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Stance and Recoil

Most shooters start-out with a stance that either makes them look like they are going to fall backward or they appear to be bracing for some kind of elephant gun recoil. Fact is, the recoil from a pistol is both quite insignificant and very manageable. And stance has little to do with recoil management.


When a pistol recoils it is looking for a fulcrum, the weakest joint in your stance to absorb its energy. Typically this falls on the wrists. Try as you might, the wrist will always break during recoil unless you are shooting a small caliber round.

And why not let them break? After all, if your elbows broke as much your follow-up would be way worse. The wrists are for the most part the best and most controllable fulcrum to absorb recoil.

So why all the concern about stance? If pistols have a controllable recoil and you should allow your wrists to break, why are we so worried about where we place out feet, leaning into the shot, all that jazz?

Because the physics of self defense aren’t all about strength and recoil management, they are more about preparing you to hold your ground effectively and move quickly.


Put yourself in two different scenarios, the first one you are shooting from a car. Imagine how you will manage recoil. The same as if you were standing? Of course. Strong arms and tight wrists. But are you ready to fight? Nope. You are a sitting duck.

In scenario two, you are standing, facing your target. Shooting with both hands and a strong stance. Now you are ready to fight. You are also ready to get off the X.

Now take a novice shooter that looks like they are being blown over by the wind. You know this stance, they lean back as they present. Are they ready to fight or even move. No. It’s a totally unnatural stance. Regardless of where you place your feet the body follows the head. And if the head is leaning back, guess where the body is gonna go. Not where you want it.

So shooting is more about tactics than it is recoil management. Someone who looks like they are going to fall-over is not ready to fight. They are ready to be eliminated.


There are a lot of trainers who preach a specific stance. Fact is all they are doing is burning into your practice a fighter’s stance. One that prepares you to not only deal with the violence of a live shooting encounter, but prepares you to move as well.

Feet placement is just the beginning. Of course your primary foot, the same side as your primary, trigger hand, should be placed slightly rear of your support foot. But what about the knees, back, shoulders, and head? Are they important? It’s all important.

The most effective shooters stance has five parts:

1.) Feet Placement - Primary foot slightly behind support foot

2.) Knees - Slightly bent

3.) Back - Slightly humped forward, leaning into the gun

4.) Shoulders - Elevated into your ears

5.) Head - Hunched down to

Level with your sights

A slight bend in your knees allows you to position yourself on stable or unstable ground. You don’t want locked knees because this prevents you from adjusting your body squarely with the target. And it sets the stage for motion.

Hunching your back slightly tightens your stomach muscles, it locks your entire core allowing you to prepare for not only what is sure to be multiple rounds on your target, but also any surprises that come like another perp attacking you from the side or a physical attack by your target.

Elevating your shoulders into your ears, comfortably, locks your upper body. Loose shoulders translate into loose accuracy. You want tight muscles during your press and recoil.

The head is more about keeping it stiff and mental state than anything else. Remember you are practicing to defend yourself. If your head is not squared-off at the target but just sitting back with squinted eyes, you are not prepared for battle.


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