Quick summary: it’s the modern day, and everyone can use magic. Some of that magic is of the variety that lets you launch energy blasts from your fists, similar to a Mega Man style arm cannon. You mentally activate the ability, clench your fist, wait for the energy to manifest around your arm, hold it at the ready for as long as you like until you’re ready to fire, then mentally release the energy to shoot.

What I’m thinking about regarding this is what the proper shooting stance for this sort of thing would be, the sort of thing professionals like police and soldiers would be taught. My immediate instinct is that since there’s no recoil necessitating the two-handed pistol stance, the proper stance for using magic like this would be sort of a one-handed archery stance where you turn your body to the side to keep as little surface area as possible facing your target. Am I wrong? Is there another reason people are taught to keep one arm bracing the arm holding the gun besides recoil? If so, what would the actual best stance be?

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    In the military the 2 handed pistol stance is taught because 1. recoil can be handled better and 2. military body armor yields best protection from the front. I guess the sideways stance could be best if both points are of no concern. – Battle Oct 10 at 12:50
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    It depends on the weight and how you aim the weapon. If you have to line up sights on the target it will have to be held up to head hight. If it's heavy you'll need 2 hands. Chances are the natural posture would be similar to normal postures. Largely stance isn't just about recoil . But about stability during aiming. – Richard Oct 10 at 14:46
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    Exactly how does one 'aim' an energy beam or burst that is shot from the fist? What direction does it come out of the fist at? What controls this direction? What happens if you make a fist just ever so slightly different? Do you 'point and aim' using a finger? – Justin Thyme Oct 10 at 16:25
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    So extending the arm straight out your side, and aiming down your arm, would give a more accurate shot because your eyes would line up right on top of your extended arm, or the arm extended out in front means your head would have to be tilted to get your eyes over your straight arm? With, say, a gun, you can adjust a long gun against the shoulder or a hand gun can be tilted at the wrist to align it with the eyes. Not so much the forearm. Sort of like a long bow is best aimed sideways, down your arm extended to the side. – Justin Thyme Oct 10 at 19:59
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    If you make the weapons solar-powered, requiring no clothing from the shoulder down in order to fire, you'll have a fantastic opportunity to make a Second Amendment pun. – Steve V. Oct 10 at 22:20

10 Answers 10

Yes, you are right. Under those rules, aligning hand (or arm), shoulder, eye and body in the straightest way would be the best posture for accuracy.

Essentially the postures adopted by Olympic handgun shooters or archers:

enter image description here

But we can play around a bit.

You said that you have to accumulate energy around the arm before shooting...

  • How accurate are those shots? If they have a wide dispersion, a stance for accuracy may matter less.
  • How bright is that energy? Bright enough to be like having a lantern aiming at your eyes and you'll blind yourself shooting like Mega-Man (and Mega-Man projectiles seem very bright!).
    That would mean you would want to channel energy outside your view range and then aim and release with the quickest motion possible.
    On the other hand, sunglasses. Maybe they are even more common than reality, maybe they are combat gear and wearing one is a sign of imminent hostilities.
  • Does that energy 'rattle'? Maybe that energy doesn't accumulate peacefully around your arm, but it's more like a violent storm and you can't avoid having it jerk your hand around if you aim like an archer.
    In that case you may need to adopt a more stable stance and grab your arm/wrist.
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    Excellent points. Something to say is that the two hand stance is as useful for accuracy as it is for recoil management. Keeping both hands on the gun makes a sturdier shooting position eliminating parasite movements from the arm. – Aziris Morora Oct 11 at 8:43
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    @AzirisMorora Indeed! I tried to imply that with the last "grab your arm" phrase, but I was a bit tired when I was finishing the post. – Faerindel Oct 11 at 10:29
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    The competitors in the photo are forbidden by the rules to use two hands. If a two-handed stance were permitted, my hunch is it would be quite popular. – David K Oct 11 at 13:19
  • It is vanishingly unlikely they would forbid it by the rules, unless it was thought (at one point) to convey an "unfair" advantage. – Martin Bonner Oct 11 at 14:46
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    @MartinBonner It's specifically a rule. ISSF rule 8.7.1 states: The athlete must stand free, without any artificial or other support, with both feet and/or shoes completely within the firing point. The pistol must be held and fired with one (1) hand only. The wrist must be visibly free of support. – David Liu Oct 11 at 23:14

In real conflict your most ideal position is always prone. Barring this, any position behind cover. This is for a few main reasons:

  • Increase accuracy in shot (a steadier arm) and therefore greater range
  • Reduced profile to the enemy
  • Greater ability for stealth

No-one uses pistol stances anymore - it is simply not practical as you present too large a target.

You need to move from cover to cover. Anyone caught out in the open, standing, or walking will be noticed, and of course easily targeted.

