Shooting Stances Explained: Weaver vs. Chapman vs. Isosceles
You often hear people talking about “point and shoot” when training with your handgun; however, using a handgun is not as simplistic as pointing at a target and pulling the trigger.
Like most things, there are wrong ways, right ways and then better ways to shoot a firearm. Shooting a pistol or revolver takes practice aligning your sights with the target, breath control and careful positioning of your hands on the grip, your fingers on the trigger and even the positioning of your feet and body.
Positioning your body in a way most comfortable for you plays a significant role in your ability to precisely hit your target. If you’re shooting in a position that’s uncomfortable, you have a high probability of missing, even if your gun is tricked out with state-of-the-art optics. That said, the stance (or the position) you choose will affect your sight alignment, recoil management and trigger control.
Due to these factors, it is important to determine which stance is the best for you. Here are the three most common shooting stances, as well as the pros and cons of each stance.
Created by Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff and competitive shooter Jack Weaver in the 1950s, this two-handed, weight-forward firing stance is considered an old school method of shooting by some but still provides enough benefit to remain relevant to this day. Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper of Gunsite Academy fame was such a fan, he included it in his “Modern Technique of the Pistol.”
The stance is comprised of placing your non-dominant leg forward, similar to a boxing position and keeping your dominant leg back for optimal support. Your front foot will have its toes pointing forward, while your back foot will have its toes pointing outward, roughly 45 degrees.
Arm positioning inverted to your foot positioning. Your dominant arm will be fully extended forward with elbows unlocked, with your non-dominant arm slightly bent. The idea is to hold the firearm with a slight push-pull method, meaning your dominant arm will be pushing the firearm away from you, while your non-dominant arm will be pulling the firearm closer to you, ensuring a more stable control between the two.
Lastly, slightly lean forward at the waist and avoid locking your arms. You want to be comfortable while in this position.
Still taught at Gunsite today, instructors have students start with both feet pointing toward the target, hips and shoulders square. The strong-side leg is dropped back a few inches. Director of Training, Dave Starin, says, “We like it dropped back four to six inches from being on the same line as the lead foot and a little bit wider than your shoulders. That puts you in a good fighting stance. You are balanced. That’s the number one thing—you have to get that.”
Pros of the Weaver Shooting Stance:
● This stance has your body “bladed”, meaning slightly angled to create less of a target area for your opponents to hit
● Allows for fast sight picture
● Easier to swing to face targets approaching from the side
● Feet staggering ensures a more stable positioning for your body
Cons of the Weaver Shooting Stance
● Requires upper body strength
● Body blading places an unprotected part of the body forward
● Recoil management is inferior compared to other shooting stances
● Maintaining Weaver Stance can be difficult
The Chapman Stance is also called the modified Weaver.
Originally tweaked by competitive shooter Ray Chapman, this stance maintains all the benefits of the Weaver with some added adjustments for better recoil management and body mobility.
The most significant change from the Weaver stance is the alteration made to the shooting arm’s positioning. Rather than avoiding arm lockout, the Chapman has you fully extend your shooting arm forward, creating a type of “rifle stock” with your arm. This provides better recoil management, as well as the ability to lean your cheek onto your bicep for a steadier sight picture. The non-dominant hand is bent downwards, and the foot positioning is not extended outward as much. This provides better mobility when using this stance over the Weaver.
Pros of the Modified Weaver Shooting Stance
● Extended shooting arm “stock” provides better consistency for both aiming and recoil management
● Requires less upper body strength to maintain
● Extended arm places firearm recoil on the upper body, rather than the wrists like the Weaver stance
● Provides a much easier shooting stance for cross-eye dominant shooters
Cons of the Modified Weaver Stance:
● Slightly slower to assume this position than the Weaver
● Locked out shooting arm and tilted neck could be strenuous over time for some
While nobody seems to be sure where this stance originated from, the Isosceles stance started gaining popularity around the 1980s alongside the increasing action-pistol competition.
It’s the most stable stance and incredibly effective for recoil management. To assume this stance, square yourself up with your target. Spread your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, with both arms pointing straight forward and locked out.
Your firearm should be centered with your chest as you aim at your target straight ahead of you. Your overall body position should form a triangle, hence the name Isosceles. This stance is great for tactical shooting, but it can feel awkward at first.
Pros of the Isosceles Stance:
● Provides maximum peripheral vision while aiming
● Locked out arms provide better recoil handling for the upper body
● Quick to get into position
● Provides better mobility than the Weaver or the Chapman
Cons of the Isosceles Stance:
● Can be strenuous over time
● Legs being squared up and spread apart causes recoil handling issues for the lower body
● Can feel awkward at first
Each of these shooting stances provides their share of pros and cons, so it’s important to try each of them to find which one is most comfortable for you. Your choice in firearms will also affect your choice of stance, so testing out different combinations between the two will allow you to determine which stance is best for you.
What stance do you prefer? Tell us which one and why in the comment section.
Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared on large gun publications like The National Interest, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, SOFREP and more. In his free time, he reviews various optics and guns on his Scopes Field blog.