Chris doing the pistol shooting stance

Pistol Shooting Stance – The First Habit of Highly Effective Shooters

When introducing proper shooting stance, one of the things I teach my students is to have as many things pointing at the target as possible. This includes your toes, hips, shoulders and thumbs. 

Proper shooting stance is a full body targeting maneuver. In a perfect world, on a flat range with no one shooting back at you, this is easy to do and should be practiced. But ultimately, control of the weapon needs come from the upper body. Your lower body needs to be able to conform to the current tactical situation while the upper body drives the gun. If you’re shooting and moving, find your proper shooting stance by thinking of your lower body like the tracks of a tank and your upper body as the turret. Your lower body is doing everything it can to give your upper body the best platform from which to shoot.

Chris Demonstrating The Pistol Shooting Stance To The Navy SEALs

Proper Shooting Stance Explained

Now that you know how important the proper stance for shooting a pistol is, let’s talk about how to find the ideal pistol stance and what a proper pistol stance looks like. These three elements are the most important factors in what makes or breaks a pistol stance.

Bone Support

A proper shooting stance employs bone support, not muscular support. A strong foundation is as necessary to proper shooting stance as to a well-built house. Think about this: You’re using muscles to hold your weapon on target, you bring your focus back to the front sight and relax…your body is going to move to its natural point of aim and you’re not going to notice this subtle shift because you’re not focusing on the target. A proper shooting stance must factor in good bone support. This factors into finding your pistol stance, or any other type of firearm.

Muscular Relaxation

When considering your ideal pistol shooting stance, you might not have thought of it as a relaxed pose. In reality, proper shooting stance should not be rigid, but fluid and relaxed. Even if you hold yourself in the proper pistol stance for a moment, if you are not relaxed, you will not be able to consistently hold that position. Even worse, if your pistol stance is too rigid, you will be unable to respond to environmental changes (like being shot at). 

Through training and natural point of aim, the shooter will achieve muscular relaxation. The shooter must learn to relax in every pistol stance they use. Undue strain or tension causes trembling, which is transmitted to the gun. When you’re shooting in a standing position, see if you can wiggle your toes. It’s the longest nerve in your body and if you’re relaxed enough to wiggle your toes…you’re relaxed. Learning to relax while maintaining your pistol stance is an essential part of marksmanship.

Natural Point of Aim

Your natural point of aim (NPA) is where you’re “naturally” pointing when all your muscles are relaxed. This is critical to learn, especially if you want to shoot faster, because you will recoil towards your NPA and you will be forcing the sights back on target with each round fired. Choosing a pistol stance which compliments your natural point of aim can help reduce the time spent re-aiming after recoil.

To find your natural point of aim in any pistol stance, once a target is established, close your eyes, take a deep breath and exhale. Next, concentrate on making your body completely relaxed. Doing this will cause the gun to fall to your natural point of aim. Open your eyes and adjust your position by shifting your body until the gun points to the target at the exact point where the bullet is to strike. Do not make any adjustments using muscle. Even very minor adjustments must be made with the lower body. By doing so, you will help train your body to utilize a proper pistol stance which compliments your natural point of aim. 

In a standing position, stand up straight and relax your hips—they will be point towards your NPA. The easiest way to adjust where you’re aiming is by simply pointing your toes in or out.

The secret to shoot any gun faster is having a good Natural Point of Aim.

Obviously, in combat or any timed event, you can’t do this. But if you practice it enough, your body will learn what a good pistol stance feels like, and you’ll naturally end up in a more advantageous position to deal with your threats. Developing your proper stance for shooting a pistol is one of many dry fire training skills you should work on developing while you pave your path to perfection. 

Chris Holding A SIRT Pistol And Showing The Proper Stance For Shooting A Pistol

Proper Pistol Shooting Stance

Now that we have discussed the importance of developing a proper stance for shooting a pistol and how to find your proper shooting stance, you can see why proper shooting stance is my first habit of highly effective marksman in The New Rules of Marksmanship

There is no one pistol stance that is best. Developing that stance is a part of your training. Understanding the body mechanics behind proper pistol stance is more important that simply adopting someone else’s pistol stance. The proper stance for shooting a pistol is two parts mindset, one part body mechanics.

Obviously, there are too many pistol shooting stance variations for me to discuss in a single post while also making sure you read it without falling asleep. If you remember the basic elements of a proper stance when shooting a pistol and put them into practice on the range and in your dry-fire training, you’ll be able to apply them no matter what position your body ends up in when it’s time to deliver effective customer service to someone who asks for it.

Chris doing the pistol shooting stance CTA


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  1. I think, as you mentioned, being relaxed plays a huge part in accuracy. Being too tense or stiff tightens the muscles and slows reaction times. Additionally fast twitch muscle reaction is hampered, not something you want to happen when aiming a weapon.

  2. After reading the 2nd part of the series, get a grip, It sounds like you’re talking about a weaver stance, is that correct ?

    1. I teach a modified isosceles or what I call a combat stance. I only use the weaver for shooting from a sitting position (in a car/out a window) or sometimes while moving.

      1. In first step you wrote ‘adventitious’…is that the word you meant? Maybe ‘advantageous’? Adventitious means by chance.

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