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the secret to recoil control?


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How the heck do you get so high a grip on the gun? I can't even see the beavertail on the first video and the slide is right on the top of your hand!

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I have fairly wide hands and do my best to bury the beaver tail deep into the web of my hand. The higher up on the gun your hands are the less mechanical leverage it has against you.

Those are some big mits

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I am a novice to this sport and by no means as knowledgeable as most of the people who have commented so I would appreciate anyone who thinks I am getting it wrong to let me know. I am trying to learn. I have read Brian Enos' book, Beyond Fundamentals, and he has a different take on recoil control. Be professes that it is better not to try and control recoil by overpowering with a strong grip. He says that whenever someone tries to eliminate recoil with a death grip the muzzle moves sporadically and must then be brought back onto the target. In contrast he says to allow the gun to recoil naturally with just enough grip to secure the gun and the sights will automatically return to the target in the same place as when it was fired. He says you should seek to be able to watch the front sight travel vertically up and then back down to the starting point. If it moves anywhere but straight up an down you are holding the gun too tightly.

I am paraphrasing here and relying on memory so I may have this all wrong but it made sense to me when I read it.

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Ocrrhbow, I like the approach of being in tune with the natural tendency of the muzzle to rise and fall, but using enough grip pressure, and in the right way, to greatly minimize the amount of muzzle rise without actively pushing the muzzle down. Or at least this is what I think I'm doing; maybe I'm lying to myself.

I'm not saying this is the only way to approach recoil control, it's just the way I'm working on.

Edited by GunBugBit
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I am a novice to this sport and by no means as knowledgeable as most of the people who have commented so I would appreciate anyone who thinks I am getting it wrong to let me know. I am trying to learn. I have read Brian Enos' book, Beyond Fundamentals, and he has a different take on recoil control. Be professes that it is better not to try and control recoil by overpowering with a strong grip. He says that whenever someone tries to eliminate recoil with a death grip the muzzle moves sporadically and must then be brought back onto the target. In contrast he says to allow the gun to recoil naturally with just enough grip to secure the gun and the sights will automatically return to the target in the same place as when it was fired. He says you should seek to be able to watch the front sight travel vertically up and then back down to the starting point. If it moves anywhere but straight up an down you are holding the gun too tightly.

I am paraphrasing here and relying on memory so I may have this all wrong but it made sense to me when I read it.

You want predictable recoil, but the stronger you grip...the less flip there will be. There's a reason every single one of the top shooters grips the shit out of the gun.

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I am a novice to this sport and by no means as knowledgeable as most of the people who have commented so I would appreciate anyone who thinks I am getting it wrong to let me know. I am trying to learn.

I have read Brian Enos' book, Beyond Fundamentals, and he has a different take on recoil control. He professes that it is better not to try and control recoil by overpowering with a strong grip. He says that whenever someone tries to eliminate recoil with a death grip the muzzle moves sporadically and must then be brought back onto the target.

In contrast he says to allow the gun to recoil naturally with just enough grip to secure the gun and the sights will automatically return to the target in the same place as when it was fired. He says you should seek to be able to watch the front sight travel vertically up and then back down to the starting point. If it moves anywhere but straight up an down you are holding the gun too tightly.

I am paraphrasing here and relying on memory so I may have this all wrong but it made sense to me when I read it.

I'm glad to see that pistol shooters are finally starting to get away from Ayoob's, 'revolver-orientated' style of pistol shooting. The above remarks are just another way of saying what's already been discussed in the past few pages. I think you've got the right idea, and your understanding is correct; however, I have the impression that you might be imagining the pistol needs to be held more loosely than is actually the case. A correct grip has to be firm enough to smoothly manage, both, the vertical and the horizontal pressures that a shooter's hands apply to the gun.

Vertical grip pressure is necessary in order to control front sight dwell time, and maintain the bounce (or, 'rhythm') to how the front sight moves up and down, and returns to the target's COM. Horizontal grip pressure is necessary in order to keep the frame from torquing in your hand(s) towards your fingertips - The weakest part of your grip - and to prevent the muzzle from tending to follow the direction of your moving trigger finger and, thereby, dropping shots between 9 and 7 o'clock (for a right-handed shooter, of course). What you do NOT want in your grip is excessive tension - When you're shooting well there's no place for, 'hard tension' in either your hands or your arms!

