Recoil Management For Fast Double Taps

I was catching up with Larry Yatch (retired Team 3 SEAL) this week and we went down the rabbit hole on recoil management for pistols, carbines, and long guns.

Some great stuff came out of it that I want to share with you on the pistol side…

One of the goals that many shooters aspire to is being able to put fast, accurate double-taps on target. Definitions vary, but for most people, that’s getting one sight picture and putting 2 rounds on or incredibly near your point of aim in rapid succession (.1-.2 seconds between shots) without getting a second clear, crisp sight picture.

Go to any competitive shoot and you’ll see that, more often than not, people shooting fast double taps oftentimes end up with their 2 bullets 8-16” apart from each other…even if they’re only 10-15 feet from the target. This is bad for competition, but it’s incredibly dangerous in self-defense situations where you may have a limited number of rounds to stop immediate threats and where there may be innocent people. EVERY round fired must be accountable and effective.

In addition to speeding up the process of stopping a threat due to blood loss, 2 traumatic strikes to the body in quick succession can sometimes cause a psychological stop because of the inability of the brain to accurately process the pain signals it’s receiving from 2 different places. (Yes…this is an advanced, but core concept of TFT and is the basis for why double strikes in empty hands combatives are so important for stopping threats quickly.)

The ability to put 2, 3, or more fast & precise shots on target is, in large part, a function of managing the recoil of the gun…which you can do, even if you’re not a pipe fitter with forearms the size of hams.

First off, it’s important to understand that recoil is a really good thing for a semi-automatic and is what kicks out the spent round and chambers the next live round from the magazine. You’re not going to “control” it or eliminate it, but you can manage it.

That being said, recoil also causes physical trauma (however minor or major) to the body, mis-trains the mind to anticipate and try to control recoil, can move where the sights are pointing before the bullet leaves the muzzle, makes it harder to fire multiple precise shots quickly, and can even cause detached retinas from too much repeated high recoil from full power shotgun or high power rifle (not pistol) shooting.

Some of this can be controlled with muzzle breaks and recoil pads on rifles and shotguns, but on most pistols, the majority of the recoil management is done by the shooter.

And the easiest place to start is with your grip on the gun…

Larry and Beau are the guys who introduced me to the “vise” method of gripping pistols, as opposed to the “rope” method of gripping pistols. They cover this in depth in the Concealed Carry Masters DVD Course and I’m going to give you a quick primer on it right now.

Meat On Metal "Rope" grip

Meat On Metal “Rope” grip

One of the traditional schools of thought is that you should get as much “meat on metal” as possible to manage recoil. In essence, it means holding the grip like a rope with an emphasis on trying to put pressure inwards from front, back, and both sides. It’s the same grip that you’d use if you were climbing a rope that is the same size as your pistol grip.

I shot this way for years and it made the most sense of any technique that I’d heard of…up to the point when I talked with Larry about it.

But 2-3 years ago at SHOT Show, Larry told me that the “rope” grip works, but a slight modification would make a dramatic difference in minimizing the effects of recoil on my ability to shoot fast, aimed, follow-up shots.

Put another way, it’s a higher-leverage way of gripping the gun and you get better recoil management with less effort.

In short, what he had me do was start grabbing the pistol grip as if my hand were a table vise and could only exert force forwards and backwards with no concern over the sides.

Why?

Because the majority of the forces of recoil are trying to flip the muzzle upwards…not side to side.

When you grip the gun like this, all of the force that you’re exerting on the gun is in the same plane as the forces that the gun is going to try to exert on you. And you eliminate grip forces from the side that may push the muzzle to the side…before, during, or after the shot.

"Vise" grip--notice the gap on the side so all force is in the same plane as the recoil.

“Vise” grip–notice the gap on the side so all force is in the same plane as the recoil.

When you look at the bones of your fingers, you’ve got the bone that’s at the end of your finger, a knuckle, and then a second bone that’s closer to your palm. With the vise grip, you put the second bones of your middle, ring, and pinkie finger on the grip and pull straight back.

Depending on your hand and the gun you’re gripping, you’ll probably notice a gap on the side of the gun when you do this. That’s OK. The palm of your hand isn’t real good at absorbing sheer forces anyhow.

Support hand.

Next, we’ve got the support hand.

First off, you want to cock your support hand down as far as it will go WITHOUT PAIN. (I had an instructor once who was determined to make my wrist cock down as far as his did. I had a different range of motion than him and it was a painful and unnecessary experience.) As you cock your hand down, it will have the effect of moving the tip of your thumb forward.

