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TACTICAL COMMENTARY: “You Shoot The Wrong Way” – What?

Give it a few years and this will be the “right” way to shoot a pistol again

I was at the range yesterday doing some boring ass weapons quals for the security contractor I work for here in Iraq when this new guy says to me “you’re not supposed to hold your M-4 that way” and then later “you’re supposed to let your mags fall free” – all said with an arrogant ‘I know everything because I watched a Magpul video’ look on his face [you all know that look].

The “Wrong Way” was: holding my M-4 with my weak hand on/in-front the magazine well [like the way many people grip an AK] and pulling my dry mags free [instead of letting them fall free].

Now besides the fact I can’t stand Range know-it-all Douchebags this kid was so wet behind the ears his shoulders were wet. Instead of the usual James G. berating that has been known to make grown men cry; I just beat his ass like a redheaded stepchild in China on the qual instead. So in the end he had to eat a big can of “shut the fuck up little man” [I still called his mom names].

I understand that the way I shoot an M-4 is not the “accepted” technique currently being taught today – but it works for me. So does be that make me a poor shot or tactically inefficient? No. Would my marksmanship or tactical ability be more accurate/faster if I shoot the way you are “supposed” to? Not for me, I tried other ways of operating my rifle and I just don’t move or shoot as efficiently.

Back when I first learned how to shoot I realized many of the ways I was told to shoot or manipulate my weapon [the “right way”] didn’t work as well for me compared with [what would be considered at the time] the wrong or an outdated way of shooting. So I just shot the way that worked for me, something I continue to do up to today despite not looking cool gripping my rifle inches from the muzzle or twisting my M-4 while the mags fly free.

It seems like shooting the “proper way” is in many ways like fashion fads – meaning it changes every few years, comes full circle every 15 and if you don’t look like everyone else you are not in the ‘in-crowd’ [the ‘in-crowd’ being people who know how to shoot the “right way”].

I remember back in the 90’s I would use the FBI combat isosceles stance when I shot a pistol because it felt the most natural to me and I would shoot 10X more accurately compared to the “right way” of shooting [The “right way’ back then was the Weaver Stance].

Also when you would move and shoot back then, you were supposed to do a duck-like walk. Walking like daffy duck felt so unnatural to me, it was distracting me from shooting accurately so I would just walk like I normally walk when I shot on the move despite it being the “wrong way”

Now fast forward to today and the “right way” of shooting a pistol looks suspiciously like the FBI combat isosceles stance to me and the Duck Walk has all but been abandoned in favor of [drum roll please] – just walking.

I came up with the idea for this article after talking to my brother about posting some videos of me and another guy I work with shooting and moving. My brother [Bubba G] does everything the “right way” and is tactically perfect, when he shoots and loots it looks like a delta guy or something.

He said to me – quote:

“dude if people see the way you hold your rifle, the way your kit is set-up and the way you move they will loose their shit and you will have like one billion comments about how you are doing everything the wrong way – it wont matter that you have been doing this shit for a living most of your life, you don’t shoot and loot the same way people get taught, so in the minds of many people that somehow makes you unskilled”

I don’t think it would be quite that bad, and I have not forgotten that he used to constantly make fun of me back in the day because I used the FBI combat isosceles stance [I remember him saying something like “so you think you are a G-Man now you little bitch”]. But instead of possibly feeding the monkeys I decided to write this up instead.

And in case you were wondering – the two points of this commentary are:

1) Shoot the way that works for you even if it is not the “right way”
2) Don’t be a Range know it all Douchebag or I will call your mom names


~James G
Founder – Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and calling peoples moms names at the range. James G. on FACEBOOK


  1. It depends on your level of skill, really. As a FA instructor for fifteen years and familiar with the “fashion trends”, I would not waste my time changing some habits a student had if it obviously was working. Hits are always fashionable, even after Labor Day.

    Talking about douchebags tho, there is another worth mentioning: “Douchebaggus spoonfeedmyassicus”: The lazy bastard who invests absolutely nothing on his own to become better in the “management of interpersonal aggression”.

  2. If your technique isn’t “right” but works, it isn’t wrong. I teach new techniques to shooters simply to give them more tools for their tool bag. Under stress you will go back to what is comfortable and effective for you.

  3. Ah, gotta love those guys James. I recently came across one at the range the other week and challenged him to a quick match and took $1000 bucks off of him.

    Now I can shoot ugly or I can shoot as clean and perfect as they come. The end result is the same. When I was first taught to shoot it was from and aged Gunny that told me he didn’t care how it was someone shot the gun pull the trigger with your pinky toe for all he cares, as long as three things happened. 1. You put the sumbitch down. 2. You do so with as few rounds as possible. 3. You yourself don’t get hit.

