Martial arts legend Bruce Lee said fighting styles should be tailored to suit the individual. For instance, a big, lumbering person might not have the speed or stamina to engage in a protracted stand-up fight with a smaller, faster opponent. In this case the big man’s best bet may be to grab hold of the smaller fighter and take him down, negating the latter’s speed advantage.
A shorter fighter might close the gap to strike and then evade a taller fighter’s punches and kicks. Conversely, the taller fighter’s strategy should be to use his or her reach to keep the shorter fighter close enough to hit but too far away to counter.
I bring this up to make the point that it’s foolhardy to think one style of fighting—or shooting—fits all. Once you have a firm understanding of firearm safety and the fundamentals of marksmanship, you should start researching different shooting styles and different instructors.
Why? Because if you don’t branch out, how will you know if what you were taught is really the best fit for you? Experience, athleticism, physical impairment, the type of gun you carry, where you carry it and even personal preference are relevant factors in determining what shooting style is right for you.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a dedicated student of the shooting game for more than two decades, it’s that there is no “best” way to shoot a handgun. Ask three world-class shooters what the secret to effective shooting is and you’re likely to get three significantly different answers.
As a recruit in the police academy, I was taught to shoot from a Modified Weaver stance. My instructors emphasized that being “bladed” made me less of a target to a bad guy. Also, the isometric tension created by my shooting arm pushing out and my support side arm pulling in helped with recoil management.
I was taught to clamp over my shooting side thumb with my support-side thumb to lock the pistol firmly in my hands. To rack the slide of my pistol, I learned to pinch the rear of the slide between the heel of my hand and my fingertips then vigorously pull the slide to the rear, allowing my hand to strike my chest after releasing the slide.
Years later, at a police firearms instructor course, I was directed to abandon the Modified Weaver stance in favor of the Modern Isosceles stance, where knees, hips and shoulders were square to the threat. Facing the threat straight on made the best use of my body armor.
With the Modern Isosceles, both arms are fully extended for consistency. Also, the Modern Isosceles is more conducive to movement and engaging threats to the non-gun side than is the Modified Weaver position. The thumbs-forward grip emphasized throughout the course enables the shooter’s hands to wrap completely around the grip of the pistol for optimal recoil control.
At firearms instructor school, I was taught to rotate my gun inboard and pinch the slide between my thumb and fingertips rather than reach over the top and use my fingertips and the heel of my hand to grip the slide. By the end of the course, my shooting and manipulations were better than ever.
Subsequent shooting courses had me bending my elbows so my arms would act as shock absorbers, sending recoil back through my arms as opposed to all the way back to my shoulders. Recoil reaching the shoulders results in excessive muzzle rise and slows shot-to-shot times. This, I thought, was an epiphany.
These days, my shooting platform is a hybrid, with my feet positioned about shoulder width apart, my shooting side leg being much further to back than the Modern Isosceles calls for. The reason? Greater front-to-back stability and to mirror my fighting stance.
My knees, hips, and shoulders are more or less square to the threat, with weight distributed primarily on the balls of my feet, and I lean forward slightly at the waist. My right arm is nearly fully extended, and my left arm is bent (throwback to the Modified Weaver). I employ a thumbs-forward grip, which I prefer to the thumb-over-thumb grip for maintaining control of my pistol.
Like many of today’s top shooters, my friend Dave Spaulding of Handgun Combatives favors a stance more reminiscent of Isosceles than Weaver, yet he still adds a little isometric tension á la Weaver to really stabilize the gun during recoil. Will that work for you? I don’t know, but it works for Dave.
As a case in point, some pros advocate “resetting” the trigger—just releasing the trigger enough for the sear to reset after one shot before firing the next. Others contend resetting the trigger is a waste of precious time, so they release the trigger completely after every shot.
Some recommend using the pad of your index finger to press the trigger, while others recommend inserting the finger farther into the trigger guard so that the first knuckle is in line with the face of the trigger. Are any of these shooting gurus wrong? Of course not. There is no one right way to shoot. Keep an open mind and experiment to find what works for you. You might be surprised at what you discover, and you’ll be better off for it.