Shooting Stance: Does It Matter In A Defensive Situation?

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The stance from which you shoot your handgun is important. It needs to be fast to acquire and provide stability, accuracy and interface with the situation you are in. There is no “one-stance-fits-all” approach.

No single shooting stance is the best for a defensive situation. In turn, you must learn how to fight with your handgun no matter your position.

Why A Fundamental Shooting Stance Secondary In A Defensive Scenario:

  • Proper stance is impractical in many defensive situations.
  • You must be able to adapt to the circumstances at hand.
  • This may entail using many different stances or no fundamental stance at all.

It seems any and everyone associated with firearms training wants a technique or drill tied to their name. Some television/Internet trainers go to great efforts to talk trash about one stance in order to promote their own. This has been a common theme since Jeff Cooper codified the Weaver stance in his Modern Technique of the Pistol.

The Internet is rife with arguments about shooting stances, with proponents preaching the wonders of everything from the Weaver to a turtled-out isosceles. This leaves the average defensive handgunner wondering exactly how they should stand when they’re shooting their handgun.

The problem is that if you go to five different handgun training schools, you’ll learn at least five different stances—or at least five different variations of the same stance. Is everybody right? Are there really that many different ways to skin a cat?

The answer is actually very simple and complex at the same time: They are all right, and they are all wrong. There is no one best stance for shooting a defensive handgun.

MMA Fighters and Boxers

Have you ever watched an MMA (mixed martial arts) fight? If you haven’t, you should. And, you should watch someone who is a really talented mixed martial artist, such as John Jones or Connor McGregor. I say this because fighting with a handgun is a martial art and because you can learn something from fighters who’ve been successful.

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That “something”? Operating out of the same stance is not conducive to winning. The mixed martial artists who are the most successful seem to effortlessly flow from one stance to another. They do this because the different stances allow them to better interact with the different situations they’re in.

Now, watch a boxing match. Boxers tend to stay in the same stance almost all the time. Yes, they might alter it slightly, but not anywhere near the extent to which an MMA fighter will.


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Why the difference? Rules. A boxing match has very stringent rules; it’s a match, not a fight. By contrast, MMA doesn’t have as many rules, and it’s not a match to see who can score the most points (although that is sometimes the case). It’s essentially a fight to see who can kick the other’s … tail.

Gun Competition vs. Real-World Self-Defense

By comparison, during a life-and-death fight for your life on the street, there are no rules, and you cannot out-point your adversary.

Comparing this to the gun world, you’ll find that in competition, most of the really good shooters stick to the same stance all the time. They can do this because there are all kinds of rules and because they know exactly what the course of fire will be. They pre-plan their assault and know how many times they will shoot from each location, when they will move and when they will move there.

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By contrast, during a fight for your life, you might be able to make a quick plan. However, more likely than not, you’re going to have to react/respond to the situation.

You have to be able to use something like a Weaver stance in order to allow your support hand to do other tasks—such as opening doors, operating a flashlight, calling 911 and controlling innocents or loved ones—all while your shooting hand remains ready to engage. You also have to be able to effectively use something such as an isosceles stance and even turtle-up and dump a full-load center mass.

But that’s not all. You need to be able to shoot around, over and maybe even under cover. You need to be able to shoot while moving in any direction, shoot with either hand and perhaps even shoot while you’re on your back, side, backside or tummy. As a point of fact, there is no single shooting stance that will allow you to do all those things.

What about the center axis relock stance? Sure, it’s cool, it can work and, in some situations, it makes sense—especially if you’re filming a movie or teaching a class and want to look “cool.” Just as with shooting from the retention position, the speed rock or point-shooting, there is a place and time when just about any shooting stance will work. Some instructors suggest you find the stance that works best for you and then practice it until you have mastered it.

Hey, great idea! But what if you’re in a situation for which that stance is not practical?

Seamless Transitions

Here’s the deal: You need to be more like an MMA fighter than a boxer. You need to be able to seamlessly transition among various stances to the point at which it really does not seem as if you’re in any particular “named” stance at all.

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You need to shoot from a fighting stance, because if your life is at stake, it is a fight. If you are accosted by a goblin on the street, you might draw into something similar to a Weaver as you remain head-erect and cognizant of your surroundings. When it’s clear the threat is singular, at your front and imminent, you might transition into more of an isosceles. However, at the moment of truth, as you’re dumping a magazine of Golden Sabers center mass, you might turtle-up between round one and the last to execute maximum recoil control and shooting speed.

Don’t get caught up in the shooting stance argument; learn how to fight with your handgun in any situation. The only stance that matters is the one that wins the gunfight. That might be the same stance that wins a shooting match, and, just as likely, it might not be.


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