21, 2008, 10:54 AM
Muzzle down. Much, much better idea of where a fired round will end up.

March 21, 2008, 10:57 AM
I don't like up or down.

For me, it's either downrange, if at a range; toward the threat, if in a threat situation; or holstered.

If at a military qual where they hand me the weapon, sans holster, then I carry it as the rangemaster instructs.

Hard Ball
March 21, 2008, 02:37 PM
My holsters position the muzzles down, If I have drawn the pistol then I keep the muzzle pointing down in a low ready position. This is quicker on target for point shooting if I must engage.

March 21, 2008, 03:45 PM
MLeake ~

At the top of a three-story house, having just retired for the night, I heard the beeeeep of the alarm system indicating that someone had just opened a door downstairs. Maybe. (We'd had some glitches in it the day before.)

Family was gone, just me in the house.

I'd retired for the night and had no belt on, hence no holster.

After listening at the door for 15 full minutes by the clock, I'd heard no movement downstairs during that time. I was reasonably certain that it was just one more glitch in the system, not an intruder. So no point calling the cops.

Equally no sense going back to bed. I was WIDE AWAKE and destined to stay that way until I knew for sure that I was alone in the house. It could have been an intruder. No way to know without checking.


Do I leave my gun on the nightstand while I run downstairs to check? (Bad plan...)

Do I make a bunch of noise rummaging through the closet, finding what I need in order to holster the gun, and then move through the house with the gun NOT in hand? (This seemed awkward to me, and a bit unwise - what if the intruder burst into the room while I had one leg in & one leg out of my jeans?)

Or do I move "tactically" through the house, carrying my gun with me in case I need to use it? (I chose this option. Took over an hour to make my way carefully downstairs.)

Having decided to move through the house with gun in hand, how should I carry it?


March 21, 2008, 04:31 PM
In the scenario you describe, the possible threat area is downstairs, so I suppose I'd opt for muzzle down for clearing purposes.

If the situation dictates extended movement with the pistol drawn, I guess my answer would be that it could be up or down, dependent on the environment. Factors would include presence and locations of friendly or non-threat personnel, types of surfaces involved, and potential obstructions.

Concrete floor, and nobody upstairs, I might opt for muzzle up.

The argument another poster had about potential trip hazards when muzzle up behind a teammate was valid, too, so that might call for muzzle down.

For most of us, though, a SD scenario shouldn't involve a lot of movement toward the threat. Getting the family (if present) to a defensible position while calling 911 and ensuring appropriate family members are armed would make more sense for most of us, who aren't trained in clearing houses.

I think the only blanket statement I'd make for muzzle up, down, or wherever is that if the weapon needs to be in hand, maintain muzzle awareness, and use your best judgement. Otherwise, keep it holstered, where possible, when a lot of movement is involved.

March 21, 2008, 04:35 PM

I feel weird offering you advice, since you are an acknowledged expert... but I'm a big fan of big dogs.

If I were in your scenario, I'd have a much better idea whether it was a system glitch or an intruder, because a decent sized Catahoula would provide his opinion pretty much instantly.

The other advantage to dogs is that they make a great deterrent, ahead of the break-in. According to published studies I've read, most burglars don't want anything to do with a canine-protected house.

Aside from that, I just like dogs.



March 21, 2008, 05:58 PM
MLeake ~

Dogs are great for those who can have them, and you're right. Can't beat a canine early warning system! (Allergies suck, that's all I'm gonna say about that.)

Mostly I posted that story to point out that the previous post of yours was maybe a bit too absolutist: For me, it's either downrange, if at a range; toward the threat, if in a threat situation; or holstered.

In my situation, there was no identified threat to point at, nor was there likely to be. I wasn't on the range. And I didn't have a holster. Yet I still needed to move with the gun.

After 15 by-the-clock minutes of not hearing even the faintest ghost of a sound from downstairs, no out of place smells, no wayward drafts or shadows moving around, and given my knowledge that the alarm system had been being a bit wonky, it seemed to me that the situation didn't merit calling the cops, nor was hunkering down the thing to do either, at least not after that initial long wait timed by the clock (not by the heartbeat...).

Just wanted to illustrate a situation where moving with the gun in hand was a prudent and necessary thing to do, even without a known threat or a holster. :)

(And, I should add -- THAT kind of situation is the most likely one most of us ordinary citizens are going to face.)


