There are a number of shooting stances and certainly there are some strong opinions vouching for each! None of these are the stance for everyone. However, there are some very important aspects of the shooting stance that are necessary for accuracy, speed and safety. I will discuss the various stances below and you can adopt the best stance for you. Don’t get too caught up with the formality of the “names” and precise “technique”. You will find that you naturally and instinctively gravitate toward one particular stance or another. The key will be that you are comfortable, balanced and stable in the key aspects of each stance.
You do however, want to be comfortable in a variety of positions or stances. You of course don’t know what kind of situation you may find yourself in and what physical constraints may be present. In an assault, you could find yourself standing, sitting, or even on the ground. You could be injured and only able to use one hand or perhaps behind a wall. So,it is recommended that you practice a variety of stances and techniques with both hands, dominant and non-dominant, so you can feel confident in any situation.
You will inevitably make some adjustments to the stances discussed here based on your body type, height, weight, strength, and physical condition. Practice is key. Your ability to find your stance under great stress depends on it.
There are few habits to avoid, those that place you in a weaker position.
The Isosceles Stance
Most new shooters will take this stance almost instinctively. The shooter fully extends both arms towards the target and your shoulders are kept perpendicular to the target and both elbows are locked. The name of the stance comes from how the shooter’s arms and shoulders form an isosceles triangle. Although common, in my opinion does not provide the flexibility and speed of movement required for self defense situations. The extended straight arms also makes reacting to recoil a challenge for many women.
In this modified version of the Isosceles stance, your weight is shifted forward and your feet are shoulder length apart with one foot slightly more forward pointing toward your target. Your upper body curls forward, and your arms are in line with the your shoulders. This creates a strong grip that helps with keeping your muzzle under control to get back on target quickly.
When done correctly, the arms move slightly in and out with the recoil instead of up and down. You will need to relax your shoulders to help absorb recoil. In addition, your head is more forward than in the traditional Isosceles Stance. With the head forward, your balance is further shifted forward giving a clearer view of the pistol sights in relationship to the target.
For a number of reasons, I feel the best stance for defensive shooting is the Modern or Modified Isosceles Stance. I would recommend that if self defense is your primary purpose, adopt as much of this stance as possible.
In this stance, your body is “bladed” or less of a target. One of your shoulders is turned toward the target. In this stance you are better able to pivot your body and rotate your arms for shooting. It allows you to visually keep your eye on your target and to adjust your shots. It helps you to stay better balanced because you are shooting from your center core. Both elbows are bent with the dominant arm bent less than the support arm.
I asked my friend, Donna Anthony, former Law Enforcement Officer, TWAW Certified Instructor, NRA and USCCA Instructor to do a demonstration video.
This stance is identical to the Weaver Stance but has one important difference. In the Modified Weaver, you lock straight your dominant hand and arm. This can help with the trembling that some experience while using the Weaver Stance and you can still take advantage of the push/pull tension of the Weaver Stance to control the muzzle. Also, It minimizes the chance of your weaker, non-dominant arm from overpowering your straight dominant, shooting arm which can happen under stress.
The two Weaver Stances are popular and used in target and combat shooting.
This is a good practice stance for in the event you are injured and only have one hand to shoot with. It is recommended that you practice this with both dominant and non-dominant arms. Your feet are shoulder length apart, with your dominant foot in front. Hold the pistol in one hand with the arm outstretched, and place the hand not in use on your chest, hip, or even in a pocket.The advantage of the stance was that it allows the shooter to make himself a smaller target by turning his body to the side thereby presenting the minimum target possible. This stance would not be recommend as a preferred defensive shooting stance.
Shooting from this position allows new shooters to concentrate on shooting fundamentals, especially sight alignment and trigger press, without having to worry about supporting the firearm. Also, shooting from the benchrest position benefits disabled shooters and gives them the proper training and muscle memory to come away from the bench and into a seated position for shooting.
For experienced shooters, using a benchrest allows them to test the accuracy of their firearms without the additional variables that arise from using an unsupported standing position.
I see many women lean back and away from the handgun and the target when shooting. This is not a stable or strong position. It makes handling and controling recoil difficult and lessens your ability to recover and prepare for the next shot.
You very consciously want to lean in and keep your weight forward to be in the best shooting position.
Another common bad habit or reflex is to lock the knees straight. This makes keeping your balance and agility almost impossible. This is not a strong defensive position and you need to have some bend and/or slight “crouch” to provide stability and proper weight distribution.
Read more on stance on NRA Shooting Illustrated