The History and Use of the High Port Position

The History and Use of the High Port Position

   Honestly, there are so many good reasons to use this position that there is no doubt I won't get to them all during the course of this post. Over the 20 years I was in the Teams I saw the High Port position evolve from a position used strictly outdoors when performing Immediate Action Drills, to one of my most used positions during Close Quarters Combat (CQC).  

   I make no apologies for taking a confident stance on this topic. What I KNOW, not what I think, is that maneuvering in a team element is dangerous enough, at night when visibility is low, or folks are on NOD's there will be flagging unless all of the team members are using the High Port position when maneuvering. High Port makes it fairly easy to eliminate most flagging, the last thing you need in combat when rounds are snapping by is a blue on blue, to get shot by one of your own guys. Think that's laughable? Yeah well, you outta see the shenanigans that other military units endure. We often said, "its not that were so great, it's that they're so fucked up", speaking about other military units.

 The SEAL Teams have a long history of running muzzle-up during movement, a weapon position historically known in the Teams, as High Port. I suspect the position dates back to WWII, when those veterans figured out how not to flag each other.  High Port was already in use and prevalent with the Vietnam era SEALs who were training me  when I arrived at SEAL Team 3, in January of 89'. During Immediate Action Drills (IAD's) going to High Port was not optional and not doing so was considered to be unsafe. All team movement, often referred to now as Small Unit Tactics (SUT) was done at High Port.  What I know based on 27 years of running and gunning is that in a team environment not utilizing the High Port position will result in flagging/sweeping. Or, the operator will be mentally working so hard to ensure that flagging doesn't happen that it will actually distract from situational awareness. Again, what I've witnessed is that people who refuse to use High Port will invariably flag the operators around them. Then, they get all butt-hurt when I point it out, go figure? It seems competition shooting has driven many of the things we do in the military, faster mag changes and whatnot, but like watching CNN, we should be wary of the information we accept as truth.


Navy SEALs, Ramadi, Iraq 2005.

*In the picture of above we see Michael Monsoor (KIA) and another SEAL on security in Ramadi, Iraq (2006). The Operator closest to the wall has better situational awareness at High Port than the Low Ready. 


 Use of the High Port position during CQC

  When training for and performing Close Quarters Combat (CQC) I've found I use the High Port position frequently, possibly more than any other position. Tactically, it's better when working as a team because it prevents flagging. High Port, also facilitates better situational awareness, because it naturally keeps the chin up, providing a better view of the room. I over 10 years in the Teams before we implemented the use of High Port into our Close Quarters Combat (CQC). Prior to that, we exclusively used Low Port for all entries, there was virtually no other position. So, what I can say is, my career in the Teams was split about 50/50 between Low Port and High Port. Honestly, I quickly found that High Port was a better entry position. Additionally, High Port was the predominant position during the 7 years I worked for the Company and although, as a unit, we were comprised of dudes from other SOF units, I noticed High Port being used frequently by Operators who did not grow up using it.

 Circa 2001, a shooting and combatives system known as CQD began to be integrated into the SEAL Teams. CQD, was originally developed for law enforcement agencies, because the system emphasized escalation of force, in addition to defensive and offensive capabilities. For reasons unknown to me law enforcement never adopted the system, however the SEAL Teams bought off on the idea and it came with perfect timing as we entered into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. CQD principals, including High Port were accepted and by the SEAL Teams and used in combat for about 15 years, until MMA fighting styles became preferred. However, the High Port position has remained in use for all mission profiles, including CQC. At this point, it's appropriate to point out and acknowledge that Dwain refers to High Port, as 10 Gun. "10", being straight up, and "0" being straight down.

 Dwain Dieter, is the creator of Close Quarters Defense (CQD). The SEAL Teams began implementing CQD in the year 2000. CQD is more than a combatives system, it includes prisoner handling techniques and heavily emphasizes escalation of force. Training scenario's that Dwain devised were ground breaking, very intense, more intense than any CQC training scenarios previously. You may have heard of the "Hooded Box Drill", that's another invention of Dwain's.

