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The Modern or Modified Isosceles Shooting Stance

The Modern or Modified Isosceles Shooting Stance

The Modern or Modified Isosceles Shooting Stance

There are several two-handed shooting stances or positions that can be used when shooting a handgun. Most shooters use two hands to shoot a handgun because it helps with stability by controlling movement, allows a speedier recover from the recoil, and helps with accuracy. Of the many, the Isosceles, Weaver, and Modified Weaver or Chapman Stances are most known and emphasized, like by the NRA. Of course, there is a great deal of controversy regarding the “best stance” and really there is no ONE best stance, but the one that works for you and your purpose. Even one-handed stances and bench rest positions are used for competitions and certain training. Some claim that the Weaver stance is the best “combat-gunfighting” self-defense stance because it offers superior control of the handgun through its push-pull tension and “blading” (or slightly turning your body to the side) to present a smaller target for the bad guys. Others claim that the Isosceles Stance is being used more successfully in actual self-defense situations and by the military and law enforcement at close ranges up to 7 yards because it is more natural to assume it, easy to rotate sideways with it, and absorbs recoil bettter through the arms for more accuracy. Of course, all these claims by the various shooting stance advocates are highly debateable and “it depends.” Application is key for personal success and there are many, different hybrid techniques and applications.

The Modern or Modified Isosceles Shooting StanceSo, there are many variables for one to consider in making their own shooting stance decision. I know I was taught the Isosceles Stance early in my military career about 40 years ago, but since have used the Weaver and now have settled on a hybrid stance. Competitive shooters Rob Leatham and Brian Enos popularized the Modern (or Modified) Isosceles (MI) stance in their shooting matches over the last few years. The Army Special Operations training points out that the MI is the natural position people will adopt when startled by a perceived threat, even when trained in the Weaver or other stances. The MI stance is similar to the “Fighter’s Stance” which aims to keep you in balance and to react quickly and move in any direction easily.

Fighter's Stance

Fighter’s Stance

Just take this Boxer’s Stance and imagine the boxer-shooter holding a gun in his hands. That is the basis of the MI Stance. It is easy and natural to assume it. Proponents of the MI stance point out that you don’t have to think about it and immediately go into the position… that you can utilize your body’s NATURAL position instincts to defend yourself. Again, the best stance is highly debateable and all stances have pros and cons to consider for deciding on YOUR stance. There are many variations of even the MI. One should strive to discover the particular stance that works best for themselves and then engrain that into their training and practice, so muscle memory will automatically resort to that optimum stance for consistency and effectiveness. I have learned myself that Consistency does equal Accuracy when dealing with one’s shooting position.

It is important to understand what the Modern or Modified Isosceles (MI) stance basically consists of. Remember, there are hybrid variations.The shooter keeps the feet apart about shoulder width and positions the SUPPORTING or weak foot AHEAD (about 6″ or so) of the other (like with the Weaver or Chapman stances.) In the MI the shooter LEANS Forward on the balls of his/her feet for better balance and recoil absorption. Moreso than in other Stances. The center of gravity is shifted forward, towards the balls of the feet. The MI encourages the shooter to put more pressure on the forward areas of the feet to keep from becoming flat-footed and loosing balance. In the MI stance, the shoulders are Forward of the hips, and the hips are forward of the knee and lower legs. It is an AGGRESSIVE position.. remember you’re a boxer. Like the regular Isosceles stance, the upper body is generally more SQUARED to the target (but not totally squared) and not excessively bladed (but slightly bladed) or turned to the side like in the Weaver or Chapman stances.

So, the upper body position is similar (but not identical) to the regular Isosceles stance. Both arms are braced STRAIGHT behind the handgun with the elbows at a natural extension and locked or VERY slightly bent like a boxer, depending on personal preference. This also allows two pivot points at both shoulders so you can rotate at the waist and cover the widest area left and right of 12 o’clock, comparable to a tank’s turret that naturally turns side to side. Shoulders are relaxed and down, not hunched upward. Some make this mistake which deviates from a true MI position. Again, what works best for you. To enhance recoil control, the gun is centered and close to the midline of the body. Recoil is absorbed passively by the body through STRAIGHT alignment of both wrists and through both arms. This is unlike the Weaver and Chapman stances that rely on the dynamic push-pull isometric tension technique to actively control recoil. The MI stance relies instead on a natural, static contraction of the hands, arms and wrists, passively absorbing recoil through the straightened arms, wrists, and body, rather than with the hands and wrists as in the Weaver. I know for me the recovery time between shots is faster with the Modern Isosceles and muzzle flip is decidedly less, since the arms, wrists, and body weight are actively involved in absorbing recoil, along with an enhanced firm shooting grip.