I won’t get into detail here, but the reasons for doing this are important and are covered in detail in the Concealed Carry Masters DVD Course. Cocking your support hand down until it stops is like using a jig in carpentry…it makes it MUCH easier to quickly and precisely repeat the exact same performance multiple times in a row.

When you put your support hand onto your firing hand, the main thing that you’re concerned about is pressure on your shooting hand, towards the body. You don’t need to squeeze the support hand around the shooting hand to keep someone from twisting it out of your hands…you just want to pull straight back to manage recoil.

I hold my support hand still, without squeezing or moving, and pull back with my support side shoulder to apply pressure to my shooting hand and the grip of the pistol as I’m pushing forward with my shooting hand.

Next, we want to engage as much of the body as possible in absorbing the recoil of the gun. David and I covered this in Tactical Firearms Training Secrets, but here’s a quick overview…

Imagine, for a second, that you’ve got a great grip, but a loose wrist. When you shoot, the gun recoil is going to cause rotation around the wrist.

If you’ve got a great grip and your wrist is tight, recoil is going to cause rotation around the elbow.

Next is the shoulder.

After the shoulder is a critical one…the core. You don’t notice this as much with small caliber pistols, but it’s evident on select fire and high velocity rifles…if your core isn’t packed, locked, and engaged, you’re going to pivot at the waist and the muzzle will creep up. Pack, lock, and engage the core with a slight forward tilt, and it’ll transfer the point of rotation to the knees/feet.

Put your support foot forward, shooting foot back, add a slight bend and flex at the knees, and now the recoil will cause rotation around the forward foot and the rear foot acts as a break.

One thing to keep in mind is that every additional joint that you lock adds more meat/mass to the equation and the more mass the recoil has to act on, the less of an effect it will have.

Put these all together and you don’t have to have the strength of a metal worker to keep your muzzle relatively flat during and between shots.

Here’s a trick to keep in mind…

The longer the muzzle of the pistol you’re shooting, the more time the bullet has to impart recoil forces on the gun. It varies from shooter to shooter, and gun to gun, but I’ve found that when I’m shooting full power loads, a shorter barrel is easier to get on target again for a second shot than a longer, heavier barrel. What this translates to for me (your mileage may vary) is that I can shoot multiple shots faster with subcompacts than the full size equivalent.

Now some people need the extra weight of a longer, heavier gun to shoot comfortably…Sometimes that discomfort is due to bad form, but in a lot of cases, it’s due to injuries, arthritis, or other medical conditions. In those cases, comfort trumps the ability to speed up precision 2nd shots.

It also takes a slightly different flexing of the hand if your pinkie finger hangs off of the end of the grip.

Keep in mind when you’re watching shooters on TV that top pro competition shooters use light loads and light springs until there is almost no muzzle flip, whatsoever. But to the extent that I can, I like to use the same gear in competition that I’d use in a defensive situation.

Next is grip & forearm strength.

In some cases, grip & forearm strength can cover for bad form.  In all cases, grip & forearm strength enhances good form, but if you have a choice between grip & forearm strength and good form, pick good form.  BUT, when you get your technique down and want to improve your grip and forearm strength, here are some quick tips…

Here are a couple of shooting specific grip and forearm drills that I do…

  1. When I’m doing pullups or pull downs, isometric hangs, or carrying buckets, I keep my index finger straight.This is because of 2 things. First, I want to isolate moving my index finger from moving the rest of my fingers so that I can grip the gun isometrically while pressing straight back with my index finger.Second, the further away from the axis of rotation that I can apply force on the grip, the more effective it will be. In other words, if I apply force in the opposite direction that the pistol is rotating due to recoil, very close to the slide, it won’t be as effective as the exact same amount of force applied at the bottom of the grip.

    That means that, even though the pinkie finger is weaker than the ring or middle finger, it’s in the best position to stop muzzle flip from recoil.If you’re shooting one handed, the most important fingers, for managing muzzle flip, in order, are the pinkie, ring, and middle fingers.

  2. Hammer/broom handle drill using icepick hold

    Hammer/broom handle drill using icepick hold

    Several times a week, I take a broom, staff, or hammer, hold it in my hand in an icepick grip (sticking out the pinkie side instead of sticking out the thumb side) with my arm hanging straight down, and the end of the stick/hammer pointed backwards and wave it up and down. This strengthens the ulna/pinkie side of the forearm, which is the part of the forearm that is most engaged in managing muzzle flip.