A prone position is this:

enter image description here

Even when a recoil-less rifle a prone position is desirable. If it is not practical due to obstructions or terrain, a semi-prone position is desirable, like this:

enter image description here

It matters little if your arm is the weapon, or if you are wielding arms. The priority in a conflict would be the same, you need to increase your chances of survival.

I remember a Navy SEAL saying that you have to go to cover. Anyone caught in the middle of the street has too high a chance of being killed. Even when you move you squat to reduce your profile. Having said that, mobility and awareness are greater issues, being able to move quickly to a position, in a way where your opponent does not know where you are, but you know where your opponent is. But that's a whole book...

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    Even though getting to cover is the first thing you do, this is achieved by constantly shooting at the target(s) to prevent them from doing the same while reaching said cover. The correct position to shoot while standing is still needed to get to cover as fast as possible. – Aziris Morora Oct 11 at 8:45
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    @AzirisMorora Every situation is different and needs to be looked at differently. However in most instances you are not on equal footing with the enemy, you encounter them or they you. Firing 'from the hip' is not a usual action, given that fire may be coming from somewhere you do not know yet, and you or your CO needs to assess the situation. Suppressive fire is a reasonable tactic in some situations, however almost always from cover. A commander should already have his men in position prior to an encounter, hence prone. If an ambush, getting to cover takes precedence over other concerns. – flox Oct 11 at 12:17
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    I was talking about getting ambushed indeed, in this case we learn to shoot and run for cover/concealment, not just run except if someone already has some and can cover your move. You can also try to flank by moving and shooting to keep heads down. Anway, not the point here, just saying both positions (not limited to these) have to be mastered to be able to react appropriately. :) – Aziris Morora Oct 11 at 12:50

Seems to me that the most stable way to aim one's arm would be something like this:

enter image description here

Where the support arm wraps around the torso and under the aiming arm. One can then stare straight down the forearm for aiming and, since you mention in comment that the direction of the wrist doesn't matter, the wrist can be dropped slightly to not impede vision.

The torso can pivot in this position from a side-stance shot (exposing the side to the enemy) or a front facing shot (exposing the front to the enemy) so, either stance could be used based on one's armor or cover.

The kneeling version of this would be the same or would use the support arm as when using a rifle - anchor the elbow on the up knee and use the support hand to brace the aiming arm.

The prone version of this needs to change somewhat. The support arm would anchor the elbow to the ground while using the support hand to rest the aiming arm, similar to how the support hand aims a rifle in the prone position.

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    Huh. Did you take that picture? That’s actually a pretty cool looking stance too. – Jason Clyde Oct 10 at 22:36
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    @JasonClyde indeed I did. Figured the explanation made sense in words, made more sense in photo – Hueco Oct 10 at 22:37
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    @JasonClyde that's why you're the author and I'm the guy that spends my time over at photo.se >_<. – Hueco Oct 10 at 22:57
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    But once you describe the pose once give it a descriptive name and thereafter use the stance name. – Justin Thyme Oct 10 at 23:36
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    @JasonClyde something I just thought of...I've got a 5'10" wingspan, really Flexi-bendy shoulders, and a slim/athletic build. I'll have to check with my wife after work, but she's got really short arms. I'm not so sure this pose would work for some people? Just like shooting, I guess - every person tweaks the stance for their body. – Hueco Oct 11 at 15:36

Kung Fu stances.

If you are going to shoot magic missiles during a fight, you may take a page from the Avatar series of cartoons. Martial arts classicaly train you into stances that diminish your profile and vitals exposure to attacks. Your aiming and shooting would also flow with your other movements, and this would sinergize well with hand-to-hand combat too.

Water

Earth

Fire

Air

You can also mix those martial arts and change stances as needed. Airbending is the most focused on evasion and dodging attacks, firebending is the most aggressive art and earthbending meets attacks head-on.

For reference, those arts are based on real life martial arts:

  • Firebending was modeled after northern shaoling Kung Fu.
  • Earthbending is hung-gar, mantis and tiger Kung Fu styles.
  • Waterbending is based on Tai Chi.
  • Airbending is based on Pa Kua (also spelled Bagua).

You can see more on the martial coreography of the series by looking for "avatar creating the legend" on Youtube. The movements were modeled and supervised by a Kung Fu master.

  • At first glance I thought it was a Water Tribe Scroll with some cool Water Bending techniques :o) – DarkCygnus Oct 12 at 20:06

The two-handed stance might still be the best option for precision shots and sideways stance the best option for aiming.

Try taping a laser pointer onto your arm and aim at one point for a few seconds. Now imagine not having a tiny red dot indicating the point you're aiming at. Depending on how far away your target and how big your magic blast is, a few millimeters off in your aiming stance means your shot lands several inches off target.

Archers stand sideways because it's the best stance to line up the arrow with your eyes to make targeting possible. It also increases the distance you can draw the string and thereby the force the string puts on the arrow upon release, but that is outside the scope of this question.

