View Full Version : Handgun Self defense Stance

February 23, 2012, 04:08 AM
I am wondering about 'best' stance for self defense with a handgun.

In the handgun classes I've taken (taught by the State Police pistol instructo) they teach the Weaver and Isosceles stance, incorporating the 'low ready" position.

I believe self defense distances to be very short, within 15 feet, probably less as inter-personal violence is often face to face, or grappling distance. With that in mind, Weaver and Isosceles puts your weapon two feet from your body and right in the bad guys chest. Now that your pistol is within inches of your attacker and your arms extended in front of you it gives the bad guy the opprotunity to slap your pistol/hands turning you off line or to disarm you. You are effectively handing your pistol to the attacker and giving the bad guy a long 'rudder' (your outstretched arms) to steer you with.

It seems to me that a better stance would be the old gun-slinger style. Pistol held at waist and close in to your body. Now you can protect your pistol / self with off hand and or body or even obscure your weapon. With a little practice you'll some find that the bullets go where you are looking or close to it without looking at your sights.

Why isn't this taught?

February 23, 2012, 06:33 AM
i agree with you if the guy is bad breath close, i think most people will agree if there is any space between you step back as you draw your gun at least thats what i was taught. but yeah there will be some cases when you cant extend your weapon. we should probably all train for this as well as shoot while moving.

February 23, 2012, 06:57 AM
Those who say one should take the Weaver Stance or the isosceles stance seem to be thinking a self defense situation is going to be like a firing range.

By the time you Weaver you’ll have been stanced.

I have no intention of trying to shoot a pistol at something 50 yards away. If one gets his jollies by doing that at the range then it’s fine by me, but don’t run your mouth about any stances against some dude coming out of a dark alley or from between parked cars and only a few feet from me.

I practice shooting from the hip and putting it on a piece of typing paper at 20 feet. I can do that consistently.

Anything else in regard to self defense is Forum Ninja BS.

February 23, 2012, 08:21 AM
My preferred stance is whatever I am able to do in the instant that I need to do it in.

February 23, 2012, 08:29 AM
My preferred stance is whatever I am able to do in the instant that I need to do it in.

Indeed. Note with both weaver and iso stance you can pull that pistol close, which is especially effective for in house. Banging around Miami Vice style is probably not the best way to go.

OT but I started one hand shooting the .22 for "in case of" in the last month and I must say, I've started to really get into into it. All of a sudden it feels natural to shoot cowboy one hand style.

February 23, 2012, 10:14 AM
Personally, I like the SUL stance (if you can actually call it a "stance") for just about everything, but especially when moving in close quarters. Its very versatile and allows you to protect the gun and shoot quickly from pretty much any position.

February 23, 2012, 10:18 AM
'best' stance for self defense with a handgun

What ever stance you are in at the time.

Laying on your back after getting knocked down at the ATM

Inside your car during "carjacking"

Setting at a table in a resturant

Setting on you recliner during a home envasion

Standing up with a bunch of goodies while in line a a convience store

Laying in bed

The list is unlimited, but as you can see from the partical list the need to practice one handed.

I believe a min. of 90% of your shooting should be one handed, 60% weak hand, 30% strong hand.

February 23, 2012, 11:02 AM
I might even take it one step further and suggest that any stance, in the sense of planting one's feet and standing still in a proscribed position, is most often inferior to moving. Moving to cover, or to increase distance from your attacker, or just to make yourself a more difficult target by your own motion, is likely to enhance your risk of survival.

February 23, 2012, 11:06 AM
I lke Kraigwy's view. Let's practice one-handed and point-shooting.

Frank Ettin
February 23, 2012, 11:33 AM
....It seems to me that a better stance would be the old gun-slinger style. Pistol held at waist and close in to your body. Now you can protect your pistol / self with off hand and or body or even obscure your weapon. With a little practice you'll some find that the bullets go where you are looking or close to it without looking at your sights.

Why isn't this taught? It is -- actually not exactly that way. Current thinking is to engage near targets from what's called the retention position. This is an intermediate step in the standard draw stroke and has the gun held up at about the level of the pectoral muscle and fairly close into the body.

But this is something covered "down the road" in a normal training progression.

The thing is that one needs to start somewhere. Generally a training program begins with the Weaver and/or Isosceles and the two hand grip. The first goal is to lay a solid foundation of the fundamentals -- trigger control and sight alignment.

Then a training program normally progresses to one handed shooting, both dominant hand only and non-dominant hand only, then various forms of point shooting. And throw in some moving targets, moving and shooting, shooting while moving, multiple targets, etc., and you'll be beginning to get some well rounded training.

