Safety and Training

Examining Recoil Control in Handguns

Recoil is a fact of life. As long as the laws of physics exist, there will be recoil. You will never eliminate recoil; however, you may address, redirect and make its effects less painful.

We differentiate between momentum and movement, and genuinely painful recoil. As an example, when firing a self-loading handgun there is considerable movement in the slide as the action cycles. When the slide recoils, its rearmost travel ends in a certain snap.

Recoil is straight to the rear; muzzle whip is upward. When recoil twists, it becomes particularly uncomfortable. The problem is inherent in handguns attempting to shoe horn too much cartridge into a compact platform. The worst offenders are the .40 caliber sub compacts.

The .40 Smith and Wesson cartridge is a high intensity number designed for service-size handguns. When the handgun becomes too small, both slide movement and momentum from recoil become too much. We are attempting to put a .40 caliber cartridge into a 9mm platform, which has much appeal in a handgun of the proper size.

Another example of too much cartridge in a small handgun is the .357 Magnum ammunition.” href=”https://www.cheaperthandirt.com/.357-magnum/ammunition/handgun-ammo/?brand=.357Magnum” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>.357 Magnum cartridge in a handgun designed for the .38 Special cartridge. The result is a handgun with different recoil than the self-loader. The revolver may jolt the metal parts including the cylinder release into the shooters hand, leading to considerable discomfort.

When choosing a handgun it is wise to begin with a caliber and handgun weight combination that is controllable and reasonably comfortable to use and fire. This means the 9mm Luger and .38 Special level for most of us.

A steel frame might be desirable as well, or a medium size polymer frame self-loader. I began shooting with a 4-inch barrel .38 revolver. Many of you will begin with a GLOCK 19 9mm. These are ideal handguns—powerful enough for personal defense; not so strong that they are painful to fire.

As your ability improves and you have experience you may wish to use a Ruger SP101 .357 Magnum revolver or a SIG P229 .40 as examples of powerful handguns well-suited to experienced shooters.

I am a strong advocate of mastering the most powerful handgun you can use well. If you cannot fire the big bore handgun well you are in the unenviable position of being armed with a deadly weapon you cannot control.

The key is to consider your abilities and begin with a reasonable choice.

Does a .40 compact offer sufficient wound potential increase to warrant its adoption? Can you control it as well as the 9mm compact? If you wish to deploy a .45 caliber handgun you will develop a sense of concealed carry. We realize that concealing the handgun is possible; the question is the level of comfort we have with the weapon.

Weight and Recoil

The latest advertisements tout the newest handgun, and how easy it is to conceal. Concealment is a function of a well-designed holster, properly covering garments and mindset. A heavier handgun is more comfortable to fire. A longer barrel and heavier slide helps control muzzle flip.

We are not talking about a huge difference.

As an example, I recently tested a trio of 9mm compact handguns. The weight ranged from 18 to 23 ounces.

Predictably, the heavier gun was easiest to use well, although the lightest was comfortable to fire.

Technique

Get instruction!

  • Learn to use a proper two-hand technique.
  • Allow the arms to rock as shock absorbers.
  • Practice a firm grip.
  • Always remain in control of the handgun.

Snub .38

I have many years of experience with the snubnose .38 Special and find it the most difficult revolver in my safe to master to my satisfaction. There is nothing that does what the snubnose .38 does. However, it remains an important backup handgun.

  • The balance of power per ounce is attractive.
  • The simplicity and reliability are important.
  • The thin grips found on many snub nose revolvers do not separate you from the metal of the handgun.
  • A set of rubber grips that do not allow the hand to contact the backstrap on firing are essential for comfort.

The snub nose .38 is a compromise in many ways although very useful. A handgun that stings on firing causes the shooter to flinch,  an involuntary contraction of the muscles as we anticipate recoil. Good grips and the proper technique work well to master the snub nose .38.

Loads

There is a tendency to choose the most powerful loading for the caliber. I have encouraged this I am certain. Yet, the load that recoils the most is not always the best suited for personal defense.

A well-designed projectile at a good velocity is important. The Speer Gold Dot 124-grain ‘Short Barrel’ load is one example of a load that doesn’t produce excessive recoil and performs well in ballistic media.

