Over the past 6 years or so, combative and realistic shooting techniques have adopted a new, exaggerated shooting stance/style. I first saw this way of shooting while serving overseas and a couple of guys were using it during shooting drills before an op.
The shooters who use this style of shooting claim that it reduces recoil, allows the operator to transition faster between targets, and keeps the sights on target during a rapid engagement. As of late, I’ve seen students using this style of shooting with an over exaggerated grip and stance, simulating something they’ve seen on a DVD, or YouTube Channel.
History of the shooting style
It isn’t unusual for us “shooters” to quickly adapt a new technique, especially if we see it being used by “spec ops veterans,” top competitive shooters, etc. As humans, we often feel the need to do something simply because the masses are doing it, it is called the Bandwagon Effect. The Bandwagon Effect is a well documented form of group-think in behavioral science and has many applications. The general rule is that conduct or beliefs spread among people, as fads and trends clearly do, with “the probability of any individual adopting it increasing with the proportion who have already done so.” As more people come to believe in something, others also “hop on the bandwagon” regardless of the underlying evidence. While we may adopt a new style of shooting, we often neglect to ask ourselves, “what is the purpose of this?” and, “will it apply to what I’m training for?”
This particular style of shooting comes from the competition side of the field and started some time ago. Shooters such as Pat McNamara (Former 1SFOD), Kyle Defoor (Former SEAL), Jerry Miculek (competitive shooter), and Mike Pannone (Former 1SFOD) use this shooting style, but only to some degree. The theory behind using this style of shooting, or the “C” clamp grip, is that it will allow the operator to transition targets faster, reduce muzzle rise, and allows the operator to shoot faster while maintaining a sight picture on target. This is true to some extent, but on certain DVD’s, YouTube Video’s, etc., I’ve seen this grip extremely taken out of context and morphed into something else.
Let’s break each claim down using something no human can argue against…physics and our bodies natural way of moving.
- Transition targets faster?: This claim does have truth to it. Think of it as this, imagine walking into a dark room and someone jumps out to scare you. The first thing your body does naturally is identify the threat with your eyes, followed by the head turning towards the threat and the body along with its limbs in follow. Or think of it as if you are in dark room and you are told to point at a sound hear, such as someone snapping their fingers. I’m sure all of us can point to something without seeing it, we’ve been pointing at things with extreme accuracy since we were babies, so I’m sure we’re pretty good at it by now. Shooters, may it be competitive or tactical, use the same technique to transition targets quickly. As the shooter moves between targets, the eyes snap to the target first, followed by the weapon. Having the arm slightly extended with the thumb facing forward, NOT over the top, is the same as pointing at a target. This has nothing to do with recoil management.
- Reducing Muzzle Rise?: Looking at the way our body is designed and how recoil is distributed, we can analyze the claim using physics. Newton’s Third Law explains this best. A gunpowder explosion creates hot gases that expand outward allowing the rifle to push forward on the bullet. Consistent with Newton’s third law of motion, the bullet pushes backwards upon the rifle, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Seeing this, the only way for the rifle to recoil, in theory, is straight back into our shoulder, if the weapon experiences any extreme muzzle rise (although there will be some due to the way weapons are made and the pivoting points on the weapon), it is because something our body naturally bends when pushed. Seeing some of the shooters who use this shooting style, wrap the thumb over the top, extend as far out as possible on the rail, and flare the elbow up, all in the belief that by doing this, it will prevent muzzle rise. Of course, if you are pushing the muzzle down, or keeping downward tension/pressure on the top of the rail when shooting it will reduce the muzzle rise, but at further distances on partially obscured targets (50 – 100 yards) take note of the point of impact. The support arm is only their to support and maneuver the rifle while maintaining a light rearward tension into the shoulder pocket and can be applied almost anywhere along the forearm of the rifle. Try a simple test on a Glock pistol. Aim the pistol in a safe direction downrange, fire one round. The recoil causes the weapon to flip upward. Now, place your none firing hand against the back of the slide applying enough pressure as to not allow the slide to function. What happens to the recoil? Reducing the upward rise of the M4, etc., comes from applying forward upper body pressure and lowering the axis point of the rifle into the body. Note that this shooting style tucks the weapon deep and low into the should and near the pectoral muscle. This amount of “meat” behind the weapon is what reduces recoil, not the foregrip.