Personally, I think of a proper grip on a pistol as a form of, 'relaxed tension': Firm, but with pressure applied to all the right spots on the pistol's frame. Then it's just a matter of locking your wrists and allowing your arms to flex, smoothly, as the pistol fires, and the muzzle moves (ideally) up and down while remaining free of any side-to-side wobble.

Towards the beginning of this thread someone mentioned, 'locking your elbow'. He was, thereafter, immediately challenged and told that this is wrong. Actually, though, this comment isn't all that far off. Whoever said it appears to have considerable experience firing a pistol with one hand. However, 'lock' is, perhaps, too strong a word. Me? I like to say, 'anchor' instead. I DO shoot, 'from my elbows' and from my shoulders, too.

I'm going to give something away, here: From a Middlebrooks, 'Fist-Fire'; or, 'Reverse Chapman' presentation - Which I consider to be the finest pistol shooting grip and stance discovered, so far - I DO, indeed, anchor my gun hand elbow. This is the point from which I create a, (What shall I say?) 'relaxed tension' between the pistol's backstrap and my gun hand elbow - An, 'anchor' that allows me to more skillfully manage the backstrap on my pistol and, thereby, indirectly control the muzzle. So, 'lock' might not be the right word; but, 'anchor' isn't too far off, either.

Personally, I think a pistol needs to be anchored at the elbow(s).

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Great thread! It clicked for me yesterday after reading this and watching my last competition video.

Putting some tension into elbow and firm grip definitely helps with reliable return of sight picture. Helps a lot!

Edited by arkadi
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Ive started using the grip tite stuff (goo in your hand that turns to candy smelling chalk powder) and other than it getting all over your stuff it works great to maintain the vice grip and reduce my recoil or muzle rise

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I'm going to give something away, here: From a Middlebrooks, 'Fist-Fire'; or, 'Reverse Chapman' presentation - Which I consider to be the finest pistol shooting grip and stance discovered, so far - I DO, indeed, anchor my gun hand elbow. This is the point from which I create a, (What shall I say?) 'relaxed tension' between the pistol's backstrap and my gun hand elbow - An, 'anchor' that allows me to more skillfully manage the backstrap on my pistol and, thereby, indirectly control the muzzle. So, 'lock' might not be the right word; but, 'anchor' isn't too far off, either.

Personally, I think a pistol needs to be anchored at the elbow(s).

Been a while since I watched those Fist-Fire videos. I mostly remember Middlebrooks advocating a fully rolled-over and locked weak hand wrist which I thought was similar to what others suggest doing, but with different word cues that may work better for some shooters than others. I'm not sure if you are advocating something else here -- maybe an asymmetry in the arms where the weak arm is straighter and the strong arm elbow is bent and anchored to the body? I'd be interested in further details.

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For the most part the support side arm is always going to be a little more extended than the strong side arm if only for the reason that your support side hand is further forward than your strong side hand. I think the more you cam your wrist forward the straighter that elbow tends to be.

I haven't read the thread, but my primary goal for recoil control is to direct as much of the energy from recoil as I can into the ground. It starts with the grip where I want to ensure I get as much energy as I can going through my arms instead of lifting the muzzle. Like most, the majority of my grip pressure is coming from my support hand, I'd estimate I'm somewhere around 75% of maximum tension. I use a thumb rest most of the time so instead of locking my wrist forward I focus on applying a good amount downward pressure through my thumb from my wrist. I'm going to be tight from hands through my arms, shoulders, torso, and legs. Relaxed musculature does not transfer energy very well at all, the best way to describe my body tension is to be like a cobra flexing your cobra hood. I want a good portion of my weight shifted forward to make the line of energy transfer a little more through that arms shoulders torso legs line rather than directly out the back of my shoulders. Obviously the more upright you are the more your shoulders will move during recoil which is a variable I try very hard to eliminate. Don't let the gun push you around.

I like trying to create external rotation in my shoulders so my elbows are staying mostly in and I'm applying pressure (not a ton) towards pulling my hands apart. I find that the tension this creates in my shoulders and elbows makes me feel significantly more stable behind the gun.

Edited by Jake Di Vita
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Thanks Jake: very good stuff. Some of these suggestions I've heard before and have incorporated into my grip/stance, but some of these are new to me and I'm going to try them out. In particular, I like your approach to tension from hands through the rest of body. The issue of what should be tense vs. relaxed is is something I'm trying to work out for myself now.

Another issue I'm still trying to work through, which I don't hear described much, is the strong hand palm/thumb area. The exception seems to be Seeklander who says (in one of his excellent videos) to put as much pressure into the back of the gun with the strong hand palm as possible. Brian and others talk about pointing both thumbs strongly forward, which as a consequence probably stiffens the right palm and makes a better support for the gun.