Another good choice is the .38 Special 110-grain FTX from Hornady. This load goes a long way toward making the .38 more comfortable to fire.

Recoil is a necessary part of the shooting scene. Follow these tips and do not let recoil keep you from mastering the handgun.

What is your favorite tip for managing the inevitable recoil when shooting? Share in the comment section.

[bob]

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (42)

  1. I once saw a circular target that had different sections for bullet landing that plotted you weaknesses of shooting. It was labeled with things like pulled trigger in stead of squeezed trigger, palm down, blink, flinched and various other flaws that we have when we shoot. I had made a copy but it is lost somewhere in the debris of my life. If anyone knows of this “chart” would you give us a link or site where we can get it. With this conversation being about recoil I think many would appreciate it.

    1. B thanks I appreciate the address and think these targets could be of a help to others that care to look at the site. Examining Recoil Control in Handguns has many views.

  2. I discovered something that helped me more with unpleasant recoil more than anything else. I believe I read it first on this blog. It was a comment by a professional shooter and he made a convincing argument for really supporting the gun with both hands.
    For years I had shot with a two handed grip whenever possible. But my support hand was wrapped around my strong hand and made no contact with any part of the pistol other than the front of the trigger guard. The professional shooter’s point was to get the heal of the supporting hand on to the grip of the pistol. I have tried that with great satisfaction on full sized pistol grips. I make a cradle of my two hands, with the heavy muscle below or behind the thumb on my support hand in contact with the heavy muscle below or behind the thumb on strong hand. The top of the heal of my support hand makes firm contact with the back and bottom of the pistol frame and my strong hand makes contact higher up on the backstrap of the pistol.
    It took a bit of practice and getting used to changing my grip that has been my standard for probably approaching 40 years. Further, in addition to feeling “different” and even a bit uncomfortable, it put a different strain on my muscles. However, I got used to it fairly soon and I found immediately that I had better control of the gun and my groups on paper improved.
    Recoil of my hardest recoiling pistols, like the 10mm, feels reduced.

  3. Pete: Your comments are spot on. Always thought being a warden in the bush where they poach Rhino and elephant would be a worthy and fun job…..I envy your time there…One job of mine was a state Park Ranger, but mostly chasing drunks and idiots, although I do recall arresting a poacher once….your pretty much a jerk to poach a semi tame deer in a state park…The mule deer was in the Oklahoma panhandle—they are not very big there and any Okie mule deer is a trophy, this one a 4 x 5 about 175 lbs dressed…..not like the boone and crocket ones I have killed in both Wyoming and Colorado…but back to recoil….my lastest passion is the big Rugers in 45 LC…..I load em hot +P, and carry them in New Mexico and Colorado…we camp at the NRA Whittingon Center in New Mexico every year and I have seen bear over 500 lbs there…..my carry ruger is the 5.5 inch Bisley grip, which really helps the recoil…..love that gun…..I also have the 45LC stainless flat top, which takes lower powered loads and has very little recoil…. we have a half dozen grandkids we teach too shoot and I try to make shoot lots of 22, bbs and airsoft….I also own ahalf dozen 410 shotguns….which helps them to enjoy shotguns but without recoil…I can load the little 410 cheap…and your comment on 45 acp is spot on….I can reload 45 scp with my own cast loads pretty cheap and still get full recoil….if you shoot 1911s, I really have to suggest the 400 corbon….one swipe thru the die and your 45 1911 will shoot the little 40 cal bullet….recoil is prettty dramatic…but like you say….it just comes with it….I can get 165 grain loads to average 1,361 fps or about 650 foot pounds…about like your 41 mag……later

