How to Control Recoil with the Handgun

Controlling handgun recoil is about proper technique, not simply pulling the trigger as quickly as possible. Work on proper technique to be able to accurately and quickly put rounds down range.

All firearms enthusiasts love shooting fast. It’s fun to just let ‘er rip and mag dump a firearm. If you’re a CCWer, cop, competitor, or soldier, being able to quickly and accurately put rounds down range is a very important skill to have. Combining speed and accuracy requires some specific recoil control technique.

Aaron from Sage Dynamics gives us some tips on how to control handgun recoil for fast and accurate follow up shots.

Proper pistol grip

The first step in controlling handgun recoil is having solid grip to keep the muzzle down. Check out Frank Proctor’s technique on gripping a pistol. Get your hand as high up on the handgun as possible and grip the gun extremely tight, but not to the point where the sights begin to shake. The tight grip is critical for recoil control.

Having a solid grip not only reduces recoil, but allows shooters to be accurate and quickly transition between targets.

Don’t fully lock up your arms

Don’t fully extend and “lock” your elbows. Doing so means more energy is sent back through your arms and you aren’t able to absorb recoil very well. By bending your elbows ever so slightly means your arms become a bit of a shock absorber to reduce recoil.

Wait for the sight reset

When shooting quickly, don’t pull the trigger fast just for the sake of pulling the trigger fast. Inaccurate shots are a waste. If you’re a conceal carrier or police officer, you’re accountable for every round you fire – missed shots could result in innocent bystanders being hit.

When shooting quickly, keep a consistent cadence on par with how quickly you can see your sights again. Wait for your sights to reset, re-acquire your sights, and then pull the trigger again. Proper recoil control requires shooting at the correct cadence for the distance and size of a target. Follow up shot speed for a 3 yard large target is different than a 25 yard small target.

Develop a consistent natural point of aim with dry fire

Having a consistent sight reset all the way through recoil comes from practice. While live fire is definitely the best way to develop a good natural point of aim, a consistent natural point of aim can be developed through dry fire. Simply start with a holstered handgun, draw from the holster, and aim at the center of a target. Repeat this over and over and eventually, you can get to the point where you can close your eyes, draw from the holster, and when you open your eyes your sights will be lined up on target. That is a good goal to have as it will help you out in so many areas of handgun proficiency.

A quality and consistent natural point of aim will then help in developing a fast and natural sight reset, which helps with fast follow up shots. With enough practice, controlling handgun recoil and timing shots will eventually become instinctual.

Practice at a variety of distances

Effective handgun recoil control requires proper timing. Again, the shooting cadence for a 3 yard target is not the same as the shooting cadence for a 25 yard target. Shooting a variety of distances teaches shooters the proper cadence for each distance, and eventually it will become instinctual.

This will increase your shooting speed at any distance.

Deliberate practice

With all things firearms related, handgun recoil control included, deliberate practice is critical. Simply going to the range and absentmindedly pulling the trigger quickly will not make you faster and more accurate. That is actually a good way to develop bad habits and become a worse shooter.

Deliberate practice requires focusing on good technique and identifying issues. Work on specific drills to work on specific skills. Record your time and accuracy to identify problem areas. Video your shooting to identify poor technique. Don’t let pride get in the way of identifying problems in technique – without identifying issues, how can you improve?

Mindless range time is the worst way to improve shooting technique.

Deliberate practice is the best way to improve shooting technique.

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Brian Purkiss
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Brian Purkiss is a firearms instructor, competitive shooter, proponent for individual liberty and Second Amendment rights, and a web developer. He enjoys competing in and organizing Run and Gun Competitions, as well as shooting in USPSA, Outlaw matches, and 3 Gun.