    And I have always followed this. A gun fight is dynamic and you never know what the hell position you are going to be in. And be it Weaver, Isosceles, CAR, CQB, shooting center mass, mozambique, SAS whatever and what have you ad infinitum, (seriously there is a crap load of ways and styles to shoot someone) if you can put your target down, conserve your ammo, and not get shot in the process everything beyond that is just fluffy icing on the cake.

    I have seen some extremely tactically proficient shooters, Ex delta, Ex DEVGRU, SAS types that are nothing short of amazing. And I have seen some seriously ugly shooters that have bad habits hanging off of their bad habits whose groupings are just as tight. And you can laugh at them as much as you want, and laugh and laugh until they whup your arse in a match.

    If it works for you and provides equal results, it works, period.

  4. “If it is stupid, but it works, it is not stupid.”

  5. Fuck a bunch of know it all range nazis. Doctrine and training is a foundation that you build off of – it provides a sound starting point and only retards and Martinets see it as an end point.

    It sounds like your TTPs are combat tested and allow you to operate with a maximum degree of safety, speed and accuracy so, yeah, tell junior to suck a fat baby’s dick and come back when he has more than five minutes in the box. Mike W.

  6. James, great article. I was just about run off every range ever until I ran into the Suarez crew (who don’t care how I shoot since I tend to hit). My personal deal is my mom first taught me to shoot – she was Kansas City MO police, so it was that old stand with one hand on your hip and hold the revolver and shoot. Watched her outshoot all kinds of people with whatever stance. Then my great uncle, who could just flip a single action out and shoot stuff thrown past him.
    Supposed to hold something a certain way? Duck walk? Crap, how about just run past the targets and put holes in them. I am sure some of these range clowns would have berated Elmer Keith if he just sat down, put a revolver next to his knee and made hits at 400 yards.
    I think that the next time somebody tells me how I am not doing it “right,” I’ll just kick them in their multicam-covered nuts.

  7. If you are safe and hitting the target then you are right. One of the best shooting books written is Shooting to live with the one handed gun by William Fairbairn written in 1942. Although the writer isn’t part of the 511 tuxedo crowd and uses all the latest military terms everything in there is still as relevant today as it was then.

  8. James – great, after all these years I find out that I’m shooting wrong?!?

    I know “that guy” all too well. Actually worked with a few in Iraq recently. We were at the range, one night, doing our qualifying (why at night u ask, don’t EVEN get me started!) and there were a couple of guys that were having a hard time. The douchebags running the range were just yelling at them; “you’re doing it wrong” and not actually helping. So, I was finished (not to toot my own horn, but I zero’d and qualified on the first go ’round and in the dark. Not bad for “just a medic” as one of the douchebags mentioned) and went to coach. Long story short; ended up coaching about a third of our team. They all qualified too. Oh yeah, what about the douchebags you ask? Took a couple of them FOREVER to qual, and no, I did not help them at all. I don’t think one of them actually did qualify. I think the range boss just got tired and hand jammed ’em through.

  9. Don’t bother holding back next time, James. Call his mom names, kick his ass in quals, and then make him your camp bitch.

  10. I think the real key here James is that if it aint broke don’t fix it. Having said that I do believe that we all need to be open to improving our techniques. If we see something that might help try it out, if it helps keep if it hurts forget it. Nuff Said.

  11. Great article. I find the difference between formal range training and the actual 2 way range to be a serious difference. While anyone can argue mechanics and style; your terrain and situation will most certainly effect if not dictate your weapons deployment.

    I would wager that most range training never occurs from a seated or turret position and hardly ever from articles of cover on a company range. I think it’s important to know that qualifying on a range is nowhere near the real thing.

    Instructors can argue mechanics all day, but stress and habit will always come into play in ways a range class can’t address.


  12. As far as I can remember results are the bottom line in every aspect of training, so if you do everything the “right way” and still suck at it because it’s not your natural or most efficient way you are just another cookie cutter student of whatever hyped or cool trend out there.

    I would give anyone a chance to prove himself where it counts the most….and yes “Actions speak louder the words”. Too many know it all wannabees are letting their mouths be heard until its time to prove what they know.

    Point number 2 is a must in this case.

  13. I remember taking a tactical shotgun class from a very qualified instructor. He would show me what he recommends, and what works for him. And we drilled that until I got a basic level of proficiency. But he encouraged me once I got a base of proficiency down, understood the techniques, then to continue my practice, take other courses, and determine what is the most effective for me. But I needed to lay a foundation in the basics first before I could understand enough to go on to develop my own style. It was a fine balance between “my way is the only way” and “find your own way” from all these many options.

