In the beginning real men shot their pistols one handed. After all if God wanted you to shoot two handed he’d a called it a hands gun, not a handgun. As a practical matter, if you weren’t holding on to your horse’s reins when you touched off a round he’d most likely light out like a scalded cat. You’d spend all day traipsing over Hell’s half acre.
Flash forward to the late 1950’s when a tall and lanky LA Sheriff’s Deputy named Jack Weaver showed up at some “leather slap” type competitions in the Big Bear California area. The match consisted of a man vs. man speed match where he who hit the target first was the winner. On the signal, the shooters would draw and fire, generally from the hip or shoulder, one handed, and without using the sights. Deputy Weaver wondered if there’d be a whole lot less missing going on if he’d bring the gun up in a two-hand hold. VOILA! He began winning with great regularity. People watched as this worked for him. This was not lost on one of Weaver’s compadres and fellow competitors: none other than Jeff Cooper, founder of Gunsite, and father of modern pistolcraft.
It was Cooper and John Plahn who refined the modern Weaver Stance, as we know it today. Although Weaver himself used it solely for more reliable accuracy, Cooper found that adding isometric tension also aided in recoil management. The shooter needed to push out with the gun arm with the same amount of force as the support hand was pulling in. The Classic Weaver has about seven key coordinates. Feet are in a boxer’s stance with the gun foot to the rear and the knees locked. The support arm is sharply bent with the elbow tucked in to the body and pointing toward the ground. Gun arm pushes out as support arm pulls in. You may or may not have to then tip your head down or to the side to see the sights. The FBI liked it. So much so they adopted it as doctrine circa 1981 as I recall.
The Weaver does tend to fall apart under extreme stress. As we all know by now, fine motor dexterity is lost and replaced with exaggerated strength. The equal amount of force the shooter was applying in his isometric hold becomes a case of strong hand overpowering the weak. This will cause the right-handed shooter to throw his shots to the left. The “locked up” position of the Weaver lends itself poorly to traversing, making it necessary to move the feet to address targets to the flank. Last but not least, most body armor is open on the sides so unfortunately the boxer’s stance presents that opening to incoming hostile fire. If you are cross eye dominant, right-handed but “left-eyed” if you will, rotating the head to bring the chin or cheek to the shooting arm bicep should get the dominant eye lined up with the sights.
There was someone else hanging out at that leather slap competitions. A young man who would later be IPSC’s first World Champion and founder of one of the “Big Four” shooting schools in the country: Ray Chapman. There are actually many versions of modified Weaver and Chapman’s is by far the best. There are really only three things to remember in assuming the Chapman stance: take a narrowly bladed boxer’s stance with gun side foot to the rear, lock the gun arm out, and use the support arm to pull the gun arm into the shoulder like a rifle stock. This does solve some of the Weaver’s weak points. First, with the gun arm elbow locked, the limb is extended fully, prohibiting the strong hand from overpowering the weak under stress. Assuming you do not move the feet, the stance will hold up to a greater range of traverse. You may notice that less of the unarmored side is presented toward the target. Cross-eye dominant correction is the same as Weaver.
Different versions of the Isosceles stance have been around for quite some time as well. To be brutally honest, most of them are trash. In the late 70’s and early 80’s the founder of the Lethal Force Institute, Massad Ayoob, was doing intensive research on what techniques worked and what didn’t, subsequently developing his Stressfire system. He strived to find techniques that would not only hold up to extreme stress but feed off the exaggerated strength brought about by the fight or flight reflex. Here’s how the Stressfire Isosceles is achieved. As in all the aforementioned techniques, gun side foot is back.. This becomes the drive leg, digging in to provide stability. Knees should be just off full lock. Both arms thrust out toward the target until fully extended. Head comes forward and down which aides in insuring shoulders are forward of the pelvis. This “proper” Isosceles has many strong points. Neither hand nor arm can overpower the other as they are both completely extended. We have the greatest traverse of all the techniques, achieving 180 degrees or more without needing a step, and lastly armored persons get to enjoy maximum effect from their body armor. Cross dominant correction is super easy. Simply move your head ever so slightly to bring the dominant eye in line with the sights.
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Finally, there is YOUR stance. Some variation on the aforementioned themes, hopefully, but modified by you to fit your particular body. Keep in mind that any good shooting stance needs to come from a strong pyramidal base. The left foot needs to be left and the right foot right. Any stance that puts you on a tightrope will not serve in shooting a full-power fighting handgun with any significant speed. You will have a favorite stance no doubt, but the well-rounded shooter should know them all and be cognizant of their weaknesses and strengths. The boxer has his favorite punch but knows and uses the others as circumstances dictate. So should you.
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