    1. Hey OL,
      My Blackhawk was sort of a fluke, a great fluke but a fluke none the same. Was doing a lot of helicopter work at that time and needed a pistol that could be carried in a front cross draw. Wanted an SA.
      357 Mag had the most offerings at that time but even at close range the .357 would just piss off a big Brown. The .44 mags were all big framed and uncomfortable to carry. Didn’t think that any of them would do well in a cross draw. The gunsmith suggested the .41 Mag but here again the available platforms were large and chunky. A couple of days later he called me, say that he thought he had the answer for me and he did.
      Ruger Blackhawk 4 5/8 inch barrel in .41 Mag. A major plus at the time was the trigger transfer bar allowing to carry 6 rounds safely with tha hammer down. The first thing I had done was have the barrel Magna ported, then I got a set of custom grips (little fatter and with a thumb rest) and modified them with finger cuts, a bit of slimming and some take down of the thumb rest. It’s been with me since the early 70’s now, never failed and always hit the target exactly where it was aimed. I load my own. Use Barns XBT 185gr, loads at 95% of max, very effective.
      I’ve had little experience with .45 LCR over the years but have a number of friends that carry them fishing, bow hunting backpacking and the like. Several like the Judge 45LC/.410 very much and although I like the idea of this switch hitting ability I’m not fond of the feel of the grips for the Judge.
      I still cast bullets on occasion for some of the odd stuff like .43 Spanish and .38+ semi-wadcutters but in recent years have switched almost exclusively to Barns solid bullets for nearly everything else. The only exceptions have been for Precision .338 Lapua .50 BMG, .416 Barret. These calibers I lath from my own designs on a small CNC unit from either copper or brass. I’ve become very pleased with the Brass .416 rounds that I’ve produced, 401 grain modified BT,
      Ballistic Coefficient is in the area of 0.75 to 0.78 (G1) I’m hoping to bump it over 0.80 but we’ll see. That’s going to take a fair amount of work yet but I think it’s doable. Time will tell.
      I did a few duplicate solid copper .577 Nitro Express for Dad to reload for my GrandDa’s Double Purdy. You can still find factory munitions but Dad had the bass and dies an wanted to give it a go. They weigh in around 570, 580 grains, and I made 5 at an even 600 grains, short and some what squat flat base round nose. A pocket full of these is like 6 rounds! Dad calls them “Thumpers” which indeed they are.

  4. Wait, what? “The worst offenders are the .40 caliber sub compacts.” Really? I think the 10mm subcompacts would be the worst offenders, given that the 10mm has, even when light-loaded, significantly more muzzle energy (and thus recoil) than .40 S&W.

    1. There are just a few light 10mm guns and they are made on the .45 frame-.,40 caliber compacts are on the 9mm frame.

      bob

    2. At the risk of sounding condescending which is not my intent there seems to be some confusion as to what the .40 SW round is and come from.
      The .40 is the cut down version of the 10mm what one might have been termed the 10mm Kurtz (short) but was classified the .40 SW. The story which is much he same is and perhaps better known is the 9mm and the 9mm Kurtz (short) or what became known as the .380. There is also a parallel of this with the 30.06 / .308 cartridges. As the .308 is simply a cut down .06 . . . . Come to think of it, by extension, the 10mm is simply a cut down .308 case!
      I don’t know that there was ever a 10mm compact platform produced. Anyone?? 10mm Compact or subcompact??
      It’s said that the .40 was developed to tame the 10mm which seems to actually be the case. The .40 runs about 200 fps slower than the 10mm and of course the shorter case allowed it to fit into existing frames with somewhat less reengeneering. So there isn’t as great a difference in energy as one might think. The early problems with poly frames due to the sharp recoil of the .40 have for the most part been solved. Of course the all steel platforms support this cartridge very well. As with all things there is are up sides and down and those list are somewhat long and fluid. The sub compacts were and are still somewhat of an issue as I understand it. The .40 in this frame size and of lower polymer construction can be a handful by most accounts and has shown some issue with the materials used and excessive wear.
      I don’t know what may come of the new search for a new Army/Air Force replacement to the Beretta M9. I whould hope that a .40 platform is chosen. Such a choice could well propell the advancement of stronger and greater wear resistance placed in these platforms. Time will tell.
      I hope this attempt at an explanation has shed some additional light on thus ongoing controversy.

    3. HEY PETE, ABOUT THE 10MM COMPACT, I LOVE THE FLAT SHOOTING 10MM. ONE OF MY SEMI-AUTO PISTOLS IS MADE IN ITALY BY EAA AND IS A POLYMER FRAME SHORT BARREL WITH A PRETTY GOOD KICK. NOTHING LIKE A S&W 1006 WHICH IS SO HEAVY, IT HANDLES THE RECOILIKE A DREAM.

