A Shotgun For Defense Inside Your Home?

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Let’s start with a disclaimer. I like shotguns. I like them a lot. I’ve heard them called niche weapon but, in fact they are one of the most versatile weapon platforms available. That doesn’t mean that a shotgun is ideal for every situation though. 

Just like any other tool there are things that are best done with a shotgun and there are other things that are best done with different tools.

Among the mantras that I hear all the time is “I’ll just use my shotgun if someone breaks into my house” or “a shotgun is the best gun for home defense”.
While there is no doubt that the 12 gauge shotgun is the ultimate man stopper, it has so many disadvantages when using it inside your home that the pistol is still

the tool of choice when it comes to home defense.

Here are a few points to consider:
First, there is the issue of training and practice.
The shotgun is the gun that’s always there. Your trusty Rem 870 or Mossy 500 is always next to your bed or it’s always next to your door. It may be always at arms reach but, how often do you shoot it and more importantly how often do you train with it? Do you know how to perform a tactical reload, transition to a secondary weapons system or present the shotgun from positions of low ready, high ready, indoor ready or Sul? Do you even know what those positions are and why they are important to know?

How about ammunition management techniques and switching from buckshot to slug and vice versa?

These are all concepts that knowing or not knowing them could mean the difference between you and your family living or dying when you choose to use your shotgun for home defense.

It’s often said that it is not necessary to aim a shotgun and that it should be “pointed” rather than aimed. However, when you are confronting a criminal inside your residence, you do indeed need to aim. Contrary to popular opinion, you can easily miss with a shotgun.
Think about it . . . The pattern at inside the home distances will only spread to the approximate size of a softball at most. So, can you miss a bad guy with a shotgun? Yes, of course you can. Would that suck? Yes, it would suck big time.

Long guns including shotguns require two hands. In a home defense scenario chances are you’re going to need a “spare” hand to fend off physical attacks, call the police, open doors, push kids out-of-the-way, pull kids to safety, turn lights on and off etc. 
If you continually answer your door holding your shotgun you’ll soon get a reputation among your neighbors and it won’t be a good one. However, you can answer your door each and every time with a concealed handgun and nobody will be the wiser.

It’s easier for a bad guy to grab a shotgun barrel than a handgun’s. Negotiating corners with bad guys in your house can be . . . problematic. Seemingly routine tasks associated with moving from one room to another in your home can become a challenge.

If you load your shotgun with 00 buck, it may be difficult to ensure that all eight or nine pellets hit your intended target. While it may not take all of the pellets to incapacitate your adversary, stray pellets could injure or kill the very people you intend to protect.
Rifled slugs can be very accurate, but there are tremendous over-penetration issues associated with these projectiles. With slugs you need to worry about your neighbors as well as the occupants of your own home. Slugs also pass through home appliances very easily, so you could also run the risk of burning your house down should one pass through your kitchen range, furnace, water heater or any other gas burning appliance.

What about Birdshot for use inside your home? Really?
Just how effective is birdshot (#6, #8, etc.) as a defense load?
The problem with birdshot is that it does not penetrate enough to be effective as a defense round. Birdshot is designed to bring down little birds.

I know of a police officer that tells of seeing a guy shot at close range with a load of 12 gauge birdshot, and was not even knocked down. He was still walking around when the EMTs got there. It was an ugly, shallow wound, but did not STOP the guy. And that is what we want… to STOP the bad guy from whatever he is doing. To do this, you must have a load that will reach the vitals of the bad guy. Birdshot will not do this.

A frequent poster on AR15.com who is an EMT relates this experience: 
“I saw a gunshot victim, about 5′ 10” and 200 lbs, taken to the operating room with a shotgun wound to the chest. He was shot at a range of six feet at a distance of just over the pectorals muscle. He was sitting on his front porch and walked to the ambulance. We explored the chest after x-rays were taken. The ER doc had said ‘buckshot’ wound, but this was obviously not accurate. It was # 6 shot. There was a crater in the skin over an inch in diameter. When the shot hit the level of the ribs, it spread out about five inches. There was ONE pellet that had passed between the ribs and entered the pericardium, but not damaged the heart at all. As you say, ‘use birdshot for little birds.” 