February 23, 2012, 11:36 AM
Also, OP was taught by a police instructor. Police are very different from civilians. One of those differences is that police wear armor. Isosceles is a great stance for police officers because it "presents your armor" to your opponent. You square off with them to make sure your armor is catching the rounds to your chest. This is a great reason for police officers to use Isosceles, but a terrible reason for civilians :p

Weaver presents a smaller overall target and allows for easier movement.

But as other posters have said, a bad guy isn't gonna give you time to get into a perfect Weaver stance. You're gonna have to shoot him in whatever position you have to be in at the time. So I just walk around in a Weaver Stance all the time.

February 23, 2012, 03:08 PM
The gunslinger stance you describe is called shooting from retention, and it is taught (in the good classes, anyway).

In addition to that, I teach a "crouched isosceles" because that is probably the position you'll find yourself in when an attack occurs.

February 23, 2012, 04:33 PM
Personally, I don't care for any of the positions where the pistol is too close to the body. For one it's a lot easier to have your arm held against you and be pushed over. Secondly, engaging multiple attackers requires evasion and tactics, firing from a weakened position isn't going to help matters. Third, people have a tendency, regardless of training, to put there strong hand between them and their opponent. Last, defending against an edged weapon from that position means you are actively standing your ground and weakening your defense by leaving only one hand open.

I'm a firm believer that drawing a gun at such distances is going to turn into a fight over the weapon, and open hand skills have more use until you can gain a higher ground, so to speak.

February 23, 2012, 04:54 PM
Its impossible to know what stance to take because its impossible to know what situation you will be in. Whatever stance you can get the gun on the target. I think the perfect stance is for the target range.

If someone shooting in my direction i will be to busy diving for cover to worry about what stance to take.

February 23, 2012, 05:01 PM
Thanks for the comments!


Sounds like a matter of basic v. advanced training.

I am able to safely shoot it the yard and usually practice from the holster (open and concealed) at about 15 feet shooting from the hip, so that my wrist is near my hip and the end of the barrel is just barely in my lower peripheral vision, while stepping back. I often use the traditional tin can for a target.

Greater distances in a self defense situation may be hard to explain to The Man. To be no billed in Oregon requires the bad guy to have motive, opprotunity and ability to cause harm.

February 23, 2012, 05:18 PM

This will give you an idea. Search "Position SUL" in Google for better pics/description on the position....


February 23, 2012, 05:55 PM
I practice shooting from the hip and putting it on a piece of typing paper at 20 feet. I can do that consistently.

Anything else in regard to self defense is Forum Ninja BS.

Oh really? I have no idea what you can do IRL, other than what you write. However, there are realistic, timed competitions, where accuracy and speed are measured. No one who shoots IDPA, USPSA, ISPC, etc uses your methods, at least no one who wins.

Now, regardless of whether you can make hits using your method. If it were faster and more accurate than the method top combat pistol champions use, they would be using it.

I'm in no way saying that Threat Focused techniques aren't useful and worthy of practicing. What I am saying however, is that your writing off, of the tried and true combat pistol techniques as 'Forum Ninja BS' is to be nice, absurd and ridiculous.

February 24, 2012, 10:54 AM
It's probably a good thing targets don't shoot back in competitive pistol shooting, don't you think? If nothing else, it might result in slightly modified positions.

If one reads the available literature from over the years, it is remarkable the differences there are, as well as the similarities. Different writers also certainly had different ideas about the standards for proficiency should be, too. One school thought you needed to be a high-scoring formal target shot before you should even considered anything else handgun-wise. Yet a different school thought that formal target shooting, while fun, was detrimental to combat shooting, meaning where the target could shoot back.

The remarkable thing was that on the combat shooting side of things, the stances were relatively the same. But that was then. Since then, combat shooting games have developed, for which you could thank Jeff Cooper, and an entirely new thinking developed around combat handgun shooting. Little of it seems to resemble the old-styles of handgunnery. About the only thing in common is that handguns do remain in use. The thinking with the new technique seems quite rigid to me, though there are some progressive elements. But since it is all based on what are essentially games, I still wonder if it would hold up under real-life combat situations.

February 24, 2012, 11:18 AM
formal target shooting, while fun, was detrimental to combat shooting,

I'm not buying that one little smidgen, not a bit.

formal target shooting stresses fundamentals, the more you stress these fundamentals, the more they are ingrained, or "muscle memory" if you will.

Then when you are rolling around on the ground, firing your pistol/revolver, whether you know it or not, those fundamentals kick in.

When my "combat" style shooting starts going south, (because I get sloppy) I go back to "bullseye shooting" which always improves my combat or action style shooting.

February 24, 2012, 11:47 AM
But since it is all based on what are essentially games, I still wonder if it would hold up under real-life combat situations.

