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Recoil Anticipation







Roger Phillips

Fight Focused Concepts
Commercial Sponsor
#1
Recoil Anticipation

When it comes down to the fundamentals of marksmanship, people make such a big deal about the four secrets, as if all you need to do is follow them and all will be good in your world. I am not saying the sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, and follow through are not important, I am just saying that these are relatively easy to teach and are seldom the real cause of poor shooting.

From my experience as a student and instructor recoil anticipation is the number one cause of poor shooting. Some will say that recoil anticipation is part of trigger control. I absolutely disagree! Recoil anticipation has very little to do with pressing the trigger straight to the rear, while not disrupting the sigh alignment or sight picture. Recoil anticipation is the natural desire to “counter act” an unnatural explosion in the hands that causes muzzle flip. It is the natural desire to control muzzle flip that leads to recoil anticipation. Since it is unnatural to have an explosion in your hand, it is natural to try to counter act the energy attached to that explosion.

When you anticipate the recoil during live fire it is almost impossible to see with the naked eye. Recoil anticipation can only be diagnosed with dry fire. But it often does not manifest itself unless the shooter knows that the explosion is going to happen. This is where an instructor can prove very valuable. Drills such as “ball and dummy” can show the shooter exactly what anticipating looks like and feels like. As soon as they see the muzzle dip right before the round was suppose to be fire, they understand why their shots are consistently low and to the left (for righties) and low and to the right (for lefties.)

Once the recoil anticipation is diagnosed, now comes the hard part of getting rid of it.

Most of us know that it is “the surprise break” that allows us to eliminate recoil anticipation. The surprise break is the concept of the shot breaking at a time period that is very much a surprise to you. Since it is a surprise, there is no anticipation of the recoil. Some get past this very quickly and some people do not. The difficulty of getting past it can be attached to many outside influences. For me, I suffered an electrical explosion in my hands as a very young child. The trauma attached to this event left me recoil sensitive due to an actual and very painful explosion in my hands. I was left alone to try to figure out how to erase the reminder of that traumatic experience. Many instructors tried and many failed. In dry practice, I was steady as a rock, but as soon as I thought I was going to get another explosion in my hand the anticipation would come back. Actual trauma can have long lasting psychological effects.

Here is what was taught to me by one of the very best diagnosticians in the field that finally led to me getting over this problem.

Run the ball and dummy drill to diagnose the problem and let the student see the problem. Explain what they are doing (hey, it is natural) and why they are doing it (to counteract the muzzle flip.)

Explain the surprise break.

Have them show you ten “perfect” dry presses. If the muzzle dips once, have them start over. Let them rest or relax if they need to. But I need to see ten perfect dry presses in a row.

Here is where I deviate from what is commonly done. Many instructors will have the student point in and get the perfect sight alignment/sight picture, all while the instructor is pressing the trigger. While this does work on many people, it did not work on me. I prefer to use a trade secret that actually teaches the thinking behind the trigger work. Having the instructor press the trigger without the instructor telling you what he is doing and thinking is not near as good as the student pressing the trigger while following the instructor commands and understanding the thought process. It is the thought process that allows the recoil sensitive shooter to understand the absolute importance of the surprise break.

Here is how the drill goes.

The shooter is told to follow the instructor’s commands to the letter

Shooter points in with hard focus on the front sight, with a perfect sight alignment and a perfect sight picture

Shooter is told to begin applying a small amount of “straight to the rear” pressure on the trigger…..put don’t let the gun fire! Hard focus on the front sight and slightly more pressure……but don’t let the gun fire! A little more pressure……but don’t let the gun fire! Hard focus…..perfect sight picture…..a little more pressure……but don’t let the gun fire. A little more pressure ……but don’t let the gun fire BANG!

Now that is the definitive surprise break!

The student did not even want the shot to break and it did. This usually leads to a perfect hit instead of the “same old low and to the left.” This is the teaching of the thought process behind the surprise break. If you are extremely recoil sensitive it becomes a mental game to convince yourself that the explosion is not going to happen.

I know that it comes as a surprise to all of my PSP students when this teaching is done at the start of every PSP course. We run a “one hole drill” then we talk about recoil anticipation and the thinking behind the trigger work. We then run the “one hole drill” dry for “ten perfect presses.” We then load up and shoot the one hole drill again. In this very short lesson I usually see a 50% improvement in the student’s marksmanship ability. The recoil sensitive students usually improve as much as 80%.

The next step is to take this concept into the “compressed surprise break.” For me, this teaching is what changed my shooting skill sets exponentially. I had to find a way past my trauma, to get to the levels that I needed to be at

When I am looking for that “one perfect shot” this teaching (from ten years ago) comes right back to the forefront. I hear the instructor in my head like a Drill Sergeant, telling me exactly what to do, telling me exactly what I should be thinking about, reminding me that if I anticipate that recoil ……I will surely miss the mark.