    4. The only platform that I thought was ever truly built to handel the 10mm was the Desert Eagle magnum platform. The 1911 in the 10mm is ok and I certenly like my Delat Elite but there is and has been issues. The DE 10mm is flawless, feeds without problems, accurate, . . . . . The down side, Huge, Heavy, hard to carry . . . Open …. Harder to carry concealed,! Requires a very good two hand grip … . Just to pickup! But, it will Handel the 10mm without an trouble at all. LOL!

  5. Peter in Alaska– excellent comments!
    I cannot believe anyone would think that proficiency at arms with the carry guns isn’t important! Prior training is the single most important predictor of survival. And as many of who that have observed such things note the minor calibers do not get the job done as often as the major calibers.
    Since I am not going to give up my various instructor’s certificates I will continue to train. I will also continue to carry what I have carried from some 40 years ( in different variations) the Colt 1911 .45, most often a Series 70, and sometimes a Commander. And a big .45 single action in the outback———-

    1. @Bob Chambell
      Hey Bob!
      Thanks for the shout out! Always look forward to your blogs. There is always meat on the bone in what you offer!
      I still enjoy my 1911’s but now generally carry Hi-Cap platforms in .45 or .40. XD and XDm are my platforms of choice however there’s an IMI Baby Desert Eagle Compact (all steel) in .40 that I was gifted some years ago that see’s a fair amount of time out an about.
      Fishing and hunting here in the north and other out of the way bush places it’s been my old Blackhawk SA (4 5/8″, ported) .41 Mag or a shorty 12ga. In the last couple of years there has also been a Tauras .454 in the mix. Have a number of friends that like the .45LC like you do too. Spring an early summer, when the first Silver and King runs come in its a comfort to have it with you on the river.
      I agree completly, without reservation, with your statement concerning proficency and training but I read these blogs (others as well) and comments and it seems to me that more often than not the important things like training, practice, weight, and carry options are glossed over or seemingly forgotten in the rush to just having a weapon at hand and ones CCP! I don’t think you need to be a professional to be prepaired. However, I think that ones mindset should be like the professional to become prepaired. Maybe I’m just old school in my thinking and just haven’t found the Apps yet that do it all for me ……..

  6. Pete in Alaska…great comment….like hunting big game…last week a shot a big mulie with one of the weatherby calibers…dont even recall the shot….I have served in 4 law enforcement jobs over 45 years… like you say…you dont have a clue what you will do when the guns come out…….by the way Massad Ayoob had an article recently about muscle memory….he says it take somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 repetitions……..OK if you can find 22 lr, but does anybody really have the funds for 10,000 45 acp?

    1. @OldLawyer
      Hey OL,
      I figure that 10,000 .45 app in 50 round boxes whould be, give or take, about $4,000.00 or so! Kind of spendy but doable, I’d bet that if you could find a seller of lot quantities that you could get much better pricing. Im using a $20 per box of 50 average retail cost . Mussel memory is partly mind over matter too. It’s my contention that if you can convince you brian that something has to be a certain way it may not take 5 to10,000 rounds to make your point to the mussels, might only take say 3 or 400 rounds just to supply the physical connection to what you have already convinced the brain is needed.
      I wasnt an LE particapant with the exception of being a Game Warden for a time and that was more about my military skills than LE. I enjoyed doing that work very much, never liked poachers. Our mandate was to #1- minimize or shutdown poaching in an explicit an public manner. #2- build up, arm and train the indigenous personal into an effective counter poaching paramilitary unit. Most were ex-military with either British or French training and worked very well in small unit asymmetrical anti poaching operations. The poachers were in it for the money, they didn’t care about international law, national boarders, or much of anything. They would rather fight than run which made for some tense moments on occasion. Many of those wardens are still active today although most I think don’t work the bush any longer. That was a gratifying 7 months back in the day.
      There was time spent in the Military and after as a security Contractor. I belive I’m still here today cause I was always just a bit scared, only followed plans that were flexible, and tryed never to presume, assume, of become complacent about anything and didn’t work with rookies or wannabes. anyway . . . .
      Where were your chasing Mule Deer? They are a lot of fun to hunt, smart buggers as well! Always like to hear other hunting expierances and shard a few. I get in quite a bit here in Alaska as well as Colorado an gone northern Rockies. Maybe you should grab that Weatherby and come up to Aladka and hunt a week or two with us?