    But to come up to a stranger on a civilian range and start ragging on him? That’s just wrong on many levels. I’ve never seen that.

  14. I agree with everything you wrote James! Made me laugh out loud reading your article ’cause you sounded exactly like me. Glad I’m not alone in my ways of operating. Thanks man.

  15. Dang man, that’s annoying. I’ll admit right now that I’m a beginner shooter, and I’ve already discovered that ‘letting your mags fall free’ isn’t always a great practice. Seems to me that when you really need to reload, especially when you’re under stress, the mags stick, so I see nothing wrong with pulling them out. Being left handed, I have to do that anyway. Magpul…fun stuff to watch, very cinematic, but just cuz Costa and Haley ”do it this way” doesn’t mean it’s wrong to do it differently. My little sisters shoot with the ”wrong” eye when shooting rifles, but it works for them. I’d make fun of his mom too.

  16. From my experience 50% of “experienced shooters” could not pass a simple timed job vetting weapons qual with iron sights

    If you think the stress of shooting at a hajji in some 3rd world shit-hole while taking fire is bad, you should try shooting accurately under the stress of knowing if you don’t pass your car gets reprocessed

    ~James G

    • I would say that would be a pretty accurate assessment. Especially newer shooters that never started with Irons. I know way too many people that started shooting rifles with eotechs as their first sight, or some type of optic. The guys that I train with can shoot great with their optics on. But then I throw in a scenario that has their optic become damaged and then they have to revert back to their irons and half suck with them. A quarter of them don’t have their irons zeroed at any range. A few can actually use them decently and a couple don’t even have them on their AR. Why? Because who needs iron sights. (at this point I beat my head against the wall)

    • I concur, and have seen it too.

  17. Obviously Douchebag in Question (DIQ) has never been around admin types with bi-focals, or the lean way the hell back and shoot, the one legged praying mantis stance for handgunning.

    Hell I work a bull-pup style carbine. I can’t go left handed because the brass is right at my eyes. Guess I don’t shoot right.

  18. what works IS what works!! So screw the range nazis and do what keeps you alive!

  19. Dude, I think my shooting style has changed about a dozen times in the 20-ish years I’ve been doing it. Once you find a way of doing it that suits you, I say do it and screw everyone else. I teach people how to shoot quite a bit and am often there for the first time they’ve fired a gun. I give them some basics on stance and grip, then let them modify them until they feel comfortable–if they don’t feel comfortable, they won’t shoot well because they’ll think too much about feeling UNcomfortable.

    To paraphrase Eddie Murphy imitating Richard Pryor from “Delirious:”
    “Do you hit what you shoot at when you shoot like that?”
    “Do you walk away from the gunfight with no extra holes or missing body parts?”
    “Then tell that mall ninja I said ‘Have a Coke and a smile and shut the f*ck up!'”

  20. I wish he could see my method of shooting an AR-15 M-4 or an M-16A1 I put my nose right against the operating rod handle and keep both eyes open great for house cleaning tryed and proven in Nam also as a SWAT trainer

    • Good article and good points made.
      Thompson, you ever notice that in Nam, nobody told anybody the right way, wrong way or whatever? Like, if you didn’t muzzle sweep your mates, and you didn’t get dead, you must be OK?
      My ONLY objection to a shooting stance would be, if I saw a guy trying to do the Gangsta Sideways Ninety Degree grip, I might be inclined to ask if he has ever hit anything that he meant to hit, or just sent his rounds more-or-less downrange marked ‘to whom it may…’

  21. Or, you could call it the “charging handle,” which is what it is. How many M16A1s do you shoot these days?

  22. There are only two reasons for changing what works, The first is if the new way works better, and the second, many can argue is a subset of the first: if is supplies a major increase in safety without reducing effectiveness (for example, turning your shoulder into the shot, narrowing your profile, making you a smaller target, as long as it does not hamper your ability to return fire, since you would be better off turning tail and running if you cant hit your own target while advancing). All too often these changes in technique are adopted without the realization of all of the assocated affects such as sight recovery for second and subsequent shots (refrence the duck walk). All too often instructors forget to teach “the wrong way” as an example and an experiment to show why not to do it and at the same time find what works for the individual. I too am an FA instructor, but for an alphabet soup agency. The higher ups want things “by the book” but screw them. I want what works best, when one of my students comes home with a perforated cranium I get the blame.

  23. My old Command Master Chief said “I don’t give a (f-word) if you stand on your head with fireworks shooting out of your (a-word). If you hit the target and don’t die, you’re Golden, boy. That is all.