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s what it looks like when you put it all together. (starting at 22 seconds in)

For more on the finer points of the “Vise” Grip concept and why it’s so effective, I suggest that you check out the Concealed Carry Masters DVD Course from retired Navy SEAL, Larry Yatch by going >HERE<

Questions?  Comments?  Ask away by commenting below and I’ll get them answered :)  Also, let me know if you want me to cover recoil management for carbines and long guns.

Leave A Reply ( 35 comments So Far)

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  1. Jerome Willmering
    1 year ago

    Just one question: I know the drill was over, but why stand up and “shut down” right away at the end, instead of maintaining focus, stance, and cover for a moment. If a bad guy is not really down for the count, he’ll shoot you. We do as we practice, and if a rookie thinks “it’s over now” and it isn’t, it could be fatal.


    • Ox
      1 year ago

      Good question. That was actually a stage at the IDPA Indoor National Championships and it wasn’t a drill…it was a timed and scored stage for competition.

      A couple of things on your question…

      EVERYONE compromises with the “we do as we practice” idea. I don’t disagree with your suggestion. You’re correct. In an ideal world, we should do exactly what you say every time. But we all make rational and prudent compromises in our training. Here are a few examples of other places where I (and almost everyone else) compromises in my training.

      1. I ran the gun dry and had no more mags. Should I have pulled out my knife and run up and stabbed the targets? Should I have run up to them, kicked them to the ground, and flipped them over to their stomachs?

      2. There were other people in the room (the Range officer, safety officers, and other shooters). Should I take control of the scene and tell them all to turn around, face away from me, and put their guns on the ground?

      3. I should do a 360 degree scan for more threats and ignore the 180 rule.

      4. I should practice calling 911 after each stage…complete with a live person on the other end of the phone. Shouldn’t I practice my interaction with the police 5-10 minutes later?

      5. I should define the situation and verbally challenge the attackers before shooting, if it makes sense. Shouldn’t I be yelling the entire time I’m shooting?

      6. I should *maybe* run away instead of charging the targets.

      7. I should keep shooting until the targets are no longer threats…but wait…the cardboard on sticks weren’t really threatening me in the first place.

      8. Since FBI stats say that it takes 2.4-2.9 rounds to stop a threat, shouldn’t I put 3 rounds into each threat?

      9. Since the majority of times when firearms are used in self defense, no shots need to be fired, shouldn’t we practice drawing and having the targets run away for every time that we actually shoot?

      Again, I’m not disagreeing with the factual accuracy of what you’re saying. You’re correct. But we live in a world of limited time and our training and drills normally have to focus on certain aspects of reality at the expense of others. In this case, there were 300 shooters who shot this stage. If everyone would have done the stage “correctly” and “realistically”, it would have turned the 3-4 day competition into a 6-8 day competition and increased the cost exponentially.

      Let me know if you have any more questions or input on this (or anyone, for that matter). Your question is an important one and it’s valuable to flush out answers to questions like these.


  2. Bwana
    1 year ago

    Great article. Actually, this is the exact grip that was taught to me at Front Sight. I have been using it for years without knowing about all of the dynamics involved. Now I am really a smart ass.


  3. Richard
    1 year ago

    I shoot a piston drive M4 (16″ barrel) using a Magpul CTR stock, angled forend grip and Hogue pistol grip. I’d love to learn more about fast and accurate semi-auto follow-up shots and better recoil control.


    • Ox
      1 year ago

      Will do, Richard. Are you using a muzzle break? One big tip is to push with your support hand instead of pulling. The dynamic tension created by pulling with your shooting hand and pushing with your support hand will help stabilize the gun, regardless of whether or not you have it shouldered or out from your chest/shoulder.


  4. Keith Sheehan
    1 year ago

    Excellent, useful, practical, understandable information. I’m 72 years old and, yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. I’ve reduced my split times by half and I’m still keeping my hits inside the KZ. Thanks very much. Keith


    • Ox
      1 year ago

      Thanks, Keith…those cards are rocket fuel.


  5. Clifford Prater
    1 year ago

    Very good advice and this does work. Thanks for lesson.

    Ret FBI

    Former: US Marshal Service


  6. Laurence
    1 year ago

    Impressive.
    Can you translate this to revolvers? I live in bear country and carry a 4″ 629 ( .44 )


    • Ox
      1 year ago

      I occasionally shoot and enjoy revolvers, but I haven’t gone nearly as far down the rabbit hole with them and can’t give you a good answer. Logically, the same lateral forces that a rope grip imparts on a semi-auto would also apply to a revolver and the vise grip would remove them. I’d try it if I were you and please let me know if you see a noticeable difference.


