THE REAL COMBAT STANCE
By Robert Stasch
The controversy over which shooting stance is better, the Isosceles or
Weaver, recently arose from its dormancy and confronted police officers
across the nation. Several law enforcement trainees completed studies to
show that certain methods were better than others, and proponents of each
lined up across the fence from each other, ready to debate.
I am a police officer with a number of lethal force shootings under my
and I have found that in real life, when confronted at close range with a
violent lethal encounter, there is a viable alternative combat stance.
one that work, the one that cops have relied on for years, and the one
is as instinctive as throwing a punch, is the old one-handed combat
I challenge you to review real life shootings that cops were involved in
and query them as to how they fired their weapons. I did just that. I
reviewed 100 police officers involved in shootings in the Chicago
metropolitan area and found that three out of every four cops fired one
handed, even though most academies and in-service firearms training
stressed either Isosceles or Weaver and trained exclusively in these
I don't wish to ruffle the feathers of the professional firearms
instructors in this country who tell us that police officers should fire
two handed all the time and that one-handed shooting, the old cowboy way,
has no place in modern law enforcement. What I want them to realize that
police training in the sterile environment of a training session is a lot
different than real life. By-the-book solutions do not always work in
street, a fact proved by the old salt who breaks in a rookie and tells
"Kid, first off, forget everything you learned in the academy. I'm gonna
show you the right way."
What I'm proposing is not make believe but comes from the information
gleaned from cops who fired real guns at real bad guys in real police
lethal force encounters and survived. These cops include me, my partner
and several other super cops in the nation's second largest police force
who have been there, many more than once. All told me that in a sudden,
unexpected attack, the one-handed combat position was the most natural,
comfortable, instinctive and realistic way in which to respond to the
This issue began to bother me several years age. As a street cop and a
firearms instructor, I trained quire actively with my handguns and did
almost exclusively with the Weaver. Then one dark Chicago night, the
balloon went up and I fired one handed, successfully ending a situation
where the bad guy brought a knife to a gunfight.
What I immediately questioned about my performance was why I fired one
handed. I was always taught that in stress situations you responded as
were trained. I always trained in the Weaver, yet on the street I fired
one handed. What a dilemma. And the dilemma grew when the balloon went
again and again. Each time I was successful but afterward, I reflected
ed. Not one time did I even think about the gun, the stance
or the position. All I thought about was getting the gun on target,
sight, press. Each time I was successful. Six times, in fact, and out
the six times, I fired two handed only once. Why?
I took a look at firearms combat training. The officer on the range is
a static position, wither in a shooting booth or with both feet firmly
planted on the shooting line. The target turns and the officer draws
the holster or comes up from the hunt position, two handed, and fires.
Neither of these positions simulate real street situations in which you
not consciously thinking about the fun, the draw or the grip. But on the
range, this is all that goes on in the shooter's mind as he attempts high
scores. Two-handed positions, for most police officers, take a conscious
effort to get into, whereas one-handed shooting is natural.
I also found out that in the real world, the weak hand is usually
when the action begins. The mind can only think and process one thought
a time. And since it is occupied with getting a round into the bad guy,
the mind forgets to tell the weak hand what to do, whether it's to come
into a two-handed hold or to drop whatever it's holding.
While watching television one day, I thought of another reason why the
two-handed shooting stances were not working the way we thought they
should. It was right there in front of me. The Duke was firing one
handed. So were Roy Rogers, Kojak, the Cisco Kid, Sgt. Friday, Bat
Masterson and Lt. Torello. Cops were shooting the way television taught
This type of training is sometimes called crisis rehearsal. All cops
understand the principle. through mental imaging (productive day
dreaming_), crisis rehearsal permits the mind to program the body to
respond automatically to a situation. Further, a learned trait becomes
natural and instinctive only after thousands of repetitions. Ask any
defensive tactics instructor. All through our childhood and adult lives
experience thousands of repetitions of crisis rehearsal as we watched TV
and movie cops fire one handed. This imprinting is not easily removed,
even by serious training to the contrary.
So why fight it? Let's take this powerful mental alley and build on it.
Let's take this mental imaging that is now instinctive and turn it into
something positive, so that when the time comes and the cop responds, he
will respond effectively and without hesitation.
One-handed shooting requires constant practice and an understanding of
technique, and is only for very close combat distances, say 21 feet or
less. One-handed shooting has four components:
1. Hand-to-gun orientation, the grip, and either
drawing from a holster or a close combat hunt
2. Presentation to the target.
3. Flash sight picture.
Here's how it's done. First, look back on all those times as a kid that
you were in a fight. Now look over your training in unarmed defensive
tactics, like active countermeasures. Now examine your baton and PR-24
instruction. Whenever the strong hand is used to punch or propel an
weapon, unless the strong foot is moved forward toward the target, the
technique feels out of place. This stepping is the essence of the
one-handed shooting position.
Face the target and assume an interview stance with the strong foot
slightly to the rear of the weak foot. Reach for the pistol and get a
proper grip while it is still in the holster. So far, nothing has
from the two-handed methods. Now draw the pistol and as the muzzle
out toward the target take a step forward with the strong foot and throw
the pistol out on target about eye level as if you were trying to punch
someone. This is the presentation. The wrist should be locked and the
elbow of the shooting hand should have a slight bend in it, but it also
should be locked.
Quickly line up the front sight somewhere in the notch of the rear.
worry about perfection. This is called the flash sight picture. Now
squeeze the trigger smoothly.
One-handed shooting should be taught to all police officers. It has its
place in police work as much as either of the two-handed holds. At close
distances, it is faster and more accurate.
Remember, after the presentation is made, the step forward and the
thrusting of the pistol lessens the distance to the target, thereby
increasing the chances of a hit. This is vitally important since cops
hit what they are shooting at 13-17 percent of the time, no matter what
hold they're using. This technique also takes into consideration the
physical make up of the human body and feels natural.
Two-handed shooting, whether the Isosceles or Weaver, should still be the
mainstay of police firearms training. But at up close and personal
distances, we should look to what is really happening on the streets.
Cops are firing one handed.