People have successfully utilized the techniques of Jeff Cooper, et al in real lethal encounters on countless occasions.

I've met quite a few people IRL who dismissed it as 'games', after a trip to the range and being put under the clock, they realized how slow they were. That in a real life 'fight', they had no prayer of prevailing.

Its kind of like saying UFC is a game because you can't gouge peoples eyes out, crush and twist their testicles, etc. Do you really want to fight them with no rules, do you think that will let you win? Being under the clock and competing lets you see how your speed and accuracy measures up to others, without getting killed.

I think of combat hand gunnery as a martial art, because it is. Buying a handgun and ammo, and reading a book, no more prepare you to fight with a handgun, than buying a sword and reading a book would prepare one to fight with a sword.

February 24, 2012, 01:52 PM
Okay, forgive my ignorance (of abbreviations): what is UFC? But I agree, combat hangunnery is a martial art, not a game. But target shooting? And for that matter, how about hunting?

I've never watched a formal target match. The best I can say I've seen is a bowling pin match. Can't say I'd want to learn anything from those folks, especially the ones using .45 autos.

February 24, 2012, 03:01 PM
Its the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

I personally don't like pistol competitions that diverge to far from reality, or use enhanced equipment that wouldn't be carried.

Jeff Cooper fought in WW2 in the Marine Corps. He was very aware of Fairbairn-Sykes, Rex Applegate, etc. When they had the first competitions at Big Bear Lake, point shooting was the predominate style, but they lost, to the two handed eye level technique. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Technique_of_the_Pistol#History

I believe in knowing how to use Threat Focused shooting. Its a valuable tool, but it never has been, or ever will be as accurate as the front sight press.

Watch this old WW2 training video. They taught Threat Focused shooting, but they taught bringing the pistol to eye level, because the closer you get it to eye level, the more accurate you will be.


People really do need training to get started. There is no way anyone can learn martial arts from a book. There is no way they can get on TFL ask for advice on a pistol and ammo and suddenly be competent at defending themselves.

Frank Ettin
February 24, 2012, 04:24 PM
...The best I can say I've seen is a bowling pin match. Can't say I'd want to learn anything from those folks, especially the ones using .45 autos. Getting solid hits quickly on multiple targets isn't a worthwhile skill? Hmm!

February 24, 2012, 05:59 PM
You practice perfect form consciously to give you a good base for dealing unconciously with imperfect situations.

It's like football practice. You spend hundreds of hours working on positioning, leverage, foot placement and whatever else so that you can play minutes in the game in situations that are only a facsimile of what you practiced. If you're thinking about where your feet go when you hit the field don't worry, you'll be back on the bench soon.

I've always thought it similar for self defense training. You get trained in whatever stuff you can, and when the time comes it either pops out (and you win) or it doesn't (and you lose).

February 24, 2012, 07:01 PM
I lke Kraigwy's view. Let's practice one-handed and point-shooting.

Most, by far, videos of actual shootings show two handed shooting, or at least the opportunity to use it if desired.

One handed shooting has it's place for sure, and should be practiced. But should be secondary to two handed shooting. With so much emphasis on situational awareness, that awareness can provide time for a two handed shooting stance, if not extracating one from the situation beforehand.

There are some pretty good shooting instructors and schools out there, and none emphasize one handed shooting over two handed.

Frank Ettin
February 24, 2012, 09:33 PM
Most, by far, videos of actual shootings show two handed shooting...On the other hand, according to the 2009 NYPD Firearm Discharge Report, 38% of officers reporting their shooting technique used in a violent encounter used their sidearm one-handed.

February 24, 2012, 10:23 PM
thank you, nate45, for your remarks and links. In my practice for SD shooting, I find the eye level method (Cooper's Modern Technique) is the only way I can get accuracy and rapid fire together. Especially with a snub nose revolver!!
Just point shooting either from hip or waist high was just a waste of ammo with nothing more than a "spray and pray" effect. I call it the "Hollywood Method".

February 24, 2012, 10:42 PM
Perusing my copy of No Second Place Winner I see Bill Jordan uses every thing from "hip" shooting to the Isoceles Stance and I have always remembered Charlie Askins' definition of the "belly gun"-"You place it against your enemy's belly and pull the trigger." Granted those two gents were a lot more talented than the rest of us, but I think there is something to be said for not relying on The Stance but developing a variety of postures that can be used depending on the situation.

Deaf Smith
February 25, 2012, 12:03 AM

First off the word 'Stance' is something you practice on a cold range and then adapt it to the real world. You learn it well, practice it often, and then adapt as the situation presents itself.

Second, no one 'stance' will solver all problems.

And third, no one stance will fit every individual.

In a general sense you need two, er, 'stances' or maybe three at the minimum.

