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Recoil Control Problems

By Matt Burkett �

The concept of a continuous sight picture. Nearly everything you hear in training or at a match is see your front sight. I don't think that is the correct way to approach a major problem with people's shooting. The main issue they have is that they don't see the sights when they need to, which is during the entire firing sequence and return to the targets. Most of my students would be familiar with the timing drills. One of the biggest benefits of a timing drill is that it would develop the ability to see the sight all the way through the recoil. That is how you shoot fast and accurate splits on target.

Understand that the GRIP of the pistol is different than getting a GRIP on a pistol. This is a difficulty in common language usage especially when describing both.

Recoil control or timing:

The Issue:

Most shooters have a significant issue with recoil control. Well okay they don't have any recoil control would be a better way to put it. We have worked on flinch. If you can see your sight lift and return, you're most likely not flinching.

Poor recoil control covers a spectrum of problems. From not having a consistent return of the gun to the same spot you just shot to the hand or hands breaking and losing grip on the pistol. Generally I see either a hand readjustment right after a shot or I see the weak hand actually lose its grip on the pistol.

Now let's define the issue. The concept of recoil control or timing the gun (from the shooter's perspective) is to subconsciously return the sights to the same spot. This is a neuromuscular firing of fast twitch muscles that occurs .04-.07 of a second after the shot is fired. Notice is said subconscious. You have to set everything up right for and then let it happen. The top shooters don't look like they're working hard when they're shooting do they? That's a big hint. They're not!

Common problems to address:

Does the gun fit your hand? Can you actually hold the pistol in a good firing grip and actuate all safeties along with get a proper finger position on the trigger? If the gun doesn't fit you, how do you think you will shoot it fast and accurate? You will be able to shoot it accurate regardless of grip, but, not fast. Accuracy is purely sight alignment and trigger control. Another issue that comes up when people are shooting a gun that doesn't fit is that they can't index the gun consistently. Fixes for improper gun fit include modifications to the grip, trigger length, or maybe a different gun entirely. Visit the SVI website. If you're using a 1911 or Wide Body gun, SVI has an insert trigger system (ITS) that allows you to change the trigger length, style, and even color without taking your gun apart. Is it slippery? I once had a student that had a full custom .45 and his issue was that the gun was just plain slippery. There really was no way to get a good purchase on it, especially with hard ball loads. I know this sounds like common sense, but, you have to be able to "stick" to the gun. It didn't help that he also liked to silicone his gun. THE WHOLE THING. Grip and all! That's like greasing a ball bearing then trying to hold on it when it gets 150 g's of force applied. Good luck! Skate board tape, checkering, different grips - they will all contribute to a better grip. If your sweaty hands aren't helping the issue any, get some Pro-grip from Krunch Products.

Do you have a crappy grip that doesn't lend itself to holding the gun properly? Is there a gap between your hands? Is your weak hand thumb not pointing at the target? Is your weak hand actually getting on the grip itself or just kind of riding your strong hand? If you have seen Practical Shooting V 4, we mark the hands on Kevin to see if he is getting a consistent grip on the pistol. Have a training partner do the same for you. Then do 25 draws and see what happens.

The weak hand needs to be an integral part of the two handed grip. For me that is where most of the recoil control happens. Trigger control occurs with my strong hand. Most shooters try to do too much with the strong side of their body. This is a natural thing that we need to overcome for really fast shooting. Fast shooting doesn't happen when the strong side is tensed up. This is when you will see shooters have trigger freezes, and horrible follow up shots. Sometimes it doesn't even look like they were shooting at the same target! A drill to work on that will help you bring your weak side more into your shooting is when the hands hit the reception position (about where you clap), the weak hand "brings" the gun to the sight plane. This can help take the focus off of the dominance of the strong side and help balance us out a bit. (Wouldn't it be a better world all around if more people were well balanced? I am talking mentally here though.)

Pushing and pulling on the gun like the old style weaver technique. Alright, so this one never made sense to me. The gun is recoiling rearwards, why in the hell do you want to help it? Dynamic tension is a bunch of BS. When you have an adrenaline rush, what happens? You get stronger, right? Use more gross motor skills, right? Well here is a hint, what side is stronger? Your strong side, umm duh. That's why you will see a lot of shooters who use the weaver push their second shot low left. Their first one may be fine, but, after that when the pressure is on, it can have a tendency to go to hell really quick. If you're pushing forward, using a positive pressure with both arms and get an adrenaline rush, what happens? You're just putting more energy into the gun in the exact opposite direction of the recoil. Not a bad thing huh? Make sure your stance is solid. Have someone push on your hands in your shooting stance (solid constant pressure). If you can't hold the same position, guess what the gun is doing.

Make sure you're relaxed and in a positive position. Tension kills fast shooting. Tension is different than strength. (That's a fun one to explain that I am not even going to touch here. If you don't get it, call me.) Can you wiggle your toes in the shooting box before the timer goes off? Bet you can't the first time you try. The nerve going to the big toe is the longest nerve in the human body. Guess what, if your toes are tense, everything else is tense in between. Take a lower abdominal breath and relax your abs. Focus on your stress and get rid of it.

Okay so now you have a solid stance, you're relaxed, have a good grip on the gun, and you can reach the trigger. Do you have sights you can see effectively? Can you make out the front sight clearly? Time to see the eye doctor? BTW if your over 40 and suffering the standard far sighted issue (ie. need reading glasses) ask your doctor about a new procedure called CK.

Drills to develop recoil control:

Dryfire won't cure a recoil control problem. That is the one thing you can't do in dryfire. What it will develop is proper stance, grip, etc..

The first thing I want you to do is to aim at a berm that isn't too far away. Say 10 yards. Make sure that it is a good backstop and you're not going to get any ricochets. Load and make ready and get everything behind the gun right - grip, stance, relaxed etc. Aim the gun at a target and just burn off the whole magazine as fast as you can. What did you feel and learn? Where you able to shoot all the way through the magazine without stopping and was your trigger speed consistent? Were you able to keep a grip through the whole magazine? If so, great, skip to doing my timing drills. (tip is on my website or in PSV4) If not, figure out where the problem is. Is it your weak hand? Did your tension build as you shot? What's going on? Have a practice partner help you diagnose the issue if necessary by having them watch you shoot. What is your body language? Can they see you tighten up? Side note: what is your trigger finger doing? Is it leaving the face of the trigger or bouncing on and off it? Once you can get that down, which may take a lot of ammo see if you can get a continuous sight picture during the whole magazine.

An interesting note: A lot of students have found that when they were able to get their gun under control, they generally cured most of their flinching issues.

Take care and good luck with your shooting! Please email this article to your friends that it could help out.


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This page was updated on 5/3/2007 2