Any thoughts ?

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I'm going to give something away, here: From a Middlebrooks, 'Fist-Fire'; or, 'Reverse Chapman' presentation - Which I consider to be the finest pistol shooting grip and stance discovered, so far - I DO, indeed, anchor my gun hand elbow. This is the point from which I create a, (What shall I say?) 'relaxed tension' between the pistol's backstrap and my gun hand elbow - An, 'anchor' that allows me to more skillfully manage the backstrap on my pistol and, thereby, indirectly control the muzzle. So, 'lock' might not be the right word; but, 'anchor' isn't too far off, either.

Personally, I think a pistol needs to be anchored at the elbow(s).

Been a while since I watched those Fist-Fire videos. I mostly remember Middlebrooks advocating a fully rolled-over and locked weak hand wrist which I thought was similar to what others suggest doing, but with different word cues that may work better for some shooters than others. I'm not sure if you are advocating something else here -- maybe an asymmetry in the arms where the weak arm is straighter and the strong arm elbow is bent and anchored to the body? I'd be interested in further details.

You ask good questions! I, also, agree with you. Many, but not all, of the top handgun trainers are saying exactly the same thing; but, as might be expected, with a unique, 'twist' of their own. Personally, I don't see a whole lot of difference between what Robert Vogel is presently teaching, and what D.R. Middlebrooks has been teaching, 'under his own brand and label' for many years now.

Yes, I am advocating an (as you say) 'asymmetry' between the support, and gun arms. You need this asymmetry in order to compensate for, and align the pistol with your (correct) dominant eye. Years ago I took to heart something Middlebrooks said; and I paraphrase from memory, OK: 'If I were going to stay in pistol shooting then I needed to find a way to be easier on my wrists and arms.' Well, wouldn't you know! I was, also, at that stage in life where I needed to learn how to be, 'kinder' to my wrists and arms, too. So I took Middlebrooks' advice: I gave up the isosceles and Chapman stances; and began to work with a, 'Reverse Chapman' or, 'Fist-Fire' grip and stance.

HAPPILY, IT WORKED FOR ME; AND IT WORKED VERY WELL FOR ME, TOO!

But, here's the, 'kicker'! In order to be able to truly compensate for a pistol's natural tendency to recoil and break towards the fingertips - which is the weakest part of everyone's grip - I found it to be imperative for me to: (1) ADOPT AN, '1/8TH HOMIE' GRIP on the pistol at precisely the same moment as I lowered my gun hand elbow; as well as to (2) SPLAY THE LOWER EDGE OF THE PALM OF MY SUPPORT HAND away from the pistol's frame by adopting Middlebrooks' (or Vogel's), 'open space' at the bottom of the support hand side-panel. Do it any other way; and you WILL sacrifice a certain amount of control over the pistol's muzzle.

Should you maintain strong conscious control over a pistol's backstrap? ABSOLUTELY! Precisely controlling a pistol's muzzle begins with controlling what I like to call, 'THE SWEET SPOT' on a pistol's backstrap. Now I can't speak for anyone else; I can only tell you what I do; (and what I do works!) Myself, and a lot of other pistol shooters I know have argued about this topic for years; but, speaking personally, YES, I do apply a significant amount of pressure to the support side of a pistol WITH MY THUMBS, and especially with my support side thumb!

When I shoot a pistol with my right hand (I'm ambidextrous.) all of the other things I've just mentioned contribute to keeping my shots away from the, '6 to 9 o'clock quadrant' on the target; but, the additional pressure applied by my thumbs to the support side of the pistol REALLY helps to keep me away from dropping shots to the weakest side of my grip; and this is especially true whenever I'm shooting a compact pistol like the G-19 that I usually carry, and always need to be sharp with!

With me it's not a matter of placing my pistol shots with the higher precision of a one-handed postal target shooter. If this were the subject matter, here, then we'd be talking about different pistol shooting methods and techniques. For most of the combat style pistol shooting that I do, nowadays, bringing the muzzle up and quickly into line with the target's COM is more than good enough for me to accomplish the desired purpose. I want to set up my pistol's muzzle as fast as I can on the target's center; and I want to be be able to do this with as much of a guarantee that my shots are going to go where I want them to as it's possible for me to achieve.

