A Fast & Efficient Handgun Shooting Stance
Getting into a proper shooting stance needs to be quick and smooth no matter which direction you're moving from or to.
It’s very common in the firearms community to obsess over the shooting stance. Some shooting instructors will be extremely specific with their stance. Feet have to be two inches beyond shoulder width apart, six inches forward and back, bent forward at a fifteen degree angle, and perfectly squared up with the target. Shooters need to have one foot forward slightly, no wait, feet must be squared perfectly to the target… that’s leaning too far forward – that’s not leaning far enough forward. You get the idea.
The problem with this obsession is rather simple. Other than a shooting bay with a single unmoving target, where does a shooter have the time to get into such a perfect stance?
In the world of practical shooting, there isn’t time to setup the picture perfect stance. We must have a dynamic stance that can be adapted to whatever the position and situation requires.
Why a dynamic shooting stance?
If you’ve seen many of Active Self Protection’s video analysis of self defense shootings, you’d see that self defensive shootings have a very wide variety to the positions defenders are put in. They very rarely have the opportunity to take an extremely specific shooting stance.
Take a look at this video of John Vlieger taking the High Overall Win at the 2017 Walther Area 4 Championship. His base stance is consistent, but notice how often he’s shooting from a lean, while moving, while barely settling into a shooting position, or pivoting between targets.
This is why our shooting stance needs to be quick to get in and out of and very adaptable.
The practical pistol shooting stance
I like to describe a good pistol shooting stance as an “athletic” stance. That’s fairly general and broad, but at the same time, it is important that our handgun shooting stance be general and broad so it can be applied.
- Feet wider than shoulder width apart
- Slight forward and backward foot placement
- Shoulders squared up on target
- Slight lean forward
- Good straight spine
- Head up for good posture
As can be demonstrated from any defensive gun use video or competition video, the situation could dictate that our feet be in a wide variety of positions. So don’t get caught in requiring the feet to be in an exact super specific positioning.
The feet should build a wide stance, more than shoulder with apart with a slight forward and backwards alignment. It’s important to become comfortable with right foot forward and left foot forward.
To further enhance the stance, the toes should be turned slightly outward. This helps avoid excess tension in the legs when performing wide transitions. It also provides some additional stability.
Square up on the target
The body should square up on the target, particularly the hips and shoulders. A bladed stance can create a diagonal recoil arc instead of a straight up and down recoil pattern. Furthermore, a bladed stance creates tension when trying to perform wide transitions across the body.
Squaring up on the target as much as possible improves the versatility of the stance.
HaleyStrategic gives us an excellent quick tip on good posture for shooting.
Not only does this slight lean forward work great for shooting handguns, but it works as is for carbine style rifle shooting.
Good shooting technique can be used in more than one discipline or situation.
Don’t just learn, practice the shooting stance
Reading an article and watching a video about shooting technique is a great place to start. But being fast and consistent requires more work than watching a video.
Dry fire practice is critical to building subconscious skill so proper shooting stance doesn’t require dedicated thought. When a self defense situation begins, or the buzzer goes off at a shooting competition, you won’t have time to remember, “am I in the correct shooting stance?”
Dedicate a few dry fire sessions to practicing the proper shooting stance. Start from the low ready or the holster, in a relaxed position. Then take two steps forward and assume the shooting stance. Mix it up with turning and assuming the stance, or stepping sideways and assuming the stance.
Getting into a proper shooting stance needs to be quick and smooth no matter which direction you’re moving from or to.
Written by Brian Purkiss - always a student, sometimes a teacher.
I don't consider myself a competition shooter - I think of myself as a performance pistol shooter. I am all about performing at as high of a level as possible. Towards that end, I am obsessive about learning how to perform. I spend a lot of my life learning from the best across the entire firearms world and even into other areas of performance and other sports. I am a USPSA Carry Optics Grandmaster, currently working towards my second GM title in the Open division.