USE A HIGH, THUMBSFORWARD GRIP TO REDUCE RECOIL.
As I mentioned in my previous article, when training the fundamentals, many will focus first on stance. There is no doubt that shooting stance, or “platform” (as I prefer), is a part of shooting fundamentals—but it is not the most important part of managing recoil. In action shooting, my stance varies from being on one foot to being spread out, SWAT style, with both feet planted hard on the ground. I cannot depend on my feet being in the right “stance” to control my gun. The real trick to managing recoil is from the waist up—more specifically, from the grip back. In my years as a trainer, and in the many more years of my husband’s experience in law enforcement and as a trainer, I’ve learned that recoil management starts at the grip.
Although this applies to all firearms platforms, I want to simplify by focusing on the handgun. The modern grip is called the “high, thumbs-forward grip.” (Note the comma between “high” and “thumbs.” It’s an important detail.)
“High, thumbs forward” means your grip is high on the gun: “high,” meaning in relation to the axis of recoil—as high as you can get to the seam between the slide and the frame. “Thumbs forward” means your thumbs are pointed forward, as if there were flashlight beams shooting out the ends of them and you were using them to illuminate the target.
To form this grip, you have to understand the specific hand placements, hand pressures and overall grip tension.
Let’s begin with your strong, or dominant, hand. The grip should be as high in the backstop as possible; so high that the web of your hand starts to bunch up under the beavertail area. With your hand that high, your middle finger should also be high and tight against the lower trigger guard. When your hand is this high on the gun, you’ll find that your trigger finger sits naturally high on the frame—actually above the trigger area. It ultimately helps you adhere to the rule of having your trigger finger “straight and off the trigger” when not firing. The grip pressure with your dominant hand is best described as a front-to-rear pressure. Think of using the lowest, largest pads of your middle and ring finger to pull the grip straight back into the big, meaty section of your palm. Now, angle your strong thumb upward to create space for your other hand to move in.
It’s important to realize that the strong-hand thumb does nothing but hurt your overall grip when it starts gripping the gun. Try this: Keep your trigger finger pointed forward while trying to make a beer can crushing grip. Take you thumb out of that crush, and the trigger finger is able to act independently.
Your weak, or non-dominant, hand fills in the hole left by your strong hand. The goal is more “meat” on the gun, so get your palm into that hole. The fingers wrap up the middle, ring and pinky fingers of the strong hand while locking onto their knuckles.
With your weak hand, the grip pressure is side to side. It’s as if you are trying to crush a stress ball, except with your thumb pointing forward. This thumb can be used as meat on the gun to increase friction. I press it along the frame next to the takedown lever; it provides me with a tactile sensation. Other shooters actually curl it down on top of their index finger. Your strong-hand thumb can now rest on the weak hand’s thumb knuckle, pointed forward, but off to the side—not tight along the slide.
We have talked hand placement and hand pressures, but what is a good overall grip tension? Some people will suggest squeezing the gun until you start to shake and then backing off until the shaking stops. This is not actually a bad way to say it. For years, I learned 40 percent tension with my strong hand and 60 percent tension with my weak hand. I know—it seems odd that the weak hand does more work. The trick is to combine muscular and skeletal alignment so that actual grip strength isn’t the most important part of it all.
With thumbs pointed forward, the wrists become “set,” or “locked,” causing recoil to pass from the hands through the wrists to the elbows. Your elbows should have a slight uplift and flex to them, because this is recoil’s first exit. The remaining recoil travels to your shoulders and might travel a short way to your waist, but it pretty much ends there. Recoil is managed first through muscular and skeletal alignment with your hands and wrists. It’s absorbed by the elbows and bled off into the shoulders.
Combine this with a solid platform and having weight forward—or, as we say, “nose over your toes”—and you’ve got recoil licked! GW
THE TRICK IS TO COMBINE MUSCULAR AND SKELETAL ALIGNMENT SO
THAT ACTUAL GRIP STRENGTH ISN’T THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF IT ALL.
Chris Cerino competing at the Midway NRA Bianchi Cup I
“Thumbs forward” means your thumbs are pointed forward as if there were flashlight beams shooting out the ends of them and you were using them to illuminate the target. With thumbs pointed forward, the wrists become “set,” or “locked,” causing recoil...
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Your strong-hand thumb can now rest on the weak hand’s thumb knuckle, pointed forward but off to the side—not tight along the slide.
Angle your strong thumb upward to create space for your other hand to move in. Keep in mind that the strong-hand thumb does nothing but hurt your overall grip when it starts gripping the gun.
Your weak, or nondominant, hand fills in the hole left by your strong hand.