Tests have shown that even #4 Buck lacks the necessary penetration to consistently reach the vital organs. Only slugs, 0 Buck, 00 Buck, and 000 Buck penetrate enough to reach the vital organs.

Unless you expect to be attacked by little birds, do not use birdshot. Use 00 Buck. It will do the job.

How about a 20 gauge shotgun?

At inside your home distances the differences between 20 and 12 gauge is negligible. You are still dealing with the same types of ammo and that ammo whether 12 or 20 gauge still has the same issues regarding over penetration or lack of penetration as the case may be.

As far as recoil is concerned, barring a medical problem, if shooting a 12 gauge hurts your shoulder you are doing it wrong. Proper training could fix that for you. If you simply prefer 20 gauge over 12 gauge that’s fine, I get it.

So, should we rule out the shotgun for home defense? The answer is….wait for it…..NO!
The shotgun has a place in home defense but, should never be your “go to gun” provided you have better options.

I call my shotgun my “Alamo Gun”. It’s the gun I’ll transition to when I’m backed up in my safe room (Read master bedroom), I know where each family member is and I have nowhere else I can go. Then and only then will I turn to the shotgun while inside my home.

Friday Fundamentals 01 – Establishing Your Baseline

Great stuff here from Claude Werner

tacticalprofessor

My friend Mark Luell, the author of Growing Up Guns suggested I provide a ‘Friday Fundamentals’ post weekly. We got the idea from my colleague Cecil Burch who wrote a blog post about Fundamentals. It’s a great idea to stay in touch with the basics.

The first installment is Session 01 of my Pistol Practice Program – Establishing Your Baseline. As in any journey, you have to know where you’re starting from before you can get to where you want to go.

The objective of this drill is to determine what distance you can make 100 percent hits on the vital area of a silhouette target. My feeling is that we need to work on achieving 100 percent accuracy because errant rounds in our homes or neighborhoods could be a major problem. Since I also think the first shot is the most important, I structured the session with a…

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Common sense

tacticalprofessor

Isn’t it just common sense to ensure you know what you’re shooting at?

That question was posted on my Claude Werner, Researcher and Analyst page.

It’s an important question that we need to put in perspective.

Not intending to be pejorative but there is no such thing as ‘common sense.’ What we refer to as ‘common sense’ is actually learned behavior based on our past experience.

For instance, as adults, we consider it ‘common sense’ to not stick our hand in a fire. When we were three years old, we didn’t know it would hurt and probably found it out the hard way.

Similarly, we as gun people would consider it ‘common sense’ to not look down the bore of a firearm. If you gave a pistol to an Australian Aborigine, one of the first things they would do is look down the bore because in their worldview, knowing what’s…

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Hardware solutions to software problems

tacticalprofessor

Several times, I have been pointed to an article about a cop who decided he needed to carry a lot more ammo on the job. The story is an excellent example of having the answers right in front of you and then ignoring them. While I don’t disagree with the idea of having plenty of ammo, it wasn’t the real solution to the problem in his case.

The nitty gritty of the story is that a cop got into an extended shootout with a determined attacker. The shootout went on for quite a while with a lot of spraying and praying on both sides. Eventually, the cop shot the suspect in the head and the situation was over.

As the incident progressed, he figured out that the answer to his problem was a software solution.

Then I told myself, ‘Hey, I need to slow down and aim better.’

My…

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Deployment Of The Home Defense Shotgun (Part Two)

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Shotgun Sights and Buckshot Patterning

There are basically three types of shotgun sights. (I won’t be going into various optics in this post)
1) Bead sites
2) Rifle sights
3) Ghost ring sights

Bead Sights –
The bead sight is the most common sight found on the shotgun. It was designed to be used following the aiming concepts and applications of the bird hunting shotgun. Its primary function allows the shooter to select a general area on the target for buckshot application.

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Typical bead style front sight on a Remington 870

The bead site can be used to deliver slug rounds; however, accurate shot placement quickly diminishes once target engagement exceeds 25 yards and with some shotguns, even shorter.

