Pistol Shooting Fundamental Tips

From beginner to expert, back-yard plinker to competition shooter, and from custom builder to first time buyer, pistol shooting is one of the most enjoyable of the shooting sports!  As we continue to impact shooters from all walks of life, it is important to us at PSA to ensure that we ingrain in our students the importance of mastering the fundamentals of pistol shooting.  In this quick post we will provide you wacky shooters with some tidbits of some of the most important aspects of pistol shooting:  Stance and Grip.  Although these two facets of pistol shooting don’t exhaust the list, we feel that these are extremely important to effective pistol shooting.


Weaver Stance
Weaver Stance
Isosceles Stance

In the realm of pistol shooting, there are two common schools of “stance thought” that dominate many a training course:  the Weaver Stance and the Isosceles Stance.  Both of these stance parameters have their merits within the shooting sports world, and shooters have found that both of them work quite well for their specific shooting needs.

The Weaver Stance – Jack Weaver (then a competition shooter and range master at the L.A. County Sheriff’s pistol range), developed the Weaver Stance in the late 1950’s. Weaver developed this technique as an answer to the problem of having to quick draw in a competitive shooting match.  The Weaver stance concentrates on drawing a handgun quickly to eye level and using the gun’s sights to aim more accurately.   Shooting with this technique immediately translated to many competition wins for Jack.  World famous firearms instructor, Jeff Cooper, is actually credited with coining the term “Weaver Stance,” after seeing the immediate benefits and how this stance aided Jack in rapidly placing shots on target.  In the 1970’s when Cooper started what we now know as the Gunsite Training Center, the pistol techniques taught were based on a stylized version of the Weaver Stance.

Using the Weaver Stance, the shooter tends to blade the body, placing the foot on the firing side back and turning the support side foot towards the target. The shooter’s strong (or firing side), arm is extended and the support (off side), arm’s elbow is slightly bent.  This allows the shooter to establish an extremely rigid “push-pull grip.”  While employing this type of grip, the shooter should push out with the firing arm all the while pulling in with the support arm; used to stabilize the weapon.  This should in-turn lock the wrists and minimize muzzle movement.

The Isosceles Stance – Brian Enos and Rob Leatham are credited for the beginnings of the Isosceles Stance as it pertains to shooting pistols.  In the 1980’s Enos and Leatham begin to rack up the wins at I.P.S.C. Competitions using this stance.  This stance uses the support of the skeleton system of shooters to absorb recoil versus using muscle tension in the Weaver Stance.

Using the Isosceles Stance, the shooter tends to face the target square up.  In this stance the feet are set shoulder width (or slightly wider) apart (depending on the comfort of the shooter).  The toes face the target and are parallel. The knees are flexed at an angle that varies somewhat (again depending on shooter preference) and the shooter leans forward from the waist towards the target.  At PSA we like to teach: “Nose over Toes.”  The shooter’s arms are extended and form an isosceles triangle, in which the name of the stance was derived.

At PSA we believe that one of the biggest misnomers of pistol shooting is the reliance on the “proper” stance.  There exists several studies that show that a particular stance, all other things equal, has minimal effect on placing a round where you want it to go.  In opposition to these views, PSA instructors teach students to get in as comfortable a firing stance they can.  As long as the stance provides stable footing, we are good with it.  We teach shooters that their grip, sight picture, sight alignment, etc deserve more focus.

Although there are many benefits to both of these two major schools of thought, there also exists detractors to each stance (of which we will not get into all of them in this post).  The Isosceles Stance gives the shooter good footing and stability from the left and right force positions, but due to the positioning of the feet, frontward and rearward stability is compromised.  With the Weaver Stance, shooters tend to compromise their grip integrity when they blade to their target.  In other words, if you occupy the Weaver Stance and you have to transition to another target (without moving the feet), you immediately compromise the strength and effectiveness of your grip and thus risk the efficiency of your accuracy.

The two pictures above give a good illustration of each type of stance.


Grip 1
Strong Hand Positioning
Grip 2
Support Hand Positioning

Proper Grip – When first gripping the pistol don’t forget your safety rules.  Always assume that a firearm is loaded, and handle with care (i.e. keeping your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to shoot).  Hold the gun with your dominant hand and place it as high as possible on the grip.  Ensuring that shooters have a firm grip on a semi-automatic handgun is paramount.  This is for a couple of reasons….the most important reason is avoiding what’s commonly called “limp wristing” the gun. When a shooter has a weak or loose grip on a pistol, it usually results in the firearm not cycling properly.  This is one of the leading causes that creates malfunctions.  Shooters should wrap their middle, ring and pinky fingers around the base of the grip, just underneath the trigger guard making sure to keep them as close together as possible (no overlapping!!!).   The heel of the support hand should completely fill in the exposed portion of the grip.   Shooters should wrap their index, middle, ring and pinky fingers firmly around the base of the grip, just underneath the trigger guard and firmly around the dominant hand on the other side of the grip.

At PSA we contend that the grip on the pistol is one of the most important facets to shooting.  Making sure that the grip is comfortable yet firm, the most important part of effective shooting is being able to manipulate the trigger from the forward most position to the rear most position without disturbing the front sight.

The two pictures above show a detailed proper grip.  Notice the positioning of the fingers, hand webbing, and thumbs.

***  If you are unfamiliar with firearms and/or their accessories, and want to learn more, PSA strongly suggests that you find, enroll, and attend a comprehensive and reputable firearms safety course. Firearms safety is all of OUR responsibility.  

We want to thank you for taking out the time to stop by our lane at the shooting range!!  We hope that you enjoyed your stay and hope that you stop back by early and often to catch up on all PSA updates!  We truly hope that we were able to hit the target, and if you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to shoot them our way!!  We look forward to shooting the breeze with you soon again!!

And as always….remember to watch your six and stay low!!!

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