  7. AtlasGrinned
    1 year ago

    Dude!
    Love your pointers! Wish I knew that much.
    But it’s a “vise” grip, with an “s.”
    I think a “vice” grip is how cops restrain flailing hookers.
    Thanks for the grip pointers.


    • Ox
      1 year ago

      Ugh. Thanks…I’m changing it now. Glad I don’t shoot as bad as I spell.


  8. Russell Hall
    1 year ago

    Best handgun lesson I ever had! (I’m 60)

    Thanks!


    • Ox
      1 year ago

      Thanks,Russell…hopefully it’s the first :) Seriously…I touched on a few things that the Concealed Carry Masters Course goes into a lot of detail on and they’re MUCH better communicators than me.


  9. Mike
    1 year ago

    Can you describe or provide pictures of what you mean by “cock the support hand down?” I have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about there. Thanks.


    • Ox
      1 year ago

      Yes…let me get caught up on stuff from the weekend and I’ll post a picture.


  10. Jerry moriarity
    1 year ago

    I have followed your advice, I have read your tactical shooting book, and have purchased the Sealed mindset master course. I finally understand what the push pull method means. The vice grip feels much more comfortable and steady in my hands than in the other grips. I have picked up several very beneficial tips from your various resources. I will test these principles at the range this week. Thanks for being generous with sharing your tips.


    • Ox
      1 year ago

      Thanks, Jerry!


  11. Vann Fleming
    1 year ago

    GREAT stuff…………Only in the last few weeks has this rookie begun to realize what the Double Tap is…..how the guys I compete against (three BUG Match competitions so far) get off two shots while I am trying to get a sight picture for my second shot.

    But the really BIGGIE in your presentation is this…………….I have always been confused about the locking of the wrist. For the first time for me you explained it clearly so that there is no doubt about what locking the wrist is all about.

    Thanks for this and all the other gret stuff I have learned from you so far.

    Happy Trails
    VF


  12. Raymon
    1 year ago

    Thanks for the information. I have been trying to find information on this topic for several months that breaks it down the way that you have. I had already made the grip change but had not given much thought into the cocking the support hand wrist as far as it will go and using that as the “staging point”. Gonna try to put it all together at the range later in the week after some dry fire runs and am excited to see how it turns out. Thanks again for all your information. I look forward to your emails.


  13. Vann Fleming
    11 months ago

    Your teaching is incredibly valuable. I am 80, good health and have owned my Glock 42 for a year now. (1350 rounds) “Trained” with a Ruger 22/45 for a year prior. In BUG Match competirtion I have lowered my score from 65 seconds to 38 seconds over six matches………but I am nerver in the zone…in fact every shot I feel like I am in a panic……….so the Dry Pratice with your cards altho they have halped a lot……I just haven’t ever been able to get into the zone………..so the zone is my next goal and I am greatful to you for this valuable lesson.
    QUESTION: What is my next step……….which of your classes, videos, books etc do you recommend for me to continue my improvement?

    Greatfully
    Vann Fleming And yes RM for carbines would be welcome


    • Ox
      11 months ago

      The absolute best way to learn how to get “into the zone” instantly and on command is with the Insight Deadly Accuracy program: http://1HoleGroup.com


  14. Frank Garfield
    10 months ago

    I am 73 now but I learned the push-pull method from Jeff Cooper long, long ago. I was putting snake bite holes in an 8 inch target during double tap training and Jeff kept saying, crank up the wick Frank. If you can shoot that accurately, you can shoot faster and still have your hits within the 8 inch circle.” It took me a while to get comfortable with shooting faster and a bit less accurate but still on target.
    Your comments about the vise grip and push/pull method of holding the pistol are spot on and many shooters really need that information. Great advice – love your replies.

    Frank Garfield.


  15. Wayne Swaylik
    10 months ago

    Larry Yatch made mention of a DVD which go’s into detail as to how to make a 911 call the correct way. The information insures that you do not put yourself in a situation that gets you arrested for protecting yourself.

    Could you provide me with the title of this DVD and how I can get a copy.

    Thanks

    Wayne


  16. Gary Cushing
    10 months ago

    In your advice you talked about feet placement. I read to keep your feet parallel not one in front. The reason it allows you a even turning. In the video the person has that stance. I also been told to keep my knees bent and lean slightly forward. I shoot a 357 pistol still learning thank you for your great teaching lesson.


    • Ox
      10 months ago

      Please don’t take what I said in the article as dogmatic…or almost anything that I say. Almost everything related to fighting in general and shooting in particular is a trade-off of some kind. Rifle vs. pistol for daily carry. Speed vs. precision. 9 vs. .45.