March 21, 2008, 06:02 PM
... but my nightstand gun and my truck gun both have holsters with them, so if needed I'm just a clip away from having a holster available (Odds are I'm not going to investigate in the buff... can't have intruders laugh themselves to death... so I'll probably put on some pants).

I guess I did sound too absolute in the earlier post that you are quoting, but I thought the original question was asking for a rule of thumb rather than specific scenario advice. My rule of thumb is "holstered".

Rules of thumb go out the window when events overcome them.

Sorry about the allergies. Half my family are allergic to dogs. The other half all own dogs. Reunions can be tricky, logistically.



March 21, 2008, 06:17 PM
Out of curiousity, in your house clearing scenario, it seems like you opted for a handgun.

Did you choose that option because you didn't have a shotgun or rifle handy, or had you previously determined that, given the layout of your home, neighborhood, etc, the handgun would be more advantageous?

I ask because not too far from my nightstand pistol, there's an 870 which would be my in-house primary. However, if I wanted to explore the house, the long gun could pose some challenges (easier to grab from around a corner, hard to manipulate while opening or closing doors, etc).

I also ask because I remember reading an article, years ago, about a practical self defense course where students were placed in a scenario in a simulated home, where a shotgun and a carbine were readily available, yet chose to deal with the scenario with their handguns. (I think only one student reached for a carbine, and that was a former infantryman)



March 21, 2008, 06:23 PM
No shotgun available that night (lots of backstory irrelevant to thread), but even if there had been, I'm more confident & comfortable moving around corners and through close quarters with handgun than I am with a long gun, and I am similarly more confident in my handgun retention skills in close quarters, if I goofed and it had turned into an ambushed rasslin' match.


March 21, 2008, 06:27 PM
During the 15 minutes you waited, the alarm company never called you?

Were the glitch alarms not going to the central office?

March 21, 2008, 06:29 PM
Unmonitored system.

Because of the glitches, I'd shut off the alarm proper, so what I heard was the system beep of a door opening, not a full blown alarm.


March 21, 2008, 07:07 PM
There have been a coupla times I've played Curious George and cleared the interior and/or grounds of my property. Sometimes (as pax indicated), you just need to.

Once with a PPK/S in hand, face covered in shaving cream, and nothing else but a towel. No reload, no cell phone, no shoes. Maintenance man had "let himself in". He never did it again. I determined never to be caught so unready again.

I took a hint from an article by Mas Ayoob many years ago. I keep a duty sidearm holstered on a duty belt. Wakeup, standup, snap fastex belt around waist...ready.

Pistol, retention holster, re-loads, flashlight, spare cell phone, spare house/auto keys (in a key silencer), spare ID, field dressing x 2 plus tournequet (in small first aid pouch), and an ASP baton.

Extra keys are for: 1) re-entering your own locked residence through a door you didn't exit out of or 2) to drive to safety / evacuate others (without having to re-enter your place and locate primary keys).

It takes only seconds to put on gun belt, I have no need to look or fumble for separate items, I am ready for whatever...

It may sound overly "cop" but is actually pretty low profile, especially with a light windbreaker thrown over (if I go outside). Add some slip on all-terrain walkers or low hiking shoes.

Little use for civilian High Sabrina (muzzle up) unless clearing up staircase or elevated landings, decking, trees, fire escapes, ceiling hatches, ledges, roofs, or windows. At that point, I'm not so much securing my muzzle in a high position as covering high threats my eyes are looking at.

There are times when a high carry of pistol is applicable during tactical team entry and I will not elaborate.

When working with a buddy or team, high carry is also (unfortunately) a good way to shoot a friend in the back of the head or upper torso.

From a combatives point of view, there is a lot more physiology working against you if your pistol muzzle is high and you have to break a gun grab, grapple, or protect your weapon.


P.S. - "High Sabrina" is a tongue-in-cheek derogatory term for what Jolly Roger explained earlier concerning tight screen shots of actors' faces. Older members will remember promo shots and opening scenes from the original Charlie's Angels TV show circa 1970s....

March 21, 2008, 07:19 PM
I was instructed to use the low ready because it allows greater visibility and a more compact form when moving as compared to having a gun extended, which blocks your vision and is easier to disarm.

March 21, 2008, 07:37 PM
And exactly what tackdriver said (above)...

