Ayoob: Shooting the Isosceles Stance


My first formal combat handgun training was with the FBI Combat Crouch using a S&W Model 15 in .38 special. Bill Jordan taught a similar technique. One handed instinctive shooting is still king at bad breath distance, but you have to develop skills to reach further out as well. Standard qualification courses often reached out as far as 50 yards.
The FBI technique fell out of vogue, partly because it takes A LOT of shooting and time on the range to master, posing difficulties getting new recruits qualified. Another issue that arose was recoil management with hot or magnum loads. All of law enforcement was looking for more effective man stopping handgun loads during the 60's and 70's, which came with increased recoil as compared with standard .38 loads of the day. We found that our recruits did better with two hands on the gun, and a two-handed grip certainly gave better recoil control. It was also discovered that bad guys tend to shoot low, bringing into question the wisdom of lowering your X ring in an imminent gunfight.

The LE community jumped on the Weaver stance, largely because it provides excellent recoil control and improved recovery times. We also saw our recruits' qualification scores improving when we started using it. Most LE officers trained in the 70's and 80's learned the Weaver or modified Weaver as part of a defensive systems approach. It remains an excellent shooting stance today.

The Isosceles came into vogue with the common use of body armor, the idea being that squaring off at the opponent presents the best ballistic protection to the front. It is a good solid stance, and many have been trained with it since the 90's.

There are many variations of what I refer to as "patented stances", and many are excellent for training new shooters and overcoming shooter problems. But don't get wrapped around the axle with stance. Statistically the "Rule of 3's" is in play during a gunfight. That is, it lasts 3 seconds or less, occurs at 3 yards or less, and 3 or fewer rounds are fired. Of course, there are extreme examples, but that is how most will play out. I have talked to a number of officers who have fired their handguns in anger, and none could recall where their feet were when the shooting started. This leads me to the conclusion that in the majority of shooting situations, your shooting position is the position you are in when the shooting starts. If you have time to get into the shooting position of your choice and you train that way, great. But your training needs to prepare you for the fact that you may not have the time. Speed, Power, and Accuracy wins the day.
Modified Isosceles mostly, but also drill to draw and fire quickly wherever my feet happen to be at short distances (up to 10 yards) just in case I'm faced with no time for stance perfection. At the short distances, I find that I can draw, pull my elbow in to just above the belt, and still get fast, decent torso mass hits with my 9mm's and .380.

Edit for auto correct.
Last edited:
Hello all, here is today's article posted on TheArmoryLife.com. It is titled "Ayoob: Shooting the Isosceles Stance" and can be found at https://www.thearmorylife.com/ayoob-shooting-the-isosceles-stance/.

Just finished reading all your articles on stance. I've been a follower of you for years. I read your articles, I believe in Combat, regarding legal issues surrounding firearm use of force to be some of the best, if not the best, I've ever read. I began USPSA competitive shooting in my 50s, and as is too typical. I was exposed early in life to firearms and found it enjoyable. Gasoline and perfume distracted me as a teenager along with school, sports, college, a 20-year military career, wife, family, kids in college, and life in general. Finally, disposable income and time increased, and I became involved in USPSA shooting in my 50s. I was fortunate to live near where one of the best USPSA/IPSC competitors lived and took two classes with him early in my USPSA shooting experience – Ron Avery. Ron constantly worked at every aspect of his shooting. He tuned his firearm constantly, and even when he found what worked best, would experiment with changes. Ron always looked for a better way. Driven is probably a better term for his approach. He wanted to be the best and studied every aspect of IPSC/USPSA shooting. Ron never feared to experiment, changing techniques, keeping what worked, and dropping what didn't. The same for every aspect of the sport - draw, movement, stance, physical fitness, diet, everything. He taught the isosceles stance but with some differences I believe are significant. I will do my best to convey those differences here. Feet. As you said, shoulder width or slightly wider. Whichever leg you naturally wanted slightly to the rear of the other; however, not as far as your pictures show and most pictures of others discussing the isosceles stance. A key difference is the rearmost foot depended on which direction you needed to move to reach the next shooting position. Weight. Forward. I believe he suggested what you stated - ~60% - but I do not recall the exact number now. Legs. Knees slightly bent so they would act as shock absorbers and not a rigid pole. Hips/waist: Slight bend forward at the waist. Head. Forward. This has a huge effect on the center of gravity. Shoulders. Square to the target as close to a natural point of aim as you can get. The line up on target, close your eyes, transition firearm 30-45 degrees left-right and back to center then open your eyes. If not back on target, adjust feet and shoulders to align with the target and repeat. Stop when you end the transitions, and you are on target. Arms. Straight, however, most pictures I see of Isosceles stance show the elbows pointed more outward. I believe Ron wanted the elbow rotated slightly downward and very slightly bent.

The driving factor was recoil control and the firearm returning to the point of aim. The changes in the arms allowed for a more natural point and helped absorb recoil as the arm flexed slightly at the elbow instead of driving all the recoil to the shoulders and body. A slight bend at the waist and head forward moves the center of gravity forward, directs part of the recoil vector down through the body, and part directly rearward. Core strength helps absorb/control some of the recoil, and likewise the slight bend in the knees. In the perfect stance, there would be no or virtually no rocking backward of the body. If there is weight transfer onto your heals there is a flaw somewhere in the stance.l

A drill to determine stance and weight distribution is to stand on something that elevates the feet 1-2" off the ground (a wide 2" x 6", 8', or 10" board) with heals unsupported. Fire at the target. Most people cannot get more than 1 or 2 shots before stepping backward off the board. Proper stance and weight distribution, and you can empty a magazine.

Ron shot nearly exclusively in Limited major shooting a .40 S&W on a 2011 frame. When I start USPSA and when I took his classes, PF for major was still 170 so most people shot with PF of 175 to ensure meeting minimum PF matches where ammo was chronoed. For .40 S&W and 200 gr bullets that is 875 fps, and 180 gr bullets 972 fps. Not wimp loads but certainly not full power for the cartridge. Now the floor is dropped to 165 PF minimum with a corresponding slower velocity. The point is the lower the power factor there almost certainly changes to stance and recoil control.

In competition, and most certainly IPSC/USPSA competition, is not real-life self-defense, or combat use of a firearm. Some of what I've learned over the years is one size doesn't fit all. There are times I've shot using more nearly using one of the Weaver stances because stage design force me to do so. Likewise, a person's physical fitness, conditioning, and strength play a huge role as well.

In competition, and most certainly IPSC/USPSA competition, is not real-life self-defense or combat use of a firearm. I can shoot, or use to shoot, relatively fast and accurately, but do not know tactics. One size doesn't fit all, nor does it fit all situations.

You have to be flexible in the physical aspects and mental of action shooting sports – it is a dynamic shooting environment. Real-life is even worse – a rigid mindset in many aspects of firearms use is not good with safety being the most paramount exception.