Fast and accurate shooting with a handgun requires a stable shooting stance. The stance must allow for proper sight alignment, mobility, and recoil management. There are a number of stances that can do that, but there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution—or is there?
When shooting offhand, your stance is the first foundational element that breathing, trigger control, and sight alignment all depend on. Even if the other elements are consistent, your hits will be inconsistent without a solid, repeatable stance.
When it comes to shooting stances, you have three choices:
- Modified Isosceles or Weaver
The Isosceles stance is probably the oldest, but still popular today. For Isosceles, the shooter faces the target squarely. The feet are about shoulder width apart. The toes face the target and are aligned along the same plane. The knees are bent slightly and the shooter leans forward from the waist towards the target. This places more pressure on the toes and balls of the feet. You can balance walking on your toes better than your heels because the balance receptors are in the front of your feet. Your arms are extended and form an isosceles triangle, hence the name.
This is a natural to most shooters. Both arms accept the recoil equally, and the position improves accuracy for most. The downside comes from the slight forward lean. If you put yourself in the isosceles position, and someone bumped into you from behind, the problem is immediately evident.
When the Weaver stance first became popular, it was widely accepted and taught by police departments across the nation. Today, it is the stance most frequently taught to new shooters in defensive pistol classes and to cadets at the police academy. For the Weaver stance, the front foot is forward of the rear causing the shooter’s body to be at an angle to the target.
Your strong arm (arm primarily holding the pistol) is extended, while the elbow of your support arm is bent. This combines for a push (strong hand) and pull (support hand). The advantages are a strong, stable hold for accuracy and recoil reduction, while reducing your profile to the target—in case it shoots back… While an overall reduced profile is desirable, the portion of your body your are turning to the bad guy is not as completely or heavily armored while wearing body armor.
Defensive pistol courses often teach the shooter to ‘Get off the X.’ In other words, do not be a stationary target for the bad guy shooting at you. The Weaver stance makes movement difficult.
The Modified Stance
Whether you prefer to say you modified an Isosceles stance or Weaver stance, essentially you are going to something between the two. Often it is called a tactical, fighting, or boxer’s stance. The modified stance is credited to the military, more specifically Special Forces. Law enforcement quickly picked it up for several reasons. It reduces the profile slightly, does not open the vulnerable side as much as a full Weaver stance, and allows officers to defend themselves with their hands, baton, or firearm all from the same position. Movement is also easy with a Modified stance.
Because this is the stance most shooters prefer, and the one you have likely adopted or will adopt I’ll let a real pro shooter walk you through it. Doug Koenig is a noted professional shooter, with several title under his belt and reviews shooting stances in the following video.
With a modified stance, any weapon can be fired effectively, although many will make a case for a traditional shotgun stance due to the recoil. However, that’s the only potential downside that I know of. It combines the best of Isosceles and Weaver without the downsides of either.
Form is simply defined as a position or action that is repeatable and effective for most people. There are exceptions, so try all three stances, and see which one works best for you and your style of shooting. Once you settle on a stance, practice it over and over. Make it part of your dry fire training. Start with a couple of pieces of tape on the ground where your toes should be. In the grass or dirt, dig your toes in to carve out the placement for your feet. In time, you will develop a natural foot placement as a habit.
Which stance do you use and why? Share your answers in the comment section.
Growing up in Pennsylvanias game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Daves writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersens Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersens Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!
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