  Dwain Dieter, is a true of master of martial arts and has studied many different forms around the world. Among many styles that he studied, as a boy, he also studied Kempo Karate in Okinawa, Japan.

  Martial arts, the art of military fighting, right? CQD principals and techniques were derived from many different martial arts. At a certain point in his continuing development, Dwain was inspired to learn a martial art that applied towards modern combat, however it didn't exist. There is no contemporary martial art that incorporates the use of guns, knives and possibly other things on our bodies that can be used as weapons. So, Dwain had to create what didn't exist and he had to learn to become a gun fighter in the process. As is his nature, he had to understand the why behind everything that is done. Then, accept and reject techniques as well as develop new ones. Through this process, Dwain understood the importance of the 10-Gun position, already known as High Port in SEAL Teams. However, the major hurdle to be overcome was selling the SEAL Teams on the concept that it should be used during Close Quarters Battle. To be honest, this was not easy. Most people are naturally resistant to change and I can tell you first hand, there were many heated arguments over this topic. The rest of the community followed suit after DEVGROUP adopted the position.

  The techniques and methodologies incorporate the weapons found on a contemporary soldier, and account for the weight of body armor, ammunition, radio’s, helmets, and other essential gear. Units within the CIA, and Navy SEALs used the CQD system of fighting for nearly 20 years until it was unfairly branded, and replaced.  CQD defined weapon positions that were advantageous for fighting and shooting, created for use within the fighting system. The SEALs and other units quickly found the guns-up position is preferred even when outside the parameters of CQD.

  This was the beginning of a significant change in tactics for the SEAL Teams, while performing CQB/CQC we had run low port when clearing corners. CQD, banned the use of low port around corners and demanded High Port, or 10-Gun. Although, SEALs were already accustomed to running High Port, we weren't used to running muzzle up in when stacked in the Shooter Train, or clearing around corners. Heated arguments ensued. Negative arguments mostly centered around safety concerns for people in the cat-walk and above the Shooter Train. Positive arguments emphasized the numerous reasons why it was better tactically, providing faster sight pictures and that is was safer for the Operators in the shooter train. 


  Better tactically:

  1. Clearing corners muzzle up facilitates better situational awareness.
  2. Clearing corners in tight quarters from Low Ready results in occasional flagging.
  3. Flagging/ Sweeping in the shooter train and during other movement was eliminated.
  4. Offensive - conducive to muzzle striking, one of the combatives techniques taught under the Close Quarters Defense™ (CQD) program.
  5. Sight Picture – generally obtained faster.
  6. Defensive – better situational awareness; offers the option to hand strike, as taught in the CQD™ program, or move non-threats as needed. Reduces the possibility of a muzzle-grab when turning corners.

Navy SEALs making entry

 *In the picture above we see the #2 man coming in with the muzzle just high enough to clear the head of the man in front of him. His head is up, which facilitates better situational awareness than the head-down attitude prevalent with Low Port. Additionally, once the #2 man takes another step into the room he'll simply level out the gun. The distance the gun moves from the High Port position shown in the picture, verses a Low Port position is less, therefore he'll get rounds on target faster. So, High Port = better situational awareness and rounds on target faster when compared to Low Port most of the time. 

When entering rooms the difference between Low Port and High Port is subtle, but it's better, period. During my work with OGA we did a lot of vehicle tactics related work and I found no use at all for Low Port, however High Port became an essential position.

 For example, getting out of a vehicle at any position other than High Port, is non-negotiable. There are some instructors who like let people choose what feels best, which I sometimes do. However, regarding most things related to firearms what I've found is, there is a best way to do virtually everything. When I do encounter something better than what I'm currently doing, I change it. For example, I performed a certain magazine change process for more than 20 years, until I rethought the entire process and came up with a better way. It took thousands of repetitions over a period of about 6 months to firmly establish the (new) better process.  We aren't playing tiddly-winks here, we need to keep our ego's crushed as best as possible, so we're receptive to new information. Ego's run thick in this crowd. Institutionalized Inertia is also a problem.

