Handgun Shooting Stances

From The Martial Arts Encyclopedia

Article by Bullshido user Olorin.

The Isosceles Stance

Most new shooters will take this stance almost instinctively. The shooter fully extends both arms towards the target. The shoulders are kept perpendicular to the target and both elbows are locked. The name of the stance comes from how the shooter’s arms and shoulders form an isosceles triangle. The advantage to the stance is its simplicity and the fact that eye dominance is not an issue when using the Isosceles Stance. In addition, the shooter centers his/her weight neutrally or might even lean back slightly.1

Modern Isosceles Stance

In this modification of the Isosceles Stance, the shooter shifts his/her weight forward and stands more on the balls of their feet. The upper body curls forward, and the shooters’ arms are in line with the his/her shoulders. This creates a strong grip that helps control muzzle flip. When done correctly the arms move in and out with the recoil instead of up and down. The shooter needs to relax their shoulders to help in recoil absorption. In addition, the shooter’s head is more forward than in the traditional Isosceles Stance. With the head forward, the shooter’s balance is further shifted forward and giving a clearer view of the pistol sites in relationship to the target. The advantage to this modification is that it solves the problem of muzzle flip associated with the Isosceles Stance. Also, It is simpler that the push/pull dynamic required to properly execute the Weaver Stance. 2

Isosceles stance.

The Weaver Stance

This popular shooting stance was developed by Deputy Sheriff Jack Weaver in the late 1950s. Both elbows are belt with the dominant arm bent less than the support arm. The dominant hand (the one holding the pistol) pushes forward while the support hand (wrapped around the pistol) pulls back. The goal of this push/pull technique is to create isometric tension that will control the recoil of the pistol and provide accuracy and control for quick follow up shots. The shooter aligns his/her body at a 45-degree angle to the target and places the dominant hand and foot back foot back. 2, 3

Weaver stance.

The Chapman or Modified Weaver Stance

This stance is identical to the Weaver Stance but had one important difference. In the Modified Weaver, the shooter locks strait his/her dominant hand and arm. This modification helps with the trembling that some experience while using the Weaver Stance. If properly done, the shooter can still take advantage of the push/pull aspect of the Weaver Stance to control muzzle flip. Also, with the dominant arm locked straight a shooter cannot overpower his weaker arm during times of stress. The tendency to push to hard in the Weaver Stance will cause a (right handed) shooter’s aim to skew to the left.1, 4

Modified Weaver (Chapman) stance.

Bull’s-eye Stance

I will not add too much on this one. The feet are shoulder length apart, you hold the pistol in one hand with the arm outstretched, and place the hand not in use on your chest, hip, or even in a pocket. It is a single handed shooting style popularized by duelists. The advantage of the stance was that it allowes the shooter to make himself a smaller target by turning his body to the side thereby presenting the minimum target possible. Outside of Cowboy Action Shooting, I do not think many use this stance today.5

Bulls-eye stance.

Point Shooting

In general Point Shooting is a technique as much as a stance. Point shooting is designed to allow the shooter to discharge a firearm quickly with no use of the gun's sights. While inherently inaccurate at distances over 30 feet6, a shooter can utilize point shooting in self-defense situations at very close quarters when accuracy is not as important as speed.

Instead of using the gun's sights, the shooter faces his intended target head on with his body, and then points his gun, like a finger, towards the target by raising the firearm along the centerline of his body. The shooter will also be crouched over in what looks like a deep boxing stance. Fairbairn and Applegate, who promoted this method, believed that this stance replicates a person's natural physical response to danger.

Point shooting was used by American and British military intelligence during World War II because it can be taught with under twenty hours of instruction. It is not useful for competition shooting and has therefore fallen out of favor since this war. A full discription of this method can be found in Rex Applegate's book. "Kill or Be Killed" which is now available through Paladin Press.7,8

Point shooting stance.

Supplementary Discussion

See Bullshido thread, "Overview of Handgun Shooting Stances".


  • 6 - Various studies have indicated that most non-military gunfights and shootings take place at distances of 21 feet and under, frequently under low light conditions.