The Fighting Posture (a.k.a. Weaver or Isosceles — Which is Better?)
By: Gabe Suarez
OK, this is probably going to aggitate the purists on either side of the fence,
but I never worried about that. Here goes!
The shooting stance you use is irrelevant as long as it provides you with
certain, combat-essential attributes. I am well aware that there are a
multitude of accomplished competitive shooters who favor the Isosceles
Stance, and think Weaver shooters are a bunch of throw-backs. An equal
number of accomplished Weaver shooters believe anyone shooting from an
Isosceles is a dope-smoking pinko infidel.
Some of the loudest proponents of each "system" are very talented individuals
that can probably shoot better in a competition or a shooting school, with a
single hand, and their eyes closed, than the majority of shooters using two
hands. Both of these two prolific environments, however, are a far cry from
the reality of personal combat that they seek to emulate.
For many years I was a firm and exclusive proponent of the Weaver Stance. Heck,
I was a product of the Arizona Vatican. I still favor and use a Weaver-like posture
because it fits my body-type. But, I have also seen and trained with many shooters
who are just as good firing from other positions. I’ve come to the conclusion that
whatever posture you use, or whatever you call it is not as important as making sure
that it allows you to do the following things.
It must allow mobility, it must provide good balance, be aggressive in configuration
and cultivate aggressiveness in the individual using the posture, it must be suitable
for transitioning between hands to guns and vise versa. It must work with all firearms,
not just pistols. It must be suitable as a hand-to-hand combat posture, not just a
A firing stance is a fighting stance. I’m trying to get away from the word
"stance" because it denotes "standing" instead of "moving". Let’s use the word
"posture" instead. Now, let me preface this by saying that I could not care less,
from a combative perspective, how fast, accurate, or doctrinally-correct (Hey, a
new term!) you are in a competition or at some shooting school. Whether an Isoceles
or a Weaver works better in a pistol match or at the "final exam" of some shooting
range is irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter to me what they do in these controlled
environments (no body ever died from losing a pistol match). I’m thinking exclusively
about using whateverweapon is involved to fight against someone at extremely close range.
Many gunfights begin by surprise, at close range, as physical assaults. Often,
you don’t know initially that its an actual "gunfight". Also, you may be in a
physical confrontation that doesn’t call for shooting, so your "stance" must be
suitable for defending yourself physically as well as ballistically.
Here’s a way to look at it. If you were going to search your house armed with a
knife instead of the pistol, how would your posture look? If you knew that the
guy you are holding at the "ready" would charge and try to tackle you, how would
your weight be distributed? If you knew you were about to receive a haymaker in
the face from an oversized steroid abusing hoodlum, how would you stand, how would
your posture be? When you answer these questions, just put a pistol into the package
and you have the ideal shooting "posture".
You’d have a slightly bladed posture, well-balanced, aggressive in appearance,
braced for collision, with your knees slightly bent, and in a manner that you
could move quickly to any point on a 360. That doesn’t sound like a traditional
Weaver or an Isosceles, or any other marksmanship-oriented stance to me. It is
certainly not a "plant-your-feet-face-downrange-and-make-ready" stance.
To the group that thinks "they carry a gun so they don’t have to worry about all
that combatives stuff", let me sober you up. Can you legally shoot the guy who
tries to punch you in the nose? What about the guy who grabs your shirt, ’cause
you accidentally glanced at his date’s skimpy dress? Fighting happens on many
levels and requires an understanding of the dynamics involved, and the rules of
engagement you operate under. Shooting is not always the answer, and it may not
be the answer initially, even if shooting is required as the fight
Your lower body must provide a solid and stable platform from the waist up from
which to fire the shots (or punch, or cut, or whatever). How the feet are positioned
is really not very important. The posture must give you good balance. If you fall
down, you may not get up. The posture must also allow you to move, because when someone
is trying to kill you, and you are trying to do the same to them, you WILL move, or you
WILL die. You must have balance, and you must be able to maintain an aggressive posture.
Who cares what you call it as long as you can be aggressive, balanced, and stable from
the waist up.
"But wait, Batman", you yell out a protest. "What about recoil control, the
‘experts’ say I MUST use a Weaver or my pistol will fly out of my hands".
Take it easy Grasshopper. Your upper body mass and weight is what contributes
most to the management of recoil, NOT the positioning of the arms. That’s why
modern competition shooters use the Iso, because they rely on the upper body’s
mass, and not a tenous tension in the arms to control the movement of the pistol.
Even a malnourished Pee Wee Herman has enough upper body mass to control a 1911.
