The Stance

The excellence of the stance is a major factor in creating conditions for maximum control. A high degree of control is necessary for the delivery of an accurate shot. Every individual possesses a combination of individual characteristics that are peculiar to him alone. Among these are height, weight, proportion of body, development of muscle system, etc. It follows, then, that there cannot be any definite, all-purpose stance which applies equally to all shooters. Therefore, the shooter himself, on the basis of his own particular configurations, must find the variation of stance which provides the greatest degree of stability for his body.

1. The Main Requirements of the Stance: The assumed stance is the position of the human body to support a pistol aimed at a target. Despite the great number of physical differences encountered in any cross-section of shooters, the stance must provide for:

a. The greatest possible degree of equilibrium and stability in the body-weapon system with the least possible strain on the shooter's muscles.

b. A head position which will allow for the most efficient use of the shooter's eyes throughout the sighting and aiming process.

Throughout the process of training it is necessary, therefore, for the shooter to exercise special care in the selection of a stance. The development of a poor stance should be detected and corrected early in the training program. Otherwise, it may require the breaking of deeply ingrained habits later.

Considering the role played by the muscles, bones and ligaments in the creation of stability in the shooter's stance, it is necessary for the shooter to understand the makeup of the human body. See Section Five, Annex I for supplemental information entitled, "Characteristics of the Human Body Relevant to Stance, Position and Grip ".

2. Assuming the stance:

a. When assuming the firing stance, the head must be held as level as possible, so that the shooter can see the target directly in line with the arm and sights. It is necessary to take all steps to eliminate the tilting of the head to the right or left or an excessive tilting forward. It is not necessary to look sideways or to look at the sights from beneath the eyebrows. The head should not be pushed forward closer to the rear sight; neither should the head be tilted back excessively. This causes undue tension upon the neck muscles and, as a consequence, a slight movement of the head develops from fatigue. This may hinder the maintenance of perfect sight alignment.

b. When assuming a firing stance, the shooter must support the extended arm holding a weapon. As a result, the muscular system undergoes considerable strain. It must not only maintain the shooter's body in a definite position but must also exert a counteraction to the rather large weight of the suspended gun.

c. A shooter supporting a weapon constitutes a single system with a common center of gravity (Figure 1-2). Since the entire system is in equilibrium only when its line of gravity runs through the support area, (Figure 1-3), the holding of the weapon causes a change in the relative position of the individual parts of the body. A compensating displacement is brought about by the necessity to create a counteraction to the weight of the pistol and supporting arm. This compensating displacement of the parts of the body changes the shooter's posture. As a result, when he assumes a firing stance, his body takes on an asymmetric position which is unnatural. The preservation of the body's equilibrium in this unnatural posture requires that a greater load be placed upon the muscles and ligaments reinforcing the movable portions of the body.

d. The shooter has the task of finding for himself a suitable stance which will achieve immobility of the body without an excessive strain on muscles.

Let us assume that the shooter takes a stance for firing that will preserve the natural, erect posture of the body. He will strive to keep it erect with small compensating deviations of the muscle system. Thus, the extended arm holding a pistol places great tension on the muscles in the back and shoulders. In addition, if the shooter's figure is examined from the side, it will become obvious that when the shooter's body is kept stiffly erect, the body will be slightly unstable. The keeping of the body rigid will result in early fatigue and cause undesirable movement.

e. What posture should be given to the body in order to best support the weapon with the least expenditure of muscular effort?

Figure 1-2. Situation of the Over-all Center of Gravity of the Entire System

The shooter must hold his body in something less than an erect posture, with a slight rearward bend in the back and the pelvis brought slightly forward. In this posture, the body has the vertical line of the center of gravity shifted back of the axis of the hip joints. In such a pose, the body is kept stable in the hip joints not so much by the work of the muscles, but by strong ligaments. The relaxed immobility of the body is attained by counterbalancing the weight of the upper body against the extended firing arm and pistol, and transfer much of the weight to the spinal column.

f. The selection of the most stable stance will include giving the body a certain degree of bend. As shown by practice, the shooter has nothing to fear in giving his body an asymmetric pose.

g. The stability of the firing arm and weapon depends to an extent upon the correct placement of the feet. This determines the support area for the shooter's body. The most stable and most comfortable stance will be when the feet create a support area in the shape of a trapezoid with the feet placed apart, approximately shoulder width. The toes should be spread apart slightly (Figure 1-3). This placement of the feet creates not only a comparatively large support area, but is also the most favorable positioning of the feet for avoiding muscular strain in the legs.

