Safety and Training

Managing Recoil with the Correct Stance

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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Comments (10)

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  2. Good article, I whole heartedly agree. Women tend to take direction and training better than most Men due to ego.

    In response to Steve M’s post: Please join the rest of us in the 21’st century. You’re in no place to tell people what they should fire for their first caliber… Any competent person can handle larger calibers than .22lr given the right explanation and training.
    I would recommend .22 to younger (under 12 yrs old) shooters but that’s not saying they can’t start out and handle larger calibers…
    I suggest you give more thought to people’s capabilities before you spout off on a public article unless of course you just fancy handling people’s testicles

  3. Great Article Suzanne,

    I think some mention of other “comfort zone” options merit mention – specifically, shoulder protection, since you mention some larger calibers in your (excellent) posting.

    I highly recommend the use of shoulder protection – after shouting 15 or 20 rounds in my K98 my shoulder starts protesting. I work out at the gym 3 times a week and am no wimp, but I like to shoot “old stuff” at 50 to 100 rounds per range session. A good shoulder pad, like that offered by Past
    is a good investment. It is easily worn under a jacked in cooler weather.

    As to Mr. Laigaie’s post, those of us who teach can certainly attest to young women’s superior abilities at following directions!

  4. I was a recruiter and guidance counselor for the US Army for many years. I tested not hundreds, but thousands of females applying for enlistment. The Army does not care what you know, they look for potential to absorb training. Women consistently scored higher in the weapons area than their male counterparts. Women CAN shoot well. Women (trained) will shoot better than most males. We males tend to let testosterone get in the way of our shooting. Women listen during training and apply that instruction better than males. Sorry guys, it is Truth!

  5. Guys/Men/Husbands/Boyfriends/Guy Friends who let their female shooting student/partner fire any gun larger than .22LR for the FIRST TIME are idiots and should be strung up by their testicles.

    This goes for any shooter, boy/girl, man/woman. The .22 is the perfect first caliber and should be mastered before moving up to guns that have a heavier recoil spring (ergo: harder for women in particular to retract) and of course, a heavier recoil, whether felt or actual.

    But then again, thanks to all the idiots of the world who put up videos on youtube, we have a a constant source of entertainment!

  6. Yeah, those ‘funny’ YouTube vids where the so-called boyfriend gives the young lady a monster handgun, like a .44 magnum which the boyfriend can barely manage themselves, and films the victim, with no instruction in how to fire it. In a couple of those vids, the victim gets smacked in the face with the front sight or have made a double fire while trying to retain the weapon. NOT funny.
    That same young lady, properly instructed in stance and working her way up from manageable for her firearms, could probably out-shoot their bonehead ‘boyfriend’.

  7. IMHO-Gals lean back due to poor upper body strength when shooting a rifle or shotgun(guys too). I’ve seen gals straigten right up with just a few minutes of holding the gun in shooting position every day for 2-3 weeks. My 7 year old started shooting .22lr from the bench-on sandbags 1st then on elbows then prone then standing worked great! she’s now 18 and earned a CMP scholorship-the first time CMP gave scholorships to non ROTC canidates!yea I’m bragging
    Yes I favor a stance for beginners = prone position lets them deal with recoil,sight picture,trigger control,muzzle discipline all in one position and they usually hit the target well and that gives confidence to move on to other positions as they now know “I can hit that bullseye”

  8. Suzanne, it seems you’ve done an excellent job of presenting helpful information to the ladies on this subject. Come on girls, don’t be afraid if you aren’t very experienced, or confident. I remember when my daughter was about 8 or 9, and we were at the deer lease. I handed her a loaded 12ga, and was about to explain how to position herself, when “BOOM!” she let one off, before she even had it up to her shoulder. She’s 35 today, and will hardly speak to me, but does remember it vividly. That was my fault. You can certainly overcome any issues you may have, and Suzanne makes excellent points to a subject which could help to save your life, or that of someone nearby in your future. This is actually, in my mind, the very definition of “Gun Control.”

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