Engaging from a vehicle and exiting under fire.

  *In the above photo you can see the (author) engaging from the "v", when the fire is picked up at the rear it's time to move and I go immediately up to High Port. Guaranteed, if I'd gone to the rear of the vehicle at Low Port, I would have been looking at the dirt the entire time. Moving at High Port, once again, facilitates a better heads-up attitude providing better situational awareness and an ability to get rounds on target faster.


Shoot, Move and Communicate

 During massive gun fights and intense blocks of training, especially on hot days, It’s not unheard of to have a round cook-off. I've seen it happen. The AR15 platform fires from the closed-bolt position and so do all variants of the AK. AK's get even hotter than AR15's. So, a round is sitting in the chamber, is just sitting there getting hotter and hotter, so hot that it may actually cook-off. Clearing the weapon right after shooting is a training luxury, but in combat situations, you aren't going to do that. As always, we should train the way we intend to fight. So, keeping a hot gun pointed up is smart.



Learning the High Port position.

 When initially learning the High Port position, it' best learned with both hands on the gun, trigger finger long & straight. Ensure the muzzle of the weapon is at least as high as the top of your heard and any others heads nearby. For example, a group of shooters are standing at arms length from each other, at the High Port position, no problem. Then, one of the shooters decides to take a knee, now there's a problem. When the shooter took a knee within close proximity of other shooters, the muzzle of his/her weapon became lower than the bodies around it. If a round did go off in a situation like this, others nearby would certainly feel the muzzle blast. If there were even a slight cant to the muzzle, the bullet may blow someone's head off. So, as a general rule of thumb, ask yourself if it would be safe if a round went off? Don't do something that feels unsafe just for the sake of doing it, use your head.

 Repetition is key, perfect practice creates a process that is subsequently performed subconsciously and in the heat of the moment. Whether it's a rifle, or a pistol begin learning the position and the movement to acquire a sight picture with your gun clear & safe. Looking at yourself in the mirror while rehearsing the movements is an excellent technique for critiquing yourself. Practice turning left and right while acquiring a sight picture from High Port and with both weapon systems, rifle and pistol. Learn one, then the other. Do a 100 repetitions from each position, left, right and center, before you Lock & Load. You can do those at home, then do a few more when you get to the range. Perfect practice makes perfect.


 High Port Points of Performance (rifle and pistol):

 1. The muzzle of the weapon is at least parallel to the top of the shooters head, or higher.

2. The muzzle of the weapon is higher than any other heads nearby, with in reason.

3. The weapon is positioned out of the shooters field of view and off to one side. The barrel is pointed up and with awareness of others nearby, including the shooters own head. 

4. One hand on the gun whether it be a pistol or a rifle is somewhat advanced because it's more difficult to understand the muzzle orientation of your own gun.  However, one hand on the gun increases mobility, allowing a shooter to really stretch out and run when needed, which you know, is sometimes required in combat. One hand on the gun also increases situational awareness, if the weapon is being held correctly it will be straight up, not leaning not back or potentially flagging someone to the rear. The muzzle will be at least parallel to the top of your head or higher.


  In summary, the High Port position has been a primary weapon position use by the Navy SEALs for about 50 years. It was used in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and countless other combat zones; by, SEAL Team 6 (DEVGROUP) and all the other SEAL Teams. High Port is a fundamental weapon position used during Land Warfare, Vehicle Tactics, Ship Boarding, Close Quarters Combat, Urban Warfare (MOUT) and in fact, every mission profile conducted by the SEAL Teams.

    In my experience, running muzzle up is sometimes the only way to avoid flagging nearby teammates. Often, it is simply the best weapon manipulation technique required by the situation for obtaining a sight picture. With that thought in mind, I don’t understand the resistance to a weapon manipulation technique. One would think that if the SEAL Teams have been using the technique for more than 50 years, there might be something to it.




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