Shooting 101: Picking a Stance

By Dave Dolbee published on in Competitive Shooting, Concealed Carry, How To

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?

Firing a pistol with the slide locked back

When using an Isosceles stance, the arms form an isosceles triangle.

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:

  1. Isosceles
  2. Weaver
  3. Modified Isosceles or Weaver

Isosceles

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.

Weaver

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.

SLRule

Growing up in Pennsylvania’s 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 Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s 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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Comments (5)

  • dprato

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    I think its fine to practice any way you like but the truth be known most self defense situations are not as you describe. They occur within 10 feet and are not generally running gun battles. Actually few are if you read enough about real life self defense situations. Every month NRA has about 10 real life situations reported and none involve what you describe.

    Reply

    • 70's Ops

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      Well dprato, its like this. I dont have to read about it…..I’ve been in it. Years ago, true enough, but I’d rather my family be prepared for WHATEVER situation arises. I’m not saying ONLY practice this. I’m saying its a nice addition to whatever practice you’re doing now. If you’ve ever been in a firefight you’d know that seldom do they go “as written”. Have a good one.

      As always
      Carry on

      Reply

    • dprato

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      I believe if you read what I said I was not suggesting that was all you meant. However, I was trying to make the point as you have acknowledged that most self defense situations (non-military, non-law enforcement) are not in fact gun fights and for the average person they will most likely encounter a situation in which cover and distance are not necessarily the issue. I certainly would agree that the more variety you add to your practice doesn’t hurt a bit.

      Reply

  • dprato

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    I use basically a weaver stance as I don’t wear a vest and choose to present a smaller profile for self defense. When I target shoot I may square off a bit more but I am not uncomfortable in a variety of positions and can shoot equally well.

    Reply

  • 70's Ops

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    All 3 stances are fine when shooting at paper, that doesn’t shoot back. As I have said before, what are the chances you’re going to “take a stance” of ANY kind, when lead is flying your way. If you have half a brain, you’ll be heading for cover WHILE returning fire. This is how I practice. Single handed, on the move, crouched, and putting rounds on target.
    I have trained my wife, daughter, son, son in law and granddaughters this way. We are ALL relatively proficient at keeping our shots on a 10″ target from almost any position while moving. I would hate to be on the receiving end from any of us.
    Think TACTICAL when shooting. Not Hollywood tactical, special forces tactical. Suppress your foes fire with your own until you reach a point of relative safety. Then you can aim and end things.
    Have a good one

    As always
    Carry on

    Reply

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