Facts about the shooting style
- Peripheral Vision Obstruction: For those who adopt this unique style of shooting, there is nothing wrong with that, just understand what the purpose of this shooting stance was designed for. The style of shooting stance this would apply perfectly in, would be the competition community, a one way range where targets are predetermined and do not maneuver the way a live target would when being engaged. Having the elbow cocked as high as it is in the featured picture, only obscures the peripheral to the support side. Sure, some will say, “my partner covers my flank.” What if the guy you had there a minute ago goes down? What if your clearing your house late at night when your wife or kids hear someone break through the front door? I’d want to be able to see EVERYTHING around me, another reason why I teach the importance of shooting with both eyes open. Try out a simple test with one of your shooting partners. Next time you’re at the range and you see them shooting with the support eye closed, or the elbow flared to a point that it obscures their vision, stand to their support side and flick them off. After they are done shooting, see if they noticed it. I’ve done the test with multiple students at close distance, within 3 feet of them and they had no idea that I was there. ***Take a look at the following picture. Can the operator see anything to his left? This can be a potential game changer in an actual combative environment.***
- You shoot faster?: I’ve heard this from individuals using this style of shooting during a few combative carbine courses. My first response to this is, “awesome!”, the second being, “No man has ever won a gun fight because he shot 30 rounds in 1.5 seconds, the guy who usually wins is the one who shot one round accurately.” The over extended forearm “C” clamp grip has nothing to do with trigger speed. Trigger speed comes from properly understanding trigger reset.
- Obstruction of Sights: Having the thumb wrapped over the top when training, we start to build shooter muscle memory. I know a lot of us put aftermarket optics on our rifles, zero it in and purchase the greatest backup sights and place them on the rifle for a just in case scenario. There is nothing wrong with that at all, I do the same. What I do have a problem with is building a muscle memory that may cost you time in a desperate situation. As we all know, things break or stop working for a ton of reasons, much like an aftermarket optic, I’ve had my share. Let’s say your optic refuses to work in a life threatening situation and you have to resort to your backup sights, your thumb is wrapped over the top, you adjust your eyes to acquire the backups and what do you see…your thumb! The second it takes to readjust the hand position to remove your thumb obstructing the front sight is valuable time. Try using the over the top “C” clamp grip with an AK-47 and note the results.
- Over Exposure to Vital Organs: Of course stating the obvious that this stance is exposing some very vital organs with the elbow flared so high. I had to state this due to the fact that in Iraq, one of my Ranger buddies took a round to side, penetrating his lungs and heart. Some will say, “well, that’s why we present our body armor to the threat.” This is true, but, I’m sure we’ve all heard of ricochet and there may be multiple threats (left, right, oblique, etc.) Let’s say there is a threat to the front and one to the side, the closest threat to the front and furthest to the side. Through training and common sense we know to eliminate the closest first, that being the front. The side target only needs one lucky shot. Having the elbow flared so high only gives the bullet a clear obscured path to vital organs. I’d rather place bone and meat there.
- Comfort: Stating the obvious here, but for those who haven’t used this technique, it isn’t something that one can sustain for an extended amount of time due to muscle/joint fatigue. Locking your elbows increases the impact of recoil on that joint.
The way the “C” clamp grip was intended to be Used
If you are going to use this style of shooting grip and stance, there is nothing wrong with that. Just know the way that the style/”C” clamp grip was intended to be used. The style as of late has become over exaggerated in my personal opinion. What do you think? Also, be sure to check out another view on this topic here: http://www.gunnuts.net/2013/07/02/curing-the-tactical-turtle/
Note: Picture below is of Former Delta Operator Dale Comstock.