The Modern or Modified Isosceles Shooting Stance

Recognize that when the upper body is mostly squared to the target, your peripheral vision is better with the MI stance. Note that the Weaver or Chapman positions naturally limit the peripheral vision of your weak, non-firing side, especially for those that tilt their head to the side to align their sights. I notice that since I am right-handed and aim with my head tilted a little to the right, there is a blind spot on my support side (left.) If you are left-handed, there would be a blind spot on your right. So, the MI position itself allows you to have the greatest extent of wide-field, peripheral vision possible. This is one of the reasons, along with better recoil control, that I switched from the Weaver to the MI Stance. Test it by having a fellow shooter walk 180 degrees around you from about 15 feet away to see how well you can see them when you are aiming. So (at least for me and most), the MI position initially allows me to more easily shoot and swivel especially to my weak side when moving and shooting.

Isosceles Shooting StanceWith the MI stance, the knees are SLIGHTLY bent and the shooter aggressively LEANS forward with his upper body in an aggressive combat manner toward the target. The MI position primarily varies from the Isosceles because you tilt your upper body forward more with the MI. The muscles and tendons of both forearms, the elbow joints, wrists and hands are set in a medium to firm static contraction, depending on the amount of recoil and gun you’re shooting. The rest of the body is more or less relaxed, based on individual preference. The axis of recoil is roughly through the centerline of your body. Stability is achieved by shifting the center of gravity forward and keeping the hands close to the same height as the shoulders in order to keep the arms from pivoting up in recoil. Note that if the shooter is wearing body armor, then the full body armor is mostly exposed to the bad guy with the MI stance enhancing the shooter’s safety, rather than with the Weaver or Chapman that exposes the weaker armpit area of the shooter’s side that is uncovered by the armor when the body is bladed more to the side. Again, there are application variations and hybrids that affect this.

With the MI and its position of the hands, the shooting grip places the heel of the support hand very close to boreline, which decreases the leverage the gun has in recoil as well as placing the tendons of the support hand and wrist in a straight line. This inherent placement in the MI results in a stronger grip in which both wrists are locked and both arms are straight or just slightly bent.

So because of the many advantages and natural nature of the MI Stance, does this mean that the Weaver and Chapman stances are not worth using. Definitely NOT! There are a great number of shooters and competitors who have trained with the Weaver and Chapman and successfully apply them and prefer them for various great reasons and purposes. For several years, I used the Weaver and Isosceles Stances and was moderately successful with them. I changed to the Modern Isosceles and have found I am now comfortable with it and it has helped my accuracy and flexibility. I still must practice regularly and have a way to go for improvement. Recognize that each and every one of the above advantages of the MI stance has counterpoints to consider and that all stances have pros and cons. Try the MI and other stances for yourself to decide which is best for YOU. Continued success!

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  • JoeRospapa

    Great article. I’ve been experimenting myself. I currently shoot modified weaver and think the push-pull (vice tension from the front and rear) makes more sense then the vice tension from the right and left, ( also the shoulder roll is not comfortable for me) but the constant pushing with both arms can aid with getting that muzzle back on target quickly. I will continue to experiment as often as I can afford to buy ammo…

    • Dan in Georgia

      I mostly agree. I think one naturally assumes the stance they are trained in. That said, I think Ayoob is probably right that you feet are wherever the are when it hits the fan and follow your actions in response to the action. Also, civilians don’t generally wear body armor. Getting good shot placement is paramount however you are best at accomplishing that task. As, far as peripheral vision, at the time you are on target isn’t all your focus on the front sight? And, up until then, aren’t you identifying targets?

  • Rocky

    You can only use one? Use the stance appropriate for the angle of attack. If the opponent is off to your right side (for right handers) use the off hand, or single hand presentation. If they are directly in front of you, use the Isosceles (or Modified Isoceles) stance. If the opponent is off to your left side, use the Weaver (or Modified Weaver). On the second, or follow up shots, most people will step into the natural stance that they like the most.

  • Bill Davis

    I agree that the MI stance is a good one as I have used it myself for many years. Since I am left eye dominant and shoot rifles lefty rather than righty, I have found that my right foot forward as in a southpaw position works best for me.

  • Bayou Castine

    This article assumes that sights will be used to pick up the target during a firefight. From
    many sources you can find that “point” or “instinctive” shooting is more likely to be used in distances out to about 15 to 20 feet. The further out the target the more likely ‘sighted’ shots will take place. Both ‘instinctive’ and ‘sighted’ are correct and should be practiced. Which to use depends on the distance to target and size of the target.

    A NYPD study of over 6000 combat cases found that aiming was employed in 20% of the cases. As the distance between the officer and opponent increased beyond close proximity, The aiming or sighting ran from using the barrel as an aiming reference to
    picking up the front sight and utilizing fine sight alignment.

    In 70% of the cases reviewed, officers reported that they used instinctive or point
    shooting. It was used for a variety of reasons: the close proximity of their adversary, rapid escalation of the incident, poor lighting, or the need for the swiftest possible reaction. No sight alignment was employed.

