Fixing The 2 Most Common AR-15 Training Errors

Today, I’ve got 2 common AR-15 training errors that I’m going to take A LOT of heat for pointing out.

These 2 inferior techniques/errors are almost sacred cows in the firearms training industry.

You see competitive shooters use them.

You see super-high-speed tactical ninjas with Tier I credentials use them.

They’re the techniques shown in all the magazines and YouTube Videos.

Now it would be awesome if this were a black and white issue…it’s not.

Both of these inferior techniques work.  They’re just not the most effective techniques available.

To be clear, the instructors teaching these techniques don’t mean any harm.  They’re teaching the techniques simply because they don’t know that there is a better option available.

Let’s start with the c-clamp.  And a picture of yours truly using it…

Running and Gunning With An AR

Running and Gunning With A c-clamp grip on an AR

I have used the c-clamp technique off-and-on for a few years.  At first I didn’t like it at all, but I kept seeing the “cool kids” using it and figured I must just be missing something.  After all, if all of the muscled up tactical dudes with operator beards on YouTube used it, it must be the best technique, right?

So, early last year, I committed to using the c-clamp grip for the next 12 months.  I went cold turkey.  I removed the vertical fore-grip from all-but-one of my carbines and committed to the technique.

I used it with .223, .22, .300 BLK, and .308, for hunting, “just shooting,” training, and 3-gun, as well as for all of my carbine dry fire practice.

After just over 1 year with the technique, I said “good riddance” to the c-clamp and put my vertical foregrips back on my carbines.

Here’s why:

  1. Normal recoil for me with an AR is mostly vertical. If I shoot faster than my gun recovers from recoil, I will have a string of holes going straight up and down.  This is very good for tall/narrow target profiles, like a human.  With the c-clamp, the recoil goes up and to the right.  If you look at some high end muzzle breaks, like Arredondo, they’ve got extra ports drilled to counteract this off-axis recoil.  (I’ve got an Arredondo…if you’re going to use a c-clamp grip, it’s a GREAT muzzle break).

In short, when I just hold the foregrip normally, like my grandpa and dad taught me, or use a vertical foregrip, the recoil pattern is more predictable and better for vertical targets.

  1. This one’s pretty simple…you’ve got more strength and endurance when you hold a weight close to your body rather than with your arm fully extended.

Keep in mind that #1 isn’t really an issue if you’re JUST interested in competition.  You can use a specialized muzzle break or develop the muscle memory to handle the off-axis recoil.  #2 also isn’t an issue for competition, because the stages aren’t that long.  But, if you’re training for defense, there are other factors at play…

  1. When your left arm is fully extended with the c-clamp technique, it doesn’t help much if someone grabs the end of your gun and tries to take it from you. Since your arm is fully extended, if they pull, your surprise reaction will be to clinch and you’ll go with the gun.

    If you’ve got a bent elbow, you’ve got more leverage AND your elbows can flex if someone tries to take the gun.

  2. One of the biggest advantages of the carbine over a pistol in close combat is the ability to muzzle punch a suspected threat OR muzzle punch in the event of a malfunction. If your left arm is fully extended because of using the c-clamp grip, you lose most of this ability.  If your left arm has a bend in it, you can use this technique.

    On suspected threats, the muzzle punch allows you to turn your carbine into a (possibly) less than lethal tool.  This technique has been used with great success in Iraq & Afghanistan.  When a situation is unfolding at the speed of life in high-stress, low-light conditions, and you round a corner and end up face to face with a stranger, a muzzle punch to the chest might give you enough time to determine that someone doesn’t need a bullet or stop the fight without any shots being fired.

    There are hundreds of Iraqis who have 2, 4, 5, or more muzzle punch scars to the chest because of being in the same house as a high value target during a takedown.  They’re still alive today because our guys muzzle punched them instead of giving them 2 to the chest.  For you, it might be a friend of one of your kids sneaking in to sleep off a hangover, a confused neighbor, or some other situation where a muzzle punch is a MUCH better instinctive reaction to a bump in the night than shooting first.

    In a malfunction situation, the ability to immediately transition from using your AR as a gun to using it as a very effective pugil stick can be a game changer in a life or death situation.

