How to Tame Recoil and Increase Precision

Shooting a handgun with speed and precision is, in some ways, a tough nut to crack.  Part of the difficulty comes from the relative lack of experience that many people have with guns, how they function, how the human body works and–more importantly–how the two interact.

Speed and precision can turn into an obsession. You can always shoot with more precision and you can always shoot with more speed. So where does it end? When are you good enough?

Handgun Diagnostics
Joe Weyer created the Handgun Diagnostics curriculum to help improve fundamental shooting skills.

Recoil Happens and when it does you have two choices

According to Joe Weyer, the steward of the Alliance Police Training facility, owner of Weyer Tactical, and the creator of “Handgun Diagnostics,” you really only have two options when it comes to dealing with the recoil when shooting handguns.

You can absorb it. This is what most people do.

Or, you can transmit it. This is what we all should be doing.

The Problem with Absorption

During a recent Handgun Diagnostic course at Alliance Joe had this to say about recoil: “If you are absorbing recoil you are done. You are never going to get recoil mitigation down.”

He illustrated his point well as he reviewed slow motion video of shooters on a large screen in front of the eager students.

Handgun diagnostics
Slow motion video allows Weyer to show students problems and track their progress.

We could see the impact of absorption clearly: We watched wrists flex, elbows bend and shoulders rock. All evidence of excessive movement which results in the muzzle of the gun lifting. Getting it back down takes time and energy.

Joe Captured the slow motion video using an iPad and an application called “Coaches Eye” which allows for Sport Center style analysis of time, movement and angles.

Handgun Diagnostics
Handgun Diagnostics uses slow motion video to diagnose and correct deficiencies in shooting skills.

It was easy to see where students needed to improve their management of recoil.

To Transmit Recoil, Lock Down the Chain.

Weyer used an excellent metaphor to help students understand how recoil transmission takes place and how it doesn’t.

The example he gave was a chain. Imagine pulling a chain straight so that all the links are in line and in contact with each other. The intersections where two links meet are like the joints of our skeletal system. Recoil pushes on our skeletal system. If you push that chain that you just laid straight how will it respond?

The links will move and simply pile up. Just like recoil impacts your joints. If you were to weld the links of the chain together, you would have a completely different result. Continue the analogy and weld your joints.

An entire block of Handgun Diagnostics is dedicated to that topic. I’ll summarize it for you below.

How to Lock Your Chain to Transmit Recoil

The steps to locking down your recoil mitigation system are easy to understand, and relatively easy to implement. Assuming that you have a solid grip and stance, these tweaks will help to improve your recoil mitigation.

Drive your secondary hand thumb forward.

Handgun diagnostics
Driving the thumb forward is the first step in locking down your body to transmit recoil.

The place to begin locking down is where your hands contact the gun. An often misunderstood portion of the grip is the role of the secondary thumb.  Drive the thumb forward and down to stretch the tendon that connects the thumb to the forearm. This additional tension in the support hand allows recoil to transmit past the wrists.

Handgun diagnostics
Locking out the weak thumb locks the wrist and transmits recoil.

Lock your elbows symmetrically.

Handgun Diagnostics
When one or both elbows remain unlocked, the recoil is absorbed into the joint(s).

The next joint recoil reaches is your elbows. Your elbows should be symmetrical and locked. If not, the recoil will be absorbed by the elbows causing the movement that you want to stop. Think about rotating the arms so that the elbows are pointed to the sides or even slightly up at full presentation to avoid over-extension of the elbows.

Squeeze your shoulder blades together.

Handgun diagnostics
Clenched shoulders lock down the next link in the chain.

Recoil transmitted past the elbows arrives at the shoulders. To be transmitted most efficiently, imagine trying to pinch a tennis ball between your shoulder blades. Locking the shoulders in place to the rear removes the possibility of motion in the shoulder joint on recoil and opens the opportunity for transmission of the energy into your core.

Engage your abs.

Handgun Diagnostics
Your abs don’t need to be rock hard on the outside, but you need to engage them to mitigate recoil.

Your abdominal muscles are the core of recoil mitigation (as well as everything else we do in life). When they are engaged, your entire torso is rigid and helps to transmit recoil through your body. To engage your abs, simply prepare like you would if someone were about to deliver a blow to your belly, or if you are a more gentle type, get ready for someone close to start tickling you. With engaged abs you should be able to draw a line from your feet to your shoulders.

Curl your toes.

Handgun diagnostics
Curling the toes completes the path for recoil to be transmitted to the ground.

A forward, athletic shooting stance is common to be seen in shooting courses, but the way that Joe asks students to achieve this stance is different. Instead of talking about knees over toes, Weyer asks students to curl their toes as if they were a bird grasping on to a wire. Activating the toes engages the feet, ankles and knees while at the same time driving the body forward to that aggressive locked position that transmits recoil through our body.

Final Thoughts

On the morning of day 2 I overheard Weyer talking with a student. His point was simple and true.

“It has nothing to do with strength. It has everything to do with technique.”

Joe was talking about shooting technique, but his statement was true of his course as well.

Handgun Diagnostics is made up of several modules all carefully laid out to improve your shooting skills. The reality is that each of the modules is worth the price of admission alone.

Weyer is a technical savant when it comes to seeing deficiencies in shooting skills, knowing the fix, and having the ability to communicate with the student so that they can significantly improve their performance. Whether you want to improve your draw stroke, refine your usage of the sights, increase accuracy, build speed or all of the above, Weyer and Handgun Diagnostics is a solution to your shooting problems.

Paul Carlson, owner of Safety Solutions Academy, is a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor.  He has spent the past decade and a half studying how humans can perform more efficiently in violent confrontations and honing his skills as an instructor both in the classroom and on the range. Through Safety Solutions Academy, Paul teaches a variety of Critical Defensive Skills courses in more than a dozen states annually.  Courses range from Concealed Carry Classes to Advanced Critical Defensive Handgun Courses and include instruction for the defensive use of handguns, rifles and shotguns.  Safety Solutions Academy regularly hosts other industry leading experts as guest instructors to make sure that SSA's students have the opportunity for quality instruction across a broad range of Critical Defensive disciplines.

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