    And in 10% of the cases, officers could not remember whether they had aimed or
    pointed and fired the weapon instinctively. NYPD officers were taught sight shooting. Also, officers with an occasional exception, fired with the strong hand. And remember these are officers that have already been in life threatening situations.

    Try instinctive shooting. Use full dry fire practice [with an UNLOADED firearm] before a large mirror. Quickly draw from your carry position and address your reflection; do not lift your pistol to eye level. Lift it to a position somewhere between ‘low ready’ and eye level [using your favored basic shooting stance] to the level [height] you find comfortable. This will vary from person to person depending on their size, physic, age etc

    Instinctively aim [point] your firearm just above the ‘center mass’. If you watch the muzzle of your reflection you will be able to see the accuracy of your ‘aim’ – usually about ½ inch up/down and left/right – or determine what you need to change to correct your aim.

    Be CAREFUL how you practice because THAT is how you will react in a sudden, real life firefight.

    • Col Ben

      No assumptions. There is no ONE best stance, but the one that works for you and your PURPOSE, e.g. close-quarters combat, competition shooting, target shooting, etc. See my Flash Sight Picture article on this site for more on sight alignment and sight picture. Continued success!

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  • SKIPTORT

    WE LEARNED IN T HE MARINE CORPS TO DO BOTH SIGHT AND AIM. BE QUICK AND HIT THE TARGET ASAP., TO KILL…

  • Mark

    One issue which is never discussed in conjunction with stance is firearm moldel specific grip angle. I have found 1911s and S&W L-frames point properly for me from a Weaver stance. Glock and Ruger LCR sights do not align with my intended point of aim unless and until I lock my elbows.

  • Jimj

    I am not sure why the author thinks it is a good idea to stand in place and exchange gunfire with an assailant. Civilians do not wear body armor nor do I so I am not keen on taking any hits even if I am hitting the bad buy.

    Move first and keep moving as much as possible. When doing this the concept of a stance goes out the window. Shooting on the move is hard to do but well worth learning. Use of good tools like the SIRT laser training pistol really helps to develop this skill.

    It is very hard to find a place to practice this but force-on-force comes the closest.

    • Col Ben

      JimJ Sir, I do NOT believe it best to stand in place and exchange gunfire with anyone. If you are NOT moving, you are probably already dead in a gunfight. There is no ONE best stance, but the one that works for you and your PURPOSE, e.g. close-quarters combat, competition shooting, target shooting, etc. Continued success!

  • sefrein

    Stances are great for training, but fighting? One needs to study Bruce Lee’s fighting stances and adapt your firearm and its use, because you are not going to want to be standing stil,l but if you push your firearm out to the threat half of the work is done, then the shooter must do the rest , yes mostly one handed, it all might all be over in 3-5 seconds, hits will determine the winner. Combat is fluid, being static will get you dead period.

    You may have ten seconds at most to get it done and two places you may still end up at even if you do it all right, the ER or the Morgue? Just my opinion?

    • Col Ben

      There is no ONE best stance, but the one that works for you and your PURPOSE, e.g. close-quarters combat, competition shooting, target shooting, etc. Continued success!

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.bernard.98 John Bernard

    Not only is there no single “best” stance, there is no single “best” stance for all situations. A stance I might adopt in competition will not necessarily work in a combat situation or even translate from one combat situation to the next.

    In general though, I have learned to morph from the modified Weaver. Neither the Weaver nor the Isosceles work exceptionally well in an active shooting environment – action shooting or combat (not for me anyway).

    I remember the admonition we gave to Marines; “don’t ‘John Wayne’ it”…
    Point being, just because it looks cool on the back of a book doesn’t mean it works in real life. I am a firm believer that position, trigger control, grip placement et al, are best learned and adopted over time. I would like to believe we have moved past force-feeding students our preconceived ideas about these based on our person proclivities which are largely based on our personal time on the range and experiences. While what we have learned serves well as a jumping off point, I believe the most valuable lesson is that we are all unique and need to arrive at these decisions based on personal effort and practice on the range while under the watchful eye of those who are coaching us early on.

  • Paul

    I am really just getting into shooting…But I have Played ball for years and I have tried to listen to a few people about how to stand…But Honestly when I try to stand the way they tell me and hold my guns the way they tell me too…I can not hit crap…..but If I use my base athletic stance and hold the gun where it feels natural…Really I am pretty solid shot that way….I am on my toes and my weight is balanced as if Pitching or Hitting…Any thought’s??

  • keiter

    I was taught the Weaver Stance years ago at a shooting class and never questioned it. I was 500 rounds into the break-in of my new Springfield XDS and wasn’t seeing any improvement. Now I tried the MI Stance and have outstanding target performance. Thanks for the article Col Ben.