  3. Like a lot of guys, I LOVE SBRs (short barreled rifles) and AR-pistols. If you train yourself to always reach your support hand out to full extension and use the c-clamp grip, sooner or later, you’re either going to grab a handful of hurt (in the form of a burn or a hole) or you’re going to run the gun slower out of respect for the potential of grabbing a handful of hurt.

#3, #4, and 5 don’t really matter at all for competition.  Or for qualifying.  Or for clearing a shoot-house full of paper targets.  But they absolutely DO matter if you own a gun as a tool for life & death situations.  Especially for bump-in-the-night situations.

The 6th reason the c-clamp technique is inferior meshes in with the 2nd inferior technique…

The second inferior technique is pulling the gun into your shoulder with BOTH your right and left hands. (The pull+pull technique)

EVERYONE teaches this.  This technique is SO proven that if Moses had a 3rd stone, it would have been engraved on it.

The pull+pull technique WAS the absolute best technique available…until it was improved upon.

Whatever you do, DO NOT be critical of an instructor who is teaching the pull+pull technique.  This is not common knowledge.  High volume instructors are spinning more plates than you can imagine and don’t have time to stay on top of every new advance in gear, techniques, and training methodology.  They teach the absolute best information that they know…until they find something better.  The stuff they’re teaching is absolutely saving lives, will save more, and I thank God for them, but there IS a better technique available and I will help them evaluate it and decide whether or not it’s something they want to teach.

In short, if you PUSH with your left hand and PULL with your right hand, you will have better retention, better recoil management, and you’ll be able to put multiple accurate shots on target faster than with the pull+pull technique.  I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a pretty powerful trifecta.

The first time I heard this, I was with a friend who had several high-tempo direct action combat deployments under his belt as a SEAL.  I was trying to be respectful, but I still visibly smirked and audibly snorted at him.

He had the advantage of having proven the technique in combat, over several years, and with hundreds of students, so he humbly let me live—and proceeded to drop the mag on his carbine, lock back the bolt, hand it to me and told me to try my way and his way.

If you ever laugh (or snort) at a SEAL who tells you they have a better way and they calmly ask you to try their way instead of getting mad, you pretty much know that you’re screwed.

He had me hold it with a pull+pull grip.  And he grabbed the end of the muzzle and jerked it around.  (it went where he wanted it to go)

He had me hold it with a c-clamp grip. (He grabbed the muzzle again and it went where he wanted it to go…only faster and further)

And he had me hold it with a push+pull grip. (it still moved, but about 70% less than with the pull+pull grip)

Again, weapon retention doesn’t matter in competition, on the range, in a carbine class, or in a shoot house, but it DOES potentially matter in a real-life fight for your life.

Then he had me put a mag in and try the 3 techniques with live fire.

This was almost 2 years ago so I don’t remember the exact distance, but the target was 15-21 feet away.

The first 2 techniques—the ones I was familiar with (c-clamp and pull+pull)—gave me good results, but the push+pull technique gave me a 50% smaller group ON MY FIRST TRY!  Within a few tries, I was putting 5 rounds per second into groups that ranged in size between a tennis ball and a softball.

The more I’ve thought about this, the more amazing it is.  I tried his technique for the first time and was IMMEDIATELY better than I was with 2 techniques that I’d practiced thousands of times.

So, the push+pull technique is better for weapon retention and recoil management, but how does it get more rounds on target faster?

The secret is dynamic tension.

When you use the pull+pull technique or the c-clamp, you need to have the butt of the rifle pushed against your shoulder/collarbone/chest.

When you push with your left hand and pull with your right, you don’t need to have the butt of the rifle against your shoulder to shoot—your left arm is pushing and absorbs the recoil and the gun goes back into alignment VERY quickly, even if the butt of the gun is hanging in mid-air.

You can prove this out at home with a broom handle…the dynamic tension provided by the push+pull technique is superior in almost every way to the pull+pull technique.

That means that as you’re mounting your rifle, you can start putting multiple accurate rounds on target AS you’re pulling the butt of the rifle into your shoulder/collarbone/chest.

As an added bonus, this technique carries over to SBRs, AR-Pistols, and even AKs MUCH better than the pull+pull or c-clamp technique.