  7. I may be somewhat out of line here ugh the following comment but feel that the point has been at least obscured if not lost here.
    If one takes the step out of their safe world and actually finds themselves in the middle of an s**t storm not of their making most will become ineffective due in part to confusion, of fear, simply from the stunning turn of events, noise, sights, sounds, …shock ….and certenly most often to a lack of training and skills.
    NOBODY handles this position well. Some, those with training, and a practiced skill set do it better certenly than one who just had a CCP, weapon, goes to the range and knows which end to “Point towards enemy”.
    It’s simply not nearly enough to “carry”, it’s not nearly enough to know just how to “shoot”. It makes little to no difference what weapon you choose and learn to shoot with.
    The only game changers are ones….
    One Mind Set and ability to change gears in an instant.
    What they have trained for,
    How well they trained to respond to it
    Then . . If that horrendous moment should intrude into ones life . . . . that instant that will change your life and the lives of others in, around, near and dear to you, forever …then it’s how,in that moment, those components come togather and colelsque into either action or … inaction.
    I promise you that you won’t remember the recoil, no you won’t remember that.
    Training and continuing practice will provide mussel memory and a skill set to respond. It can not teach you or tell you what that response will be. It will only help to direct and mold it.
    By nature we do the best with what we have , the more we “have” is often reflected in the preformance of our response.
    There are just two view points when considering or discussing such an event. The one “looking ahead to ” and the one “looking back from”. The first is all about the Seven P’s and is an important place to start. My view here for what it’s worth Is the view of “back from”. What I know now that I would have benifited from knowing then. Learning how to be objective and not second guess. Correcting mistakes or weakness’s, improving your ability to survive the next moment should it present. Learning to live in the new skin that you find you now wear. Being able to suggest to other what they might consider.
    Trust me, you won’t remember the recoil. It’s good for the mussels to know about it, deal with it and responds to it but you won’t remember it.
    If you have never had the expierance then I will hope that you never do. of those who have may the peace of this season find you.
    A very good Holiday to all. Pete sends . . .

    1. Good thoughtful advice…mine is use some inexpensive caliber, practice enough to not have to visually check the safety.

  8. I have two go-between pistols for carry purposes. One is a first generation Taurus 24/7 Pro C DS .45. Recoil is very manageable and the 3.33 inch barrel is amazingly accurate at 20 yards. During the warmer months, a slightly oversized t-shirt along with an IWB is all I need though I prefer to wear button down shirts.
    The second is a Glock 23. Again, manageable and I either carry it within an IWB or a concealable belt holster. .40 S&W of course and Glock accurate.
    They are 11 and 14 shots respectively including one in the pipe. I have fitted them both with Hogue Handall 17000 grips and they fit well in my medium-sized hands. Underwood bonded hollow points in both. Again, very manageable. Practice, practice, practice.

  9. Speaking of recoil; I have found that my polymer, full sized, ‘S&W M&P’ 9mm seems to have more perceptible ‘kick’ than my steel ‘Auto Ordinance’ M1911A1 clone. I recognize that it weighs more and that weight effects perceived recoil. The M&P 9mm seems to want to twist right out of my hand, while I have no such experience with the big .45ACP. Perhaps it the way the weapons fit my hand, or perhaps it’s the way I’m holding them, or perhaps it’s the ergonomics of John Browning’s brilliant design. I don’t know.
    Any ideas ?
    note; I was ‘weaned’ on the M1911A1, as a youth, by my ‘Uncle’ (Sam)

  10. Roger; I too like the small guns…I have 25-30 carry pieces including expensive ones. I cary the KelTecPF9 with one spare clip and a larger gun in the car or truck……you seem to be planning for a mugging or car jacking where only one guy shows up with a gun…….you might want to look at currents stats……the Muslim mall shooter is coming to a Walmart or mall or church near you….its only a matter of time….and lately we are seeing people stumble into gas stations and C stores where 2 bad guys both with guns are doing the robbery…..police stastics show that cops under pressure miss about 70% of the time, and that is at 21 feet or so average so unless you are better under pressure than the experts you might want more gun……….you might want to rethink that 380 carry….I have shot several wounded deer with 380s and 38 special 2 inch….all of them in the head or neck…..many take 2-3 shots…….just saying…..you need a spare mag and dont settle for anthing less than the hottest ammo….I prefer Corbon…..