For your magic shot that means:

  • If it shoots in the extension of your forarm, a sideways pose makes aiming easier because your eyes are in line with your shot.
  • A two-handed pose improves stability. A two-handed sideways pose might be awkward enough to negate the stabilizing effect.
  • If you can control the direction of the shot mentally it doesn't matter which pose you choose.

Is there another reason people are taught to keep one arm bracing the arm holding the gun besides recoil? If so, what would the actual best stance be?

Control. Two sets of muscles puts less strain -- and thus less possibility of "jitter" -- on each muscle.

But it takes for granted that handguns have front and rear sight posts for aiming. Your arm cannon won't have that; you'll have to shoot it "sideways", and aim like it's a shotgun (which has only a front sight, and not a rear sight).

The more stable a platform you can provide for your forearm, the better you can stop it from "wobbling". Bracing with the other arm could help.

Lying with your feet toward the enemy and bracing against your legs might help even more. (Look up the Creedmoor position and the "dead frog" shooting position, for example.) But you might decide that creates too much risk of hitting your own legs with your own energy bolt.

If the direction of the bolt is determined by the alignment of the bones in your forearm, you have the problem of aiming, because your forearm is not equipped with gunsights and it is hard to get your eye in line with it. You can use something like the stance in Hueco's answer to press your upper arm against your face and get your eye close to the axis of your forearm. You can also lie down at an angle to the direction you want to "fire" and press your face down on your shoulder to get your eye nearly aligned with your forearm, placing a hand under your arm to brace it against the ground.

But what about adding artificial sights? If you clamp a sighting device to your forearm, will that interfere with making the magic bolt? What if you have a surgeon graft ridges of bone onto your radius so that you have raised points on your skin that you can sight along?


Regarding the doctrines of facing the enemy in order to minimize the number of organs hit by one shot or to take advantage of body armor, consider how the use of magic energy bolts changes the tradeoffs. What is the nature of how the bolt injures someone, and how can you minimize the risks?

For example, I suspect that part of the thinking behind "only let them hit one vital organ at a time" is that nowadays you might survive being shot in one vital organ. In the 18th century that was generally not possible, so giving your opponent one chance to hit two vital organs at once would have been better than giving them two chances to hit just one of the organs. But now that you're throwing around magic energy, how much does it matter which way you are facing an incoming bolt? Can you provide any kind of armor or magic protection against it, and how does that work?

The one handed stance is probably the best for the reasons you mentioned. Less body area facing the opponent which is good for defense. Alternatively, if you have a shield spell in the other hand being face on has an advantage where you stick your shooting hand through the defensive spell.

Another concern is do you sight along your arm or hand (or finger?) to aim the spell. Is there a pinky spell? How do you sight the ring finger containing the mythical vein straight to the heart? Most likely firing the spell will be arm up so you can see where you aim. If guidance mid-flight is possible shooting from the hip might be a better option to disguise the intent.

In a world where everyone runs around with hand cannons defense becomes far more crucial.

  • I was taught the "Weaver stance", which is a slightly angled body position, in the military 30 years ago. When I went back in the military 15 years ago the new technique is to stand facing your attacker, full frontal, for two reasons. 1) Body armor was mainly designed to protect the front and back and had less protection on the sides - let the armor work if you have it. 2) With or without body armor, a bullet entering the front of your body usually hits one or maybe two organs. If you're sideways and you get hit the bullet can impact several organs as it goes through your body. – Tracy Cramer Oct 10 at 17:24
  • This is specific to projectile weapons of course but making the statement that it is better to show less body area to an opponent is not always true and is not what military, police, and other professionals are currently being taught. – Tracy Cramer Oct 10 at 17:25
  • Weaver stance also prevents you from turning both left and right while still maintaining your stance. Whichever your leading (shooting) arm is, you have much less range of motion in that direction. It's therefore inferior even without body armor. – seizethecarp Oct 12 at 13:42

Ignoring the rest of your body: right in front of your eye, so that the hammer/butt is touching your cheekbone.

It would (probably) give you the easiest way to site.

With a real gun, holding a gun there would break multiple bones in your face.

The marksmanship principles would still apply:

  • Hold must be firm enough to support the weapon
  • Weapon must point naturally at the target without undue physical effort
  • Sight alignment must be correct
  • Shot must be followed through without disturbing the aim

The amount of recoil only actually affects the last principle - all of the others are before the shot. These principles apply whether firing a .50BMG rifle or a .177 air rifle, and it's worth noting that the firing positions are very similar for both. In order to be accurate, you need to hold the mass of the weapon (and indeed your arms) steady in order to line up the sights, regardless of recoil.

So overall I'd say that the ideal firing positions would be the same for a recoil-free weapon as they are for any other similarly-shaped modern weapon.

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