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Departments : Officer Survival

Finding Your Shooting Stance

Although there are many positions you can shoot from, simplest is often best.

August 01, 2005  |  by Michael T. Rayburn - Also by this author

Over the years different stances, or shooting platforms, have come and gone with various names attached to them. We could list all of them here but that would take a couple of chapters and some of them are just not worth mentioning. Lately some "shooting gurus" have advocated that no particular stance be used during training because out on the street in a "real gunfight" you're not going to be worrying about your shooting stance; you'll just react. In some respects this may be true, but this statement in its entirety is not correct.

Although you will react in a crisis situation, as stated, you'll react in a certain way every time, not at random. You will automatically go into a shooting stance or platform that is natural, comfortable, and instinctive to you. If that's the case, then to hone your shooting skills most effectively you need to consistently train in this stance. Why train the opposite of how you will really react in a gunfight?

I've found that although I automatically find a natural stance when under stress, it's not always easy to mimic the position when forced to reproduce it during training. To help others find their natural stance while training, I've come up with some helpful guidelines.

Building Blocks

While you may be tempted to try interesting new stances each time you hear about them, it's using the same natural stance consistently that will allow you to lay the groundwork for your shooting skills, just like laying the foundation down on a building.

If you don't have a solid foundation for your house, the building will collapse under pressure. If you don't have a solid platform to shoot from, then your ability to return effective fire at your adversary will collapse under the pressure of an actual fight for your life. Don't complicate matters by fighting against your body's natural inclination.

Your body innately reacts in certain ways under stress. Some people refer to these reactions as auto-kinetic responses. An example would be if someone were to quickly and unexpectedly move his hand in close proximity to your face as if he were going to strike you. Your auto-kinetic response would be to close your eyes and turn your head to the side to protect your eyes. In other words, you would flinch. This is an automatic response that cannot be overcome, even with training.

Understand that no amount of training will overcome your instinct to survive and protect yourself. Your auto-kinetic or instinctive responses are going to take control of you under certain circumstances. Even a boxer, someone who trains by sparring and getting struck in the face, is going to have the same reaction as you would if someone were to quickly and unexpectedly move his hand next to his face as if to strike him. This automatic and instinctive response cannot be avoided. Obviously a trained fighter's counter response (attack) is going to be quicker than yours, but his initial response (flinch) will be the same.

With that being said there are certain automatic responses your body will experience under the sudden rapid traumatic stress of a shooting. This is called your startle response or your fight-or-flight response. Whether your brain has decided to fight or to take flight, the instinctive response from your body, in regards to how you position yourself, is going to be the same. This is what you can reproduce on the range for target practice.

From the Ground Up

The first thing you need to realize is that in a natural shooting stance your feet will be shoulder width apart, just like when you run or walk. If your feet are too wide apart, you'll look like a duck waddling down the road-a very slow duck. If you move from a stance that's too wide into a shoulder width stance while shooting, your gun will come off target as you move. Neither of these is a good move in the middle of a gunfight.

The easiest way to find shoulder width is to stand with your feet together as if standing at attention, with your toes and heels touching. Shift your weight on your heels and spread your toes out as far as they will go while still keeping your heels together. Now spread your heels out so they're even with your toes. This is shoulder width for you.

The next section of your body you need to look at are your knees. They need to be slightly bent. This is so you can take flight and run if you have to or to brace yourself and fight if need be.

Lock your knees and try taking a few steps around the room. You probably feel like you're marching in some Third World country's army. Try to imagine moving quickly while getting shot at with your knees locked-not so easy to do. Now stand with your feet shoulder width apart and bend your knees slightly so they're relaxed and comfortable. Do you feel like you're more ready to take action, whether it's to take fight or flight, from this more natural stance? That's because it's the stance you use walking every day.

Tags: Firearms Training

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