  11. My everyday is a Ruger 380. My church gun is a Ruger 380. I have a Glock 23 but don;t like to carry it unless I wear a jacket all of the time I have it on. I figure any thing I will be shooting is close and I will need an excuse to go into my pocket like reaching for money to give “them”. I do shoot often and can hold my own on the range. I believe it’s the right gun for the situation and I just can’t see a scenario that the first shot will be over 10 feet. Sure the 380 hurts but the 380 fits in my pocket or back holster comfortably. I pray if I ever have to shoot it will be one shot and done not a shoot out where there will be lots of brass on the floor.

    1. Roger; The .380ACP is just about the least caliber that you would want to carry for self defense purposes. I own and carry several, myself, at times, but they can find themselves inadequate in certain circumstances, such as when your target is heavily muscled or wearing heavy clothing. Especially in JHP, or so called ‘Personal Defense’ rounds, which may not penetrate deep enough to hit a vital organ.
      I read an article concerning utilizing FMJ rounds in colder seasons, to ensure adequate penetration and have heard of, but not yet seen, a 102gr.(?) .380ACP bullet that helps to alleviate this problem.
      My own answer to the problem is to own and carry a wide variety of weapons, for use in varying scenarios. They include the .380ACP, 9mm, .357 cal., .40 cal., 45ACP and .45 Colt Long/0000 .410 shot shell, depending upon the circumstances.
      I grant that not everyone may have the opportunity to acquire a plethora of handguns and must use whatever they happen to own. In which case ammo selection can be critical.
      Stay Safe my friend.

    2. Rocky, I do have a Ducktown DBL 410/Long-colt that I would love to carry if the barrels were not side by side. I carry it sometimes when hiking, fishing and hunting with 410 bird shot, slug or 000 buck. It’s too bulky for everyday carry, to bad, 2 rounds from that would stop just about anyone. I also own a few other small caliber guns that are just for my girls to carry in their purses, like key chain objects. The girls don’t want my Glocks… yet.. I would like to wear my shoulder holster to church but because of what I do there the congregation might wince if they were to see it. It’s difficult to be active and hide some carry holsters although I dearly love a shoulder holster for comfort and extra mags. I guess there is no perfect thing for the situation but there is better than nothing. I will look into a bigger grain .380FMJ bullet when it comes available. Big grain bullets are my favorite thing to shoot for effective take downs and distance. Thanks for your comment.

  12. Rick: You are so correct about any long shots being a self defense no no……as a retired cop and attorney you dont want to explain why you are shooting far away and many times……I too bought my first 5 shot model 36 in the mid 70s and carried one as a back-up in law enforcement….I still carry a 637 often especially when out of state and I dont want to explain why I carry a 15 round gun to some officer in another state….that being said, I have personally walked into 2 restuarants being robbed…one was in Oklahoma and the guy had a 38, the second was in a Wash DC suburb and the three guys had shotguns—very, very bad….I did nothing and survived….the problem today is you can just be in the wrong neighborhood and a couple guys could start shooting up the local Walmart, the Walmert parking lot, McDonalds or whatever……so 5 shots may not be enough….there are lots of scenarios where 15 rounds would give you the opportunity to keep the bad guys at bay while your family runs away…….the Muslim mall shooters are coming to America and you may be facing an AK or an AR–unless Obama bans them all……just saying, an extra speed loader or two makes a lot of sense in 2014 where it did not a decade ago…..just my 2 cents…..

