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Introduction to Pistol Shooting

If you’re here, you probably realize that…shooting pistols

is actually pretty hard!
In the beginning of my shooting experience, I had a lot of
sympathy with the Stormtroopers missing everything
too. At least they had the excuse of a stressful situation!

Let’s get started in making you a more accurate pistol shot

beginning with fundamentals.
Shooting Stance
Some of you might scoff at the idea of how you stand has
anything to do with how you shoot. But think of it as the
foundation of everything. If you have a wobbly base,
chances are it doesn’t take much to mess up whatever is
on top. And loud explosions and recoil have a way of
messing stuff up.
The main thing is to have a stable/comfortable stance that
tilts you a little forward to manage recoil. Don’t worry if
you have ever done that newbie lean (back). Now’s the
time to fix it.

Shooting Leaning Stance

If you want to get more technical, there are the three main
types of stances: Isosceles, Weaver, and Modified Weaver
(Chapman). They are just variations on some foot
placement and what arm is flexed a little more. But just
notice how stable the guy below is and the slight
lean forward. You can brush up on those bad boys.

Isosceles Stance, PoliceOne

Handgun Grip
My first advice received about handgun grip was from the
salesman at my local gun shop. He asked me to grip his
hand with the same strength I’m going to grip my future
1911. I gave him a nice firm handshake while he
proceeded to crush my hand. A dick move, but a
great lesson.
I’m now an advocate of gripping as hard as you can but
not so much that you have tremors. I’ve found that having
a crushing grip on the gun reduces the movement of your
non-trigger-fingers, which is a good thing.
And how you hold the gun also has a huge effect on your
accuracy. You want the web between your trigger finger
and thumb to be as high as possible on the grip to contain
the recoil of the slide moving back and forth.

High Handgun Grip

And because there’s this piece of metal moving back and
forth, you want your forearm in line with the gun to
absorb more recoil.

Handgun Alignment, Bearing Arms

Now that you’ve got your shooting hand grip correct,
let’s take a look at the empty space for your other hand.
Isosceles Stance
The isosceles stance gets its name from the arms and
chest making an isosceles triangle. Kudos if you
remember from geometry that isosceles means two
sides are the same.

Isosceles Stance, USConcealedCarry

Configuration of Isosceles
Shooter faces the target squarely, feet are shoulder-
width (or slightly wider) apart with toes pointed at the
target. Arms are full extended with the gun in the
middle of the chest. There’s a slight lean forward and
some bending of the knees.
Isosceles Stance, PoliceOne
Pros of Isosceles Stance
 Easier and more natural stance since you are
merely “pointing” at the target.
 The body acts like a turret for easy movement to
side targets. This stance is very popular in
shooting competitions for easy transitions to
different targets.
 Doesn’t really matter what eye dominance you
 If wearing body armor, you are getting more
protection since you are square to the target.
Cons of Isosceles Stance
 Potentially less stable if you are pushed
forward/backward (pretty stable for side to side),
but this is minimized by bending your knees and
putting your weight a little more forward.
 If not wearing body armor, you are exposing a
bigger target.

Weaver Stance
Developed in the 1950’s by LA County Sheriff Jack
Weaver and since popularized by Jeff Cooper and his
firearms school, Gunsite. The shooter is more at an
angle to the target and the arms are bent.
Non-dominant leg is forward of the dominant leg with
a slight forward lean (“nose over toes”).
Toes are pointed forward and the firing-side arm is
extended while the supporting arm is bend. The
shooter employs a “push-pull” grip by pushing with
the firing arm and pulling back with the supporting
Weaver Stance, Gunsite

Pros of Weaver Stance

 Smaller profile to target (“blading” your body”)
 Better recoil management with the push-pull
 More stable since the feet are now
staggered. Natural stance if you need to balance
Cons of Weaver Stance
 Harder to rotate to your non-dominant side since
you feel like you’re binding yourself up. For
example, the Gunsite instructor above would
have a harder time rotating to his left.
 Harder for cross-dominant shooters (eg right
hand dominant and left eye dominant) since the
two are now no longer matched up.
 If in body armor, you expose your side which
normally isn’t armored.

Potential Side Owie

Modified Weaver Stance (Chapman Stance)
Pioneered by competitive shooter Ray
Chapman. Very similar to the Weaver Stance except
your shooting arm is fully locked out with the support
arm bent downwards.
Same as Weaver above except the shooting arm is
fully extended, almost like a rifle stock. Some
shooters will also create a cheek-weld on their upper

Chapman Stance, Hickok45

Pros of Chapman Stance
 All of the Weaver Stance
 Consistency of your arm “stock” and “cheek-weld”
to be always the same, instead of hovering in the
air with the Isosceles or Weaver.
 Better recoil management since the firing arm is
fully extended
 Better for crossed-eye dominant shooters since
by having a cheek-weld, the opposite eye is more
in line with the firearm
Cons of Chapman Stance
 All of the Weaver Stance minus cross-dominant
 Might strain the neck muscles

Verdict of the Best Stance

Another of my standard answers…it depends on what
you like best and your application.
You can choose based on what comes more naturally
to you, if you want to compete in shooting sports later,
or if you have eye dominance issues. And in many
cases, what your instructor prefers when you take a
firearms class (you are going to take a class right?).
For me, and Hickok45 below, we prefer the Chapman
stance because of our crossed-eye dominance
I also like the feeling that my “rifle-stock” is always the
same. And even though I do some competitive
shooting, I don’t really see the moving side-to-side
binding issue that much. But don’t take my word for
it…try it out for yourself!

Shooting Grip

Teacup Grip

Don’t do the teacup grip!

You’re going to start seeing it in a lot of movies and
start groaning after you learn how to properly grip a
handgun. We’ll cover modern handguns, revolvers,
rifles, and shotguns individually in the next few
lessons. But here are some overall tips on gripping
a gun.
Use a strong grip! You want to be able to control the
recoil of the gun and having a strong grip also
reduces the movement of the non-trigger fingers.
Use your non-dominant hand to cover as much grip
as possible.

Handgun Grip, Thumb Forward