How To

The Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting: Doin’ the Bernie

-
7 Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting - Doin The Bernie

Here's our model shooter doin' the Bernie. Or facing a hurricane--we're not sure which.

The ’80s movie Weekend at Bernie’s was a pop icon film that exemplified heart-wrenching and soulful acting, panoramic cinematography, and helpful tips on how to party with a dead guy. Why it was shunned from Academy Award consideration remains a mystery, although industry insiders have long suspected a voter fraud scheme by Morgan Freeman and the producers of Driving Miss Daisy.

Weekend at Bernie’s is not only a golden example of the silver screen art form, it demonstrates dozens of important practical life tips. For example, if you ever find yourself dead as a result of forced heroin overdose by Mafia hit men, you can still party for days on end simply by wearing sunglasses.

You can also inspire short-lived fads like popular YouTube dances. In this case, it’s called the “Bernie,” or in some circles, “moving like Bernie.” If you watch someone doin’ the Bernie, you’ll notice the essence of the dance is a severe and painful backwards lean.

Which brings us to this weeks installment of the Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting: doin’ the Bernie.

We’ve all seen it, and most of us have done it. Men, women, kids, competitive Steel Challenge Llamas. It doesn’t matter. Doin’ the Bernie is a universal new shooter offense.

What exactly is doin’ the Bernie?

It simply refers to leaning backwards from the waist, so your shoulders are behind your belt line. Your head also leans back, like you’re trying to stop a nose bleed. It looks like you’re trying to shoot into a Category 5 Hurricane headwind.

Why do perfectly respectable people do the Bernie?

Perhaps they’re afraid that the gun will turn around and start chasing them. Or maybe it’s a subconscious move to show other nearby shooters just how relaxed they are shooting this huge, powerful pistol. Sort of gansta in a way.

More likely it’s an instinctive protective reaction to get as far away as possible from the big explosion about to happen in front of their face.

Whatever the reason, doin’ the Bernie really hurts your ability to shoot well.

First of all, you’ve given the gun a huge head start in the battle against recoil. If you’re already about to fall over backwards, it doesn’t take much more of a push to send you off balance. That gun is going to shove you around and make you its bit…never mind that, let’s move on.

Second, the general weakness of this stance increases the odds that your gun will malfunction. If you’re shooting a semiautomatic handgun, that gun requires forward force in order to cycle correctly. If you’re not pushing forward against the gun with enough force, it won’t cycle correctly and is likely to jam. If this happens at the range, you’re only embarrassed. If it happens in a real-life self-defense situation, the consequences are far worse.

Third, it just looks kind of ridiculous. And isn’t that the most important thing?

If you don’t know if you do the Bernie, just munch on some brown sugar and cinnamon Pop Tarts while you shoot. If the crumbs fall on your belly, then you might be doin’ the Bernie.

So how do you shoot without doin’ the Bernie?

7 Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting - Proper Stance

Now here’s a handgun stance. Shoulders are just in front of the belt. Knees flexed. She’s controlling that gun, not the other way around.

Well, that where things get confusing. You see, there are a few commonly taught handgun shooting stances.

The Weaver Stance: Place your support side foot forward of your shooting side foot. Put your shooting side arm straight out. Use your support hand to pull back on the gun, keeping your elbow bent, to create some isometric tension.

The Isosceles Stance: As the Sword of Damocles was made obsolete by guns, the Handgun Stance of Isosceles became cool. Keep both feet parallel to the target, shoulder width apart. Now shove both arms forward to form a triangle. That’s where the “isosceles” part of Isosceles Stance comes from. Clever huh?

So which of these is right for you if you’re going to ban the Bernie from your shooting? It doesn’t make a darn bit of difference, because you can obtain a proper shooting stance with either of those methods–or some other.

You see, when it comes to killing Bernie (yet again) most of the battle is getting your body weight forward. The nuances of arms and feet positions are secondary to that.

