3 Common Pistol Shooting Stances

by Drew Beatty

Shooting a handgun is an individual pursuit. Individuals have many different body shapes, sizes, and arm and leg lengths. What works well for one person may not work well for another. Also, different situations or terrain might require different stances or methods to put accurate shots on target, like shooting around or over obstacles and cover. This article describes three common handgun shooting stances and outlines the specifics of each stance.

Weaver Stance was developed in the 1950s by Los Angeles County Deputy Jack Weaver and was made popular by Col. Jeff Cooper. It is a stance where the shooter is positioned with the feet shoulder-width apart, and the support side foot (left side if you are a right handed shooter) placed ahead of the primary-side foot. You should be standing at about a 45-degree angle toward the target. Both elbows should be bent, and the elbow of the support arm should be pointing straight down at the ground. The arm of your primary side should be pushing the gun out toward the target, while your support hand is pulling the gun toward you.

One drawback to the Weaver Stance is that it can compromise any advantage of wearing body armor by exposing your unarmored side to a potential adversary.

Like the Weaver Stance, the Chapman Stance, named after Jack Chapman and also called the “Modified Weaver Stance,” requires the shooter’s support-side foot (left foot if a right-handed shooter) to be slightly forward of the primary-side foot. The feet are slightly wider apart than the Weaver Stance. The shooter’s weight should be about 65% on the forward foot, so they are leaning slightly forward, which helps to absorb recoil.

Like the Weaver Stance, the support-side elbow is pointed directly at the ground. The difference between the Chapman Stance and the Weaver Stance is that when using the Chapman stance, the primary-side elbow is locked and the arm is fully extended. The secondary hand pulls down on the grip of the gun, and pulls the locked primary arm back into the shoulder socket providing a firm, locked stance.

When using the Isosceles pistol stance, the shooter is facing the target squarely rather than being slightly angled like the Weaver or Chapman stances. The support-side foot can be slightly forward of the primary side foot, but many instructors prefer to see both feet in parallel to each other. The knees should be slightly flexed to help absorb recoil. The shooter should be positioned with the upper torso bent slightly forward, or “nose over toes.” This is commonly referred to as being positioned like a “vulture” or “vulturing.”

Many shooters also hold their shoulders in a shrugged position. Both arms are fully extended toward the target and both elbows are locked. This stance does maximize any benefit of wearing body armor, as the plates would be directly toward the target.

I recommend practicing all three of these stances. When practicing shooting around or over barriers, you may find that one stance works better than another. You may find that you are more accurate in general with a stance other than the one you’ve been using for years. As always, knowing more is better than knowing less, and having a variety of stances to choose from will likely make you a better shooter.

Drew Beatty is a 50 year old husband and father, and a lifetime resident of the great state of Colorado. He is a long-time firearms enthusiast as well as a strong advocate for The Second Amendment.