  13. I think a lot of people confuse their carry guns and their fun guns. You don’t have to be proficient with your carry gun, as far as accuracy is concerned. if you shoot someone 25 yards away, you got some ‘splainen to do Lucy. That would be a tough sale to be self-defense. 15 feet would probably be more practical. I don’t understand the need for 15 plus rounds in the carry gun. If you get off more than 3 – 5 rounds, you probably jumped the gun. (pun intended) We need to practice more getting the weapon out of pocket or off belt or where ever. Shoot enough for familiarity with the weapon, use low power rounds if the recoil is uncomfortable. i.e. Most people don’t realize a .38 special can also shoot .38 shorts. If it’s a real self-defense situation, an immediate, scare the bejeepers out of you threat, you won’t feel the recoil, and you’ll be pointing not aiming. I bought an off duty .38 special model 37 air-weight in 1970. The dealer impressed on me that I would do a lot more carrying than shooting with it. Although I have others, this is my main carry weapon. 5 rounds, revolver – guaranteed to fire every time – no extra ammo, no speed loader or whatever, strictly self-defense.

  14. Nice article but I think maybe a little epmhasis on training would be a good idea….I am 66, retired military and had 4 law enforcement jobs during my careers….I was blessed to have lots of government ammo to shoot….like Jim says, shooters should shoot and shoot and shoot the 22 lR, if you can find them…even BB pistols help….then a second tool I use for new shooters is gloves….any leather glove will help…just shoot lots and lots of ammo…..lastly, recoil effect is mostly mental…I have 2 inch and 4 inch 44 mags and love em, my biggest recoil issue is with a 400 Corbon shooting a 165 grains at 1,361 fps from a 5 inch 1911, not pleasant but doable and no big deal with gloves…I have both carpel tunnel and arthritus issues in both hands….but learning that recoil is just a physical response and is not doing anything but pushing you backwards helps you accept it as no big deal…… and lastly when I was a young cop an old one told me that to master the 357 mag, I should buy and shoot a 44 mag…..I did….it worked……

  15. My introduction to pistol shooting at age nine was with my uncle’s .22 LR Colt Woodsman. This firearm was so accurate I eventually could hit an Inca dove at 75 yards. A Border Patrolman in Texas introduced me to .45 ACP 1911s, both military surplus issue and his pistol team match gun. The difference in group size astounded me. The 1911 has been my go to gun ever since (50 years +). I use both 1911 framed .22 LR and 1911 with a .22LR conversion pistols for training new shooters We conduct NRA Women On Target clinics using these 1911s and have been very pleased with the results. All the participants, including several preteens and adults with no prior pistol shooting experience, were able to achieve sub-six inch groups at 50 feet within 50 rounds of initial training. Once a shooter becomes familiar and accurate with the .22 LR version, it is easy to transition up to the .45 ACP with light target loads initially, then graduating up to full load 230 grain FMJs. My Winter concealed carry gun is a 1911 (8+1) and my Summer gun is a .380 that hopefully will allow me time to fight my way to my real gun.

  16. An excellent article. I do occasionally carry a snub nosed revolver and shoot a Ruger SP101. The snubbie, a Colt Detective Special, is more than manageable with short barreled Gold Dots. It is still not a range day gun. The SP101 factory grips are actually quite comfortable with 357 loads IMHO. My preference for carry are my full size and compact HK’s. I have yet to shoot an HK that has excessive muzzle flip, or excessive recoil and I own 9mm, 40, and .45 ACP. It all has to do with design. The one pistol I have which recoils uncomfortably is my Kahr PM9. It has a wonderful trigger and is perhaps the best of the subcompact 9mm’s on the market. Highly concealable I carry it often in the summer, but must admit it’s recoil is uncomfortable. I can still shoot it well, but it’s not an all day fun gun.

  17. Recoil: The most uncomfortable handgun I shoot regularly is the Ruger LCP in .380. After 20-25 shots, my hand hurts so I don’t want to shoot anymore. Not the case with my full size 9mm’s, 45’s or 10mm’s – they recoil, but comfortably due to weight and full size grips. But they don’t hide nearly as well as the LCP. So the tradeoff. Handgun shooting it seems is all about tradeoffs.

  18. Try a 1911 9mm for pure shooting pleasure and the 1911 beginner. That number will help the student overcome the flinch inherent with the 1911 in 45 ACP. Start slow and work up to the full number is a huge help, especially for the fair sex.

  19. Hand gun recoil was something I grew up hating. The 1911’s we used in the Marine Corps in the early sixties were the bare bones models and after shooting a box of ammo my right hand and arm actually hurt. The range coach said I was afraid of it and he was probably right. They knew I had arthritis in my knees but I don’t think anyone guessed it was invading my hands and arms in my 20’s. We were taught to use a single right handed grip.

