Throughout history, men have developed entire curriculums for training in the use of their era’s weaponry. Some of the existing manuals of medieval European and Japanese sword fighting illustrate the fact that body mechanics have always been an integral part of wielding weapons. Any form of fighting, and any form of fighting tool, dictates an entire body structure to wield it to full effect. Shooting a handgun is no exception.
Many instructors are moving away from term “shooting stance” and starting to refer to a “shooting platform.” The reason for this is that “stance” is somewhat of a misnomer in regard to shooting as what the legs are doing actually don’t matter that much as long as the upper body is positioned in a weight-forward posture so as to lean into the recoil of the gun. I think of shooting platform as the entire mechanism of the body working together to run the gun. This symbiotic relationship starts with the weight-forward body position, but also involves the structure of the arms and, indeed, the grip on the pistol.
The fundamental skill that truly separates great shooters from the masses is the grip. However, most only consider the grip in terms of how the hands are placed on the gun. The structure of the arms have a huge influence on the grip and the body mechanics behind the arms also work towards controlling the gun.
Most firearms instructors will talk about shooting stance even in basic instruction. While the stance is important, overemphasis on just the “stance” is common. Think about the dynamics involved in defensive shooting: in a fight you might end up shooting from a shooting stance, or not. If you need to shoot from the ground while laying on your back, is that a stance? If you need to shoot while on your knees, is that a stance. How about laying face down over a car hood, what stance is that? However, in any position we can maximize the body structure to run the gun as effectively as possible.
Problems in body mechanics and shooting platform are common among new shooters and those with experience alike. Among new shooters we often witness the natural inclination to lean backwards, almost out of a fear of the gun in the hand, mental attempt to distance the face from the gun. Also among new shooters we see very exaggerated crouches, leaning into the gun. The problem here is that, while this might place the weight forward, mobility is limited. As shooters receive good training and apply themselves to dedicated practice these issues tend to go away and the shooting stance starts to look very natural, rather than forced.
Even among experienced shooters the body mechanics pose consistent problems, much of which can be attributed to the grip. The grasp on the gun itself tends to be the root cause for the majority of deficiencies, and the structure of the arms directly influences this as well.
The next four articles will cover the primary considerations in the shooting platform. Stay tuned.