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This police officer is using barrel mounted rifle type sights on his duty weapon. This setup offers the most versatility and is the setup preferred by the author.

Rifle Sights –
Rifle sights have begun to quickly replace bead sights on most shotguns that are set up for serious defensive work.
A sight blade replaces the bead and a basic rear sight assembly is added with both sites mounted on the barrel. Factory rifle sights are zeroed at the factory and in most cases do not allow for windage adjustment.
The rear sight has a step mount assembly that allows for elevation adjustments. A relatively short sight radius was established, which allows the shooter to apply slug rounds accurately beyond 50 yards.
The uniqueness of having the rifle sights mounted on the barrel allows the shooter the versatility to remove the rifle sighted barrel and interchange barrels without disturbing zero. The shooter can swap back and forth between bead sighted and rifle sighted barrels.

Ghost Ring Sights –
The ghost ring sight system is the most advanced sight system currently on shotguns today. ghostring
They provide the shooter with a sighting system that can be used to consistently and accurately apply buckshot and slug rounds at various distances.
A taller and thicker the front sight blade is mounted at the end of the barrel, with the rear sight assembly mounted on top of the shotguns receiver toward the back of the receiver. This sight system set up provides the shooter with a longer sight radius and allows the shooter to take accurate, long range shots with slug rounds beyond 100 yards! Most ghost ring rear sight assemblies allow for windage and elevation adjustment.

Buckshot Patterning
Understanding how your shotgun patterns buckshot plays a very important role when liability issues are taken into consideration. Every shooter should know how their shotgun patterns buckshot and all shotguns should be patterned tested using the buckshot that is used for duty carry.

The four most common distances used to test pattern buckshot are 7, 10, 15, and 20 yards. But for familiarization purposes, the shooter should pattern the shotgun at 25 yards as well.
By patterning the shotgun, the shooter will understand the capabilities and limitations of the buckshot that is used in that specific shotgun.3in-magnum-buckshot

The information will allow the shooter to understand at what range buckshot will become “ineffective” and require other actions to neutralize an active threat, such as making a decision to apply a slug rounds.

Patterning is accomplished by applying buckshot on target said various distances until the reliability and consistency to keep the buckshot pellets on the target is compromised.

NOTE: Be aware that if you have a tritium dot insert on the front sight blade, your daylight point of aim / point of impact will be different than your low light conditions point of aim / point of impact. tritiumYour shots will impact high when used during low light conditions.

Deployment Of The Home Defense Shotgun (Part One)

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Perhaps no topic in firearms training is more misunderstood than that of the shotgun. In determining the circumstances in which the shotgun might be used effectively, it is first necessary to discuss the capabilities and limitations of this weapon. Only then can one make general recommendations regarding the use and application of this devastating weapon.

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Because of commonly believed myths associated with the shotgun it has been inappropriately deployed many times and can become a liability rather than an asset. On some occasions, shotguns have been brought out to a high risk law enforcement incident or warrant service, only to be found as an encumbrance to the officers in the performance of their duties.
Anyone who has been around law enforcement long enough has seen shotguns laying on car hoods, shotguns leaning against cars, shotguns left alone on seats in patrol vehicles, one officer holding two or three shotguns while other officers control and cuff an assailant resisting arrest.  601px-CM_16
These situations represent circumstances where officers deployed a shotgun, then found it necessary to rid themselves of the weapon in order to assist in contact actions or perform other functions.

Also, we often see people keeping shotguns for home defense who have never trained with their shotgun, but will have it ready and waiting next to their bedside. Their intention is that this will be the first gun they grab when the time comes to check on that inevitable bump in the night or alert watchdog. They soon find that the shotgun is too big and bulky for opening doors, using a flashlight, carrying a scared and worried child to the safety of their Mother’s bed, fumbling for light switches etc.
So, why do people bring a shotgun to a situation and then find that it becomes a liability? Quite simply, because they believe that the shotgun has attributes that make it indispensable, particularly in circumstances where higher levels of risk might prevail.Tacticalshotgun1-Lead
Inevitably, people not properly trained in deployment of the shotgun, find themselves believing in an intimidating cure-all rather than in it’s true application.
Here are some of the myths associated with a shotgun that have led to false beliefs about this unique weapon system.