    If you had told me that 50 years later I would own one and love it I would have said you were crazy. But that was an interesting voyage. I bought a Rock Island 1911 for personal protection after seeing what the 230 grain round could do to a man. Admittedly I didn’t fire it much until I talked to Bill the range coach and Jeff, the gunsmith, at The Norco Armory. They suggested some modifications that actually made it fun to shoot.

    A fifty cent plastic buffer in the slide actually dampened the recoil enough to notice. A forty dollar set of Hogue wrap around grips made a big difference and proved to be a worthwhile investment. A set of replacement adjustable sites improved accuracy and an over sized beaver tail offered more comfort and protection from a slide bite. All those modifications might have added a couple of hundred dollars to the total expense but they made it a pleasure to shoot. I can’t see having a firearm that isn’t fun to shoot, especially when you’re 73.

  20. I’m surprised Bob didn’t mention one of the best recoil-management tools around: Mag-Na-Port. Their quad- (if the barrel is long enough) or dual- (for snubbies) porting can be angled to either minimize muzzle flip or minimize felt (horizonal) recoil, or provide a combination of both. This reduces MV somewhat, but if you’re dealing with magnum loads, the enhanced accuracy and quicker re-acquisition of sight picture more than makes up for it, and magnum velocities pretty much assure expansion. Not all guns (especially some autoloaders, who can experience structural or recoil sping/magazine spring-timing issues) are recommended for porting, so check with the manufacturer’s tech rep or a good armorer for that model before sending a gun away. Mag-Na-Port reps are also very knowledgeable and friendly, too, so contact them first for a run-down on options for a particular gun.

    Just keep in mind that “recoil is your friend.” It shows that the round is doing its job and stiff recoil means the bullet is hitting hard. You can overcome the flinch reflex by steady practice (solid stance and good 2-handed grip), which you should be doing regularly anyway if you’re going to bet your life on the gun. Just keep practice sessions reasonably short and focused. As they say, “Practice makes permanent but perfect practice makes perfect.”

    1. I bought a Springfield V-10 Champion 45acp when they first come on the market. Factor porting on a production model. I’ve used it in countless matches over the past 15 or so years without a single malfunction that I did not cause. In many stages of running gun at the Norco range, I would have one 8rd mag in the well and ten mags on my belt, that was ten years ago. We all had a blast (pun intended). I have seen but never fired Springfields V-12.
      Truth be told… I will not trade my V10 for anything on the market today. Muzzle flip is about 1.5 inches with major power factor loads…recoil is almost unnoticeable. Reaquireing site alignment and picture is instantaneous.

  21. The grip can make all the difference in the world.

    My Ruger SP-101 was fine for .38 Special right out of the box, but painful when shooting .357 Magnum. A Hogue Monogrip fixed that instantly – like night and day.

  22. @Bob Campbell
    Great write up Bob! It’s always nice to hear a pro shout out what the little voice in ones head is always whispering!
    I was taught to shoot two handed as a kid but it was my time in the military that refined that skill. My instructors called it “an agressive two hand thumbs forward grip”. It allows for agressive positive control and response over any recoil allowing for accurate dbl tap shot sequences. In addition I ran across a device several years ago that I’ve found to even improve on this grip. The Speed Ledge recoil controler is designed for pistols which have an integral lower forward rail and provides an additional thumb rest just forward and above the front of the trigger guard but below the slide. It allows for a positive downward pressure to be applied to the forward slide and barrel during firing and further counter acting the upward muzzel flip and recoil both felt and actual. Holsters were a bit if an issue at first but finally designed and built my own to accomadate severl of my platforms. I have used them to very good effect on my XD Compact .40, XD Full Frame .45, XDm Match/Tac .40 and a Delta Elite 10m. There is a noticeable improvement in shot placement and response time. The Speed Ledge has not only improved my dbl tap speed and accucery but also my target to target acquisition and response time. It may not be for everyone but it’s worth a look. If one is a comp shooter or likes shooting bowling pins, speed steel, just multi engagement targets they may find this rail accessory very useful.

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