In my last post I gave a broad overview of the similarities and differences in the Modern Technique of the Pistol at Gunsite then and now. Here I want to continue that line of thinking by considering the status of the Weaver Stance and the Heavy-duty Self-Loading Pistol, two major elements of the Modern Technique that have changed some over the years.
Looking at what is taught in the classroom and on the range explicitly gives a good sense of how the heavy-duty pistol and the Weaver stance are handled at Gunsite today.
In the opening lecture of the 250 Defensive Pistol course, Rangemaster Bill Halvorsen – who has taught at Gunsite nearly 30 years, since 1988 – explains that the overall objective of the course is “to ensure you become well-grounded in the Modern Technique of the Pistol.”
He elaborates that part of the Modern Technique involves a heavy-duty pistol, which he says is a .45 ACP, adding the old joke, “Why a .45? Because there is no .46.” I can imagine at the beginning of time, when Col. Cooper was running the course, that the point would end there. Suggesting a clear evolution, Halvorsen continues, “But seriously, use a gun you can control effectively and make hits with. It may be a .22.”
Halvorsen later reiterates the point about the heavy-duty semi-auto pistol saying, “That means whatever you can put rounds on target with.”
To be sure, 4 of 7 instructors the week I observed carried 1911s, and far more students used 1911s than I have ever seen in another class – 7 out of 29 (24%). At the same time, some students who rented guns from Gunsite were given Glocks, and two-thirds of the students shot 9mm pistols.
Thus, although there is a clear preference for the .45ACP 1911, there was no sense spoken or otherwise conveyed that using something other (“less”) than that was somehow insufficient.
As for the Weaver Stance, it is certainly part of the Modern Technique, but Gunsite has evolved on this toward the language of the “fighting stance.” As the course book I was given (dated 2006) reads, “The essence of the modern Weaver Stance is the achievement of a balanced fighting stance” (emphasis in original).
Gunsite 250 instructors use this term both in the lectures and on the range, with one notable exception that I observed. At the first range session of the week, immediately following the introductory lecture, Rangemaster Bill Halvorsen talked to the students individually, checking their guns, holsters, belts, and magazines. He then discussed and demonstrated the stance, saying, “I would ask you to try the Weaver. If you shoot isosceles, work with me.”
On the fifth and last day of the class, Halvorsen continued to suggest the Weaver stance to students who are struggling to shoot well.
Which raises the question, what does Halvorsen mean by “Weaver”?
He definitely does not mean an extremely bladed stance. In a follow-up conversation I had with the other Rangemaster for the week, Steve Hendricks, the issue of the myth of the bladed stance was addressed. Hendricks recalled that even when he was first becoming an instructor at Gunsite back in the early 1990s the stance was more square than bladed. He told me there used to be a cable running across the range and shooters were told to “toe the line.” A photo in the 1991 book, The Modern Technique of the Pistol, supports Hendricks’s recollection.
To be sure, the feet are not perfectly square, but I wouldn’t call the stance bladed.
It seems to me that what many people identify as the “Weaver” stance has to do with the iconic position of the arms, in particular the straighter dominant arm and bent support arm. In reference to a right-handed shooter, the Gunsite course book asserts,
“The right arm may be straight but is better slightly flexed. The left arm is flexed from 30 to 45 degrees depending on the bone structure of the shooter.”
This is the position Halvorsen adopts when he demonstrates the stance, adding that the grip is “push-pull,” with 30% force pushing with the strong hand and 70% pulling with the support hand to help control recoil.
Again, when I spoke to Steve Hendricks about the Weaver stance, he emphasized the importance of creating this isometric push-pull tension as fundamental to the Weaver stance he learned from Cooper. But as shown in the picture below, Hendricks’s stance looks awfully isosceles to my newbie eyes.
Whatever terminology is used, it is clear that on these two aspects of the Modern Technique – the heavy-duty self-loading pistol and the Weaver stance – what is taught at Gunsite Academy has evolved.
In my next post, I will explore another aspect of the curriculum that has evolved, perhaps even more so: mindset.