1) Anyone can handle a shotgun with minimal training. One need only to examine firearms training programs across the nation to determine that most students of gun handling believe this to be true. It would be unusual to find people that train with a shotgun three or four times a year, yet some of the same people that prefer shotguns as their home defense weapon of choice will train with their handgun at least that many times if not more. A simple examination of the basic shotgun skills possessed by these students while deploying the shotgun in training scenarios will reveal gun handling errors.  Some of these errors, if performed in a deadly force situation would most certainly result in failing to properly operate the weapon or worse yet, accidental or unintentional discharge!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARegular training is necessary to gain and maintain the gun handling skills necessary to deploy the shotgun in a combat environment (Yes, when you are defending your home with deadly force it is a combat environment). If a person is intent on using a shotgun and cannot demonstrate basic and combat gun handling skills on demand then that person should not deploy a shotgun until they can successfully demonstrate the proper gun skills needed.

2) You can’t miss with a shotgun! Just examine some of the names associated with a shotgun; They are called scatterguns, alley sweepers, street sweepers and trench brooms, just to name a few.
Such names imply that all you need to do is point the shotgun in the general direction of your intended target and a hit is guaranteed. This fallacy can easily be demonstrated by placing targets at various ranges (four, seven, fifteen and twenty five yards) and then patterning commonly used buckshot rounds (#4 or 00 buckshot).Hot Barrel
At close ranges (out to about 10 yards), the patterns are tight enough that it would obviously require that marksmanship skill to center the pattern effectively, keeping all buckshot pellets on target. At 15 yards or so, you will notice that the shot pattern begins to open significantly.
Marksmanship is still required to center the pattern, however, the shooter will begin to notice pellet deviation while using #4 buckshot. On average, several pellets will consistently miss the target, which becomes a very serious liability issue. Beyond 15 yards, similar problems will occur with 00 buckshot.
The training issue here is that if you want to hit what your shooting at, you had better start training with a shotgun as if it were rifle. Although most shotguns come with a simple bead sight, the shotgun will be much more accurate with a good set of rifle sights or ghost ring sights.   CIMG5852
Once a good, reliable sight system is selected for the home defense shotgun, it is very important to pattern the shotgun on paper at various distances using duty buckshot and zeroing iron sights with slug rounds. This will allow better decision making when determining what type of round should be used based on the knowledge of shot performance at various distances. We’ll get into how to do that in the next post.

Thanks for checking in

To be continued…….

Considering Rules

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Let’s face it, when we talk about carrying concealed what we’re really talking about is defending our lives and the lives of our families. We are talking about the possibility of being engaged in a gunfight or some other type of deadly force scenario that includes the possibility of killing our attacker. Let’s not mince words here, some people who act like animals need killing. That statement may not be said in your NRA concealed carry class, it may not be politically correct, and it may be offensive to some, but it happens to be the truth. If you can’t accept that fact, forget self defense and go out and marry someone who can protect you. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s discuss the use of the handgun in the role of a personal defense tool and some things we need to consider. Let’s discuss the rules of a gunfight.

1. Have a gun!

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S&W Model 10-7 with vintage Bianchi Speed Grips

The first thing to consider is that you need a handgun, because it is better to have one and not need it, than need one and not have one.
If you make a solid investment in a decent concealed carry handgun and never have to use it for personal defense, great! The key is to be prepared for what could happen. Just as we buy fire extinguishers to prepare ourselves in case of the tragic event of a house fire, so too, we buy firearms in case of the tragic event of a home invasion or the need to defend our families and ourselves outside of the home.

2. Make sure your handgun is loaded!

If you’re going to carry concealed or use a handgun for home defense, why would you ever entertain the idea of keeping the darn thing unloaded or carrying a handgun with the chamber empty? A firearm meant for personal or home defense that is kept unloaded is nothing more than an expensive club. Granted, measures must be taken to keep the firearm out of the hands of unauthorized persons such as children, guests and visitors. But keeping a home defense gun unloaded or carrying with the chamber empty is not a solution or an answer to your concerns pertaining to firearm safety. There are many great products available today that will allow you to keep your loaded firearm secure from unauthorized use while still allowing quick access to the firearm when needed. There is absolutely no reason why your defensive firearm cannot be kept loaded and ready for use. The loudest sound in the world is hearing a click when your gun should go bang.

