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.
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, and makes it harder to fire multiple precise shots quickly.
Some of this can be controlled with muzzle brakes 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 Yatch and Beau Doboszenski 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.
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 several 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. (When I combined this with Tactical Vision Training, I was able to make multiple aimed shots faster and tighter than I used to be able to shoot double taps)
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.
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.
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.
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 both 21 Day Alpha Shooter and 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 shooting hand, the main thing that you’re concerned about is pressure straight back onto 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 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 a couple of shooting specific grip and forearm drills that I do…
- 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 rearward force high on the front of the grip, 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.
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.
One of the X-Factor skills of fast shooting is vision speed. Most people have to resort to shooting a double tap instead of quick aimed shots because their eyes and visual cortex don’t work fast enough to follow the sights in real time during recoil. A normal and healthy eye and visual cortex can do this, but quick vision is like a muscle and if you don’t use it, it atrophies. Fortunately, with easy and straight forward Tactical Vision Training drills, you can get this back VERY quickly. And, when you do, you’ll be able to shoot aimed, multi-shot sequences faster than you can should double or triple taps now…only much more accurately.
And here’s what it looks like when you put it all together.
by Mike Ox
Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards, https://se965.infusionsoft.com/go/dftcmedia/loadout
Dry Fire Fit, 21 Day Alpha Shooter, and See Faster, Shoot Faster. His brain based training focuses on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations. Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at www.DryFireTrainingCards.com/blog