You need a form of two handed shooting for the times (about 90 percent of 'em) you have the time to use those two hands. This could be a Weaver, Chapman, Isosceles, reverse Weaver, etc.. I don't care what the top competition shooters use, experiment and find out which one works best for YOU.

Then you need a form of one handed fire, or 'stance', for the times you will only be able to use one hand for any number of reasons. These stances are not real codified but usually you step forward with the shooting side's foot and thrust the weapon completely forward before either using the sights or the top of the slide (point shooting that is.)

Lastingly you will need a form of hip/retention shooting for those very fast extreme close range confrontations. Be it speed rock, retention, Center Axis Relock (CAR), 1/4 hip point shooting, etc...

Which 'stance' is best? You need to experiment and find out which. And that means alot of range time which is good all in itself.


February 25, 2012, 02:04 AM
There are some pretty good shooting instructors and schools out there, and none emphasize one handed shooting over two handed.

Probably because the never been in a situation where they had to do a building search, or walk around with a flashlight, or have to open a door, or push a loved one back,push them out of the way of danger, or had to hold onto one bandit while facing another, or push a bandit's weapon aside while he drew his own pistol.

I could go on forever, but you get the ideal. If I were to go to a pistol/revolver class and found the instructor didn't stress one handed (both hands one at a time), I'd find another instructor.

February 25, 2012, 08:30 AM
Let me explain my comment about the bowling pin match I witnessed. I'm not saying being able to clear a table of bowling pins quickly is not a useful skill transferable to a real life situation. I'm just pointing out that some of them weren't very good at it and one or two had pistol malfunctions of some sort. I was very impressed with one man using a S&W double action revolver in .45. He did the fast reload I've ever seen with a revolver.

Without elaborating here, I'd also like to say that "stance" connotes something rather more static than is desirable, although I also realize that it necessarily so. I know from the fencing I did while I was in college that you more or less maintain the same stance all the time but you pretty much move around as much as a boxer, only just back and forth. Now fencing is a good example of a martial sport that has been gamed to the extent that it is virtually unrelated to sword fighting in the same way that a .22 short Olympic target pistol is unrelated to a combat handgun, at least one that's not a .22 rimfire. That doesn't make the whole thing useless, of course, and I'm surprised there isn't more emphasis here (in the forum generally) about practicing with a .22. Maybe it's just understood.

I'm also a believer in one handed shooting, though hardly to the exclusion of everything else. I am not a fan of hip shooting, however, using the literal meaning.

Herr Walther
February 25, 2012, 09:21 AM
During my sheriff's department firarm training we were taught to shoot at point blank range after drawing. Keep your off-hand out of the way.

February 25, 2012, 10:47 AM
Fiddletown and Nnobby45 are both right, if we accept Fiddletown's figures. If 38% shot of the cited shootings were one-handed, that leaves 62%, or a bit over half again as many, being two-handed. Two-handed is a substantial majority and one-handed is a very significant minority, which would seem to be further evidence that defensive shootings are dynamic events that require flexibility and a wide variety of techniques to give one the best chance of survival.

February 25, 2012, 12:00 PM
I really wouldn't presume to try and tell people what to do, or try to coach them on the net. I don't like trying to do it IRL, more less over the net. So the following isn't a how to, its just an example of some of the things I do.

I was just recoil training myself over the last few days. I do it by drawing and firing my S&W 29-2, with the aid of a range timer. I use 300 grain XTPs, loaded over 21 grains of H-110 with a CCI 350 primer. That, along with 250 grain Keith types are my standard .44 Magnum loads.

I prefer the Magna N-frame grips for drawing and point shooting. For me they point well. I usually draw and fire an accurate, one handed, double tap in 1.5 to 1.75 seconds with my .44. I also fire three round, bursts with two hands. I rarely miss the A-zone from 3-7 yards.

After a session with my Model 29-2, my Model 19s, 1911s, Hi-Power, etc seem to have soft recoil. My .44 stings a little, actually more than a little, but not too bad. :)



I've been playing with toy guns and practicing fighting since before I can remember, like 3 maybe. I've always been fascinated by war and martial arts. I got to have my own(thanks Dad:)) .357 Magnum, a Colt Trooper MkIII when I was 14.

What I'm getting at, is there is no way, now at 47, that I can translate a life time of practice into an internet post. Nor can I teach someone else how over the internet. There is no certain handgun one can by, or rote method that will make anyone a gunfighter. There is no 'best' way to stand, etc, it all comes from practice. People who are inexperienced need competent IRL instruction to get them started.

Bubba in c.a.
February 25, 2012, 04:56 PM
at the given distance and circumstances.

If you don`t think point shooting works, revisit the Ruby/Oswald video.