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Self-Defense Tip: Lean Forward


I spend a fair amount of time at public ranges. The majority of handgun shooters fail to observe the Holy Trinity of marksmanship: grip, stance and breathing. I’ve seen as many crossed thumbs—an open invitation to slide bite—as I’ve seen targets with holes in them (and without). Shooter who focus on their breathing—pulling the trigger after a steady exhale—are as rare as men who consider Megan McKenzie a bit of a bowser. IMHO the worst defect on display: most shooters stand as upright as a grandfather clock . . .

If you lean forward at the hips you are FAR more likely to hit the target than if you remain erect. It’s a recoil thing. By bending and pushing your shoulders towards the target, more of your body weight is forward, making it much easier to keep your arms level as the gun muzzle rises upwards.

Try this simple demo . . .

Assume a shooting position (without a gun) in an upright stance. Have someone put their hands under your hands and press upwards. Push down; try to keep your hands and arms level. Do it again in a forwards leaning shooting stance. See?

This is no small matter. A shooter who leans forward has a FAR better chance of hitting the bad guy AND placing follow-up shots quickly and accurately. Given that there’s no such thing as a “one shot stop,” placement of your second and (where applicable) subsequent shots can be the difference between life and death.

Leaning forwards also makes you a smaller target. And presents a much more aggressive posture to your would-be or actual assailant, increasing the possibility that they will cease and desist.

In short, this may be the only thing about which MSNBC is right (however unintentionally): lean forwards.



  1. avatar Ruun says:

    I took my girlfriend shooting for her second time this weekend. When we went to the pistol range there was a girl stanced in an aggressive forward lean and my girlfriend commented that she looked weird and asked me what the point of that was. I explained and even showed her the difference between shooting with a forward lean and a backward lean. She’s slowly getting it. On a side note, I said hi to Gaby Franco from Top Shot. She was working with a student when we got there. She’s very sweet.

  2. avatar tdiinva says:

    Agree on everthing in the post except the breathing. Shooting after your steady exhale is an important component of competitive target shooting. However, I doubt that you will be concentrating on your breathing a self defense situation. The adrenaline dump is going make your breathing short, rapid and shallow. Once you have mastered the proper technique I recommend you go break the rules. Forget about your breathing and where safe to do so practice shooting off balance because unless you are a cold blooded killer that what’s going to happen in a DGU.

    1. avatar Paul says:

      As a nam vet, I can damn well tell you that breathing is important. Self styled “..shootists…” like you are a BIG problem in the shooting world. You haven’t done it, but your s is the only opinion that matters. What a load of BS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. avatar James says:

        Wow – that escalated quickly.

        1. avatar MotoJB says:

          Yeah, hmmm.

        2. avatar matt says:

          A flash back?

        3. avatar Don says:

          The internet is where people go to project onto others the personality flaws which they are secretly most insecure about themselves.

          oh, and to find pictures of naked women.

      2. avatar tdiinva says:

        My old man used to say don’t assume anything because you will just make an ass out of you and me. I am neither a shootist nor a cold blooded killer. Like most of the people posting I haven’t trained as an infantrryman or LEO so when the SHTF i doubt I will be cool, calm and collected like you were in Vietnam. I won’t be thinking about techinque because if I do I am going to lose for sure.

        If I remember correctly most of the time you guys were blazing away on full auto but what would know. I spent my Nam time underneath the Gulf of Tonkin.

      3. avatar Don says:

        There are no “BIG problems” in the shooting world. It’s a hobby. If people just do what works for them then who cares how other people shoot unless they are beating you? You just need to first be safe, and then in the ballpark regarding technique and you will begin to self-optimize if you are attentive to your body and the results. The best teachers teach you HOW to be attentive and self-reflective in this way… how to pay attention and interpret results. Any hack can say “do the things on this list”. A good teacher teaches you how to develop into a technique, they guide the emergence of your technique. You’ll learn your lessons better that way than by just following orders from some guy yelling at you about dogma.

  3. avatar Roll says:

    I’ve always leaned forward when shooting handguns or rifles. One of the things i see some people(especially women) do is lean their head back as far possible from the sights while shooting. Im usually as close to the sights as the weapon will allow me to be.

