When firing a handgun, stance is very important. A proper stance improves your accuracy, reduces fatigue while firing, and helps absorb recoil. There are three main variations of handgun stance: Weaver, Isosceles, and Modified Isosceles. We’ll cover each one below.
In 1959, Jack Weaver, a deputy sheriff in Los Angeles county, developed a new shooting technique to help him win Jeff Cooper’s “Leatherslap” pistol matches. Instead of using the hip shooting technique most shooters at the time were using, Weaver utilized his own technique, which Cooper later popularized as the “Weaver Stance” in some of his books.
To enter the Weaver stance, first blade your body to the target at a 45 degree angle. What do I mean by “blade”? Imagine there is a laser beam shooting out of your chest. If you’re standing fully facing the target, the laser beam would be pointing directly to it. To “blade” yourself, simply turn your body so the beam points away from the target at 45 degrees.
Adopt a boxing stance, which entails standing with your weak foot forward and your strong foot back (for right-handed shooters, your strong foot will generally be your right foot). Bend at the knees slightly. Most of your weight should be on the front foot.
Now, draw your weapon, establish a good grip like we talked about in the Grip Fundamentals post, and aim at the target. The relationship of your arms is the most important part of the Weaver stance. Your strong arm should be straight, pointed directly at the target inline with the handgun sights. Your support arm is bent at the elbow and points nearly straight down. The strong hand pushes and the support hand pulls on the grip, establishing what is called isometric pressure. This pressure is the defining aspect of the Weaver stance, contributing to enhanced stability and reduced muzzle flip, which enables you to perform faster follow-up shots.
The second method we’ll cover is the Isosceles stance, so named because of the isosceles triangle formed by your arms and chest when this stance is held correctly. The stance was developed in the 1980’s by IPSC competitors Brian Enos and Rob Leatham. The Isosceles stance was quickly adopted by law enforcement professionals, who found that the simple stance was easy to perform under stress, and the forward orientation of the torso improved the effectiveness of ballistic vests. Unlike the Weaver stance, which relies on the active pressure of your hands to reduce recoil, the Isosceles draws on the skeletal structure of the arms to passively absorb recoil.
This stance is very easy to perform. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Draw your weapon, establish grip, and push both arms straight out from the chest. Lean the torso slightly forward to help recoil absorption. The entire upper body can then pivot back and forth to engage multiple targets rapidly, similar to a gun turret, making this stance favored by competitive shooters.
Closely related to the Isosceles stance is the Modern or Modified Isosceles. It can be seen as somewhat of a blending of the Weaver and Isosceles, taking the stable boxer stance of the first with the arm support of the second. I find the Modern Isosceles to be the most natural of all three stances.
To enter, drop into a boxer stance, with most of your weight on your front foot. Draw and punch forward just as you would with the Isosceles stance, but lean forward more aggressively with your torso. In this way, the natural positioning of your body aids your shooting, making this stance incredibly stable. Recoil is absorbed through your entire body.
When it comes to stance, there is no absolute right answer. Do what aids your shooting and is comfortable for you. Also keep in mind that, were you ever thrust into a life-threatening defensive situation, your body will relapse to whatever behavior you have trained the most, so pick one of these stances and train it consistently and repeatedly. Always continue your training.
Until next time, have fun, stay safe, and shoot straight!