      You’ll notice that some MMA fighters square up on their opponent instead of the traditional left-foot-forward stance…to present an unusual profile, to be able to throw combinations as both a right hander and left hander, and to be able to react to lateral movement without having to rotate as quickly.

      A square stance works well for shooting too. But you’re going to give up some recoil control and the smaller/less strong you are, the more pronounced the difference will be. If you’ve got ironworker forearms, you can probably go one step further, balance on 1 foot, and have the same control as a smaller person who’s doing everything right.

      I re-watched the video and my left foot appears to be half a foot ahead of my right foot. Normally it’s a full foot ahead of my right foot, but the board on the ground changed things up slightly.

      I agree on keeping your knees bent and leaning slightly forward. On leaning slightly forward, this is EXPONENTIALLY harder to do as waist size gets bigger. For people who have a belly, a forward leaning stance quickly becomes a torturous stress position, especially if they already have issues with their lower back.

      Why do I bring up the belly? Ideally, you want to cock your left wrist more than I can. Ideally, you want to have one foot in front of the other. Ideally, you want to lean forward at the waist. But reality isn’t so cut-and-dry and you’re going to find a combination that works best for you and your situation.


  17. Larry Crocker
    10 months ago

    Ox – as always, some very good and useful info. Do you teach live classes? Where would I find a course schedule? I have ordered and practiced the Concealed Carry Masters DVD Course. Pointing at the target with the support side thumb (cocking it down) and with the strong side index finger was a very good tip. Thanks. I also have the Insight computer course – very helpful. But, as one of the other commenters said; getting into “the zone” does not come so easily. I know Matt and Sherrie teach a separate class on that (making a GIP on your gun and focusing on that); but I do not think I can travel the distance to AZ. I have had 2 spinal cord injuries. Any help on getting into “the zone” quickly? Thanks for your help and time.


    • Ox
      10 months ago

      Thanks, Larry. I am going to be teaching more this year…for the classes with SEALed Mindset, they’ll probably be in Minneapolis. For the classes with Insight (they’re sold out through September right now), it will be in Prescott. For small and private lessons, it’ll be in western Montana, Northern Idaho, or Eastern Washington.

      A lot of the Insight process is proprietary. Let me talk with Matt and Sherrie about how much they’re comfortable with me sharing outside of a class.


  18. Mike
    10 months ago

    My every day carry is a Beretta PX4 Storm sub compact and I find there is extra muzzle flip. I like your advice and am going to practice some dry firing then hit the range. I’m positive there will be lots of improvement. Thanks a million.


  19. Doug
    10 months ago

    Hey great article! Everything makes sense but I think I’m going to have trouble switching. This grip will work well in competition but how about in an emergency for defensive shooting? Do you always grip your gun the same?


    • Ox
      10 months ago

      EVERYTHING we do is geared towards defensive shooting as a primary goal and competition as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th level goal. As to your question, yes…there is no “natural” pistol grip. Most people are random in how they grip their gun…and they’ll be random when they grip it in a defensive shooting situation. Some people practice a specific grip until it becomes a conditioned response that requires no conscious thought to execute. If you practice the vise grip consistently, that’s what you’ll execute when you don’t have time to think about what you’re doing.


  20. Dave Sofi
    10 months ago

    SealedMindset is an excellent training/learning resource. Thanks for bringing it to my attention a few years back, and thanks for this excellent review/overview. The grip technique works like a charm on my big-Ol’ FNP-45 as well as on my Taurus 2.5″ snubbie .357. At 72 years old I still like my power hitters and recoil doesn’t hurt with proper grip.


  21. Colonel Child
    10 months ago

    I have been a pistol shooter/competitor/instructor for just shy of 50 years and I emphatically agree with this material. It’s great stuff. Wish you’d given me this info earlier in life and I hadn’t had to learn it all the hard way.


  22. Mikial
    10 months ago

    Good article. Read it, liked it, saved it. One thing I always notice about myself is that it’s easier to tell what someone else is doing when they shoot, than it is to tell what I’m doing myself. That makes analyses like this really valuable to me as I try to improve with every shot.

    The comment about the double tap shot one and shot two being a few inches apart reminded me of shooting USPSA meets. My situation didn’t have as much to do with recoil as with traversing the gun faster than I was pulling the trigger. I noticed that when engaging a line of silhouettes with a requirement for two hits each, my first and second shot would be separated by several inches in the direction I was traversing. So, if shooting from left to right, hit number two on any given target would be a few inches to right of hit number one. Even though I generally always got them both in the scoring radius, that told me that I was rushing the traverse.

    As the saying goes . . . “You can’t miss fast enough to win.”

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