Today, I’ve got 2 common AR-15 training errors that I’m going to take A LOT of heat for pointing out. These 2 inferior techniques/errors are almost sacred cows in the firearms training industry.

Almost 100% of the top competitive shooters use them. You see super-high-speed tactical ninjas with Tier I credentials use them. They’re the techniques shown in all the magazines and YouTube Videos. Now it would be awesome if this were a black and white issue,it’s not.

Both of these inferior techniques work. Both work in competition and in combat. They’re just not the most effective techniques available for combat and self-defense.
To be clear, the instructors teaching these techniques don’t mean any harm. They’re teaching the techniques simply because they don’t know what I’m about to share with you.

Let’s start with the c-clamp.

Fixing The 2 Most Common AR-15 Training Errors
C clamp AR grip

I have used the c-clamp technique off-and-on for a few years. At first I didn’t like it at all, but I kept seeing the “cool kids” using it and figured I must just be missing something. After all, if all of the muscled up tactical dudes with operator beards on YouTube used it, it must be the best technique, right?

So, I committed to using the c-clamp grip for 12 months. I went cold turkey. I removed the vertical fore-grip from all-but-one of my carbines and committed to the technique.

I used it with .223, .22, .300 BLK, and .308, for hunting, “just shooting,” training, and 3-gun, as well as for all of my carbine dry fire practice. After just over 1 year with the technique, I said “good riddance” to the c-clamp and put my vertical foregrips back on my carbines.

Here’s why:

    1. When your left arm is fully extended with the c-clamp technique, it doesn’t help much if someone grabs the end of your gun and tries to take it from you. Since your arm is fully extended, if they pull, your surprise reaction will be to clinch and you’ll go with the gun. If you’ve got a bent elbow, you’ve got more leverage AND your elbows can flex if someone tries to take the gun.
    2. Depending on how high your left arm is, it’s going to block a good portion of your field of view.
    3. One of the biggest advantages of the carbine over a pistol in close combat is the ability to muzzle punch a suspected threat OR muzzle punch in the event of a malfunction. If your left arm is fully extended because of using the c-clamp grip, you lose most of this ability. If your left arm has a bend in it, you can use this technique. On suspected threats, the muzzle punch allows you to turn your carbine into a (possibly) less than lethal tool. This technique has been used with great success in Iraq & Afghanistan. When a situation is unfolding at the speed of life in high-stress, low-light conditions, and you round a corner and end up face to face with a stranger, a muzzle punch to the chest might give you enough time to determine that someone doesn’t need a bullet or stop the fight without any shots being fired. There are hundreds of Iraqis who have 2, 4, 5, or more muzzle punch scars to the chest because of being in the same house as a high-value target during a takedown. They’re still alive today because our guys muzzle punched them instead of giving them 2 to the chest. For you, it might be a friend of one of your kids sneaking in to sleep off a hangover, a confused neighbor, or some other situation where a muzzle punch is a MUCH better instinctive reaction to a bump in the night than shooting first. In a malfunction situation, the ability to immediately transition from using your AR as a gun to using it as a very effective pugil stick can be a game changer in a life or death situation.
    4. Like a lot of guys, I LOVE SBRs (short barreled rifles) and AR-pistols. If you train yourself to always reach your support hand out to full extension and use the c-clamp grip, sooner or later, you’re either going to grab a handful of hurt (in the form of a burn or a hole) or you’re going to run the gun slower out of respect for the potential of grabbing a handful of hurt. In many cases, this is what’s known as a “self-correcting error”. If you get a finger in the way of the muzzle and shoot your finger off, you won’t have the ability to shoot that finger off again in the future.

These reasons don’t really matter at all for competition. Or for qualifying. Or for clearing a shoot-house full of paper targets. But they absolutely DO matter if you own a gun as a tool for life & death situations. Especially for bump-in-the-night situations.

Now, this isn’t clear cut…it IS faster to transition from target to target with the c-clamp grip. It can also help with recoil management. But it’s a specialized technique that’s been applied to situations that it’s not best for.

The second inferior technique is pulling the gun into your shoulder with BOTH your right and left hands. (The pull+pull technique)

EVERYONE teaches this. This technique is SO proven that if Moses had a 3rd stone, it would have been engraved on it.

The pull+pull technique WAS the absolute best technique available…until it was improved upon. Sometimes an inferior, but effective technique that you’ve done a thousand times will work better for you than a superior technique that you’re trying for the first time. When an instructor is standing in front of a line of shooters, they’ve got to pick their battles on which aspects of technique to change and which are good enough as-is.

In short, if you PUSH with your support hand and PULL with pistol grip, you will have better retention, better recoil management, and you’ll be able to put multiple accurate shots on target faster than with the pull+pull technique. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a pretty powerful trifecta.

The first time I heard this, I was with a friend who had several high-tempo direct action combat deployments under his belt as a SEAL. I was trying to be respectful, but I still visibly smirked and audibly snorted at him.

He had the advantage of having proven the technique in combat, over several years, and with hundreds of students, so he humbly let me live—and proceeded to drop the mag on his carbine, lock back the bolt, hand it to me and told me to try my way and his way.

If you ever laugh (or snort) at a SEAL who tells you they have a better way and they look down, smile, and calmly ask you to try their way instead of getting mad, you pretty much know that you’re screwed.

He had me hold it with a pull+pull grip. And he grabbed the end of the muzzle and jerked it around. (it went where he wanted it to go) He had me hold it with a c-clamp grip. (He grabbed the muzzle again and it went where he wanted it to go…only faster and further) And he had me hold it with a push+pull grip. (it still moved, but about 70% less than with the pull+pull grip)

Again, weapon retention doesn’t matter in competition, on the range, in a carbine class, or in a shoot house, but it DOES potentially matter in a real-life fight for your life. Then he had me put a mag in and try the 3 techniques with live fire. This was almost 3 years ago so I don’t remember the exact distance, but the target was 15-21 feet away.

The first 2 techniques—the ones I was familiar with (c-clamp and pull+pull)—gave me good results, but the push+pull technique gave me a 50% smaller group ON MY FIRST TRY! Within a few tries, I was putting 5 rounds per second into groups that ranged in size between a tennis ball and a softball.

The more I’ve thought about this, the more amazing it is. I tried his technique for the first time and was IMMEDIATELY better than I was with 2 techniques that I’d practiced thousands of times.

So, the push+pull technique is better for weapon retention and recoil management, but how does it get more rounds on target faster. The secret is dynamic tension. When you use the pull+pull technique or the c-clamp, you need to have the butt of the rifle pushed against your shoulder/collarbone/chest.

When you push with your left hand and pull with your right, you don’t need to have the butt of the rifle against your shoulder to shoot—your left arm is pushing and absorbs the recoil and the gun goes back into alignment VERY quickly, even if the butt of the gun is hanging in mid-air.

You can prove this out at home with a broom handle…the dynamic tension provided by the push+pull technique is superior in almost every way to the pull+pull technique. That means that as you’re mounting your rifle, you can start putting multiple accurate rounds on target AS you’re pulling the butt of the rifle into your shoulder/collarbone/chest. As an added bonus, this technique carries over to SBRs, AR-Pistols, and even AKs MUCH better than the pull+pull or c-clamp technique.

These are just the first 2 MAJOR AR-15 training errors that the majority of AR-15 owners are making…I’ve got several more to share with you that will help you become a more effective carbine owner and increase your chances of surviving a lethal force encounter with your AR.

Do you have questions on these techniques? Comments? Contradictory experiences? Please share them by commenting below:

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,

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

Photo courtesy of author, featured image courtesy of US Navy