Today we are going to break down a ton of shooting stances.
They all have pros and cons and depending on what firearm platform you use will change which will be the most beneficial.
Having a solid stance is a vital part of being able to consistently hit your targets. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked or ignored by many new shooters who are trying to find that ideal grip to shoot their guns.
But just like many other sports, the way you stand is going to provide the foundation for the rest of your results. This is the key to being able to put in consistent reps each time you go to the range.
With solid fundamentals, you will be able to adapt from a flat range into more dynamic and uneven terrain without losing your ability to accurately engage targets.
Coming up is the many different techniques people use to shoot both handguns and long guns.
We will be covering not just standing variations, but also other positions for when you find yourself closer to the ground.
Handgun Shooting Stances
Since some of these shooting stances partially transfer to rifle and shotgun shooting we will cover them first.
Also, because it’s inherently harder to shoot a pistol accurately, we’re getting you into fighting shape as quickly as possible.
The isosceles stance was the original bread-and-butter shooting position for pistols.
As the name implies, you are going to want to have an equal length in both arms when presenting. Both legs will be aligned shoulder width apart with toes pointing forward. You will also want a slight bend in the knees and bend forward slightly from your waist.
This is still my go-to stance for flat-range, no-stress shooting.
- Great side-to-side stability
- Feels very comfortable
- It can be naturally accurate
- Can be used with cross-eye-dominance
- While wearing armor, you are gaining full coverage of the plate
- Easy to learn
- Can lack front-to-back balance
Very similar to the original Isosceles position but with one big difference.
In Power Isosceles you have your arms fully extended, which can help out when firing guns with heavier recoil.
This shooting stance become popular in the 1980s as it became widely adopted by competitive shooters.
Stepping your strong side foot back about half a step gives the shooter a more stable base for using larger calibers as well, this may not be necessary for guns with less recoil but is still good practice since it fixes the major flaw found in traditional Isosceles.
This shooting stance is slightly slower than the original Isosceles, about the same speed as the later-mentioned Weaver, and faster than the even later-mentioned Chapman.
- Same pros as Isosceles
- Has front-to-back balance
- Even better recoil management
- Takes a little longer to get in this stance compared to standard Isosceles
The Weaver stance has become more popular than the Isosolces over the years.
Originally developed by Jack Weaver, who was a Deputy Sheriff in Los Angeles County.
When I first started shooting years ago, I tried this shooting stance out many times but felt myself reverting to the Isosceles position as I found it more comfortable.
Back in the early times of learning shooting, you will revert to your most basic understandings of all manner of techniques, since I found the other stance easier to set up, I would choose it over Weaver.
All this does come down to personal preference though and your mileage may vary.
Enough about me, let’s talk about the stance.
To adopt the weaver position, the shooter will put their dominant side foot back two to three foot lengths and angle it approximately 45 degrees away from the target, and extend the dominant arm with a slight bend. The support leg will move slightly forward for balance pointing at the target and the support hand will wrap around the shooting hand with the elbow bent.
This allows the shooter to have a push/pull relationship with their hands which can very effectively manage recoil with some practice. You can do this by pushing forward with your shooting hand while pulling back with your support hand.
A major benefit to the Weaver stance is that you will be able to more effectively engage targets at a wide radius than with Isosceles since the one elbow down allows you to twist your body much easier than having both arms forward.
It also looks a lot cooler than Isosceles, for whatever that’s worth…
- push/push allows you to control recoil effectively
- More front-to-back stability than Isosceles
- With practice, you’ll be able to control lower recoil handguns very well.
- Easier to engage targets in a wide radius
- You are a smaller target for anyone shooting at you head on
- It can be awkward to learn
- Not ideal for cross-eye-dominant shooters
- It’s not fun to shoot high-recoil handguns with this stance
- Can pull armor away from your body and expose your side
- Exposes armpit on the strong side
- This is bad in defensive situations as it leaves a vital pathway to the heart exposed
Two of these cons are for niche situations but reflecting a bit more on it again I remember being at the range wondering how much to pull back with the support hand & push forward with a strong hand + align sights properly + trying to do my best trigger pull was a bit much when learning everything at the same time.
I love the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). For me, instead of push/pull, I’d rather put equal pressure in both hands that are equal length away.
Feel free to fight me in the comments down below 😛
This shooting stance goes by many names, fighting stance, boxing stance, improved/modified Weaver/Isosceles, whatever you want to call it, it’s a solid contender for a go-to shooting position.
As some of these names imply, it was developed by some dudes in the special forces, but it has gained popularity in the military, law enforcement, and civilian shooting alike.
In this stance, you want to position yourself square to the target similar to isosceles.
Your feet will be shoulder length apart with the strong side foot back about half a step. This eliminates the balance issue you might find in the isosceles position.
Bend your knees and lean forward with both arms straight out.
This completes the fighting position.
- Side-to-side stability
- Front-to-back balance
- Feels natural
- Any firearm can be fired from this position
- Honestly, there aren’t any cons
The Chapman stance was created by Ray Chapman and exists as a modified variant of the Weaver.
