Keys to a Strong ‘Upper Triangle’

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We all were told at some point in our training to “relax, squeeze the trigger slowly, and let the gun kick freely.” This makes sense when you’re just starting out, but if you want to shoot faster and maintain a high degree of accuracy, this basic advice will have to evolve. You will have to do things differently. That’s where shooting stance comes in.

By Rob Leatham

A proper shooting stance has a lot of elements involved. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll separate stance into two parts: The “Upper Triangle” and the “Torso and Legs.” This article is devoted to the upper triangle — your hands, arms, and shoulders.

7 Keys to a Strong Upper Triangle

Don’t Stand Like Me. Stand Like You Need To.

Not everyone is built the same. I weigh a metric ton and am relatively strong in my hands, wrists and forearms. If you are lighter or weaker than I am, your stance will differ from mine. The same goes for a shooter who is heavier or stronger. The point is to be comfortable and confident in your own stance.

Grip the Gun Tightly

Without exception, every great speed shooter has a very strong grip. You aren’t gripping too firmly on your pistol until you either hinder your ability to move your trigger finger freely, cause an otherwise abnormal tremor or flinch in your hands and arms. Tension causes your muscles to become rigid around your joints. My hands are tired after a training session. It can be a physical workout, but I can’t resist the gun’s movement in my hands if I relax.

Lock Those Joints. Be Strong, Not Comfortable

The focus here is reducing or eliminating flex. Whether your elbows are straight or bent, resist the flexing of your joints when the recoil of your gun tries to bend them. The joints most responsible for movement are the wrist and elbow. For the elbow joint, many shooters use a technique called “Locking Out.”

Rob Leatham uses a strong upper triangle to overcome recoil. He advises, “You can’t learn to control recoil without having to control recoil.”

My wife Kippi and many other champions “lock out” hard. She straightens her arms to create a position where the elbow joint is at full extension. “Locking Out” isn’t the only way to lock your elbow joint. It’s ok to have a slight bend in your elbows when you shoot, just keep them very rigid. Either way can work well.

Use More Than Your Hands. Pinch In With Your Arms

Use your chest muscles to help stiffen your arms. Pulling into your center with both arms will help create tension throughout the triangle and help “clamp” the gun in your hands.

Hold The Gun Steady

Make the gun act like it is locked in a vise and cannot move. Keep it as motionless as possible when you pull the trigger. Don’t just aim and fire. Not yet anyway.

Aim Throughout the Movement of the Gun During Recoil

Do this with the goal of quickly returning the gun to the position and altitude it was at before it was fired. While the actual amount of muzzle flip you will experience is going to be based on your skill and strength, avoid letting the gun just lift up and stay there. Get the sights back on target.

Train With Live Ammunition

Dry firing will not teach you the value of a proper upper triangle. You can practice the strength-building isometrics of gripping and pinching the gun with your hands, arms, and chest muscles all you want, but the gun has to kick for you to learn to recover from recoil. Practice recoil control with the caliber you want to master. Learning to lock up on your .22 is helpful, but that is not the same as controlling a more powerful caliber.

Perfecting The Upper Triangle

Practice! Do not assume that because you understand these concepts, and can do them properly during dry fire, that you will be able to execute under pressure. You won’t. You should work on upper triangle rigidity every time you focus on skill building.

Do you have a shooting tip for the upper triangle? What is your opinion of dry fire versus live fire training? Share your answers in the comment section.

Rob Leatham is a professional action shooter and six-time world IPSC champion. He has won more than 20 USPSA titles and is also a firearms instructor. Springfield Armory recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. Used with permission.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!’s blog, “The Shooter’s Log,” is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

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