Pistol Marksmanship

Figure 1-2. Situation of the Over-all Center of Gravity of the Entire System

Pistol Markmanship

Figure 1-3. Placement of the Body's Support Surfaces - Both Feet - in Relation to One Another,

Creating the Support Area for Firing.

Figure 1-3. Placement of the Body's Support Surfaces - Both Feet - in Relation to One Another,

Creating the Support Area for Firing.

h. When assuming the firing stance, the shooter should not attempt to bring the legs too close to one another. Narrow placement of the legs decreases the support area and will result in a lose of stability, causing movement of the firing arm along the horizontal. Do not place the legs too far apart, as this creates undesirable strain on the inner arches of the feet, straining the leg muscles and holding the hip joints rigid, which leads to fatigue and an increase in the arc of movement.

i. In order for the stance to be a stable one, the shooter must, first, distribute the weight of his body, the arm and pistol evenly on both legs; second, the load placed on each leg must pass through the middle of the foot or close to the balls of the feet. When the weight of the body is distributed in this way the body's line of gravity will run through the middle of the support area. The stance will be the most stable when the muscles of both legs carry the same load. The coordinated work of these leg muscles results in the body's weight being alternately shifted in slight corrective moves in order to maintain balance.

j. The degree of strain upon the muscles and ligaments of the knee joints is of importance in the stability of the stance. The insufficiently rigid position of the knee joints will lead to an increase in the body's movement as a whole. By holding one leg straight and keeping the other one partially bent, varying tensions will exert excessive tension on the leg muscles. Inflexible straightening of the legs also causes tension of the leg muscles which leads to a loss of stability.

k. The group of muscles which do not directly participate in maintaining the shooter's body in the vertical position or holding the pistol aimed at the target is the muscles of the left arm and hand, the left-hand portion of the chest, the neck muscles, the abdomen, and the buttocks, must be relaxed as much as possible.

It is necessary to properly position the left or free arm and hand (for right-handed shooter). The free hand should be inserted into the left aide pocket in a relaxed manner, or you may hook the left thumb over the waist belt. In relaxation of the left arm and shoulder, the free arm must not be allowed to hang loose, as any wind or recoiling of the body during firing will cause the free arm to swing, transferring to the body any movement.

l. The pistol arm should be extended with the wrist stiff and the elbow locked without strain. The arm must be straight, firmly extended and with no unnecessary tension of the muscles. This establishes solid arm control.

m. The body weight center of gravity should be brought forward slightly from the center of the support area, with a very slight shift toward the tips of the foot to reduce the action of the balance correcting mechanism. This is apparent in the alternate tensing and relaxing of the muscles of the legs, abdomen and lower back. This action to regain equilibrium is continuous. The body cannot remain motionless because the equilibrium does not remain constant. The constant corrective process causes an almost imperceptible weaving or sway.

3. The stance factor is so essential that a step-by-step summary of all of the points important to a proper stance is in order.

a. Stance must provide for:

(1) The greatest possible degree of equilibrium and stability of the shooter's body and weapon with the least possible strain on the shooter's muscular system, and the smallest movement possible of any part of the body, the shooting arm and the pistol.

(2) A head position which will allow for the most favorable conditions for the operation of the eyes during aiming.

b. During training, the shooter must take special care that he is not developing an incorrect stance or body posture which will require a breaking of habits later.

c. The shooter should become familiar with assuming the proper stance and practice getting the same stance each time it is assumed. The requirements are:

(1) The feet are separated about the width of the shoulders or slightly less, toes pointed out slightly.

(2) Stand up erect and relaxed.

(3) The legs should be straight, but not stiff, knees firmly straight but not rigidly locked.

(4) The hips should be level and in a natural position.

(5) The abdomen should be relaxed.

(6) The shoulders and head should be level. No humping over or slouching with an unnatural tilt to the head.

(7) The non-shooting arm should be relaxed, the free hand in the side pocket or thumb hooked over the belt, not hanging loose.

(8) The pistol arm should be extended with the wrist stiff and the elbow locked without strain.

(9) The body weight center of gravity should be brought forward slightly from the center of the support area, with a very slight shift toward the tips of the feet to reduce the action of the balance correcting mechanism.

Pistol Marksmanship
Figure 1-4. Two Views of an Effective Stance.

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