Similarly to the Weaver stance, it begins with your dominant leg going back at an angle, just not as far. The strong arm will extend straight out with no bend, while the support hand bends downward at the elbow and goes over the support hand.
This stance feels much more relaxed compared to the Weaver stance but it takes a bit more time to assume the position.
Some shooters also like bracing their cheek against their strong arm bicep to gain some rifle stock-style stability.
Since there isn’t as heavy an emphasis on the push/pull action this stance will be much easier for those with less upper body strength
Regardless if you are strong or cross-eye dominant, shooting in the Chapman stance will work for you.
Chapman is also great for shooting higher-caliber handguns. Since you have your strong arm locked fully out, you will be able to absorb a lot of recoil without much muzzle flip.
- The pros from the Weaver stance transfer over to Chapman Stance
- Even better recoil management compared to Weaver
- Works for cross-eye-dominant shooters
- Similar to the cons for Weaver minus the recoil on higher caliber pistols and cross-eye-dominance.
- May be uncomfortable to stretch your neck to your shoulder, leading to muscle strain.
Sometimes you don’t have the option of using both hands. Using the Power Point stance you will still be able to effectively engage close-range targets with your strong or weak hand.
In this stance, you want to step forward with your shooting side foot approximately 2-3 foot lengths. The toes on your shooting side foot will point at the target and the toes on the support foot should rotate 90 degrees for balance. You want to have your knees slightly bent.
Your shooting side shoulder should push out toward the gun and you want to brace your support hand clenched into your chest. It is recommended that your hand faces upward for a more natural feel.
- Can be shot using either hand
- Cross-eye dominance doesn’t matter
- Exposed less of the body in defensive situations
- Less accurate than using two hands
- Challenging with large calibers
- Takes some getting used to
This is the classic one-handed shooting stance used in bullseye competitions.
To start, you want to face 90 degrees away from the target, put your feet should width apart, and stagger them to give yourself more balance.
Your support hand will be nestled somewhere where it is relaxed, such as in your pocket or tucked into your belt.
The shooting hand will come straight out toward the target. It is also popular to bring the arm up slightly higher than the target and then bring the sights back down to the center of the target.
Another popular thing to do is shut your eyes for a few seconds to see if you are still lined up with your target. If not you can shift your body to be more naturally in line with your target.
- Can be shot using either hand
- Cross-eye dominance doesn’t matter
- It can be finely adjusted
- Ideal for Bullseye Competition
- Takes time to set up properly
- Takes some getting used to
Sometimes you might be in a situation where extending your handgun outward would be liable to get it taken from your other otherwise obstructed.
With the Retention stance, you will be able to produce decently accurate shots without the need to extend your arms out and keep the rest of your body out of your guns way.
Similar to the Power Point stance, your support hand will be tightly clenched against your chest. Your shooting hand will be tucked against your body pointing to the target and a couple of inches forward from your stomach. You want to cant the gun slightly away from the body so it does not interfere with you or your clothing.
Since this stance is usually only used in a hasty situation you may not have time to get an ideal foothold but if possible square up to your target with legs shoulder width apart, staggered for balance.
Your support hand can be used to fight off assailants and manipulate objects in your environment.
It is important to keep that gun locked to your side and away from anyone who may try to take it from you.
This shooting stance has one major flaw if using a gun with a ported barrel or compensator when a round is fired the hot gasses will escape upward in your face and eyes.
In a defensive situation, your eyes are a critical lifeline, and impeding your vision could be catastrophic.
- Can be used in close areas
- Makes it hard for someone to take the gun from you
- Very quick to assume the stance
- Requires practice to be efficient
- Not as accurate as other stances
- Cannot be used with ported barrel or compensator
Rifle/Shotgun Shooting Stances
The prone position is the most accurate shooting position. Since you have a ton of contact with the ground it is very relaxed.
If you are in a hurry and you don’t mind potentially hurting your knees you can assume the position by falling on your knees and then down on your stomach.
If you have more time you can cradle your long gun with your strong hand, place your support hand on the ground, kick back or place your legs back in place then lay on your stomach.
Or if time is not important at all you can put down a shooting mat, place your shooting supplies down and get ready in the position with the gun by your side. If you do place your gun on the ground, take time to inspect it for any dirt or mud that may have caked itself into the barrel or around any moving parts before shooting.
When on the ground, you want to keep your strong side arm and leg in line while widening your support leg to stabilize and balance yourself.
Your support arm will do most of the aiming work, while the shooting hand will primarily be responsible for giving the best trigger pull possible.
You can shift your body left and right to engage targets at the flank, as it can be a strain to try and shoot when your arms are not in line with the rest of your body.
- Very controlled and relaxed position
- The most accurate way to shoot a long gun
- Takes a while to assume the position and get out of it
- Your line of sight can be obstructed by larger vegetation and natural land formations
- Required a long flat surface clear of large rocks and other things that might impair your shooting
- Some longer magazines make it challenging to shoot in this position, especially on a decline
If your surroundings won’t allow you to see targets from the prone position but you still have time to set up a longer but more relaxed shooting position sitting might be right for you.