So far nobody has given me better pistol shooting advice than Robert Vogel, and D.R. Middlebrooks; and, perhaps with my own, 'spin' on the subject, that's what I'm repeating now. This is, 'How' I've personally discovered that things should be done; and, to date, I know of no better way. I find it much easier (and a lot faster) to lock my wrists on the sight picture I'm looking for as I drop and lock my gun-side elbow below the proper (gun-side) eye.*

* 'Why'? Because dropping the elbow seems to improve the lock on both of my wrists. I'm going to, 'freak' some people out with this; but, many years ago, I developed the ability to fire a handgun well by aiming with either eye. All I have to do is to squint for a moment with the eye that I do NOT intend to use; and, voilà, I'm able to switch my so-called, 'master eye' over to the other side. (I've been doing this for decades, OK; and it's always worked for me!)

Edited by Arc Angel
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"But, here's the, 'kicker'! In order to be able to truly compensate for a pistol's natural tendency to recoil and break towards the fingertips - which is the weakest part of everyone's grip - I found it to be imperative for me to: (1) ADOPT AN, '1/8TH HOMIE' GRIP on the pistol at precisely the same moment as I lowered my gun hand elbow; as well as to (2) SPLAY THE LOWER EDGE OF THE PALM OF MY SUPPORT HAND away from the pistol's frame by adopting Middlebrooks' (or Vogel's), 'open space' at the bottom of the support hand side-panel. Do it any other way; and you WILL sacrifice a certain amount of control over the pistol's muzzle."



Some interesting ideas here ... I'm definitely going to try them out and see if they work for me. Thx, JR


Edited by jroback
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Thanks Jake: very good stuff. Some of these suggestions I've heard before and have incorporated into my grip/stance, but some of these are new to me and I'm going to try them out. In particular, I like your approach to tension from hands through the rest of body. The issue of what should be tense vs. relaxed is is something I'm trying to work out for myself now.

Another issue I'm still trying to work through, which I don't hear described much, is the strong hand palm/thumb area. The exception seems to be Seeklander who says (in one of his excellent videos) to put as much pressure into the back of the gun with the strong hand palm as possible. Brian and others talk about pointing both thumbs strongly forward, which as a consequence probably stiffens the right palm and makes a better support for the gun.

Any thoughts ?

As far as tense vs. relaxed, I find the only place relaxation has a role in the type of shooting we do is being mentally relaxed. Being mentally relaxed really lets my vision drive my shooting. I don't believe physical relaxation has much of a place in the action portion of athletics including shooting. About the only time my body is completely relaxed is when I'm sleeping. I try to always carry at least 10% tightness in my body (enough tension to where someone could walk up and belly check me and I'm not going to double over) even when walking around or sitting down. That percentage goes up significantly if I have to do something athletic. I don't focus on stiffening my hand into the back strap but I think it happens as a consequence of the other things I do with my grip. I also try to get the inside corner of my strong hand palm (opposite of thumb directly down from pinky) on the backstrap which could be where that backstrap tension comes from.

But, here's the, 'kicker'! In order to be able to truly compensate for a pistol's natural tendency to recoil and break towards the fingertips - which is the weakest part of everyone's grip - I found it to be imperative for me to: (1) ADOPT AN, '1/8TH HOMIE' GRIP on the pistol at precisely the same moment as I lowered my gun hand elbow; as well as to (2) SPLAY THE LOWER EDGE OF THE PALM OF MY SUPPORT HAND away from the pistol's frame by adopting Middlebrooks' (or Vogel's), 'open space' at the bottom of the support hand side-panel. Do it any other way; and you WILL sacrifice a certain amount of control over the pistol's muzzle.

I don't understand what you are saying here. Got a couple pictures of your grip/arm position so I can see what you're trying to describe?

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But, here's the, 'kicker'! In order to be able to truly compensate for a pistol's natural tendency to recoil and break towards the fingertips - which is the weakest part of everyone's grip - I found it to be imperative for me to: (1) ADOPT AN, '1/8TH HOMIE' GRIP on the pistol at precisely the same moment as I lowered my gun hand elbow; as well as to (2) SPLAY THE LOWER EDGE OF THE PALM OF MY SUPPORT HAND away from the pistol's frame by adopting Middlebrooks' (or Vogel's), 'open space' at the bottom of the support hand side-panel. Do it any other way; and you WILL sacrifice a certain amount of control over the pistol's muzzle.

I don't understand what you are saying here. Got a couple pictures of your grip/arm position so I can see what you're trying to describe?

