As a young teen, I attended several sports camps during the summer months and holidays to refine my skills in basketball and volleyball. I distinctly remember that the first few days of camp (and, ultimately, the first few hours of every day) would be solely dedicated to working on foundational skills — otherwise known as “the fundamentals.” For basketball, this meant endless work on dribbling, passing and footwork. There was plenty of running and backpedaling. And for me, as a power forward, there was also a lot of jumping. For volleyball, fundamentals meant endless hours on bumping, passing and digging. (Come to think of it, there was a lot of jumping at volleyball camp too.) Sports camp also meant a laser focus on certain movements and, of course, a lot of work on the athletic stance.
Where am I going with this? Well, sometimes our firearms training involves activities that don’t require shooting — or even a firearm, for that matter. Sometimes we just need to focus on the fundamentals. In almost every firearms training class I have attended, there has been substantial time allotted to the discussion of stance.
I realize that stance is a matter of convenience, and when it comes to the defensive use of the gun, you have no idea what position you’ll be in or how long you’ll be able to stay that way. And I sincerely doubt that you will have time to perfectly adjust your stance during a critical incident. However, when you do have time, you can put some focus on body position and stance and consider how it affects your ability to effectively manage your gun (specifically the recoil). So, for optimum efficiency, you’re going to practice the athletic stance with a little rock and roll exercise.
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.
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.