6 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Recoil Control With A Handgun 13

A new and improved version of an oldie…I added several key items in this article that will really drive your skill to the next level.  I have spent literally thousands of hours working on my grip (handgun).  Here is what I have learned.

There are SIX simple things that will dramatically improve your ability to control the recoil of your handgun.  And the even BETTER news?  Learning and applying the proper grip mechanics will make you a dramatically more accurate shooter as well, simply because you will move the gun less as you fire it.   This article will give you those six tips.

I have come to the conclusion that most shooters can improve their ability to shoot faster (and better) simply by improving their grip on their handgun.   I have discussed this in my book, but thought I would share the information once again (as well as a great video to watch) below.

Recoil control might look like this if done properly: Recoil Control

So how do we obtain that level of control on a handgun?  Simple, pay attention to the principles that actually cause recoil and then work on minimizing it with proper friction and leverage.

One key point though, is that the process of controlling recoil starts from the ground.  I give you six key tips below, but they need to be used after a solid foundation is built.  I like to use the term “athletic” stance when I am teaching students to shoot, that is the first thing I address.  Athletic simply means standing in a manner where your body is balanced, stable, and mobile.   Usually this means feet shoulder width or more, weight on the balls of the feet, upper body slightly forward of the lower body, and knees slightly bent.  Build your foundation first, then grip the gun better by applying the steps below.

Definition: High Performance Grip – Based on fundamental laws of friction and leverage. The grip can be defined as a method used to hold the gun with both hands and create “positive, neutral control.”   Portions of this post are taken from Your Defensive Handgun Training Program (book).

Key points:

  1. Set up the strong hand for success. The gun hand should grip high on the back strap directly underneath the tang of the weapon giving the advantage of having more leverage against the weapon. The KEY to getting the hand (very) high on the back strap is not just by placing it there, but instead driving the gun hand high up on the grip  during the draw process.   The web of the gun hand and knuckle of the middle finger under the trigger guard should make so much contact you build a callus on those areas of your hand.
  2. Put the support hand in the right spot. The support hand is positioned so that it is pressed firmly against the exposed portion of the grip not covered by the gun hand, TOWARD THE REAR OF THE GRIP.  Think about that for a minute.  Why the REAR of the grip on the handgun?  Because the gun recoils to the REAR.  Most shooters roll their hand too far forward.   To get the support hand in the right spot requires one to flag the strong hand thumb allowing the support hand to completely engage that part of the grip.  All four fingers of the support hand should be under the trigger guard with the index finger pressed hard underneath the trigger guard. There should be a distinct fit of the gripping hands, like the fitting together of two puzzle pieces with the gun and support hand.  KEY TIP:  Those of you that think you need to rotate your hand forward to align the wrist with the thumb are likely pulling the palm of your support hand AWAY from the rear portion of the grip panel, in essence reducing the pressure you can leverage against the rear of the gun.  NOT GOOD!
  3. Counter-rotate the hands.  This means that once the grip is built

    At full extension counter rotate your hands to increase pressure on the back of the gun.

    having both hands high on the weapon and applying force to all available gripping surfaces, counter-rotating the hands will increase the pressure on the back of the gun.  Applying pressure on the rear (backstrap) of the grip will be the most effective way to control recoil, and this area should receive as much pressure as possible from the heels of the hands. One way to practice this is to imagine that your fingers on the strong and support hand are glued together in you final grip, and that the fingers of your support hand can not slide.  Now think about squeezing your palms together increasing the pressure on the back of the gun as you extend it toward the target.

