Managing Recoil with the Correct Stance

By CTD Suzanne published on in Safety and Training

Unfortunately, I have seen way too many pictures of women on the Internet incorrectly shooting guns. You know the picture or the YouTube video—the woman has a gun, she leans back to take the shot and the next thing you know the gun recoils back and hits her in the head or she drops it. Many people re-post these pictures on their Facebook wall and hilarity ensues; however, most of the time this mishap is not the woman’s fault. The person who gives them the gun fails to give them proper training or instruction. In all sincerity, it is not very funny to make fun of them, in fact, I’ve seen some women who could possibly be extremely dangerous. The perfect way to get a woman to never shoot again, make fun of her.

Why do so many women seem to instinctively lean back when they pick up a firearm? Some say it has to do with their center of gravity and upper body strength—or lack thereof. Others say it is because women are afraid of recoil. Either way, it happens and if you want to be a better shooter, you will need to stop leaning back. Even though leaning back may feel more natural, in same magical way it will not reverse the recoil of the gun. It is actually better to lean in toward your target to manage recoil.

Recoil is the rearward movement of the gun when fired. The force created by the build up and escape of the gasses pushes against the frame. You will also hear it called kick or kickback. The felt recoil is your perception of how hard the gun kicks as opposed to the actual measurable recoil. In my opinion, felt recoil is more important when choosing and shooting a gun.

I am a strong believer that most women can successfully overcome recoil. There are exceptions of course—injuries, arthritis, joint and other similar issues. All it takes is practice, the correct mindset and a comfortably correct stance. Managing recoil helps you become a better shooter. You get quicker and more accurate follow-up shots.

This in no way means I think every woman should shoot a .50 Action Express regularly. If you have been using a gun that generates too much felt recoil, dump that gun. (I’ve done it.) However, I do want you to be able to comfortably and accurately shoot a caliber suitable for self-defense.

There are many different stances in handgun shooting with Weaver, Isosceles and—the newest—Tactical being the most popular. Instructors, experts and competition shooters will argue over which one is best; however, most of us just modify whichever one feels most comfortable. I don’t want to get hung-up on the technicalities of each stance. Perfecting each stance will come later down the road once you get a bit more experience. For right now, I want you to focus on getting a good basic stance. For further explanation and images, the Cornered Cat has an excellent and informative article, simply titled Stance.

To manage recoil, get a good stance that provides proper balance and allows your entire frame to absorb the recoil. Each person will differ slightly in how he or she stands. It is important to feel comfortable in your favorite position.

This is a basic, self-defense stance.  To start, stand facing your target with feet shoulder-width apart. If you are shooting a more powerful caliber spread your feet slightly wider. Take your strong-sided foot and move it back slightly about six inches.

Your dominant eye is the one you use naturally to aim at your target. To find which eye is dominant, read the article Understanding Eye Dominance

I feel more comfortable by tilting my hips a little towards my dominant foot. This means I angle myself somewhat toward the target. Put most of your weight onto your forward, non-dominant foot. Relax your knees so they are slightly bent. Finally, lean forward at the waist into your target. Your shoulders should be in front of your knees.

Bring your gun up with both arms directly above your legs to form a triangle. Your elbows slightly relaxed. Do not lock up. Some people find it more comfortable to raise one shoulder or both shoulders. I tend to stay square with my shoulders down.

Once you get this basic stance down, you may want to adapt it a little to suit your own comfort level.

If you decide to take advanced-level classes or start competing, instructors can teach you different stances for different situations, but getting the fundamentals down correctly prevents developing bad habits.

Do you have a favorite stance? Tell us what it is and why in the comment section.

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