Shooting Stance: Taking a Stand!

Great shooting starts with how you stand.  I see people shooting with all sorts of weird and wonderful contortions.  It is one of those things, which is invariably the case in sport, if it looks right, it probably is right; the corollary being if it looks wrong, it probably is wrong!  Good shooting should look and feel natural, once you’ve learned the trade.  Not only can a good stance improve your shooting, but in many instances, it can make you a safer shot.  Consider, if you’re off balance, you cannot be in proper control of your gun! 

The reason the stance is vital for successful shooting is because it’s almost impossible to mount the gun properly and have accurate control if you aren’t standing correctly.  If the gun mount is poor, you’re unlikely to shoot where you’re looking.  Novices can initially struggle to stand correctly; assuming the stock of the gun isn’t too long, which can a force poor position, you should get the hang of the stance quickly with a bit of perseverance.

Stance can vary with the type of shooting you’re doing; a sporting stance is different to that for the specialist disciplines like skeet or trap.  In this blog, I’ll talk about the sporting.  To achieve the best shooting posture, I recommend working from the feet upwards.

Put Your Foot Down!

Having good footwork is an important part of the craft of good shooting, be it clays or game.  If you’re new to the sport you may not know that footwork is “a thing” as shooting is a stationary activity.  Footwork not only affects balance but also the position of the shoulders, which in turn affects the movement, swing and the line of the gun.

I recommend your feet are shoulder width apart to create a solid base.  If they’re too close together you’ll feel unstable and may lose balance; if they’re too far apart (cowboy style!) you’ll lack flexibility and fluidity of movement through the hips and upper body.

I also advocate having both feet flat on the ground.  Whilst some people shoot very well with the heel of their back foot off the ground or in some cases with only the tip of their toe on the ground, to my mind this is not 100% stable; why do this when you can shoot as easily from the far more solid position of both feet firmly on the ground?

The classic foot placement for right-handers, for shooting a target directly in front of you, is with your feet pointing at the “five past two” position, if you consider your feet as the hands on a clock face.  For left-handers, it’s “ten to eleven”.  From here you can rotate from side to side easily and with the gun in the shoulder, the neutral position is pointing straight ahead.  When addressing the target, this foot position allows the shoulders to be at 45∞ to the direction of the target creating a shoulder pocket for the gun.  If your feet are parallel and at 90∞ to the direction of the target, you’ll naturally stand sideways “archer style” and lose the shoulder pocket and instead mount the gun onto your arm.

Break a Leg!

What you do with your legs is important for balance and rotation.  Having a slight break in the knee of the front leg and keeping the back leg straight but not locked out allows easier rotation.  If the legs are locked out it’s harder to turn for crossing or quartering targets.  Try it both ways and you’ll appreciate the benefit of flexible knees!  Avoid pushing the front knee forward as this alters your balance and reduces your mobility.

Put Your Back In To It!

The upper body should tilt slightly by bending forwards at the waist resulting in “nose over toes”!  This helps to counter the weight of the gun.  With one particular client who struggles with awareness of what his body is doing, I refer to this as “the bar position”, as it is similar to taking a step forwards to take a drink off the bar, to which he can relate!

Keep Your Head Down!

The head should be slightly forwards, but not in an unnatural way; however, don’t drop your chin.  Essentially your head needs to be in the correct position so the gun can simply be lifted to the cheek without any adjustments, assuming you are shooting “gun down”.

Balancing Act!

If your overall stance is right you’ll find the distribution of weight between your feet favours your front foot; this should be about 60%/40% front to back foot; you’ll know when it’s right as it’s the point the toes on your front foot start to go “grippy” as you bend forwards.  If you feel like you are going to fall forwards, you’ve gone too far!  

You should at this point feel very well balanced and stable with the gun held out in front whilst waiting to shoot.  Importantly, you should also be able to keep the same balance throughout the whole shot, allowing the body to be “still” ie not leaning or lurching, whilst you merely rotate from the hips, enabled by your solid stance.  

I’ve always found stability, assisted by core strength, is a great asset to my shooting.  I was particularly glad of it on one occasion when competing in Chile where they were suffering from after-shocks from an earthquake a year before. It was quite unnerving, but I didn’t fall over and I shot one of my best Olympic Skeet competition scores ever!

These are all poor stances: including poor footwork, feet not planted securely, head position too high and back too upright meaning poor balance.