3. Bigger bullets are better?

One would think that bigger bullets are better bullets. But, as a general rule firearms that fire bigger bullets have greater felt recoil. Like it or not, recoil affects accuracy. The less you train and practice with your handgun the more recoil will affect your ability to place accurate shots on target. So, if you cannot control the recoil of pistol, for whatever reason, be it a medical reason or just lack of training or practice, you may want to take the proper steps to correct that situation. If you are consistently throwing rounds off target, each of those rounds is a potential liability for you.

4. More bullets are better.

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Paul Gomez

Let’s face it folks, all handguns suck when it comes to the ability to stop a human attacker. This is simply a fact of life. Sure, there are instances of one shot stops, but they can never to be counted on. Rifles and shotguns have a much greater chance of stopping an aggressor on the first shot than pistols do.
So why do we carry handguns? Well, it’s pretty hard to conceal a rifle or shotgun and they are a lot more cumbersome to lug around. We carry handguns simply because they are easy to conceal, easier to transport and faster to deploy if they are needed in a hurry. The trade-off is that we often have to fire multiple rounds to stop an assailant. Since we train to shoot until the threat stops, and that will mean hitting the threat with multiple rounds. I like round capacity over bullet diameter. That doesn’t mean that I’m a spray and pray guy, quite the contrary. I still have to do my part in getting rounds where they need to go.
The design of defensive ammunition has come a long way in recent times. These days the difference in terminal performance of any of the major pistol calibers is negligible.
A handgun chambered in 9mm will hold more ammo than a handgun chambered in .40 S&W or .45 ACP in the same size package and in my experience, most people can shoot handguns chambered in 9mm more accurately when shooting multiple rounds.
I believe it was the late great Paul Gomez who said, “All pistols do is poke holes. Some poke bigger and deeper holes than others. But holes in hearts, brains and spines are holes in hearts, brains and spines no matter what caliber makes them”.
Some people will remain in a state of denial when considering the following statement, but the truth is the truth. With modern bonded bullets, 9mm expands and penetrates more than deep enough to hit any of the vital organs and does damage to body tissue on par with larger calibers such as the .40 S&W and .45 ACP. Let me repeat it. With modern bonded bullets, 9mm expands and penetrates more than deep enough to hit any of the vital organs and does damage to body tissue on par with larger calibers such as the .40 S&W and .45 ACP. The reason it can take fewer shots to stop a threat with a larger caliber handgun is a matter not of “knock down power”(I absolutely loathe that term) but a function of time. When you are firing multiple shots it simply takes longer to get back on target when using handguns with more felt recoil. So, it makes sense that with a handgun chambered in 9mm I can shoot the bad guy 5 times in the same time as it takes to shoot him with 3 or 4 rounds from a handgun chambered in .40 S&W or .45 ACP. G19 (2)Since all handguns suck at the issue of stopping a threat and in most cases it will take multiple rounds to do so, then time comes in as a factor. We are able get more smaller rounds out than big rounds in the same amount of time.

5. Mindset

Regardless of what gun you have, you must be mentally prepared to use it. Let’s be brutally honest. Shooting someone is about the most violent action that you can take against another person. Shooting another human being is a conscious decision that no sane person really wants to have to make. However, reality dictates that there is evil in the world and sometimes as good people we must turn to violence to save the lives of ourselves and others. If you own a gun for the purpose of home defense or personal protection you must be willing to kill another person in order to save innocent lives. If you have a problem with that, either morally, psychologically, or philosophically then you have no business owning a firearm for personal defense. Most law abiding people are not natural born killers and that is what separates us from criminals and thugs. However, through proper training you can develop the mindset needed to defend yourself and others should the need arise.

