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Fundamentals of Pistol Shooting Stances

Overview



Having a proper shooting stance ensures the shooter is able to deliver consistent results when discharging their firearm. There are several elements to a shooting stance which include: Consistency, Balance, Support, Natural Aiming Area (NAA), and comfort. There are three popular stances: The Bench rest, Isosceles, and Weaver positions.

Consistency



First on the list is consistency--the ability to strike the same stance each and every time you go to shoot your firearm. No matter which stance you adopt, you need to practice the stance often, ensuring that you are in the ideal position each and every time to shoot. Practice can occur anywhere, during dry-fire exercises or other drills you adopt. The objective is to train your body and to establish muscle memory where the shooting stance becomes second nature to you.

Balance



Your stance must provide a solid base in which you can remain during the shooting process. This is generally accomplished by having a proper positioning for your feet to remain on solid footing with your shoulders, arms, and weight evenly distributed.


Support



In most instances, shooters are standing when discharging their weapon. This requires sufficient strength to be able to hold the gun away from the body without trembling, holding the gun steady, and the ability to squeeze the trigger without dramatically changing the direction of the pistol.

Natural Aiming Area (NAA)



Your Natural Aiming Area is the position your pistol falls into after your stance has been established. To establish your Natural Aiming Area, take your preferred shooting stance and aim your pistol at the target. Then, while holding position, close your eyes and move the pistol in a circular fashion, settling back into the position you believe you started, then open your eyes. Ideally, your pistol  and sites will be relatively close to where you initially pointed with good sight position and sight alignment. It will never be "perfect" but if you find you're position, the position of the sights, and your sight alignment is relatively incorrect, you can adjust for the error by shifting your feet a little differently or by adjusting your arms up or down until you can achieve the correct results on a consistent basis.

Comfort



The shooting position you adopt must be comfortable for you to use. You cannot aim properly if you are concentrating solely on technique, feet position, arms position or are feeling as if you are forcing or straining yourself to achieve your stance. Practicing your shooting stance during dry-fire exercises is an excellent way to find your ideal comfort zone without using up valuable live ammunition while at the range.

Benchrest Position



The Benchrest position is perhaps one of the most accurate and reliable positions as the shooter does not rely on upper body strength of hold the pistol steady during the firing session, allowing them to concentrate solely on aiming techniques. Under ideal conditions the student finds a natural prop, such as a fence and places their wrists on top, providing a consistent, steady, and comfortable holding position for the firearm. In a controlled, practice environment, the benchrest position is practiced with a table that is comfortably placed, a chair where the shooter may sit, and a variety of shooting bags to adjust for height.

The Isosceles Shooting Position



The Isosceles shooting position is the first and most basic shooting position taught to students who are new to firearms training. The Isosceles is named because when viewed from above, the shooters arms and shoulders for a perfect Isosceles triangle.

For this position, the legs are spread slightly apart with the knees slightly bent with the weight of the body resting on the balls of the feet. Next, the arms are extended with the firearm pointed towards the target and the upper body falls into alignment where the shoulders, arms, and pistol are in complete harmony with one another, ready for the shooter to concentrate on proper sight alignment and acquiring a proper sight alignment.
When viewed from the top, it's easy to see the natural triangle effect that is occurring. Aside from providing a very stable and comfortable shooting stance, during an attack, the shooter can use their upper torso and swing from left to right, encompassing a full 180 +/- degrees, allowing them to remain in a strong shooting stance while scanning for additional threats in their environment. Should a threat be identified, it's very easy to adjust the feet to acquire the threat if necessary. The Isosceles shooting position (or a slight modification of it) is the most popular two-handed shooting stance.

The Weaver Stance



Named after LA County Sheriff Deputy Jack Weaver, the Weaver stance is a modification of the Isosceles shooting position and yet maintains many of its characteristics.

The stance is accomplished by placing the feet in a position similar to a boxing stance with the foot of the strong hand side placed in the rear. The knees are slightly bent with the weight of the body resting on the balls of the feet. The pistol is gripped with the normal two-handed grip while the elbows are slightly bend with the support elbow bend slightly more than the strong hand elbow, causing the pistol to move slightly closer to the shooter. Oftentimes, the shooter will need to bend their head slightly to adjust for sight alignment. The firing hand is pushed slightly into the support hand providing and excellent way to maintain tension and steady the firearm for shooting. Because of the positioning of the feet, arms, and hands, the Weaver position provides greater control over the recoil of the gun after it has been fired, but lends itself for the need to be developed. The positioning of the feet, arms, shoulders may require adopting the stance to fit the individual, causing what is oftentimes referred to as a "modified" Weaver position.

Low Ready Position



The Low Ready position is the position a shooter assumes when preparing to fire their weapon in-between previous shoots when the threat is no longer present or while accessing the area for a viable threat. There are a variety of interpretations for this position with the exact position being left to the firearm instructor to determine which is best.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) teaches the shooter remains with his arms extended while the weapon is lowered towards the ground at a 45% angle to accomplish pointing it in a safe direction but being able to resume the shooting position at a given moment. Some instructors teach to lower the weapon completely down in front of the crotch area with the pistol facing the ground.
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