I hope this helps somebody as much as it helped me.
 

LasVegasTwo

Guest
#2
Rodger, its as if you were speaking right to me. I too, had an experiance as a young child with the same long term results.

I realize I have been compensating by increasing hand grip and sighting high right. While this put my shots center, its lead me to fatigued hands. Now I can began practicing the proper method you describe. Hopefully my results improve.

Thanks for an eye opening tip.
 

Roger Phillips

Fight Focused Concepts
Commercial Sponsor
#3
I am going to have to estimate that at least 60% of "the student of the handgun" have a varying degree of a recoil anticipation problem when they first show up in my courses.

Many students do not even know they have this problem.......until you begin to fix it.

I recently had a good friend inside of one of my courses. I will not use names. Solid military service. I am running the "one hole drill" and see that he is shooting 6-8 inches low. "This gun always shoots low" is what he tells me. So I say "let me see it" and I shoot it and it is dead on the money. I run the ball and dummy drill on him and we see the dip. We then ran the drill as explained......dead bang!

I just look at him and asked him "you know what you need to do right?" and he answered "yes!" And that was it for the rest of the course. It took maybe two minutes and that gun never shot low again.
 

Tinfoil Hat

Guest
#4
I think you just nailed what I've been doing wrong with my Glock 22. The recoil feels a bit snappier than my other .40 and just about any other handgun I own.

Well. Looks like some snap caps and some dry runs for me.

Thanks, Roger!
 

Roger Phillips

Fight Focused Concepts
Commercial Sponsor
#5
Ball and Dummy drill as the instructor.

We do not have the time to load snap caps in our students guns. If you nead to diagnose a recoil anticipation problem, that means that we have to quickly set up a failure to fire (or act like we are.) Ask for the students gun. Turn so the student can not see what you are doing, remove the magazine, clear the chamber(or act like you are), and reinsert the magazine.

This leaves the student not knowing if the gun is going to go bang or not. If it does not go bang and the muzzle dips......you know what you have. If you set it up to go bang watch for the hit. If it is the typical "low and left or low and right" set up another.

Recoil anticipation can come and go if the shooter knows if the gun is going to go bang or not. You have to fool the student.

Warning! This should always be done on a "one on one" basis while the other students are concentrating on their own little world. The ball and dummy drill should never be used in a manner that can lead to public humilation. The shooter just has something that he/she needs to work through.....he/she does not need to work through it while everyone is sitting their watching them. It is much easier to build the shooter up without the public ridicule.......that tears the shooter down.

Always assure the shooter that it is perfectly normal to want to counteract the energy from the recoil. They are not wimps, they just need to trust that they can control the recoil without counteracting it.
 

Tophog

Biker Trailer Trash
Staff member
Moderator
Forum Supporter
2019 Supporter
2020 Supporter
#6
Roger, thanks for a great post.

-

I 'flinch' for a different reason.

Stepdad was an ex-Marine D.I., so I was raised around guns since I was about 8. Went to military school. where we were shooting '03A3s in the 4th grade.

Shot ever since, including a tour as a Gunner's Mate in the Navy, including 5" and 6" caliber 'guns'. So I don't have a problem with the 'bang'.

-

My flinching came from firing my late 1942 Spreewerke, (CYQ), Walther P-38, using standard current production commercial ammo, which I found out later caused the problem.

Do NOT use commercial ammo in a WWII production P-38!

I fired, and something hit me in the eye. No permanent damage, but what happened was that the slide 'field stripped' itself! It remained on the frame, but the top dust cover came off, and the pin and springs went wherever they wanted.

So I spent almost an hour, scratching in the dirt and desert brush, with the use of only one eye, searching for those tiny parts! :laugh:

I finally found them, reassembed it, and fired only surplus mil ammo in it after that. No problem.

But that flinching has not gone away. And I don't look forward to another hot piece of steel bouncing off of my eyeball! Even though I consciously know that can't happen with modern weapon design, it is still there subconsciously when I am shooting.

Any thoughts?

Thanks!

I found them all, my eye healed,
 
#8
Anticipated Recoil (aka Flinch)

Around 10 years ago I took my younger brother to a local range to fire two of my handguns. He was suddenly curious if he could handle firing a handgun as he was considering buying one for himself. I brought my .45 semi-auto and .38 special revolver.

Long story short, on both handguns I loaded the gun to max capacity the first few times. The next time I did NOT load fully load the guns. On the last round of each handgun he anticipated the recoil even though no round was discharged.

When I asked him why he "flinched" without a live round he told me that he thought that was supposed to happen when you fire a gun. This is even when he didn't fire a live round. I was somewhat surprised that he "flinched" all the same.

BTW, my younger brother enjoyed shooting my two handguns but decided handgun ownership wasn't for him. To each his/her own!
 

