How do you stand when you fire your handgun? Is your first reaction to this question “uuuummm”? Do you even pay attention to how you stand when firing your weapon? If you said “uuuummm” and you don’t pay attention to how you stand, then chances are you need to work on your technique.
Too many times at the range I see people firing weapons, both handgun and rifle, using an improper stance and it drives me crazy. I just want to walk over and correct them. When I see someone firing a handgun and they look like they are relaxing in an easy chair because they are leaning so far back, I just want to scream “lean into it!” “Own that s##t”!
Take a Stance
Note the images below. The triangle stance places the shooter in a front on position standing in a slightly forward crouched position. This leaves his vitals fully exposed to a potential attacking shooter.
On the other hand, the Weaver stance has the shooter in a more vertical forward leaning position with the body twisted exposing less frontal real estate to catch a bullet:
The triangle stance has both feet side by side and both arms straight out in front. The Weaver stance has the feet offset and the offhand elbow down.
I feel that the Weaver position is more stable and pulls the gun in closer to the body allowing for more stability.
Ultimately it is for you to try both and decide what you are more comfortable with. As I mention later, some females may have trouble with the Weaver stance as they may have certain body parts in the way.
I should mention at this point there is a third option: the modified Weaver stance. Honestly, I personally can’t tell enough of a difference between Weaver and modified Weaver to go too in depth about it. To me it just seems like a mix of the Waver and Isosceles. If any readers can enlighten us, please do.
Make it Your Own
I don’t claim to be the end-all of knowledge, I just know enough to be dangerous. To be honest, I always suggest that people take these rigid stances with a grain of salt and modify either stance to be more natural feeling and comfortable to them.
I prefer the Weaver stance, but I actually turn my body more than the illustration shows. I feel that this way I am presenting even less of a target for the other guy, (at least that used to be the case 10-20 years and 50 pounds ago).
I am fairly adept at firing a handgun, better than average, if I do say so myself. I’m not generally one to toot my own horn, but I have been told this enough times that I started believing it.
Although, by no means am I anywhere near the level of the likes of the legends Elmer Keith, Ed McGivern, Bob Munden, Jerry Miculek, or Cisko.
Watch Jerry Miculek be amazing here:
I used these names as these are guys that I admire for their shooting skills. While Mr. Miculek more often than not utilizes a triangle stance when firing a handgun, the other guys have a more “free flowing” form when shooting. That will be my focus.
See the fastest gun that ever lived here, also a good example of point shooting:
If I am merely standing there and target shooting I prefer the Weaver stance (modified to my personal feel), as it feels more comfortable for me. My wife on the other hand uses the triangle stance because she says that she has difficulty with the Weaver stance because of certain things getting in her way. (BooBs)
Practicing correct form with an empty gun is advisable to work on not just your stance, but your trigger pull (squeeze), and all around technique. Practicing will improve your shooting skills.
A lot of the time when I shoot I will practice firing one handed. I do this right handed, which is my dominant hand, and I do this left handed (which is my off hand).
I am not quite as good left handed, but my left handed shooting is better than many people’s shooting in general. This is probably because I have practiced more with my off hand than they have with their dominant hand.
I strongly suggest that everyone learn to shoot one handed, and with either hand. I insist on this for one reason. In an emergency self defense situation, if you try to take the time to position yourself in a “proper” shooting stance and take aim, it will be too late.
You won’t have the time to aim and so you need to learn to point shoot (AKA instinctive shooting/instinctive aiming). Another reason is that if you catch a round in your dominant arm you need to be able to shoot effectively with your off hand. (Ok, two reasons)
I have heard people talk of “front sight indexing,” where you just put the front sight of your handgun on target. This still wastes valuable time because you are looking at the gun. In a self-defense, life and death situation, 1/10th of a second matters, and if you take 1/10th of a second to index the front sight onto your target, it may be too late. Keep your eyes on the target.
Also, if you use one half of your sight system, you will likely not have very good results. You can look at the front sight and have it “on target,” but that doesn’t mean the gun is pointing straight at the target. The weapon could be angled too dramatically for a hit. For this reason, I prefer point shooting for defensive situations.
What’s the Point
With point shooting the desired effect is to develop a level of “feel” with your weapon so that it becomes as an extension of yourself. Just like pointing your finger.
This guy is fast as lightening too, also point shooting.
Practice Makes Perfect
With enough practice, a lot of practice, (no, I mean A LOT of practice), you will develop the ability to hit a man torso sized target (eventually smaller) in close proximity, without aiming, and without even looking at it. Yes, I said without even looking at it.
You will be able to achieve this feat by developing what is known as muscle memory. To learn to point shoot like this, you practice a lot and you practice with an EMPTY GUN.
Instead of live ammo use a snap cap or a spent shell casing in your gun to protect your firing pin (and your body). Otherwise you may shoot yourself like the guy in this video. (That’s why you keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot)
WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE
Just like a mag change drill or an FTE/FTF malfunction clearing drill using snap caps, you can practice this in your house because you will be practicing with an EMPTY GUN using snap caps in place of live ammunition.
When I have shown people in the past how to do this, I tell them there are two parts to the technique. The first part is being able to draw the weapon quickly. (Yes, the second part is hitting the target, I guess the third part is don’t shoot yourself in the leg like that guy did)
How to Do It
Using an EMPTY GUN practice drawing your weapon slowly, repeatedly, over and over until you are sick of doing it, and then do it some more. Then do it some more.
Yep, you guessed it, do it more. If you practice this in your home you can stand in front of a mirror with the pretense that your reflection is the “bad guy” and draw your weapon at yourself.
