Guns for Beginners: Stance

Shooting a gun – while standing still without facing incoming fire – isn’t complicated. There are four basic components: sight picture, stance (which includes grip), breathing and trigger control. That’s a bit like saying playing the blues isn’t complicated. While a non-musicians can learn the three-chord blues progression in minutes the blues takes a lifetime to master. To begin the journey to firearms mastery, a new shooter needs to learn the four rules of gun safety. After that, there’s an important principle to keep in mind, one that will save you time and money and help you avoid frustration . . .

Any bad habit you develop will take a thousand rounds to “unlearn.” To re-program yourself to shoot correctly, instinctively. And that’s the goal: to shoot properly without thinking about it. So you can concentrate on other skills, such as, I dunno, hitting the target. Or learning to shoot accurately on the move, which is critical to armed self-defense.

I repeat: if you start shooting with a lousy stance like the girl above, it will take you a thousand rounds to completely eradicate your natural desire to lean away from the gun like it’s got rabies. (Which is why it’s best to start with a low-caliber gun with minimal recoil.) The more you shoot with an incorrect stance, grip, breathing pattern or trigger technique (i.e., “slapping” the trigger), the more deeply ingrained the habit becomes.

Which means you really need expert instruction from the word go. Not to put too fine a point on it, don’t learn to shoot with anyone who isn’t an expert instructor.

When it comes to a “proper” shooting stance, it becomes a little more complicated.

There are two basic shooting stances: isosceles and weaver. The video above explains the difference between the two – and shows you how something that seems dead simple is extremely difficult to master. Here’s the problem: both stances have their adherents and detractors. An expert instructor will favor one or the other. Again, if you start with one, switching to the other will take a good thousand rounds to “correct.” So . . .

You should discuss the pros and cons of the isosceles and weaver stances with your teacher, who should know the pros and cons of both. If you teacher responds to your questions about stance – or grip, breathing and trigger control – with “trust me, I know what I’m doing” or “because I said so,” wrong teacher. A good instructor will tell you what to do when shooting and why you need to do it.

Your shooting stance is no more of less important than the other shooting basics. Yes, you can be an excellent shooter with any stance – a lot of pro shooters adopt what looks like a fully erect posture – but the trick to mastering your shooting is to make it as easy as possible to shoot the gun properly. No matter which way you go, trust me, shooting well is a lot harder than it first appears. Wait, did I just say that? You know what I mean . . .

comments

  1. avatar Jason Byrne says:

    Maybe that Glock grip angle that just doesn’t point for people makes sense with a proper leaning forward stance. Who woulda thunk it.

  2. avatar General Zod says:

    I always practice shooting while wearing roller skates. That way I can shoot accurately from any stance, in motion, and while falling down.

  3. avatar Katy says:

    My challenge has been balancing comfort and accuracy. If I am shooting for fun, I fall into a weaver, where I can be fairly accurate. But, if I want a tight grouping where I need to be (like CHL qualifying), I have to shift to isosceles, which isn’t as natural and requires active thinking.

    Any suggestions on how to marry the two?

    1. avatar Robert W. says:

      Shoot from positions and concealment like in an IDPA course. Keeping yourself behind concealment often requires you to modify your stance, and it is decent practice for a defensive gun use.

      1. avatar JR_in_NC says:

        Agree with this.

        “Stance” is good for building fundamentals, and merits practice. But “stance” as some single specific thing kinda goes out the door in real situations. Shooting from behind cover is an excellent example of this.

        It’s a bit off topic but I think related: when we talk about stance, we are USUALLY talking the ideal of Strong Hand Supported. Often ignored is Strong Hand Only, Weak Hand Supported and Weak Hand Only shooting. Those positions need practice, too, and a good stance is the platform to build on those.

        Personally, I’m in the camp that believes that what is “comfortable” should be a guide. That’s kinda your body telling you which “stance” is more natural, and thus you fight against less. It’s kind of how “Natural Point of Aim” comes into play in rifle shooting.

        I think if you instinctively gravitate toward one or the other (Isosceles vs Weaver, or the modified variants of either), that’s probably the one you will shoot best from and should focus on.

        Interesting though that you said you get better groups from Iso even though it feels “wrong” to you.

        1. avatar Katy says:

          Only thing I can think of is that my weaver may have poor form, and thus the lower accuracy. That probably brings me back to RF’s point about finding an expert instructor.

          With iso it takes me a few moments to settle in, so I’m probably focusing more on the body and hand position, breathing, and mechanical trigger squeeze fundamentals.

    2. avatar TommyinKY says:

      Practice the isosceles and it will become more comfortable. If you wish to contine advancing to more advanced shooting and moving tactics this will help. Isosceles translates to essentially what is the top half of your body moving as a turret while your legs provide motion. Sort of like a tank. While weaver will get the job done, it just doesn’t transfer over.

    3. avatar JSW says:

      Katy, one thing you can do is stop thinking of “stance” (weaver, isosceles, whatever), as being the end-all of position. Stance is not static, it’s simply a transition phase in the gun-grip continuum.

