The High Port – Right Tool for the Right Job

The High Port – Right Tool for the Right Job
By Brian C. Hartman, Progressive F.O.R.C.E. Concepts

Honeoye Falls, NY –( It’s amazing how dogmatic we can be… I was recently talking with an acquaintance that is an Iraq War veteran of the Marine persuasion. While describing working with another group he went to great lengths to deride them for carrying their weapons with the muzzles pointed up.

Fast forward one week to the evening news where I see a video clip of roughly 8 American soldiers clearing a stairwell (from bottom to top) in an Iraqi house all holding their weapons in a hyper-low CQB style ready.

A high shot up the stairwell would require swinging the muzzle upward over 150 degrees, not to mention the issues of the upper shooters unwittingly covering the lower shooters with their muzzles due to neglect. Sudden appearance of a threat that induces a startle response could easily lead to a negligent discharge down the stairwell that slots 2~3 friendlies.

Brian C. Hartman Low and Ready
Brian C. Hartman Low and Ready

For the uninitiated, proper assumption of the high port involves a strong hand only carry with the muzzle at a strict vertical angle. The weapon is carried on the strong side, well off the centerline. The stock is aggressively sandwiched between the strong side elbow/ upper arm and torso. The support hand does not contact the weapon and as such remains free for whatever the mission dictates.

When boarding rotary wing aircraft it certainly makes sense to keep muzzles down as your life lines are the blades and gearbox overhead, but what about operating on small to intermediate size boats? If you are assaulting said vessel, you’re probably not too stressed about the paint job, however if it is your insertion platform you may kill the whole team or throw the mission into jeopardy.

The contact, low and depressed low readies have acquired an incredible amount of traction for a host of reasons. First is the proliferation of tactical slings.

Years ago it was incredibly common to see troops with muzzles high. M1’s, M14’s, Thompson’s, M16’s, shotguns and even Greaseguns were no exception. However, this was more of a lazy, hip assisted carry than a tactically driven ready position. With the advent and proliferation of the German MP-5, low-ready mania began to generate steam. The nimble sub-machinegun favored by special operations units, featured a unique proprietary sling that when looped in a particular manner around one of the users arms and neck, enabled the weapon to be carried hands free. The design was to allow for handgun transitions, breaching, climbing and prisoner handling… the result was swinging, loaded, unsafe weapons while scoring targets, policing brass, putting in a fresh pinch of Copenhagen or keeping your hands warm in your pockets. Contemporary low readies are a muddled combination of part hold and carry, and part gravity and sloth. The notion of letting nylon webbing dictate where your weapon points is lunacy.

During training I have directed students to assume a high ready or high port and quite matter-of-factly been told, “I can’t with this sling.” This is unacceptable. It is for this reason that some British special operations units forbid the use of a sling at all. Your equipment should work for you, not the other way around.

Second is speed. Low readies work great on the square range. An unobstructed shooter with the toe of the stock properly mounted in the pocket of the shoulder can very quickly, aggressively and efficiently bring the weapon to bear. Yet with proper training, we have proven that the weapon can be mounted nearly as fast from a high port as from a hyper-low ready. However that does not necessarily make it suitable or safe for all environments and conditions.

And third is the issue of the quasi-testosterone fueled image… guys think it looks cool to have that weapon up front, muzzle down and lashed to 6 yards of a cats cradle. If you fall into this latter category, you’re probably the kind of guy who would defend wearing a drop holster with shorts and a tank top.

Weapons held with the toe of the stock in the shoulder present three primary problems.

Field-of-View Limitations
The sheer mass of the weapon held at 45 degrees or higher, acts as a blind obscuring the shooters field-of-view from any obstacles or hazards on the ground. An adversary whose toe is flagging around a corner might be missed if ones light, laser and optic addled weapon were to block it. Needless to say, a fully shouldered weapon can obscure the hands or chest of a potential adversary making threat assessment either incorrect or more time consuming.

Muzzle Discipline
When working as part of a team that is conducting bounding or peeling drills, a muzzle-down weapon is bound to sweep the torsos of teammates who are providing cover fire from either a kneeling or prone position. Hand in hand with this problem is that of interval. With a weapon in front of my body, I can only get so close to the teammate in front of me. If I’m truly muzzle conscious I will also have to modify my low ready into an offset (left or right) or uber-depressed elevation, which defeats the purpose of the low ready entirely. In addition, a sudden requirement to pivot left or right may result in prematurely raising the long gun, or getting caught on your buddies gear. With the muzzle up, the body is turned and the muzzle drops. Worst-case scenario, you will only be covering clouds or ceiling.

If the weapon is held low during high-speed (read: running) maneuvers, neither hand is free for balance. Maintaining your footing over uneven terrain can be life and death for you and the team alike. In addition falling with the weapon held in front of you will result in it being sandwiched between your body and the ground. We have seen such falls injure the operator, & worse yet, damage their weapon.

Low readies are fantastic, and the high port is not the end-all-be-all… no ready position or carry is! However, it is a very stable, reliable and safe technique for particular movements and terrain. Break free of your one-option shackles and embrace this exceptional tool.

Brian C. Hartman began his career as a platoon Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps where he worked in reconnaissance, intelligence & diplomatic security. For actions under fire he has been personally decorated by the President of the United States. He transitioned to civilian law enforcement with a major metropolitan police department, where he distinguished himself operationally and as an evolutionary trainer in multiple officer safety disciplines. Brian later began work in Special Response Team operations & instruction for a major federal agency, where he rewrote standard operating procedures, developed training programs, and researched new technologies. Brian currently serves as the Chief Instructor for Progressive F.O.R.C.E. Concepts ( and frequently supports domestic and international protective operations as a Detail Leader for PFC Safeguards. Brian can be reached at [email protected]

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