In the sitting position, your body is propped up higher, being able to clear larger vegetation and obstacles.
You want to support both your arms on your legs. Pay attention to not placing bone on bone (elbow on kneecap) since this will make you wobble and be less accurate.
You can sit with legs apart or with them crossed. There is also the option of either having both arms separate or wrapping them together.
It is also possible to prop yourself up against a terrain feature like a rock or tree to put less strain on your back. This allows the position to remain comfortable for much longer than if you are just freely sitting in the middle of a field.
- Can be comfortable for a long time when propped against a rock or tree
- Variety of leg and arm positions
- Will be able to see and engage targets in areas where you wouldn’t in the prone position
- Gets uncomfortable without your back against something
Similar to the sitting position but allows you to get in position much quicker and shoot over obstructions up to hip height.
Your shooting side leg will kneel on the ground giving you a stable stance while the support side leg will have the knee up allowing your arm to rest on the leg, giving your arm a place to rest.
Similarly to the sitting position you don’t want bone-on-bone contact when putting your arm on your leg.
- Quick and easy to get into position
- Allows you to see over hip-high obstacles
- Can get uncomfortable quickly
The easiest shooting position and least accurate shooting position to take. Shooting from the standing position relies completely on your upper body muscles to hold the gun steady while taking the shot.
The shooting stance will ideally only be used for short-range quick shots when you do not have time to get in any other position.
Your accuracy will quickly fall off at a distance especially if you are shooting quickly.
Staggering your legs and having them at least shoulder width apart will help balance yourself.
The long gun should be placed in the squishy pocket in your strong side shoulder with the support hand forward on the stock with your elbow pointing downward.
- Fastest shooting stance to adopt and get out of
- Gives the best visibility
- Least accurate shooting position
- Your arms will quickly get tired
- Follow-up shots will be harder
- Difficult to shoot well at distance targets
The “Hasty Sling”
This is an option to steady your shots while shooting in most positions and can really help when shooting standing.
The Hasty Sling is achieved by wrapping your support side arm through a sling mounted to your long gun and around the sling.
This will allow you to create tension with the sling against your shoulder, giving your arms a break from carrying the whole weight of the firearm.
For the tension to work properly, you need to have the sling at the right length, being loose enough for your arm to go through and loop comfortably around while also being tight enough for it not to have extra length hanging while your arm is looped through.
- Can help stabilize your shots in a variety of the shooting stances we have already mentioned
- You need to have a sling on your gun that is sized correctly to make use of it.
Other assistive devices can drastically help you with making accurate shots, here are a couple of popular options.
A bipod is a two-legged support device that latches to the front of a firearm. Usually using a sling swivel stud or picatinny rail to attach to the gun.
Most bipods can be flipped upwards parallel to the barrel when not in use and folded down when you need them.
Many of them also have adjustable lengths allowing you to change the height it will extend off the firearm.
Some even have hinges that allow them to swivel, letting the shooter level the gun easily.
Most bipods work great for shooting prone, others can extend out to also be useful in sitting and kneeling positions.
Similar to the bipod but with only one leg and is separate from the gun itself.
They can be carried in your kit and can usually be extended for use and collapsed again for easy transport.
They come in various sizes that will assist with sitting, kneeling, and standing positions.
Depending on the environment that you are shooting in you may also be able to create an impromptu shooting stick from a tree branch.
Sometimes you just need to improvise. There are likely many things in your environment that will create a stable platform to rest your long gun on to give you a more accurate shot. These include:
- Tree limbs
- Window ledges
- Ammo can
- The list goes on…
Pretty much anything you can mount your gun onto comfortably can help you, just follow a few best practices for things to go smoothly:
- Know your height over bore. Just because you can see something through your optic, doesn’t mean that it is clearing the barrel. Be careful that your shot is going to clear whatever it is you are propped on.
- Only rest the stock on a spontaneous rest, do not rest your barrel. If you are putting any force on the barrel it can throw off your shot.
- If possible put a buffer between your gun and what you are going to rest it against. This can avoid scratches and prevent dirt/debris from having direct contact with your gun, potentially leading to it getting in your action or down the barrel.
- Watch your hand placement. Don’t overextend your hand from the spontaneous rest as it could lead to injury when the gun recoils.
Summary and closing statements
At the end of the day, shooting stances are not a one size fits all. What works for me may not work as well for you.
Test them all out and see what feels the most comfortable to you.
Not only that but not all shooting situations are the same and some stances will shine in certain instances.
I hope this article has helped you learn something new about how to position yourself when holding your handguns and long guns.
With these shooting stances, you should be able to confidently use your firearms in pretty much any situation you might find yourself in.
Check out our other articles to learn more about firearms, gun safety, and best practices. Until next time this is Tyson and I hope to see you again!