      One easy way to demonstrate this to yourself is to stand in the middle of a room (gun empty, cleared, and emptied the second time), and aim at a target in front of you using your best/favored stance/grip. Now, after firing an imaginary shot, look to your left and, without moving your feet, aim at another target. Do the same aiming to the right- all without moving your feet. Notice how your grip changes with the turreting of your body? (Turret of the tank.) Still, without moving your feet, aim at a target behind you- notice how the grip position changes even more?

      That is the proper stance and how to get out of doing it the “wrong” way, which is really only a transitional stance.

  4. avatar Cliff H says:

    My instructor explained to us why Navy SEALS adopted the isosceles, aside from the advantage of pivoting mentioned in the video:

    In combat if you take a hit to either side of your center of mass (heart, spine, major blood vessels) your chances of continuing to fight, and ultimate survival with prompt medical attention, are much better if the shot comes from directly in front. In the Weaver stance you have turned your side to the incoming fire and a hit to the torso tends to pass through the entire kill zone side to side so irreparable damage to major organs is much more likely. Second point – if you are wearing body armor the weakest point is usually along the sides under your armpits and you do NOT want to face that weak spot towards the incoming fire.

    1. avatar Scott in IA says:

      +1

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Cliff H, getting hit in the plate is a bonus, but not the biggest reason. Mobility is the biggest reason for the isosceles stance in combat, because you can walk in any direction and pretty much maintain the stance. If all you were going to do is stand and shoot, it wouldn’t matter. But standing and shooting doesn’t happen much in combat, and it certainly doesn’t happen for long. It’s been my experience that the person standing and shooting is soon the person not standing and not shooting.

    3. avatar actionphysicalman says:

      Aren’t the vital innards about the same size target from the side as from the front though? Square to the front you are presenting an overall larger target even if some of it you don’t really need to live. If you aren’t wearing armor is it better or worse for the shot to have to go through your upper arm before it gets to your vitals?

  5. avatar TommyinKY says:

    The four basic components for shooting are sight picture, steady position (which includes stance and grip), breathing cycle and trigger squeeze.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      Not how I was taught but makes better sense than what I wrote. Text amended.

  6. avatar Mack Bolan says:

    Stance is the least important aspect of defensive shooting. Sight picture, sight alignment and trigger control will always get shots on target from any position.

    1. avatar Anonymoose says:

      Unless you’re chick-leaning.

      1. avatar Robert W. says:

        Hey, you might end up on your ass, but at least you hit your target 😉

  7. avatar schernobyl says:

    I thought the two stances were bob and weaver…..

    1. avatar Anonymoose says:

      I lol’d.

    2. avatar 357M28 says:

      Used to work w/ these 3 guys: Neal, Ben and Bob….ugh.. bad joke..never mind.

  8. avatar Ed Rogers says:

    I’m overcoming a bad stance & limpwristing. One way to find out how bad you are – Post a video on YouTube. 😉

  9. avatar DaveR says:

    To her credit she was shooting DA and didn’t seem to be flinching either.

  10. avatar Charlie says:

    I was thinking that the woman with the revolver looked like she was in a rifle stance. The stance video confirmed it.

    I’m not sure why, but I have seen many women stick their gut out and their shoulders back when shooting. It doesn’t matter if it’s a longgun or handgun. Either way the effect is the same: The recoil throws them off balance when the shot is fired, which causes is an unsafe condition. Perhaps it’s fear of being too close to the firearm, but if I see it in one of my students it’s the first thing I try to correct. I would say it’s the second thing, but if they hadn’t already mastered the Four Rules we wouldn’t be at the range.

  11. avatar JonFTC says:

    To the webmaster or article author:

    I would like to share your articles out to the over 35,000 followers I have in social media, but I just can’t anymore because when you post something there is no preview picture available that is related to the topic you are discussing. Therefore I’m done giving this website access to my social media audience until this problem is addressed. Go copy/paste one of your links into facebook and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Be more like guns.com. At least when I share something from their site it gives a couple preview pictures actually related to the article.

  12. avatar Justin says:

    Shooting stance is only important when you’re standing still in front of a target and you want the most precise group you can accomplish… In a situation where the target is shooting back, you will be running, crouching, kneeling, diving and shooting from every possible “stance.”

    Focus on sight picture, trigger control and shooting accurately with your heart rate up… If not just do your best guitar player stance when shooting a big gun.

  13. avatar Bob says:

    “Which means you really need expert instruction from the word go. Not to put too fine a point on it, don’t learn to shoot with anyone who isn’t an expert instructor.”

    I tend to disagree with the word “need” in this instance, but it is certainly advantageous. Some folks grow up learning very good practices, with handling and using a firearm from experienced and competent people in their family/friends circles. Some folks do not have the convenience of certified expert instruction nearby… or perhaps they don’t have the means to pay for ‘enough’ (whatever that means) instruction.

    If we default to shouting that everyone ‘needs’ instruction only from say… ‘certified expert instructors…’ it can be counter productive to freedom and liberty. Considerations come into play like…. Who gets to define what is an expert? Who gets to be the certifier? Who is to say the person issuing the certificate knows what they are talking about…. you know. stuff like that.

    Its my choice and responsibility anyway, I’ll decide how I’ll handle it. talking about this stuff reminds me of conversations with building inspectors, tax assessors, and other bureaucrats. Liberty and danger for me, Thanks!

    YMMV

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