Ready, aim, fire!
Benchrest Shooting Position.
New shooters may get confused by all there is to learn about the fundamentals of handgun shooting. Correct position, grip, breath control, sight alignment, trigger squeeze and follow through -- these all work together to produce a good shot.
Every good shot starts with the correct position. Whether it's from a bench or standing, here's the breakdown of how to get into position to make that bull's eye shot.
The word benchrest conjures images of rifle target shooters precisely aiming to achieve a bullet hole in the center of the target -- over and over. Take that concept of benchrest shooting and apply it to handguns, and you automatically throw in a few other factors that affect each shot, in ways different than shooting a rifle. Whereas a benchrest rifle shooter supports the gun on a rest and uses elbows, cheek, and shoulder to maintain the rifle position, a handgun shooter has only the rest and grip to support and maintain the gun position.
So, why should you practice shooting a handgun from a benchrest position?
Modern Isosceles Stance
Shooting from this position allows new shooters to concentrate on shooting fundamentals, especially sight alignment and trigger squeeze, without having to worry about supporting the firearm. When their confidence and capabilities improve, it's time for them to practice shooting from the standing position. Also, shooting from the benchrest position benefits disabled shooters and gives them the proper training and muscle memory to come away from the bench and into a seated position for shooting.
For experienced shooters, using a benchrest allows them to test the accuracy of their guns without the additional variables that arise from using an unsupported standing position.
The ideal benchrest for a handgunner does not resemble a rifle shooter's bench and can be hard to find. The ideal bench would be square table, where you can press your chest front and center into it. Most benches at gun clubs are made for rifle shooters, though. If that's the only type of bench available, scoot forward into the recess, pressing your chest -- right below armpit level -- against the top. You should be able to stretch your arms out fully and have them supported by the top.
Set up small shooting bags on the bench. Place one so that you can press the trigger guard into the bag while holding the handgun at arms' length. Make sure the bag will not impede any moving parts of the firearm or be scorched by the muzzle flash. With a benchrest position, you may vary your grip somewhat from what you use for other, unsupported, positions. Perhaps you'll need to place your weak hand farther below the grip. The gun should not touch the bench.
Weaver Shooting Stance
When seated at the benchrest position, lift your shoulders, lock your head in place, get your sight alignment down. Lock on to your target and make sure you're comfortable.
Take your shot.
Modern Isosceles Stance
This two-handed shooting stance is a natural progression from the bench. The Modern Isosceles Stance begins with foot placement: stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and with the body weight distributed evenly. Do not lock your knees. Straighten your back and roll your hips slightly to flatten out the curve of your lower back. This position varies from its predecessor, the Isosceles, because you tilt your upper body forward slightly. Your head is erect and your arms are fully extended, creating an isosceles triangle. Bring the pistol to eye level. Lean forward slightly and make sure the pistol points naturally to the center of the target.
Weaver and Modified Weaver
Modified Weaver Shooting Stance
These two Weaver Stances are two popular stances used in target and combat shooting today. Named for L.A. county deputy sheriff Jack Weaver who developed the Weaver Stance in the 1950s, the Weaver Stance turns the body in relation to the target and creates a push-pull tension between the shooting and supporting arms and hands.
Stand with the shoulder of your strong (gun) hand back in relation to the shoulder of your supporting (weak) hand. Place your strong foot back, too. Hold the gun toward the target and keep your body at a 45-degree angle in relation to the target with your elbows tucked in. Grip the gun and push forward with your strong hand. Bend that elbow slightly. Pull back on the grip with your weak hand and bend that elbow slightly. This type of grip creates a push-pull stress that causes the gun to return downward in recoil after being fired.
The Modified Weaver, a stance developed by world champion shooter Ray Chapman, uses the push-pull of the Weaver with an adjustment to the elbows. Instead of both elbows being flexed, the strong side elbow is straight and locked and the weak elbow is bent slightly and turned toward the ground. The Modified Weaver gets support from not only muscle, but also skeletal support. It is an excellent stance for women.
Practice all four types of shooting positions so that you train and have muscle memory when it comes to shooting. You may find that one or more of the stances or the benchrest position allows you to have more time on the range.
Barbara Baird is a certified NRA pistol instructor and teaches NRA's FIRST Steps, Basic Pistol and Personal Protection in the Home courses.