    The worse thing i’ve seen is someone trying to use their picatinny top rail as some sort of make-shift ironsight…

  4. avatar brigo50 says:

    Taking my gf shooting this weekend at a medium scale public range. Trying to think about pointers to provide (she has shot several times with me before, but only on private land like this) like not taking your hand off the gun and looking around laughing, hand placement, eyes, ears, etc… Although I guess laughing is def part of the fun.
    The first time she shot, she was terrified by a clip she saw on the tv that spawned from the internet where the chick who was bone skinny shot the Desert Eagle and slide slapped her across the face. She had to adjust to the first few shots with that fear in mind. I had to keep reminding her it (.38 special) wasnt going to kick like a .44mag or a .50AE

  5. avatar Twinkie says:

    Holy rule of shooting:


    I see so many teacup weaver, leaning back, eyes-closed, anus-clenched, OFWGs at the range! Lean into the gun! Keep breathing! Flinch AFTER the gun goes off! Shoot a .22 until you stop blinking when the gun fires!

    In summary, don’t shoot like the girl in this video.

  6. avatar Mr Bob says:

    Just did the 4 day course out at Front Sight. They emphasized the Weaver Stance with the forward lean. Really made a huge difference for my accuracy at greater distances too.
    LOTS of dry practice does wonders for the flinching and you don’t expend ammo.

  7. avatar MotoJB says:

    I’ll teach her how to shoot!

  8. avatar Sanchanim says:

    Can’t agree more. Yeah ok I have caught myself to many times leaning back.
    That is pretty much the order I use.
    Even if you are in a self defense situation breathing is important. Sure you won’t be waiting to exhale, but don’t seize up either.
    So for self defense I would say:
    I throw movement in there because unless you are caught completely off guard you should be looking for cover. As you are drawing and preparing to fire, you want to be moving laterally towards some type of cover. Maybe a car, or wall etc. Anything to put something between you and the bad guy.
    There was a bit on gun nuts, I think, on the Sig Academy. They talked about switching between you rifle “AR” and your pistol. If you watch them and their stance while moving it drives the lean forward point home.

  9. avatar Andrew says:

    once people learn the science behind shooting, it becomes much more clear

    I’ve had the privilege of being taught by Ron Avery and once he explained to me each part of my body and how it reacts to firing a gun it made so much sense

  10. avatar Anon in CT says:

    I have to admit, I actually quite like a one-handed duelist stance – Can’t do it with anything really massive like a .44 Mag (or at least not well), but with anything else it feels really natural, and it presents a lot less target to the bad guy

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      The isosceles stance is more accurate for more people more of the time.

      Originally, gun gurus preferred the duelist stance, for the reason you suggest. Then cops figured (sensibly enough) that it’s better to present body armor to the bad guy than your unprotected side with its quick access to body organs.

      That said, shooting a revolver with two hands is an unnatural act.

      1. avatar Anon in CT says:

        Makes sense – the other thing to consider is cover and concealment. Sure your shootout might occur in the middle of a rugby pitch, but if it doesn’t, you need to be able to adapt your stance to your environment, and make best use of that environment for protection.

        1. avatar Twinkie says:

          I do wonder how fast/natural one goes into a duelist stance when in danger. Not sure I’ve ever seen someone do that when scared.

    2. avatar tdiinva says:

      One handed shooting was not a product of the duel but of cavalry tactics. The only way you could shoot a dragoon pistol while maintaining a grip on your mount was with one hand. The 1911 grip safety was a requirement placed on pistol by the Cavalry Board to prevent accidental discharge while handling the gun. You didn’t have that problem with a single action revolver. Nobody thought otherwise until Weaver showed that a two hand stance was more effective.

  11. avatar Joseph says:

    Some folks lean over so much they look like they’re trying to take a dump. Don’t lean forward or backward. Stand up straight facing the target, feet a bit more than shoulder width apart, and bring the gun up to your eyes….not leaning your head down to meet the gun. For the isosceles stance, simply bend your knees while in the above position. Forget leaning, or if not, try shooting for about 3 hours in that forward leaning stance. If you’re getting shot at you are going to instinctively crouch, not lean, hence the isoceles.

  12. avatar cmikles1 says:

    When I was getting my permit to carry concealed, a gentleman in the class was wearing pants that sat just under his butt. It was funny to watch him try to stand and shoot. He had to stand with his with his pelvis forward. Each shot from his Taurus .45 would make his pants slide down a little further. It was hilarious.
    My fiance says I look funny when I shoot because a hunch more than most. It just feels better when I do.

  13. avatar John Bob says:

    By the time recoil happens the bullet has already left the chamber. This is bullshit.

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