A firearm is an intimidating tool. Firearms make loud noises, create concussive blasts, and can be jarring when you aren’t used to the forces they create. Furthermore, the implications of holding a tool that has the capabilities to kill someone can get people, particularly new shooters, amped up. This creates tense shooters, and tense shooters creates recoil anticipation, particularly with handguns.

When shooting a firearm, a perfect shot means the firearm does not move at all until recoil flips that muzzle up. The natural reaction to fighting recoil, is to push the gun back down so the sights stay on target. However, when the recoil is anticipated and the gun is pushed down before the recoil hits, shots won’t hit the target. This is called, you guessed it, recoil anticipation.

John Lovell, from the Warrior Poets Society, is a fantastic shooter and firearms instructor. He’s been around the block and his classes are well worth taking if given the opportunity. He provides a fantastic overview of what recoil anticipation is and why it happens.

How to train away recoil anticipation

Dry fire is one of the best ways to fix recoil anticipation. Good marksmanship is all about forming good habits, and it’s easier to create good habits when there’s no recoil to worry about.

Take an empty pistol (emphasis on the empty), and go through all of the motions of shooting the firearm. While doing so, pay very close attention to the front sight. A perfect dry fire shot will have the muzzle not move. Dry fire over and over until good habits form.

When at the range, dry fire before sending live rounds down range. And when shooting live rounds, mix in some snap caps into the magazine at unknown points. When the gun goes click instead of bang, pay attention to the muzzle. Did it dip? Or did it stay mostly unmoving?

Keep training

10 minutes three days can make a huge difference in your shooting technique, 15 minutes a day can make an even bigger difference. Pick a dry fire schedule, and stick to it. Dry fire is the key to becoming a better shooter, and it doesn’t break the bank.