6. The Will to Prevail.

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Stony Farm Defense Force on Force Class

In any situation in which your life is threatened you must maintain the will to live. Let’s face it, if you are defending your life, chances are that you were attacked initially and are now reacting to try to fend off the attack. So there is a good chance that in any self defense situation that you will be wounded or injured from the outset. Even so, you must continue to fight to the best of your ability in order to prevail. Notice how I did not mention the word survive. To survive is no great feat, it merely means that you have the ability to breathe and that’s about it. Instead of surviving you must prevail and to prevail you must get it into your mind as quickly as possible that no matter what happens you will never ever give up. Giving up is a luxury that only your attacker has. For you to give up means the possible death (or worse) of not only yourself, but possibly of your spouse and children as well. You absolutely must keep on fighting until the attack is stopped and the assailant is incapacitated or you are dead.

I’ll close by saying that if you are one of those people who are stuck in a my pistol is better than your pistol attitude, your priorities are not where they should be.
You should be concentrating on getting PROPER TRAINING. It doesn’t matter if you grew up hunting or go out and plink soda cans every weekend. That’s not training.
Find yourself a good defensive shooting instructor and make an investment of a few hundred dollars that could be the most important investment you will ever make.

Do What Comes Natural

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When I first started shooting handguns as a boy, I copied shooting positions and stances that I had seen on TV, shooting with just one hand or grabbing my right wrist with my left hand and really paying no attention at all to body position or foot placement.

Then came handgun qualification in the department of state government that I was employed by. Back in the mid nineteen eighties we were issued Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolvers and shot qualifications using the tried and true Weaver stance. This was the case with many police agencies across the country at that time. We were introduced to the Isosceles stance but never really were encouraged to use it.

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The Natural Action Stance

After certification with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Shooting IDPA and taking various handgun courses, I was introduced to a stance that finally made sense. This stance allowed my body to work the way it was meant to and I no longer had to wrestle the gun to keep it hitting where I wanted it to hit.

The shooting stance that I am talking about has several names, but I have always stuck with name I like best as I heard it called by John Krupa III of Spartan Tactical Training . The Natural Action Stance.

The natural action stance allows the shooter to work a shooting stance that is conducive to the physiological reactions of the body under stress. This allows the shooter to utilize the body’s “natural actions” during a gunfight rather than trying to make the body do something is incapable of doing well under severe stress.
So, how should you position your body when you are training? Remember, we don’t rise to the occasion, we always fall back on we have been trained to do.

For me, the position of the upper body is far more important than the position of the lower body.
So, lets start with upper body positioning and we’ll work our way down the feet later.
First, stand so that you are facing the target. I so many people try to blade away from the target and then fight their own physiology to get their handgun where they need it. When facing your target thing of a boxer. Would a boxer square up to his adversary or approach his opponent at a sideways angel?
Well, if you know anything about boxing you will know that a boxer squares up to his target and you should too. Your hips and shoulders should be square to the threat with your shoulders slightly forward of your hips. Don’t lock your knees! a slight bend in knees is preferable.
Your head should be upright with chin tucked down slightly and looking straight ahead.
Your arms should be straight out with elbows locked.
Role body weight forward into the recoil impulse of the handgun.

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Feet are shoulder width apart and pointed at the threat

Next comes the position of your feet. Lets face it, in a high stress encounter you will not be thinking about choreography or if your feet are in the exact right spot. But we can get a decent stance if we practice the following three things,

Place your feet approximately shoulder width apart.

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Shooting side foot (in my case, that’s the right foot) slight back.

This helps you keep your balance in the event that you are hit or pushed or simply standing on rough or uneven terrain. If it’s more comfortable for you, place your shooting side foot is slightly back.
Your toes should be pointed toward the threat. Again, this is natural and helps keep you squared up with your target.
Your body weight should be shifted to the balls of the feet. This allows to maintain good balance but also allows you to move quicker in any desired direction.

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Here you can see that the shooters weight is on the balls of his feet and not his heels.

The Natural Action Stance is advantageous for a couple of reasons. Number one, it takes advantage of several of the bodies natural reactions to startle and number two, it allows you to scan and access your environment for further danger by simply rotating your torso and still being able to maintain your shooting position.
There are several other handgun shooting stances that you may find beneficial but I’ll save them for future posts.