These are just the first 2 MAJOR AR-15 training errors that the majority of AR-15 owners are making…I’ve got several more to share with you that will help you become a more effective carbine owner and increase your chances of surviving a lethal force encounter with your AR.

Do you have questions on these techniques?  Comments?  Contradictory experiences?  Please share them by commenting below:

Want more AR/carbine/home defense articles?  Let me know by commenting below and be on the lookout for a HUGE announcement in the next couple of days…

Leave A Reply ( 33 comments So Far)

Share your thoughts

  1. John
    1 month ago

    Tried the push pull and it feels good cant wait to try it at the range .

  2. JD
    1 month ago

    Interesting, the push / pull a try.

  3. JL
    1 month ago

    Always used this method for pump shotguns – any gauge. Don’t know why I never used it for all long guns. Will do so from now on – and on “short” gun, too. Thanks again for another great lesson.

  4. Russ Smith
    1 month ago

    I use dynamic tension with my handgun. It works. Once I put a broomstick bipod on my SBR I naturally began using dynamic tension, without thinking about it. I have tried the C clamp for the same reason that you mention, all the cool dudes do it. And, it looks cool! But I quit doing it because there was absolutely no question that when it came to CQB situations weapon retention was far better with a solid grip on my broomstick. And, as you point out, it is easy to carry the weight closer to you and you can use your weapon in a less than lethal manner, should the need arise.

    Thanks for a very timely article, and for letting me know it is all right to use common sense! I look forward to more information on this timely topic.

  5. Scott Wilcox
    1 month ago

    Great info. Keep it coming! Thank you. It makes sense and I’ll try it soon as I pry myself out of this recliner (It seems to have a push-pull action of its’ own!)

  6. Joe
    1 month ago


    The other great thing about the push/pull method is that it carries to any platform. As you well know this is taught in the SEALed Mindset Concealed Carry Masters Course. Since I’ve adopted this for defensive pistol my shot groups have tighten considerably. And you don’t have to remember a different technique for each different platform. So I can train one way very time and it doesn’t matter what I’m holding.

  7. Robert
    1 month ago

    Awesome article!! Thank you. More please..

  8. Douglas Allan
    1 month ago

    Absolutely outstanding article. I learned more about technique in reading this than I have in years of shooting AR’s. I particularly like the fact that the techniques covered here go against the fads, and that the Seal’s experience trumps 100 gun writers’ views. Well done!

  9. Larry
    1 month ago

    I found this very interesting and will try it next week at the range. I wish there was a range close that
    U could do do movement Stationary is just ok. I live just north of Tampa Florida. If u know of one
    In my area. Thanks for the tips

  10. Herman
    1 month ago

    Outstanding. I just tried this with two of my training rifles (AR & AK) with an assistant moving the muzzle around, I shouldn’t be surprised, you’re right about more control, Heading into the simulator now to try it out on targets, Great article and timing. Would like to hear more about rifle techniques in future.

    • Ox
      1 month ago

      Awesome, Herman! You know this as an instructor, but I’m always excited when people actually try/test/use the stuff we teach :)

  11. Sam Williams
    1 month ago

    I have a four inch 44 mag for hunting used push pull for decades just opposite hands. If this works I will use my AK pistol for hunting, I was wondering how to stabilize more without going sbr or Velcro brace. Thanks

  12. Gary
    1 month ago

    This confirmed what I always believed, the c clamp never felt comfortable to me. I truly enjoyed your article.

  13. Redwood
    1 month ago

    Thank you for sharing the concept … definitely on the look out for more AR/carbine/home defense articles. I started training with this on the pistol from SEALed Mindset course and have found it to be superior, so on that I have faith when I try this for the carbine, the result will be the same.

  14. Stuart H
    1 month ago

    I have instinctively used this method ever since I got my Glenfield Model 60 over 40 years ago. It just felt right. I just bought an AR-15 a short while ago and haven’t had a chance to break it in yet, though I have fired a friends rifle. For the first time out with that platform, I got 3-4 inch groupings at 50-75 yards. I don’t see that I’ll be using any other method. Thanks for the write-up.

