Shooting Stances & Grip: Isosceles vs Weaver vs Chapman

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Don’t laugh, but chances are if someone just gave you a gun, you would end up leaning back like this person.

Shooting Leaning Stance
Shooting Leaning Stance

Having a proper shooting stance and grip gives you a strong foundation for all the other shooting fundamentals.

But don’t worry, we’ll go over the most popular shooting stances, from Isosceles to Weaver to Chapman (aka modified Weaver), then cover how to have a proper handgun grip that gives you maximum control and recoil dampening.

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Isosceles Stance

The isosceles stance gets its name from the arms and chest making an isosceles triangle.  Kudos if you remember from geometry that isosceles means two sides are the same.

Isosceles Stance, USConcealedCarry
Isosceles Stance, USConcealedCarry

Configuration of Isosceles

Shooter faces the target squarely, feet are shoulder-width (or slightly wider) apart with toes pointed at the target.  Arms are full extended with the gun in the middle of the chest.  There’s a slight lean forward and some bending of the knees.

Isosceles Stance, PoliceOne
Isosceles Stance, PoliceOne

Pros of Isosceles Stance

  • Easier and more natural stance since you are merely “pointing” at the target.
  • The body acts like a turret for easy movement to side targets.  This stance is very popular in shooting competitions for easy transitions to different targets.
  • Doesn’t really matter what eye dominance you are.
  • If wearing body armor, you are getting more protection since you are square to the target.

Cons of Isosceles Stance

  • Potentially less stable if you are pushed foward/backward (pretty stable for side to side), but this is minimized by bending your knees and putting your weight a little more forward.
  • If not wearing body armor, you are exposing a bigger target.

Weaver Stance

Developed in the 1950’s by LA County Sheriff Jack Weaver and since popularized by Jeff Cooper and his firearms school, Gunsite.  The shooter is more at an angle to the target and the arms are bent.

Configuration

Non-dominant leg is forward of the dominant leg with a slight forward lean (“nose over toes”).

Toes are pointed forward and the firing-side arm is extended while the supporting arm is bend.  The shooter employs a “push-pull” grip by pushing with the firing arm and pulling back with the supporting arm.

Weaver Stance, Gunsite
Weaver Stance, Gunsite
Weaver Shooting Stance, USCCA
Weaver Shooting Stance, USCCA

 Pros of Weaver Stance

  • Smaller profile to target (“blading” your body”)
  • Better recoil management with the push-pull method
  • More stable since the feet are now staggered.  Natural stance if you need to balance yourself.

Cons of Weaver Stance

  • Harder to rotate to your non-dominant side since you feel like you’re binding yourself up.  For example, the Gunsite instructor above would have a harder time rotating to his left.
  • Harder for cross-dominant shooters (eg right hand dominant and left eye dominant) since the two are now no longer matched up.
  • If in body armor, you expose your side which normally isn’t armored.
Weaver Stance, GATV
Potential Side Owie

Modified Weaver Stance (Chapman Stance)

Pioneered by competitive shooter Ray Chapman.  Very similar to the Weaver Stance except your shooting arm is fully locked out with the support arm bent downwards.

Configuration

Same as Weaver above except the shooting arm is fully extended, almost like a rifle stock.  Some shooters will also create a cheek-weld on their upper arm.

Chapman Stance, Hickok45
Chapman Stance, Hickok45

Pros of Chapman Stance

  • All of the Weaver Stance
  • Consistency of your arm “stock” and “cheek-weld” to be always the same, instead of hovering in the air with the Isosceles or Weaver.
  • Better recoil management since the firing arm is fully extended
  • Better for crossed-eye dominant shooters since by having a cheek-weld, the opposite eye is more in line with the firearm

Cons of Chapman Stance

  • All of the Weaver Stance minus cross-dominant shooting
  • Might strain the neck muscles

Verdict of the Best Stance

Another of my standard answers…it depends on what you like best and your application.

You can choose based on what comes more naturally to you, if you want to compete in shooting sports later, or if you have eye dominance issues.  And in many cases, what your instructor prefers when you take a firearms class (you are going to take a class right?).

For me, and Hickok45 below, we prefer the Chapman stance because of our crossed-eye dominance issues.

I also like the feeling that my “rifle-stock” is always the same.  And even though I do some competitive shooting, I don’t really see the moving side-to-side binding issue that much.  But don’t take my word for it…try it out for yourself!

And here’s a great video of Hickok45 showing you all the stances, since pictures can only do so much.

Shooting Grip

Teacup Grip
Teacup Grip

Don’t do the teacup grip!

You’re going to start seeing it in a lot of movies and start groaning after you learn how to properly grip a handgun.  We’ll cover modern handguns, revolvers, rifles, and shotguns individually in the next few lessons.  But here are some overall tips on gripping a gun.

Use a strong grip!  You want to be able to control the recoil of the gun and having a strong grip also reduces the movement of the non-trigger fingers.

Use your non-dominant hand to cover as much grip as possible.

Handgun Grip, Thumb Forward
Handgun Grip, Thumb Forward

For more on grip, especially with handguns, check out How to Shoot a Pistol More Accurately.

Additional Learning

For a lot of gun stuff…videos are the best learning tool.  That’s why we created Gun Noob to Gun Slinger…our beginner handgun course to teach you the important stuff…without the attitude.  Or check out our blog based Beginner’s Guide to Guns.

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Tim
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Tim

Thanks for the article Eric. I just completed a conceal carry class here in TN and the instructor required that we all shoot from the isosceles stance. I’ve been shooting in a Chapman stance for 15+ years and switching was so uncomfortable to me. Between that and some minor differences she forced in the grip, I’m lucky I passed the test (and this was at 7 yards!). I went to the range the next day, assumed my normal stance/grip and was shooting 3-4″ groups at 15 yards. I think a part of what feels so off for me is the… Read more »

Jerry Gautier
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Jerry Gautier

Col Applegate taught the Army in the 40s and from his book to shoot in his kill or get killed. After soldiers were taught the basics he went into practical shooting from three positions. The prone which he used from 50 yrds because it was the most stable, Next was kneeling from about 25 yrds and last standing one handed square to the target and it was full arm extended point shooting. He would pivot from left to right and not swing the body or shooting arm. that was from 15 yrds or less.

Enrique
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Enrique

what about Center Axis Relock (CAR)?

David, PPT Editor
Admin

We looked at CAR in another article 🙂

Evan
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Evan

Hey i’m 20 y/o and been getting into guns quite a bit. Your articles have greatly expanded my knowlage on guns and ammunition. I actually am joing the Air Force soon just waiting on a couple of waivers. Anyway despite growing up in a very conservative county and with extended family all in East Texas and Fortworth i’ve had a lot of exposure to firearms but never really shot any myself. So these articles are slowly heloing me move past my noob status and i’m actually having fun learning all of the technicalities. I won’t purchase a firearm before being… Read more »

Ray
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Ray

Eric, Great article and time have changed on what is the correct way to fire a weapon. As far as tea cupping or one handed fire the old WW2 vets we deadly accurate with these types of fire because of the training. Case in point was my father. I could beat him using the rifle because his eyes were older but he could still take me at 5 yards with a pistol up to his death. He was taught the tea cup and one handed shooting but he preferred the on handed technique. Again great article. I work best with… Read more »