Its just not as big a deal as we were originally told.
Now in my photos, you notice that my upper body approximates a Weaver, with the
bent support arm, and all that. I hold my upper body that way for uniformity
training between pistols, SMGs, Rifles, shotguns, etc., not to control recoil.
It is also a better fighting posture.
Let’s discuss the overall aggressiveness of the posture. Aggressive, by the
way, is specifically what you want in a shooting/fighting posture. When the
mass of the firearm is above both arms, in what direction will the weapon move
when it recoils? That’s right, straight UP! When you remember that it is
desirable to always shoot a single assailant twice (sometimes, you must him
twice…a number of times!!), this means that you will have some recovery time
between shots. The speed with which those two shots are placed in the adversary
is of critical importance, because we are racing his nervous system to shutdown.
This is paramount to incapacitation.
While aggressiveness in a stance is important, don’t go too far here. You
cannot eliminate the weapon’s recoil by leaning forward so far that your rear
end sticks out like a candidate for a police promotional exam. Also, you should
specifically avoid the straight up erect stance (the "tall in the saddle" stance)
and the backward leaning stance of the bulls eye competitive shooter.
Again, please remember that the intent here is not learning to shoot in the
controlled environment of the firing range to win a shooting medal, or some
guru’s signature on a piece of paper. These are fine pursuits for those whose
interest lies in that area, but it is not the focus of this study.
"But what about the weapon tracking in a uniform and balanced manner like it
does in the Isosceles", some IPSC guy yells out from the other side of the house.
"Tracking?" Who cares. Just hold the pistol on target and hit it as many times
as you need to until he falls down and stops what he’s doing. Uniformity of tracking
is a hair that doesn’t need to be split. Is this an issue at a high-speed leather
Stel Challenge event? Maybe, but I can assure you that it will never cross your mind
in a gunfight.
Stand slightly bladed to the target, at about a 30 degree angle (more or less,
we don’t need a protractor here!), with the support side foot leading by about
half a step. Traditional isosceles shooters will notice that standing straight
on to the target with feet side-by-side is de-emphasized in favor of a slightly
bladed, one-foot forward, attitude. There are various tactical, martial, and
physiological reasons for selecting a bladed posture instead of straight-on
posture: We have greater balance for violent quick movements with one foot
leading the other. We are braced for collision if it suddenly turns into a
contact fight. We are able to keep the weapon protected (using a CQB posture)
from an adversary. And finally, if we need to strike him with the firearm, we
can generate more force impact this way.
Do not exaggerate the 30 degree angle. Turning too much will create tension in
the shoulder area, which in turn will cause lateral stringing of your shots, as
well as rob you of physical power if you have to smash someone with your fist or
Keep the feet, the knees, the hips, and the shoulders in line, without any
twisting of the torso. Holding the pistol in a two-handed grip, extend it
out toward the target. Keep the firing arm relatively straight, although
it need not be "locked". If you want, bend the support side arm slightly
as well, for uniformity of weapons training, and to keep the weapon closer
to the body, although you don’t absolutely need to. This is far removed from
the two locked arms of the traditional Isosceles, the squared-on but relaxed
Modern Isosceles, or the rigid Weaver, but it is a vast improvement for our
purposes (ever try to fire an SMG from Isoceles?).
For those who prefer a strict Weaver oriented stance, forget about that
silliness of pushing out with the "strong arm" and pulling back with the
"weak arm". Just bend the support side elbow in a manner that the elbow
is pointing downward toward the deck. This in turn will place the upper
limbs in a position to create a slight isometric pressure, which will not
only aid in getting indexed on target, but it will also reduce muzzle flip
even more. Notice that the isometric pressure is not an intentional tensing
of the muscles. You do not intentionally "push and pull". It occurs naturally
because of the configuration of the arms. Do not think "push-pull", rather
simply get into a proper posture. Everything else will take care of itself.
Pistol shooting, like any other martial art, is evolving. Part of that
evolution is the realization that shooting is only one facet of the entire
focus. The overall focus is on fighting, and integrating all the force
options. When that is accepted, the issue of whether you fit into one
type of classic stance or the other loses the importance it once had.
The question now becomes, which posture is best suited to my needs. As
long as your mission parameters are met, and you get the best results
you can (you win the fight), who cares how you stand..
About the Author:
Gabe Suarez has served as law enforcement officer for over 15 years, working
SWAT, Undercover, Narcotics, and Gangs. He has been involved in training and
teaching martial arts for thirty years. He conducts training and consulting
for qualified individuals all over the world through Suarez International, Inc.
He may be reached via his website, gabesuarez.com.