When it comes to handgun proficiency, simplicity and consistency are your greatest allies. I’ve honed a steadfast approach to shooting through my years of diverse training in the police academy, martial arts and advanced instructor courses. In the chaos of a self-defense shooting, where adrenaline reigns and split-second decisions matter, your training becomes your foundation. Keeping your shooting stance simple and consistent is key.

The Weaver and Isosceles: Foundations of Pistol Shooting Stance

A woman wearing ear and eye protection, a black jacket and jeans demonstrates the isosceles stance, aiming off-screen.

The Isosceles stance.

Renowned California Deputy Sheriff and competitive shooter Jack Weaver revolutionized handgun techniques with the Weaver shooting stance. Replacing outdated one-handed methods, the Weaver stance involves dropping your strong foot back, pushing the handgun forward, and locking it on target with a solid grip of both hands. It’s a technique that has stood the test of time, and it became the standard in handgun shooting.

Another popular technique is the isosceles stance, forming a triangle with your feet as the base and your arms as the apex. While effective for shooting, especially in controlled environments, its limitations become apparent in dynamic situations. It’s not the stance you’d adopt when navigating a building or covering a suspect.

IFS Stance: Interview, Fight, Shoot

A woman wearing ear and eye protection, a black jacket and jeans demonstrates the Weaver stance, aiming off-screen.

The Weaver stance.

As a certified police firearms instructor since 1986, I advocate for the “interview, fight and shoot” (IFS) stance. Rooted in a boxing stance, it provides a stable foundation while allowing quick transitions between an officer’s primary duties. This position not only offers situational flexibility but also serves as a non-threatening posture, easily adaptable to draw and deploy tools other than firearms.

The IFS stance aligns with the reality of law enforcement scenarios, where officers need to seamlessly shift between various responsibilities. Its adaptability allows for swift response without arousing suspicion, ensuring readiness for any potential threat.

Drawing parallels between sports training and firearms proficiency, sometimes honing your skills involves activities that don’t require shooting. Just as sports camps focus on fundamental movements, defensive firearms classes dedicate substantial time to discussing and practicing stance. Recognizing that a defensive situation may not allow time for perfect adjustments, there’s value in dedicating time to understand how body position and stance impact your ability to manage recoil.

Getting Into a Proper Stance

As you likely know, the athletic stance involves the feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with knees bent and flexible, back straight, chest and eyes up, and weight a little forward on the balls of the feet. This fundamental stance is used in many sports and activities because it is the body’s starting point for almost every athletic movement. It puts you in an optimal position to move quickly in any direction while maintaining balance and control. In fact, just try to execute any movement while resting on your heels and you’ll feel like it takes forever to accelerate in any direction.

So, get in your proper stance and be sure to rock forward a bit on your toes so that you’re able to roll those heels up. Feel free to use a training gun or an empty, cleared pistol to complete the athletic stance with a firearm properly gripped in hand. Be mindful of your feet, and work on this forward momentum to ensure proper stance and effective recoil management.

To ensure you’re in the right position for this activity, you should be able to feel your toes “grab” or curl. You may hear some people say, “On your toes!” You will also be able to lift your heels off the ground without changing anything about your upper body. For example, as you roll your heels up, your ankle, knee, and hip joints will move while your upper body remains almost motionless.

The Rock and Roll Exercise: Custom Work for Optimal Stance

Customize your stance through the rock and roll exercise, exploring the most comfortable, stable platform before advancing to moving while shooting. Before you graduate to moving while shooting, be sure you know (and have had your “knowing” confirmed by a qualified instructor) the most comfortable, stable platform from which to send rounds. A proper stance will make a world of difference in your shooting.

Be sure to bring this skill along on your next range trip. Just keep in mind that if your weight is incorrectly back on your heels as you are shooting, the gun will move more vertically, resulting in poor recoil management, and you may have vertical climb with follow-up shots. You may also notice your toes coming up while shooting, and this may be especially evident when shooting a long gun. While your stance for a rifle or shotgun is slightly altered (with your strong-side foot slightly back from your support foot), the lack of control may show up as a slight rocking movement backward. Just think about rock and roll to get back on track.

Why Does Your Shooting Stance Matter?

In a life-threatening situation, maintaining a stable stance is critical. While it might be simple to stand on a range and fire at a stationary target, the real world demands adaptability. Combat pistol shooting is short-range work, and gunfights are very dynamic. The first rule of a gunfight is to not get shot. If you are involved in a gunfight you need to be moving  — making yourself a more difficult target — and heading toward cover. During this dynamic movement, you may be required to fire. The IFS stance positions you for readiness, ensuring you don’t find yourself fumbling into a shooting stance when every second counts. Flexibility is the key to survival, and mastering your shooting stance prepares you for the unpredictable.

For those looking to elevate their skills further, consider exploring the USCCA’s Marksmanship Simplified and Defensive Shooting Fundamentals courses. These programs delve into the core principles of defensive shooting and marksmanship, offering invaluable insights for anyone serious about firearms training.


This article is a compilation of previous blog posts authored by Kevin Michalowski, Scott W. Wagner and Beth Alcazar.