  15. Dustin Knuttgen
    1 month ago

    I do want more AR/carbine/home defense articles. Thanks

  16. Bob
    1 month ago

    As a former competitive archer, I found this article to be enlightening. It is the same technique we used drawing and shooting a bow, and thinking back on the technique it makes sense. Of course our hand that held the bow was fully extended, but the push pull technique was the way to go. Thanks for jogging the memory !!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Chuck
    1 month ago

    Excellent info, feels good, will try it at the range and in the field.

  18. Kevin
    1 month ago

    Hi, I am a little unclear of what grip you are using on the forearm is it a “Regular” or “C” clamp, and you are pulling back with forearm and pushing with pistol grip on an AR is that right? I just bought an AR a few months ago and haven’t fired it yet.

    Thanks in advance

  19. Dave
    1 month ago

    Very good points. Instead of describing this as right and left hand you should describe it as PULL with your trigger (You pull the trigger anyway) hand and PUSH with your support hand. I am left eye dominant so use a rifle left handed. My right hand is support. As an old cop who also has some time on a 870 it is good to PUSH the support hand to avoid racking an unfired round. Safety off with the left middle finger because some one is about to get F—-Up. But the dynamic tensioning is reversed with a pistol. Pushing with your trigger hand and pulling with your support hand.

  20. Ronald Krepis
    1 month ago

    Thanks, okay with me.

  21. Muscoe
    1 month ago

    I don’t know ….. the C clamp is so damn cool looking! I bought my AR and all the Gouchie tac equipment so I can impress my friends at the range! Practical over Tati-Cool? Gee I just don’t know!

    Great article. I’ve been using the push-pull method since I was a kid and it just seemed right to me. For me, I’ll grow old and leave a decryptid looking body; the Tact-Cool guys can die young and leave a good looking body! lol

  22. Paul
    1 month ago

    Great article. I learned a lot including. Dad taught me pull-pull in the ’50s. I discovered the C-clamp by myself while teaching Boy Scouts in summer camp (1961). It worked well with kids and paper targets. Even Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children a year later didn’t correct me. Thanks to you I have gone from blissfully ignorant to knowledgeably incompetent. Keep the hacks coming. Thanks.

  23. Michael Norris
    1 month ago

    Interesting. …I’ll give the push pull a try. Thanks.

  24. Paul
    1 month ago

    Brilliant article. I’ve tried this method and Yes it really does work. Far less shaking, better control, easier on the breathing too. Looking down the scope seems a lot clearer.Thanks so much for the great tip. Cant wait to use it on the gun range. Cheers guys…

  25. John Whitney
    1 month ago

    I’ve used push/pull since my days at Devens and find it is heads above other techniques. Now with AR pistols in a variety of calibers it only makes sense to continue this technique. It is also so much easier using the same push/pull with handguns and long guns. You only have to train one technique. Thank you for the article. Looking forward too more!

  26. JEFF
    1 month ago

    Good read. Will check it out.

  27. Johnny Miller
    1 month ago

    As a brand new AR owner I haven’t developed any habits or techniques yet. Sounds to me like I need to start of right with your push+pull grip. Sooo let me go price a vertical grip…

  28. Johnny
    1 month ago

    I see immediately I’ll need a rail on the front end of my M&P for a vertical grip.

    • Ox
      1 month ago

      It depends on your M&P. I have a round tube on the front of one of my ARs. I simply screw a 3″ section of rail onto it and attach my vertical foregrip to that. You PROBABLY don’t need to buy a whole new foregrip.

  29. Stuart
    1 month ago

    Thanks Ox. I’ve been using (and teaching) the push-pull for 40+ years, on both pistols and long guns. Didn’t realize it wasn’t common knowledge. My soldiers all know it. Sure appreciate the info though … keep it coming! And remember … age, experience and treachery ALWAYS outweigh youth and enthusiasm!

  30. Joe
    1 month ago

    Great idea. I’ll try it next chance I get. One small quibble though — It’s a muzzle brake, not a muzzle break. It brakes (stops or slows) muzzle motion. It does not break (damage) the muzzle. Check your dictionary if you don’t believe me.

    • Ox
      1 month ago

      I believe you…and I know you are right. I only own about half a dozen more muzzle brakes than I have guns to put them on. I just messed up :) Thanks for the heads-up :)

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