March 21, 2008, 08:07 PM
In my years of military experience and post. The Enviroment should always dictate what your doing and a good shooter regardless will be aware of that. If I am in a 2 story structure advancing down a hallway I better be damn sure I know whats below me just in case and the same goes for vice versa. I have seen a few people almost shot with the muzzle always down rule, the point is that we need to be flexible and adaptable to whatever enviroment we are in.

March 21, 2008, 09:50 PM
"I was instructed to use the low ready because it allows greater visibility and a more compact form when moving as compared to having a gun extended, which blocks your vision and is easier to disarm."

The direction the muzzle points has little to do with visibility, compactness, or ease of disarmament.

For example, position 3 in a 4 count MI draw stroke - both hands are on the weapon, it is compact, below the lineof sight, readily defended, and instantly ready for use where extention wouldn't be prudent with the muzzle directed straight ahead.

This, by the way, qualifies as a position that falls into what the author refers to as "muzzle up" with handguns.

March 21, 2008, 10:14 PM
The issues a bit more pronounced with long guns, and dictated even more so by the situation than just prefered tactics and training.

For example, negotiating a barrier may require carrying muzzle up, even if it then returnes to down.

Boris Bush
March 21, 2008, 10:53 PM
Muzzleup, if it is above the head your arms block your view. If the weapon is below the head, pointed up and you are grabed, and you pull your arms in towards you like you would do naturaly the BG could pull the trigger and you now have a projectile in your head from your weapon.

Muzzle down, BG cann't grab your arms as well. and if you pull the trigger you shoot the BG in the knees, groin, hips, stomache.

This is not a theory or an I think. This is how we train and how I did it in a war zone where we cleared more houses and even more rooms in one day than most swat does in a lifetime.

If you have to move with a weapon into an area you know you might have to shoot, muzzle down is best.....

March 21, 2008, 11:04 PM
Without looking at the link, nor reading any of this, I vote for muzzle down, simply because its less tiring than to hold it up.

Shadi Khalil
March 21, 2008, 11:11 PM
Muzzle down for me. I cant imagine why you would want to have the muzzle pointed up. Its allot easier to rasie a gun to your sight line form the low and ready stance then it is with the muzzle up....

Colt Delta Elite
March 22, 2008, 11:45 AM
Pistol, retention holster, re-loads, flashlight, spare cell phone, spare house/auto keys (in a key silencer), spare ID, field dressing x 2 plus tournequet (in small first aid pouch), and an ASP baton.

What no sky flares or percussion grenades.... you're going out naked! :D

Hard Ball
March 22, 2008, 12:08 PM
"Muzzle down. Much, much better idea of where a fired round will end up."

Good point.

warrior poet
March 22, 2008, 03:24 PM
Situation will ALWAYS dictate, but 99% of the time, muzzle down. It is safer, allows better visibility, and is harder to take away in close combat.

March 23, 2008, 04:26 PM
For example, position 3 in a 4 count MI draw stroke - both hands are on the weapon, it is compact, below the lineof sight, readily defended, and instantly ready for use where extention wouldn't be prudent with the muzzle directed straight ahead.

But it looks silly.:D

AZ Med18
March 23, 2008, 04:41 PM
Grandfather and Father both taught me muzzle up so I don't take my foot or someone else's off. They both grew up in Montana where if it does come down most likely its gunna hit dirt or a tree.

My CCW instructor told us muzzle down since well we know where its going and also there is alot less chance to kill someone accidentally this way.

March 24, 2008, 05:10 AM
the guys in green at my local army base told me always point it straight ahead.

March 26, 2008, 09:01 AM
the guys in green at my local army base told me always point it straight ahead.
Try that in a Blackhawk or Chinook!:rolleyes::D

March 26, 2008, 10:10 AM
Ok cap what’s the answer?

March 26, 2008, 11:07 AM
Good article that definitely applies to the armed citizen as well as the LEO. I admit I just skimmed it so far, but I'll be going back for a more thorough reading.

Capt. Charlie
March 26, 2008, 08:11 PM
Ok cap what’s the answer?

Damned if I know; that's why I'm asking you guys! :D

Seriously, this thing has flip-flopped several times since I started shooting some 50 years ago. I don't think there is a solid, this-or-that answer.

IMHO, it depends on the circumstance. Outdoors and off pavement, I prefer down, but on concrete or asphalt, up. In a building, I prefer the direction least likely to have people on the other side of the floor or ceiling.

And all in all, I want the direction that's least likely to have any round encounter a person, be it a falling bullet or a ricochet. I'd imagine either one would hurt like hell. ;)