Everyone wants to shoot quickly and accurately, and the stance that we choose can make a big difference in how we perform.
The right stance can be different for each shooter (and situation), but it’s a major factor in how we control sight alignment, body position, balance and recoil offset.
Think of it this way – you wouldn’t build a new house with a weak foundation, and it’s the same with how you establish your body before you shoot. Also consider any other sport or dynamic activity and how a solid base-of-support sets you up for optimal performance. From boxing to tennis, how you set-up is the first step to success.
Now having said that, there are a number of factors that we have to consider.
- Are you a new gun owner?
- Are you in the military or a police officer?
- Your body weight & strength
- Caliber of the weapon you’ll be using
- Range use only with static targets?
- Tactical or potential self-defense engagement?
There are others, but you get the idea. It can make a difference if you’re a new shooter or if you’ve got a small build and more powerful weapon. It’s also one thing if you’re simply a weekend warrior going to the range for some target practice – and quite another if someone is shooting back.
For this post, we’ll concentrate on 2-handed stances, as they are the most common method of shooting all around. As anyone with experience knows, there are a variety of stances in use – each with their own pros-&-cons. Some of the most preferred styles now though, are variations or hybrids of these more traditional versions. To be sure, this is a topic for debate, but it will always come down to shooter comfort, safety and performance. For instance, how would you react in a real-life/real-time situation? How smoothly and effectively can you assume your stance and discharge your weapon? Obviously you won’t have the time to dance around figuring out if your feet are in exactly the right spot.
The bottom-line is that new shooters have to learn SOME method or technique to get a grasp on the fundamentals – and this is where the basics come in. This is especially true for tactical shooting if your personal safety is at-stake. Once you’ve been at it for a while, it’s typical that you’ll gain the insight necessary to know what’s best for you.
Here are a few of the components that help to make up a solid stance :
- Keeping the head pretty much upright and avoid bending it down to meet your weapon. This can affect your overall field of vision and can help if you have to compensate for a dominant eye.
- Round your shoulders somewhat forward (without hunching your back). Arm position will vary per stance type.
- Keep your back straight and your hips oriented towards your target
- Knees should be unlocked and slightly bent
- Your feet should always be firmly set and about shoulder-width apart to provide the best stability. Exact placement will depend on preference (discussed below). In any instance, you’ll want to lean-in slightly toward your gun, with weight on the balls of your feet. Like most physical activities, you won’t want to be back-on-your-heels when shooting.
Let’s take a (brief) look at the various established stances to help create some context.
This one is the most basic and easiest to assume, as you face your target squarely with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. The name comes from the fact that your shoulders and extended arms create the shape of an isosceles triangle. The pros with this version are that it’s fast to establish, allows you to line-up your sights evenly and keeps your body armor flush with your potential enemy. The cons are that it doesn’t give you much front-to-back stability (especially with higher caliber guns) and it does provide the biggest target to anything coming at you.
This was developed in the 1950’s by LA County Sheriff Jack Weaver and is taught to most new shooters. With this stance, you angle or ‘blade’ your body by moving the foot on your support side forward by 8 – 10 inches. The support-side arm is bent downward at the elbow and the shooting-side arm is not quite fully extended, with the elbow angled outward. Weapon stability is optimized by a push/pull action with your grip. The pros are that it’s fast to adopt, provides a good swing arc and a good base of support. The downsides include that fact that recoil can be an issue with both arms being bent and it exposes the side of your body where armor typically doesn’t cover.
Popularized by the legendary shooting instructor of the same name, this version is basically a modified Weaver, with the stance a little shorter and the shooting-side arm locked. Some folks liken the extended arm to a rifle stock that can transfer recoil energy back into your body for better absorption and it also allows the shooter to move their head over to align their vision just like a long gun.
Fighter or Boxer
Also known as a tactical stance, this popular hybrid offers the best of each of the more traditional versions. It should feel natural like you’re defending yourself physically and is common with police and military personnel as it provides good maneuverability and balance. It also allows for a somewhat angled body that presents less of a target and closes-off that open side area on body armor.
Beyond these stances, there are also a variety of others that cross-pollinate features and benefits. These include the Power or Modified Isosceles, the Modified Weaver or Chapman, Retention types or the Center Axis Relock (think action movies) and the list goes on.
Ultimately, any shooter should stick to the basic principles for positioning, sightlines and balance but the choice then becomes which style fits them the best. A good instructor can also help with your choices. There’s no one-size-fits-all that covers every individual and every situation. Go with what’s natural for you and then practice, practice, practice until it becomes second nature.
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