Stances and Evolution

We need one more ‘Weaver vs. Isosceles’ story?
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Lefties do it too — though it looks all-wrong to right-handers, the
Weaver stance works fine for southpaws. However, more folks
are going toward a balanced fighting stance instead.

It’s a running joke among gun writers that if you cannot think of something original, write an X versus Y article. It’s like 9mm vs. .45ACP or even Weaver versus Isosceles. Oh, wait. Fortunately, I have had time to put this together, so it will be about evolution.

GUNS Editor Brent T. Wheat has been accused of being the

The Dawn of Shooting Man

In the beginning, there was Jack Weaver — he was a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff who was shooting the Leatherslap Matches up at Big Bear, Calif. While others were point-shooting with one hand, Weaver got both hands on his revolver and brought it up to eye level. As Colonel Jeff Cooper distilled the best things he saw, he codified a shooting stance as part of what became known as the “Modern Technique of the Pistol.” It was one part of the whole and he named the stance after Weaver.

When I went to the police academy in 1989, I was taught a bladed shooting stance. It differed from how we were taught to stand for field interviews and defensive tactics. The blading led to twisting and torquing the upper body in the opposite direction.

It was a noticeably different position than I was shown during a class at the Los Angeles Police Department in 1991, which was consistent with what I was later taught during my first Gunsite class in 1994.

The Weaver began with your feet shoulder-width apart — side to side, not front to back. The toe of your shooting foot was somewhere between the heel and instep of your non-shooting foot. Both feet were oriented forward, aka “toward the threat.” The non-shooting knee was slightly bent. Your hips and shoulders were damn near squared to the threat as well.

Your head was up rather than hunched down into your shoulders. You pushed your handgun out with your strong arm. Your thumb was up because it was on top of the safety. The shooting hand applied inward pressure from the front and back straps of the frame. Your non-shooting hand was pulling back while squeezing inward to lock the handgun in place. Your hands created the isometric tension needed to mitigate recoil and return the sights to the target or threat.

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A Balanced Fighting Stance with a 12-ga. shotgun in
an indoor simulator at Gunsite.

Back to School

Contrast my academy experience with what I was taught at LAPD and Gunsite. I thought the perceived problems with the platform — excessively bladed or twisted sideways torso — came from instructors’ being multiple levels removed from the source. It was like the game of “Telephone,” the farther you got from the source, the more messed up it was.

I was wrong. It took a while before I learned how law enforcement buggered it up.

Years later, I discovered two things had driven the blading and twisting in the police world.

First, a real concern about gun takeaways and disarming drove the dropping of the strong side hip back away from anyone being contacted.

Second, the fielding of body armor. The early vest panels did not consider the wearer’s comfort or body type. Unfortunately, even with better retention holsters and more ergonomic armor, law enforcement did not consider reversing the blading and twisting.

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During a Gunsite class shoot-off, both students are working
from their balanced fighting stances.

Gunsite Doctrine Evolves

A shooting stance (platform) is a starting point. It is a place where you can work on balance, delivering and absorbing force while being able to move in any direction, including up and down. It is a starting point. In two events that immediately come to mind, one here and the other in the Middle East, I found myself moving laterally and dropping into kneeling quickly.

For years, Gunsite was perceived as a school where you had to shoot 1911s from a Weaver stance. Even though that changed long ago, the belief mistakenly persists, hence this article.

In many places, including the competition world, shooters transitioned from the Weaver to a static isosceles stance and finally to a “modified isosceles.” For several years, many shooters shot this by hunching their heads into their shoulders like a turtle. It negates one of the benefits of Weaver — having your head up while not adding tension and discomfort.

The two most notable changes are how the pistol is gripped and the orientation of the shooter’s arms; specifically, the non-shooting elbow does not visibly bend downward as part of the recoil-controlling isometric tension.

By the late 00s, after the turn of this century — like 15-plus years ago, Gunsite had acknowledged the benefits of differing platforms for some shooters.

Several years later, in 2015, the urban legend about having to shoot Weaver was lingering on. The then-training manager authored a piece on the universal fighting stance and now collectively we have settled on the term “balanced fighting stance.”

Movement will be key to survival in a fight unless one is behind impenetrable or unapproachable cover. As a starting point, your feet are still shoulder-width apart side to side, and your toes are pointed toward the threat. Your weight is on the balls of your feet, biased to the non-shooting leg, and your knees are slightly bent. Again, your hips and shoulders are nearly square to the threat or target. Your head is as upright as possible — regardless of the firearm you are employing — but not tilted back. Both arms are extended in front of you, though not locked.

Your strong hand applies inward pressure on the frame from the front and back straps while your support hand presses in from both sides. The pistol’s design affects the angle of your grip and where your thumbs go. Thumb safeties require a higher thumb placement than pistols with nothing more than slide stops.

Our knowledge of interpersonal conflict has evolved. With that, there has been a greater understanding of how we apply various skills. Changes in the shooting platform we teach have been part of that evolution.

An upright stance is a starting point, and you should be able to adapt it to the changes in your situation — this starting point is a Balanced Fighting Stance.

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