Most shooters will tell you that proper cheek-weld, in its general universally understood form, is paramount for acceptable marksmanship. While this is for the most part accurate and essential for developing the fundamentals of marksmanship, especially in new shooters and at extended ranges, I’m going to dare to challenge the narrative here at the risk of sending the internet into a rage directed at myself; please bear with me. I am proposing the possible benefits and detriments to shooting with a “chin-weld” in, particularly in close quarters shooting scenarios.
What inspired this train of thought and later experimentation originated with eastern bloc and European weapons, primarily rifles. The majority of earlier weapon designs, when an optic is installed, have incredibly high bore axis. Now I will openly admit that this was not a planned design and that almost all of these weapons have iron-sights that coincide with traditional cheek weld; regardless It was technique that was incorporated in their use for optic based operation. The Russian AKM variants, French FAMAS, German HKG3, and the Belgian FAL, all have increased height to line of sight and sight picture when paired with a scope or holographic sight. This is in part do to the limitations to the mounting system and more modern variants have been developed since the weapons inception. The HkG36 employs a similar concept with a near 4x power optic on the low-end and a red-dot stacked on top of it. This is a similar system found on some variants of the Trijicon ACOG and specifically the model found on top some of the Marine Corps 249SAWs and the M27 IAR; a rifle that is essentially a Hk416 built to spec. So at this point it’s safe to say the technique is definitely platform (or rifle stock) specific and optic system dependent.
This technique is favored by many of the eastern countries that employ the use of the AKM series of rifles. The russian army has been using this method of shooting with optics for a long time now and, aside from a few Spetznas units, for the most part has not deviated from the school of thought or gear selection. What got me thinking about it though, and I’d shot plenty of rifles that were relevant to the concept prior, was when I came into the Possession of the dual optic model HK G36. To even use the red dot, you had to do a sort of chin to stock technique. There wasn’t much advantage to it though because the optic as a whole was massive and blocked an unreasonable amount from my field of view when looking through the sight. But after carrying the G36 for a good while, I had built a certain muscle memory for this technique and felt i would try my luck with a Trijicon ECOS (ACOG with RMR on top) on a personal rifle. With a much smaller holographic at my disposal, the concept became a much more tangible option for combat based shooting. This also applies to the M16a2 or M4a1, which I now employ a variant of in AR15 form for personal use, with a fixed carry handle on top. To accomdate this, an entire line of optical solutions were produced for the carry handle on an the M16/M4. Of course technology moved very quickly in the early 2000s and picatinny rails became the standard, so this was a fleeting modification.
The limitations to having a rifle and optic setup in this way is that you create an all around bulkier platform. The rifle also becomes more top-heavy and prone to sway during rapid target transitions. The weight becomes displaced in a way that is more spread out overall. Some might say you create a larger target as well but that seems very subjective to me. Also the eye relief is often a fixed distance due to the mounting system more often than not being proprietary. However your optics line of sight will further clear your rifle’s forend where it can potentially be obstructed by lights and lasers. It will also give you some added weight to throw around during weapon manipulation, i.e. reloads, malfunction clearance, etc. if that’s your thing.
The majority of the benefits of having a chin-weld based weapon setup are physical to the shooter and are technical advantages. For starters, the primary benefit of having a high bore axis/chin-weld is that your field of view gets a better now that the eyes have been elevated. This gives the shooter an advantage to visual clarity and situational awareness when shooting or sighting in with the rifle. Having the head up in this manner keeps the neck from being strained during prolonged maneuvers and promotes good posture even when in a combat shooting stance. If we think about this on the level of fighting in general, having the head up where the eyes can perceive and intercept threats is key to good form/technique. Whether or on chin-weld creates faster shooters in situations of close proximity is debatable and most likely subjective to an individual basis; anything can be trained for and improved upon.
The detriments are that without that added point of contact (or far less of one) on the rear of the rifle, accuracy/stability is going to inherently suffer. I am still here to argue that it doesn’t really matter at close range though, not enough to make a noticeable difference. There is a learning curve here as well, especially if you’re fresh off using cheek weld to snap shoot. That physical over sway can translate from the weapon to technique as previously stated too.
All in all it’s an outdated system of weapon setup paired with technique, rendered obsolete by modern technology and training doctrine. I think it’s worth taking a look at and may contain possible relevance to specific situations or equipment. That being said, as a whole it is not worth utilizing in place of an already well establish and effective technique. The chin-weld technique is still relevant to some modern optic requirements though and should be considered as such. There will always be worth in evaluating and learning new ways of doing things regardless of their age or popularity.
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