Roger Phillips

Fight Focused Concepts
Commercial Sponsor
#9
Edited, Blogged, and back to the top due to the recent "Grip" article


November 29, 2014
Recoil Anticipation

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts


When it comes down to the fundamentals of marksmanship, people make such a big deal about the four secrets, as if all you need to do is follow them and all will be good in your world. I am not saying the sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, and follow through are not important, I am just saying that these are relatively easy to teach and are seldom the real cause of poor shooting.

From my experience as a student and instructor recoil anticipation is the number one cause of poor shooting. Some will say that recoil anticipation is part of trigger control. I absolutely disagree! Recoil anticipation has very little to do with pressing the trigger straight to the rear, while not disrupting the sigh alignment or sight picture. Recoil anticipation is the natural desire to “counter act” an unnatural explosion in the hands that causes muzzle flip. It is the natural desire to control muzzle flip that leads to recoil anticipation. Since it is unnatural to have an explosion in your hand, it is natural to try to counter act the energy attached to that explosion.

When you anticipate the recoil during live fire it is almost impossible to see with the naked eye. Recoil anticipation can only be diagnosed with dry fire. But it often does not manifest itself unless the shooter knows that the explosion is going to happen. This is where an instructor can prove very valuable. Drills such as “ball and dummy” can show the shooter exactly what anticipating looks like and feels like. As soon as they see the muzzle dip right before the round was supposed to fire, they understand why their shots are consistently low and to the left (for the right-handed) and low and to the right (for left-handed.)

Once the recoil anticipation is diagnosed, now comes the hard part of getting rid of it.

Most of us know that it is “the surprise break” that allows us to eliminate recoil anticipation. The surprise break is the concept of the shot breaking at a time periods that is very much a surprise to you. Since it is a surprise, there is no anticipation of the recoil. Some get past this very quickly and some people do not. The difficulty of getting past it can be attached to many outside influences. For me, I suffered an electrical explosion in my hands as a very young child. The trauma attached to this event left me recoil sensitive due to an actual and very painful explosion in my hands. I was left alone to try to figure out how to erase the reminder of that traumatic experience. Many instructors tried and many failed. In dry practice, I was steady as a rock, but as soon as I thought I was going to get another explosion in my hand the anticipation would come back. Actual trauma can have long-lasting psychological effects.

Here is what was taught to me by one of the very best diagnostician’s in the field that finally led to me getting over this problem.

Run the ball and dummy drill to diagnose the problem and let the student see the problem. Explain what they are doing (hey, it is natural) and why they are doing it (to counteract the muzzle flip.)

Explain the surprise break.

Have them show you ten “perfect” dry presses. If the muzzle dips once, have them start over. Let them rest or relax if they need to. But I need to see ten perfect dry presses in a row.

Here is where I deviate from what is commonly done. Many instructors will have the student point in and get the perfect sight alignment/sight picture, all while the instructor is pressing the trigger. While this does work I prefer to use a trade secret that actually teaches the thinking behind the trigger work. Having the instructor press the trigger without the instructor telling you what he is doing and thinking is not near as good as the student pressing the trigger while following the instructor commands and understanding the thought process. It is the thought process that allows the recoil sensitive shooter to understand the absolute importance of the surprise break.

Here is how the drill goes.

The shooter is told to follow the instructor’s commands to the letter

Shooter points in with hard focus on the front sight, with a perfect sight alignment and a perfect sight picture.

Shooter is told to begin applying a small amount of “straight to the rear” pressure on the trigger…..put don’t let the gun fire! Hard focus on the front sight and slightly more pressure……but don’t let the gun fire! A little more pressure……but don’t let the gun fire! Hard focus…..perfect sight picture…..a little more pressure……but don’t let the gun fire. A little more pressure ……but don’t let the gun fire BANG!

Now that is the definitive surprise break!

The student did not even want the shot to break and it did. This usually leads to a perfect hit instead of the “same old low and to the left.” This is the teaching of the thought process behind the surprise break. If you are extremely recoil sensitive it becomes a mental game to convince yourself that the explosion is not going to happen.

I know that it comes as a surprise to all of my PSC students when this teaching is done at the start of every PSC course. We run a “one hole drill” then we talk about recoil anticipation and the thinking behind the trigger work. We then run the “one hole drill” dry for “ten perfect presses.” We then load up and shoot the one hole drill again. In this very short lesson I usually see a 50% improvement in the student’s marksmanship ability. The recoil sensitive students usually improve as much as 80%.

The next step is to take this concept into the “compressed surprise break.” For me, this teaching is what changed my shooting skill sets exponentially. I had to find a way past my trauma, to get to the levels that I needed to be at

When I am looking for that “one perfect shot” this teaching (from ten years ago) comes right back to the forefront. I hear the Instructor in my head like a Drill Sergeant, telling me exactly what to do, telling me exactly what I should be thinking about, reminding me that if I anticipate that recoil ……I will surely miss the mark.

I hope this helps somebody as much as it helped me.