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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

Halfway Up

We've laid the foundation with your feet and knees, so let's talk about your waist. It's natural to bend slightly forward at the waist. Again, this is preparation for either taking flight or fighting. If you were to stand straight up with your back stiff you could be easily knocked over, and you certainly don't run with your back stiff and straight. So instead, get into this crouched stance. It's also known as a "combat crouch."

In a crisis, you'll also automatically protect your windpipe by lowering your chin. You can't fight if you can't breathe. Years of evolution have taught us to protect our windpipes so that we can have the air we need to fight-or, in some cases, to flee. Your brain will automatically lower your chin when it recognizes your body is being threatened. Again, this is an automatic response that will occur once your brain has realized that your body is under attack. If it's going to happen in real life under the stress of a fight for your life then why not train this way to be prepared?

Meet the Threat Head On

The last area to discuss, and probably the most important when talking about stances, is the fact that under stress you're going to face your adversary straight on, square to the threat.

Turn on the nature channel and watch any predatory animal hunt its prey or get into a dispute with another predator. They don't stiffen their backs and legs or turn sideways to their adversary. They crouch down and face the danger straight on. We do the same things.

Both of our eyes are open because we are visual creatures.

Unfortunately, when our startle response kicks in on us another instinctive automatic response that occurs is tunnel vision. This reduces your vision by roughly 70 percent, which means you'll be operating with about 30 percent of your normal field of view.

This again goes back to years of evolution. When people were hunters and gatherers lo those many years ago, as hunters we focused in on our prey because a missed shot meant we went hungry. Plus, sometimes our prey tried to turn around and make us the meal. Because of this we have evolved to focus on the task at hand.

Think back to when you had to tighten a nut that was in a tight spot on your car's engine. Or had to replace a washer and nut on a sink that was in an awkward spot. You don't look around the engine compartment as you're trying to get that nut to fit on the bolt. The last thing you want to do is cross thread that nut and washer onto your kitchen faucet. We focus on the task at hand to get the job done properly. Now take that level of focus and combine it with your startle response mechanism and it's easy to see why we focus on the source of the danger with both our eyes open.

In a real life gunfight are you really going to be consciously worrying about your stance? No, of course not. It will come to you naturally. But knowing this, it only makes sense to train in the same way you'll react under stress during that gunfight. It makes more sense to train the way you're going to react and that is naturally and instinctively. With your feet shoulder width apart, your knees bent and bent slightly forward at the waist with your chin lowered and both of your eyes open.

If you doubt the validity of this stance I can tell you that several police academies have switched over to teaching this stance to their new recruits with dramatic results. Before switching over to this stance it would take approximately 700 to 900 rounds per recruit to get them to a point where they could hit the target consistently. After switching over to teaching this stance to the new recruits it now only takes about 400 rounds to get them up to speed. I firmly believe this results from building a solid foundation on which to build their shooting skills.

Michael T. Rayburn is 27-year veteran of law enforcement and is currently an adjunct instructor at the Smith & Wesson Academy. He is the author of three books, "Advanced Vehicle Stop Tactics," "Advanced Patrol Tactics," and "Basic Gun Fighting 101."

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