  4. Grip the gun really hard.  Grip pressure should be relatively equal in both hands.  Grip pressure should be high at the final extension of the handgun.  Grip the gun as hard as you can without shaking.   Yes, you read that right, GRIP THE GUN AS HARD AS YOU CAN.
  5. Lock the tendons.  Locking the wrist tendons is a critical component of controlling recoil.  Here is the good news.. you cannot NOT lock your tendons if you are gripping hard.  It is simply impossible, you can try it now.   Grab your wrist tendons with one hand while you grip the hand really hard.   You will feel the tendons lock as you clench your fist.  Of course, failing to grip hard and not lock the tendons will result in the gun “bouncing” above and below the line of sight (kind of like the movement a dolphin makes when they swim).  This would be similar to a vice not securely mounted to a work bench, it would move every time you had something locked into it because it was not locked to a foundation.  Think about your wrist tendons as the locking of your hands (the vice) to your arms (the foundation).   Grip the gun hard to lock the wrist tendons in both wrists to maximize recoil control!
  6. Lock the elbow joints.  While it is impossible to grip really hard and not lock the tendon in the wrist, it is possible to have a locked up hand and wrist and not lock the elbow joint.  Think of having a slight bend (not too much!) in the elbow, and then keeping tension in the joint so it does not bend.  Kind of like locking that joint at the top of a push up.

In closing, I truly believe that where you place pressure on the handgun grip is almost as important as the pressure itself.  I constantly experiment with my grip, and the only way to test these concepts is to shoot.  Consider doing simple drills like extending the handgun and building your firing grip, then firing one round and watching the gun in recoil.  It will tell you everything you need to know about your grip pressure!  By the way, you can get this drill and all of my handgun drills here (scroll to the middle of the page where it says free handgun drills books).

Don’t forget that a really important part of the process is the amount of pure hand and wrist strength you possess.  You might not have the strength I do (or maybe you have more!) but one thing for certain is that anyone can improve their hand and wrist strength.  Consider getting some of the top level grippers and work your way up to the heaviest one you can close.

Your Action Steps:

  • Please share this article if you like it! (the sharing buttons can be found below)
  • Aggressively pursue a combination of technique improvement and strengthening exercises to improve your recoil control with a handgun.

Until Then – Train Hard!

Mike S.

13 thoughts on “6 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Recoil Control With A Handgun

  • Larry

    The “judi chop” is something I just never thought of, it works great! Question-who makes your IWB?

  • Caryl Anne

    Such an informative and helpful post! I’m going to apply some of your techniques and tips to my shooting the next time I head out to the range. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kevin

    Just wanted to know how important is it to get the support hand on the pistol grip. I have big hands and there is little to no room to get my support hand on the pistol and keep it there. I often find that after a couple of shots, I’m gripping the fingers on my strong hand. Am i gripping too hard with my support hand? Is there such a thing as a gun grip too small or am I needlessly concerned? Do I need to adjust my grip on my strong hand to accomodate getting my support hand on the pistol? Shooting a “pre adjustable backstrap” XD. Any comments appreciated!

    • admin Post author

      Hey Kevin- Your support hand is very important, but individual hand sizes and handgun grip sizes will make it more difficult for a bigger handed individual. Consider “flagging” the thumb when you build the grip, which will allow the thumb muscle to relax and then you can get more of your support hand on the grip (specifically the rear/side area. Its perfectly ok to grip on your strong hand fingers as well though, I find myself locking up the grip on the back left portion of the handgun stock (grip) and also on my strong hand fingers. Also, use the biggest grip strap possible and see if that helps!

  • bruce

    I moved from revolver to my first auto as an HK-P9, very high grip and very low barrel axis. When i was finally able to acquire a 1911 (hey, they were hard to get back in those days!) I would occassionally position the strong hand too high – and fail to disengage the grip safety. So i pinned it. Never really liked doing so, but grip safeties with the rIsed area just fit the hollow below my thumb. That 1911 was stole , alas. But I was able to score a then brand new Para wide body. The fingers on my strong hand wrapped around the wide grip and didn’t fully flatten out on the left side of the gun. My weak hand would loosen tbe stronghand finger contact! So i built up the grip using epoxy, in exactly the area where the left (weakhnd) thumb contacts the grip. Ichiro Nagata dix the same on his revolver. The raised area allowed even grip pressure with the weak hand. Helped greatly with my large but stubby hands.
    Bottomline: Mike’s grip is superb. Getting your individual fingers to fit the generic grip can take some effort!
    And yes, those 18-20″ bicepts probably are a great accessory! Just not listed in Brownells!

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