  24. I’ve walked away from a CENTCOM shoot over on Camp Slayer with 38/40. Smartarse A says “You dropped two rounds…not very professional”.
    Me handing back my rifle to it’s rightful owner says: “Yeah, I needed to adjust my fall of shot as I have never used this rifle before nor did I zero it.”

    I have also been asked repeatedly how I can shoot without sights. They obviously mean optics because most rifles come with sights. Sometimes I wonder what flavour of crack some of these kids’ mothers were on when breastfeeding!

    The only time that “wrong” is the correct answer is when numbnuts consistently fails to hit the target. Range Know-it-alls can fuck off out of my grid square and unless you’re shooting better than me consistently, or see me in breach of safety, don’t think you need to be correcting me.

    believe me, I will extend the same courtesy to professionals. Numbnuts, on the other hand, is fair game for being teased incessantly 😀

    AJ sends

  25. the first sgt handed us a brand new m-16 and said fire twenty rounds on the perimeter I said how about a battlesight zero he said you don’t need one just put it on full auto I guess thats when marksmanship went out the window never did muzzle sweep anyone thats why I still keep both eyes open when I’m house cleaning

    Good article and good points made.Thompson, you ever notice that in Nam, nobody told anybody the right way, wrong way or whatever? Like, if you didn’t muzzle sweep your mates, and you didn’t get dead, you must be OK?My ONLY objection to a shooting stance would be, if I saw a guy trying to do the Gangsta Sideways Ninety Degree grip, I might be inclined to ask if he has ever hit anything that he meant to hit, or just sent his rounds more-or-less downrange marked ‘to whom it may…’  (Quote This Comment)

  26. I had a similar incident at the range when I was doing my annual semi-qualification course. The guy I was shooting with loves to state how qualified he is for everything, how perfect he is, everyone is beneath him, but yet he is paid less than everyone at our department.

    When we go to the range, we bring our personally owned firearms so we can shoot them after our qualifications. Since this was the first time he shot with me, he thought I needed all of his advice because everyone is beneath him. So I play really dumb and cocky to reel him in. Here is how the coversation went (not verbatim):

    That guy, “Your grouping is horrible, where did you learn to shoot like that?”

    Me, “You need to have a nice cup of shut the hell up, because I don’t remember asking you for advice. Oh, and my grouping is way better than yours.”

    That guy, “Well, for someone who is pretty confident why don’t you put you’re money where your mouth is?”

    Me, “I know the checks I write won’t bounce, so how about firearms? My two Glocks for your Sig?”

    That guy, “I don’t know…”

    Me, “You talk a big game, but inside you’re just a pussy who can’t deliver.”

    That guy, “F#ck you, it’s on.”

    I love my new Sig! :-)

  27. good comment on the range know it all I have some of those too better than anyone else with a long gun and a pistol I use persuasive leadership to try and get them in the kill zone most listen the ones that don’t have a hard time qualifying.
    You learn who to trust with your life when the shit hits the fan same as it was in Nam keep on target god bless our service men and police and firemen lest we forget

  28. Read a lot of your stuff, but just had to comment on this. I’m lower enlisted NG, and recently while doing a zero on my M4 got a jolt in my left side. I instantly looked up with anger to see my Battalion SGM standing over me (he’d kicked me in the side) he was scowling and asked the E-7 next to me if I was one of his guys. The E-7 (Recon Platoon Daddy) said “kinda” and kept shooting.

    The SGM then went on a rant basically asking why in the hell would this E-7 let any soldier even closely affiliated with him shoot in such a “C” shaped prone position. I think his exact words were “This ain’t f-ing sesame street, we aren’t learning our alphabet, get behind your damn rifle!”

    I at this point was fuming, but had previously learned the hard way that no matter how much sense you make you will always lose when arguing with rank. Luckily the Plt Daddy had my back. He smiled really big, as if to spite the SGM and said “Look at his target” (we were shooting 300m zeroing targets at 25m, I had dumped about 40 rds down range killing time waiting on the rest of our firing line to finish zeroing) There was one hole that cut out the upper torso of the black silhouettte. “He’s B-4”

    The SGM made a few stammering remarks and then suggested I coach the other shooters who were taking so much extra time trying to zero.

    I am a huge advocate of “do what works for you” whether it’s tactics, mindset or gear. Each man is his own and no two are identical so what works for some doesn’t work for others, even on the same team. I think every shooter should do their best to examine and try new methods regularly as a platform for growth, just like with anything else. I don’t care how good you are, there is always room for improvement.

    James, keep the logical no nonsense stuff coming! I’m loving every minute I’m reading it!