Getting proper weight balance is pretty simple.

  1. Place your feet about shoulder width apart.
  2. If you like to put your weak side foot a little forward, great, do that.
  3. If you prefer to keep your feet side by side, great, do that.
  4. Flex your knees a bit. That makes the next step easier and gives you a better shock-absorbing platform. It also facilitates movement. Crazy things those knees!
  5. Here’s the important part. Bend a little forward at the waist. Your collarbone should be in front of your belt buckle. If you’re not wearing a belt, pretend you are.
  6. Roll your shoulders inward and down just a touch. That’ll help control recoil even more.
  7. Assume your Weaver, Isosceles, or Iron Lotus position. It doesn’t matter.
  8. Make sure those shoulders stay in front of your waist.

That’s it!

You’ll be amazed at how little your handgun recoils when you get your weight forward of your belt. You’ll make that gun your bit…never mind. Let’s just say you will be controlling your handgun–not the other way around.

This article is the second part in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting. To learn more about how not to shoot, check out last week’s article on the cup and saucer grip here.

Images by Tom McHale

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
  • William Baker

    On your crumbs on the belly, and collar bone forward of the belt buckle points: you failed to take beer belly into account. Falling flat on your face, gun in ground will not help your shooting style either. ;P

    • I was in a total state of denial as I have a bit of one myself 🙂

    • Steven Chehey

      Even though I know you are just trolling, this would be overcome by bending further at the knees thus lowering and widening the center of gravity.

  • Ron Holt

    I sure like brown sugar/cinnamon Pop Tarts, they’re really good!

    • Bob in Florida

      Just be careful how you eat it!
      Chewing so it resembles the shape of a gun has been known to cause extreme politically correct repercussions!

  • Keith Schroeder

    When I’m instructing new shooters, I have them assume a “boxer’s” stance before they shoot. Then when they’re shooting and inevitably go into the “Bernie” stance, all I need to say is “boxer’s stance” and they get their weight distributed correctly.

  • Bob in Florida

    I believe the Weaver stance, with support-side foot slightly forward, also helps keep the weight forward – merely by shifting some of the weight to the forward foot.

  • jaxtom

    I use about ten pounds of added geegaws such as night sights, grip extenders, bayonet lugs, nine cell flashlights, etc. on my .45 & I have yet to feel ANY recoil…dang near blew ma toes off though…

  • Daniel Xu

    It’s a joy reading your articles, can’t wait for the next one!

  • Ashram13

    “Doin’ the Bernie” is actually a reference to “Weekend at Bernie’s 2,” where the body of Bernie Lomax is put under an incompetently executed voodoo spell, causing it to dance and move in the awkward backwards lean position while it goes to the location of the stolen insurance company money.

    But, point still taken; the backwards lean is a poor, unbalanced position that causes the weapon’s recoil to work against you.

  • 2fishandhunt

    I would like to take that lady shooting, and show her the proper stance!

  • jacks colon

    In an offensive/defensive situation in a home, or other area where you are moving, or using cover/concealment, neither of these stances will be useful anyway. Ditch stance perfection and train for situations.

  • The Bo’miser

    Love the second pic shows better form and stance but definitelyshows a lot more…Yeah baby!!!

  • medic2003

    I tend to shoot to the left a bit in a weaver stance. I correct this much better with the Isosclese even though the weaver feels much more natural. Any suggestions on how to correct that in the weaver stance?

  • dlpossum

    ‘nother reason for “doin’ the Bernie”: TRIFOCALS!

  • Double-Tap

    I take exception to your suggestion to munch on some brown sugar and cinnamon Pop Tarts while shooting. Because of lead toxicity, one should neither eat nor drink while shooting (though drinking a beer and allowing a little to dribble off your chin would yield the same results).

    Just sayin’.

  • I shoot from the hip at 10 feet. 95% of the gunfights happen at less than five feet and I’d rather not hand my gun to an aggressor to assist in killing me.