You can see what I'm talking about in Robert Vogel's video on proper grip; and the same information is also shown in one or two of Middlebrooks' 'Fist-Fire' videos - Especially the one where his wife demonstrates the proper, 'Fist-Fire' grip while D.R. stands next to her and points out various features of her grip.

It's been several years since I last saw that Middlebrooks' video. I remember D.R. commenting that he'd taken a lot of criticism for recommending this type of grip; but, now, after what Vogel has done with it, I think any possible doubts have all been swept away! I know it's helped me with my own pistol shooting; and, quite frankly, I've never shared this information with anyone else before. (Better to keep 'um guessing - Right!) :D

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It's funny because I do the exact opposite rotation as what Bob does. I try to avoid setting my shoulder up internally rotated in flexion, for a similar reason that you wouldn't want your shoulder in that position while benching or pressing. I'm a big proponent of adopting the position that gives me the most bio-mechanical stability and the undeniable most stable position for the shoulder in all ranges of flexion is external rotation. I don't think it is reasonable for you to unequivocally state that you "WILL sacrifice a certain amount of control" by doing it any other way.

It's been a long time since I've spoken with Bob but I've always liked the guy and his way of doing things clearly works well for him, but I'm certainly not willing to say it's the best way just because he wins with it - especially for people that don't put in even 5% of the work that Bob does into his game. Most people don't understand how many thousands of hours he has put into practicing with his way of doing it. I'd bet that has a lot more to do with his success than this particular mechanic of his grip.

Edited by Jake Di Vita
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It's funny because I do the exact opposite rotation as what Bob does. I try to avoid setting my shoulder up internally rotated in flexion, for a similar reason that you wouldn't want your shoulder in that position while benching or pressing. I'm a big proponent of adopting the position that gives me the most bio-mechanical stability and the undeniable most stable position for the shoulder in all ranges of flexion is external rotation. I don't think it is reasonable for you to unequivocally state that you "WILL sacrifice a certain amount of control" by doing it any other way.

Jake, tell me if I've got this correct. I took a class with Bob, and watched his videos, and I believe he is applying a huge amount of force to the top of his grip by applying inward rotational pressure (right hand rotating CCW; left hand rotating CW; trying to crush the grip between his hands) coming all the way from his shoulders through his elbows. Now, assuming I am representing his grip technique correctly, I'm trying to understand what the "opposite" rotation you are using is? It sounds like maybe you are "fixing" your elbows in place and rotating your shoulders the other way so you are trying to pull your hands off the gun. Maybe I'm way off?

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That's correct. My elbows are mostly in and I'm rotating the top (as viewed from being aimed on target) of my hands outward away from each other. That being said, I'm still creating a lot of crushing force with my hand, so it isn't like my grip seperates. It's just a moderate amount of external rotational force to create the tension I'm looking for in my arms and shoulders. Maybe 25% as hard as I could.

Just sitting here messing with it, I suppose it's possible to apply inward pressure with my hands and keep my shoulders in position from my elbows. Maybe we can get the best of both worlds.

I'm going to play with it for a while.

Edited by Jake Di Vita
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Step one in supreme recoil control is significant grip strength. You need at least 100+ lbs of grip strength in each hand to keep the gun from shifting around in your hand while it recoils. You can talk about hand, shoulder, arm, angles all you want. But without a the proper grip strength you will never realize the true potential of supreme recoil management.

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I used grip exercisers a lot this year, and it has been an immense benefit. By far the most important development in my pistol shooting. I've gone from a sort of wild inconsistency to winning stages almost every match, and winning my division sometimes. Wish I'd started on it 4 years ago. I have been dryfiring a lot more as well, but that is just tuning the mechanics. The grip is where it's at. Charlie isn't patronizing you folks. He's giving you the key.

I will say that in terms of technique I feel like I'm pinching the gun into the web of my strong hand, and crushing the shit out of it with my weak hand. And I really feel like my weak hand is driving the gun. Bang bang.

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A strong grip will always help for sure

But I just shot with a 17 yr old girl that placed within 3% of a GM at a local match. He was in the top 16 at the nationals. She can't weigh 110 lbs.

It's not all strength.

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Step one in supreme recoil control is significant grip strength. You need at least 100+ lbs of grip strength in each hand to keep the gun from shifting around in your hand while it recoils. You can talk about hand, shoulder, arm, angles all you want. But without a the proper grip strength you will never realize the true potential of supreme recoil management.

Thank you... BLUF wisdom.

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