  29. Or, you could call it the “charging handle,” which is what it is. How many M16A1s do you shoot these days?  (Quote This Comment)

    I stand corrected charge handle I still shoot the M-16 A1 on a regular basis we have 5 in the police armory and being the armorer I can go play on a regular basis they are still in good shape called colt all 5 had been to nam I still prefer the M-14 for personal use drawbacks it’s heavier and so are the ammo and mags bet our troops would like to have at least two to a rifle squad they will shoot through trees and walls good shooting keep em in the ten ring

  30. Good article and good points made.Thompson, you ever notice that in Nam, nobody told anybody the right way, wrong way or whatever? Like, if you didn’t muzzle sweep your mates, and you didn’t get dead, you must be OK?My ONLY objection to a shooting stance would be, if I saw a guy trying to do the Gangsta Sideways Ninety Degree grip, I might be inclined to ask if he has ever hit anything that he meant to hit, or just sent his rounds more-or-less downrange marked ‘to whom it may…’  (Quote This Comment)

    willy check out the car system center axis reflex one of my swat guys and the team paramedic went to the school in tennesse now more of the swat team is using it I’m an old dinosaur and it works with more practice in certain circumstances I might use it looks like house cleaning or as some would say clearing it would work best anyway i still shoot the combat stance with either hand just finnished an enhanced pistol course 300 riunds worth so good shooting

  31. Just to play devil’s advocate…

    Isn’t the reason they teach it is wrong to hold the mag/mag-well with your weak hand while shooting, because it causes extra drag on the bolt carrier (with certain mags especially), and can cause misfeeds? Granted holding the mag-well itself doesn’t, but if your hand rides down a little and presses on the mag, it can, so they always teach to stay away from that hold.

    Personally I don’t care how you shoot. Just pointing out that not all “the correct way to do things” are about accuracy (or safety for that matter). Not saying this applies to /you/, but you can be doing a dime sized group at 500 yards, and if your weapon is jamming every 15 rounds, there is still an issue.

    Again, playing devil’s advocate.

  32. The target tells ya if your doing it “right”. I just wanna be doing it the fastest way that works “all the time”. There are lots of right ways in this world. As a police officer and FA instructor I was trained to drop my mags free. In the desert this would make me a “non-shooting participant” real quick..not my idea of a good time! Never needed a dump pouch on my duty belt either…..but love it in the desert!!! Stay safe guys!

  33. My Army story is that I had a civil servant instructor (glorified Teacher’s Aide dame) keep telling me to lift my wrists off of the front edge of the typewriter. This was uncomfortable over time. I kept doing it my way (what I learned over years in school from a skilled typing teacher) and made a huge breakthrough, going from thinking the letters to reading the words. (My fingers spelled the words for me as if they were possessed by an English teacher.)

    Very few of my co-workers aren’t impressed by my ability to carry on a conversation looking at them while touch-typing a sentence.

    Do what works.

    Oh, and yeah, I’m one of those “lucky” few whose master-eye opposes his handedness. I was required to put a plastic brass deflector on my Basic Training M16A1 so that I could shoot according to my master-eye, rather than according to my handedness. Screw that, I went back to my handedness and had to close my left-eye in order to look down the iron sights. I’m not sure what disadvantaged me on the qualification range more, my genetic defect or the fact that the only time we practiced with our rifles in permanent party was when we were zeroing them for the qualification. Eventually, with the occurrence of a jam on the qualification range, which rattled me so much that I chambered a round when I wasn’t supposed to, getting me yelled out by the tower, I bolo’ed.

    I went from someone who drove nails on the initial paper targets in Basic Training to someone who bolo’ed in permanent party. That’s Army training for a support soldier during peacetime.

    I would have been served well by periodic practice doing it my way on a civilian range. It all made me miss my Mini-14 and AR-7. I won’t tell you the story about how the flip-down sights on the M203 didn’t work. 3 rounds to qualify without any practice but one round in Basic Training.

  34. What matters is the result that is derived. If you and your guys are safe and the bad guys are dead (whoever they may be … right wing extremists or zombies) who cares!

  35. You’re absolutely right. Only who steped on a battle field knows what we’re talking about….

  36. I’m not a contractor but I have to disagree with you on “works for me” attitude.
    If you compare to the world of professional sports – although most champions have their own way of performing routines – your local trainer will keep repeating there is one and only one way to do such routine.
    If you get hooked in your works-for-me routine it may let you to get satisfied with your performance, but no matter how much work youll put in excercise, you may not be able to move forward. While switching to mainstream techniques may drop your perfomance in short run it will allow you to excel in long run…

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