Shooting Stance vs. Shooting Technique
August 20, 2018
From the earliest days of Col. Jeff Cooper's Modern Technique, we've been taught that stance (Jack Weaver's stance, of course) was the foundational concept that everything is built on. But is it?
This is not a column pitting the Weaver stance against the Isosceles stance. It's been debated to death, and as far as actual armed confrontations are won, it is irrelevant in my opinion. Before we go on, let's first discuss what a gunfight actually is.
A gunfight is an armed (with guns) encounter between two or more people who are shooting at and trying to kill the other person. There are many armed encounters that do not meet this criteria. They are called shootings.
Like most children of the 1980s, I began my shooting career as a student of the Weaver stance. After my first few gunfights, I threw that whole stance idea aside. The vast majority of armed conflicts that I've studied do not allow time to assume a particular stance. They are most often too fast, too violent and too chaotic.
Now, before you write and send angry letters and emails to the editorial staff of Guns & Ammo, allow me to explain. I still like the isosceles and there are plenty of guys that have had great success with the Weaver, but it's time for us to stop calling them "stances." A stance implies that your feet are involved. A Weaver could mean hips and feet are set at 45 degrees to the target. In an Isosceles, it could mean feet are equidistant and flat. Both are wrong.
I don't care if you love the isometric tension of the Weaver or the static tension of the Isosceles, if your feet are not athletically spaced with your toes and hips pointing forward and your weight on the balls of your feet, you're wrong. The only thing your stance should allow you to do is get yourself to cover or get yourself in a better position to dominate the battle space quickly and efficiently. Armed confrontations are won by a combination of shooting and moving. Finding the balance between the two should be what you're trying to gain from any particular shooting stance.
Call them techniques.
Am I playing a game of semantics? Perhaps. I still refer to the Weaver and the Isosceles, but I call them techniques - not stances.
In 25 years of teaching people how to prevail with a gun, I have found that it is incredibly beneficial for shooters to be able find a comfortable, capable stance with their feet that allows them to maximize their own athletic ability. This stance is completely separate from what's happening above their waist, and that separation should be embraced early in a shooter's training.
I've spent too much time trying to fix shooters who thought their feet and hips had to be positioned a certain way. It's not until shooters experience something like force-on-force simulation training that such students really begin to understand that balance and movement are an important piece of the puzzle. (And having that lesson punctuated by the sting of a Simunition round is a constructive teacher.)
Watch a boxing or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) match and observe the stances of the two fighters. They'll be similar, but there will be noticeable differences based on their builds and athleticism. It's the same with shooters. Painted footprints and an assembly line approach to training have no place in real gunfighting. The most successful gunfighters that I've observed in combat and studied, are the ones that have figured out balance, both in the way that they move their feet and the way they manipulate the trigger.
Find Your Stance
If you're not sure about your stance, try the following: take a training nongun and assume your flat range position while presenting. With your eyes closed, have a friend randomly and gently push you from multiple angles while walking around you. You will find that you favor one direction over the rest and you are not as balanced as you might have thought. Move your feet until your partner cannot push you off balance with light to medium shoves. Once you find that sweet spot, you'll have your starting point. Be sure that your buddy isn't trying to uproot you. We're not trying to make you an offensive lineman. The goal is to find a good starting point to become a better balanced shooter.
When talking about Weaver and Isosceles techniques, understand that both of those exist as an attempt to stabilize the gun, to reduce muzzle rise that lift your sights off target and to speed up the reacquisition of those sights to afford a well-placed follow-up shot. On the street, studies of actual gunfights suggest that you won't have enough time to get into an ideal technique or stance. In part, this is why you see so many well-trained shooters miss an average between 70 and 80 percent of their shots during an altercation. Fear, hyperventilation and adrenaline will wreak havoc on one's shooting technique. If you have the ability and wherewithal to build a good, stable position in a fight, great. But train like you won't have that luxury. Once you have the basics of your stance down, you can start working on other skills that will better set your odds for success (grip, sight picture and trigger pull included).
We can debate techniques and calibers, but it is a statistical truth that the shooter who gets their pistol up, sights aligned on the target and pulls the trigger first - without disturbing the sights - is going to win the fight. Strip away anything you don't need when you practice. Get the gun up fast, find the front sight (or dot) fast, hold the pistol hard enough to steady it and press the trigger straight and to the rear.
The most important part of deciphering stance is practice. Competition is a fantastic proving ground for finding out what works best for you, but training and competing can get expensive.
For many years I struggled, scrounged brass and reloaded to make training happen. Even then, staying competitive was an endeavor. Dryfire practice really does help bridge the gap and allow you to dial in your grip and stance, while setting you up to improve fast sight acquisition and a quick, smooth trigger press. You don't need ammo to develop your footwork to move into a firing position. You just need an empty pistol.
Also, don't discount the benefits of working on your pistol presentation while dryfiring, as well as that first trigger press. You can add heart rate work to it if you're up for an additional challenge. These tips have helped me immensely over the years.
The way you fight with a gun should not reflect what someone wrote in a magazine. It should be the result of hard work and trial and error. Make a starting point and then get to work.