Standing as far away as reasonable, say 8-10 ft, the image in the mirror appears to be twice that distance, so in effect you are drawing on someone that is 16-20 ft away. Draw the weapon and point it at the chest of the “man in the mirror” and pull the trigger.
At this point I am assuming that since it is your defensive weapon it is a double action, if not then you get to add the waste of valuable time of cocking the weapon (unless you carry your 1911 in condition I carry, then you have to add disengaging the safety).
Whatever the case may be, incorporate every movement necessary to bring your weapon into action. Do not skip any steps during practice or in a real life scenario you will not be effective.
I prefer carrying my double action, de-cocked. This is a loaded magazine, a round in the chamber, safety off. The first shot is in double action mode, subsequent shots are then in single action mode as the auto is now running. Point being, practice in your preferred mode of carry.
Draw your weapon slowly and deliberately at first, going through the full range of motion and following all the way through with the trigger pull at the end. Forget about the 5 point draw technique, too many steps. You want the gun to come out of the holster and pointing at the bad guy then pull the trigger, all in one fluid motion.
Practice Makes Perfect
Do this many times, many THOUSANDS of times. You will begin to develop a muscle memory for this motion. As you develop a muscle memory for this motion you will find that you will be able to do this faster and faster until you will be surprised at how fast you are able to draw and fire your weapon.
Once you have learned to do this to a target directly in front of you, you will next develop muscle memory to fire at targets in your peripheral vision.
Stand in front of your mirror again, slowly turn away from the mirror until you can no longer see your reflection, then turn back toward the mirror until you just see your reflection again, then stop. You have just determined the maximum angle of your peripheral vision. You will do this both to the right and to the left.
Now, repeating the method, slowly draw your weapon and point it at the reflection in the mirror and pull the trigger. Just as you did before, repeat this many times, THOUSANDS of times. Do it with both your right and left hands, and do it both to the right and to the left with each hand.
Don’t twist your body, just move your arm. Repeat this so many times that you are sick of it, and then do it some more. Okay, you already know I’m going to say, do it more, (wax on, wax off).
The following video is a pretty good example showing a single straight ahead shot doing what I’m talking about:
The guy in the previous video earlier in the article was attempting to do this to the left as I explained. He just messed up. A lot of quick draw competition shooters use skip plates, aka deflector plates, at the bottom of their holsters just in case.
You will get to the point that you can draw your weapon and fire at a target with either hand anywhere within your peripheral vision without “aiming” at the target (well, you really are aiming, it’s just another method of doing so).
When you have become comfortable with this, repeat the process again with double taps (Umm, just in case, double tap means you fire two rounds, highly recommended in defensive shooting). Of course when using a .45 ACP with +P 230g Hornady XTP, one shot will do. Anything smaller, double tap. (IMHO)
With the double action being much stiffer, and a longer trigger pull, it is great exercise for your trigger finger. Just as a martial arts instructor makes his class repeat strikes over and over, you will learn your weapon and how to handle it in this manner.
Live Fire at the Range Time
When you have become comfortable with the method and feel that you have begun to learn to point shoot effectively, it is now time to take it to the range. A private range is best for this, as you will be able to set multiple targets, (and you won’t accidentally kill the guy next to you).
If you have to go to an indoor range, rent three lanes and stand in the center lane. It would be best to ask if they allow across lane shooting and explain that you are practicing firing at multiple targets.
Set your targets out and space them three or four feet apart (if outside, if inside the lanes will space them for you). Set the targets at varying distances spaced three to four feet as well and try your new method of defensive firing.
Fire one round into each of the three targets as quickly as you can starting from the ready position. It would be difficult to draw and fire from your holster at an indoor range as you are usually in a “booth” in your firing lane and bumping something could cause an accident. Repeat the method double tapping.
In the Real World
At the range you should practice by sweeping from left to right, right to left, center to left, to right, center to right to left. In a real world scenario if you are accosted by multiple attackers you need to quickly assess which poses the greatest threat and shoot him first.
You then proceed to the next greatest threat in a sweeping motion. Put a round in anyone on the way to the next greatest threat, do not waste movement. Assessing threat level is another skill you must build if you want to be proficient in self defense, but that’s another story.
If you are experiencing a multiple attacker scenario giving one round to each attacker at first is best (just to get them on the ground, running away, or just get them bleeding). Then you can go back and shoot them again if need be, for good measure a head shot is best.
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Anyway, let’s get back on track. When you have become adept at this method of shooting, firing into torso sized targets, repeat the entire process now focusing on smaller and smaller targets. Pretty soon you will be at the range point shooting pop cans from twenty or thirty feet away.
Your defensive weapon is a tool, and like any other tool, practicing with it will make you more proficient. The better you are with your EDC defense weapon the better it will serve you. So, don’t think that just because you aren’t military or law enforcement that you can’t get good with a gun.
Practice often as I have described here, it doesn’t take much ammo (be sure to use a snap cap or spent shell casing) to develop muscle memory and it will improve your abilities. You may surprise yourself.
Eric Eichenberger is an avid outdoorsman, skilled marksman, and former certified range officer and instructor with nearly 40 years experience handling and repairing firearms.
A skilled craftsman with a strong love for working with his hands, Eric spent 20 years as a carpenter and custom woodworker in high end homes. As a gold and silversmith he has created hundreds of pieces of jewelry over the years using the lost wax casting method.
The grandson of humble country folk, he was raised with the “do it yourself” mentality and so is accustomed to coming up with unique solutions to problems utilizing materials at hand.